June 17, 2007

Year-by-Year: 4 AD

Gaius finally dies, and Augustus adopts Tiberius as his heir.

In January, 4 AD, Jesus was 9 years and 7 months old.

In mid-March, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. And yes, once again, they left Jesus behind! This is the seventh year in a row that Joseph kept the boy as far away as possible from Archelaus.[1]


At some point this year, Archelaus divorced his wife Marriamme and married his former sister-in-law, Glaphyra![2]

Of course, the Jews were outraged[3], but they couldn’t do anything about it. Archelaus had only broken the laws of Moses – not Caesar. And Augustus was the only one who could punish Judea’s young ruler.

Still, the Jews were determined to get rid of their selfish young Ethnarch[4].

And by next year, they’re going to come up with a plan.


That’s all the news from Israel, for 4 AD.

Now, as for the rest of the Empire...


On February 21st, Gaius Caesar died in Limyra, on the southern coast of Asia Minor. The Emperor’s chosen Heir up till now, Gaius was 22 years old.

Augustus got the news about a month later. The Emperor arranged his grandson’s funeral, but he didn’t have much time to mourn.

Early that spring, Germany rebelled.[5]

Needless to say, this was a stressful year for the 65 year old Emperor. With a war in Europe, and without an Heir, Caesar still had people in the city begging him to bring his daughter back from exile! Augustus dealt with the Julia issue quickly.[6] But the rest took some time.
It took three months, from the news about Gaius, for Caesar to pick a new Heir. And finally, on June 27th, he made his decision official.

Augustus legally adopted his step-son Tiberius – mainly because he had no choice.[7] With Parthia & Armenia a virtual loss, since last year, the Emperor needed his second-best General of all-time to step up in a major way.[8]

But the Emperor required Tiberius to adopt the son of his absolute best General of all-time, Drusus! So Tiberius’ nephew, Germanicus, became his legal son, and the next in line for Caesar’s throne. Germanicus had just turned 19, and all of Rome knew the young man was destined to be a great General and leader.[9]

Finally, as a fallback, Caesar adopted Julia’s last son, Posthumous.[10] But Posthumous was just turning 15 this year. And besides his age, he was a little “off”.

The adoption of Posthumous didn’t mean much, but Germanicus was a clear message from Augustus to Tiberius. And a humbling one.[11]

Tiberius knew Caesar didn’t want him, but had to take him. And Tiberius knew the Emperor wanted his brother’s kid to take over as soon as possible.

Once again, Augustus gave Tiberius a rival less than half his age!

But at least Tiberius had the upper hand, for now…


As soon as everything was legal, Augustus sent Tiberius straight into Germany.

For the rest of the year, the General (now Emperor-to-be) led ___ Legions (…numbers…) into Northwest Germany.[12] Crossing the Rhine River, Tiberius’ forces almost reached the Elbe before winter.[13]

The old General was re-conquering the lands his brother, Drusus, claimed. But Tiberius had not been here before, except the day he watched his brother die. (See 9 BC.)

When the Legions set up their winter-quarters, their General rode back to Italy. Roads thru the Alps were nearly blocked with snow, but Tiberius had nothing left to do in Germany, until Spring.

On the other hand, he felt the urgent need to be near his new father, Augustus. Not to mention, he needed to be seen around the city, in his new status & position.

So, wisely, Tiberius spent the winter in Rome.


By the way, we can’t forget Quirinius!

The Proconsul was the one who brought Gaius’ body back from the East – early this year, as soon as sailing was possible. And then, Quirinius took himself a young bride at a spring wedding!

It had been arranged last year (partly by Livia) and now Quirinius married the young woman, Amelia Lepida.

Lepida had been engaged to Caesar’s ‘son’, Lucius. But those days were over.
Livia’s son was in line for the Empire, now.

Next Year Book: 5 AD

Footnotes to 4 AD:
[1] This was Archelaus’ 8th Passover as ruler of Judea, so we call 4 AD his 8th year of rule.

[2] This is the only time Marriamme’s name appears, in history. We don’t know when he met or married her, or why she just happens to have the same name as two of Archelaus’ step-mothers! Glaphyra, on the other hand, was mentioned in the Year Book to 7 BC. Her father was the ‘other’ Archelaus – the King of Cappadoica – and her husband was the ‘real’ Alexander, the son of Herod killed on false charges of treason. Since his death, Glaphyra married a North African King (Juba II, of Mauritania) who either divorced or widowed her. She went back to Cappadoica, but must have visited Judea, because Josephus tells us the Herodian Ethnarch had great affection for her.

