June 22, 2007

Year-by-Year: 5 AD

Caesar warns Archelaus. Tiberius conquers West Germany.

In January, 5 AD, Jesus was 10 years & 7 months old.

In April, Joseph & Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. As usual, Jesus stayed in Nazareth.

Plenty of other boys were making the pilgrimage, by his age. At this point, people in Nazareth were starting to wonder why Joseph wouldn’t take him along. But Joseph stuck to his plan – avoiding Archelaus.

Jesus turned eleven on May 27th of 5 AD. He kept getting bigger and more mature. He kept learning how to live as a man.

He kept on getting to know his Father, as a man.


Just before Passover, Archelaus celebrated his 9th year as ruler of Judea, Idumea & Samaria.

Actually, it was only the start of his 9th year, but the Jews in Judea were hoping to make it his last.

Some wealthy Jerusalemites had come up with a plan.

In fact, the Jews were so eager to get rid of Archelaus, they even asked the Samaritans for help.
The plan was simple. The Jews & Samaritans simply made a list. They wrote down everything Archelaus had done, and not done, that was abusive. And when the young Ethnarch refused (or failed) to deal with their complaints, they went to Caesar!

But most of that took place over the winter, since late last year.

This year, as soon as sailing season came, a group of Jews & Samaritans left (together!) for Italy.


Meanwhile, there was a small disaster in Rome.

Earthquakes hit just before the spring thaw. The city’s emergency levies were damaged. And when the River hit flood levels, the whole city was covered in water for seven days.

Part of the city’s extra grain supply was ruined. And that started a food shortage that won’t end this year.

But worse than food, was the money shortage.[1]

This year, Augustus realized he had a major, long-term money problem. Actually, it was an Army problem.

Well, actually, it was a how-to-keep-retired-soldiers-happy problem.[2]

This year, Caesar decided to pay every retiring soldier a large retirement bonus.[3] The Emperor announced this in Rome, and sent the news to all the Legions.

Then Augustus went into the Senate and said they had to come up with a way to fill the retirement fund, from now on! But the Senate went the rest of the year with no solution to the problem. So, naturally, the Emperor had to fix this problem too, by himself.
Caesar began a serious hunt for extra revenue.


Soon after that, the Jews & Samaritans came to Rome to complain about Archelaus.

Around early summer, Caesar saw the Jewish & Samaritan leaders. The Emperor heard their complaints, and their evidence. And he promised to deal with it.

The Jews left, thinking about justice.

But Augustus – at least partly – was thinking about money! Still, Caesar had to be fair to a son of his old friend, King Herod.

After some days, Augustus wrote Archelaus a letter. The letter warned the Jewish leader to be more moderate in dealing with his people.[4]

Six weeks later, back in Israel, Archelaus got the letter. But he didn’t exactly do what it said.

Now, when the Jewish & Samaritan leaders came home, they tried to see Archelaus. They also tried to find out whether Caesar had sent any letters.

But Archelaus just kept feasting with his friends.

The selfish young Ethnarch was trying to ignore the whole thing. And it worked for a while, since the Jews didn’t know for sure whether Caesar had sent any orders or not. But the secret is going to get out…

Oh, but not till next year… of course.


For now, let’s back up to early spring again.

Some time before Rome flooded, Tiberius left to go back to Germany. The General rode thru partly thawed Alpine passes to reach his troops in Northern Europe.

Last year, Rome conquered several tribes in short order. So this year, other tribes were lining up to surrender.[5] By mid-summer, Rome’s new border – for the first time in history – was the Elbe River in Central Germany.

By then, the Roman Fleet had sailed around Europe to the North Sea, and met Tiberius on the Elbe.[6] So now the Fleet and the Legions moved south together, up the River. Northwest Germany was falling quickly into line, and Tiberius’ forces took whatever they needed from the countryside. But the farther Tiberius’ Legions marched up river, the closer they came to the fierce barbarian tribes of Bohemia, known as “the Marcomanni”![7]

Tiberius had no doubt this was going to be a challenge. The General knew the Marcomanni (and their leader Maroboduus) were going to be the toughest barbarians he’d ever fought in Germany. And the mission was critical.[8]

So – like a good Roman General – Tiberius quit early, before winter… to spend time making a plan!

Once a dozen Legions had camped on three sides of Bohemia[9], Tiberius rode back to Rome for the winter. Caesar’s new heir still (desperately) needed political face-time, in the city.

Again, the General had to play the part of Emperor-to-be.


Tiberius’ plan was brilliant, but too much overkill.

Twelve Legions were surely enough to conquer Bohemia. But it left Illyricum vacant.

Suddenly, barbarian tribes in Pannonia and Dalmatia looked around and noticed Rome’s army was gone!

By next Spring, revolt breaks out all over the Balkans!


One last piece of news, for 5 AD.

In July, a Proconsul named M. Plautius Silvanus stepped down as Governor of Asia and went East to Govern Galatia. And by