[3] Mosaic Law says a single man must marry his brother’s widow if she is childless, but must not marry her if she is already a mother. The Jews were outraged because Glaphyra had children by Alexander – at least one that we know of. At this point, the boy is living in Cappadoica. And in 60 AD, Glaphyra’s grandson, due to his Cappadoican blood, is going to be one of the Emperor Nero’s candidates for the throne of Armenia!

[4] This is as good a time as any to review Archelaus’ accomplishments, as Ethnarch. (We don’t know what year they go in.) He rebuilt his father’s Army, several Palaces, and the city of Jericho. He diverted a stream to make a new city, named Archelais, after himself. He appointed a 2nd high priest, Jesus son of See, to replace Eleazar son of Boethus. He swelled the royal treasuries (that had been nearly empty after 4 BC), partly by ignoring the Year of Rest (twice; Simon the Essene pointed out he took a harvest every single year.) But his biggest sin was probably that of omission – of not helping the Jews rebuild the Temple, while he was spending so much on himself. In short, Archelaus’ selfishness is probably the main reason he’s about to get deposed (see 5 and 6 AD).

[5] Actually, there had been a series of incidents in Germany since 1 AD, but the details are complicated. At any rate, events picked this year to break out into a full-scale war, and it was a major reason why Augustus “yielded” to the choice of Tiberius as heir. (Dio 55.13.1a)
[6] As a compromise, Augustus let Julia move from her small island to Rhegium, on the toe of Italy. This spring, Julia also sent her father her opinion on who he should pick as his next heir.

[7] The new uprising in Germany was a major factor. So were the constant persuasive efforts of Livia. But Caesar expressed his reluctance when he added to the adoption papers, “This I do for reasons of state.”

[8] In a cut-your-losses kind of a year, Augustus had to figure the East was the East, and would probably keep to itself, at least beyond the Euphrates. But Caesar knew the Empire could not afford to neglect (and thus to encourage) the aggressive activities of barbarians so close to the Alps. Security in Europe was paramount.

[9] Germanicus was the son of Drusus and Antonia (See 9 BC). His father was a great General, beloved by the people of Rome, and his mother was the daughter of Augustus’ own sister (Octavia) and Mark Antony! So to put that in common terms… Germanicus was Antony’s Grandson, Augustus’ Grand-nephew, and Julius Caesar’s Great-Grand-nephew! The young man was a true Caesar by blood, and now also in name. (After the adoptions, the 19 year old “Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus” was renamed Germanicus Julius Caesar.)

[10] Younger brother of Gaius & Lucius, Posthumous was born to Julia in 12 BC, right after his father Agrippa died (see background in the Year Book to 7 BC). At this time, he was Caesar’s only living male descendant.

[11] On top of everything just mentioned, Tiberius had to disinherit his own natural son, Drusus (named, of course, after the brother Tiberius loved), in order to legally make Germanicus his sole heir.

But not long after this offense, the young Drusus was appeased by a betrothal with Livilla, who was Germanicus’ sister (thus, also Caesar’s grand-neice, etc). Of course, that’s the same Livilla who was just widowed from Gaius, this February! (So, in a sense, Livia took a bride away from Augustus’ grandson, to give to her own grandson! But the Empress couldn’t do anything about Germanicus… yet!)
[12] One of Tiberius’ lower Generals, for this entire campaign, is the Proconsul Gaius Sentius Saturninus – the same man who conducted Israel’s census from 8 to 7 BC! Saturninus fights with Tiberius next year..

By the way, we should mention at this point, there was another Saturninus (of no known relation) who went to Syria this year, as Governor. The Proconsul L.Volusius Saturninus was appointed by Caesar, some time after Gaius resigned (last autumn) and got there this summer. He does nothing noteworthy, except we’ll mention his name again when he gets replaced by Quirinius in 6 AD.

The only reason to mention this is because we’re keeping a list of the Governors in Syria. But don’t get confused – the Saturninus we care about is Gaius Sentius – the one who’s now in Germany!

[13] Rome’s Legions defeated several tribes in just a few months of fighting: the Canninefates, the Attuarii, the Bructeri and the Cherusci. But that last tribe – the Cherusci – will come back to fight again, before long..

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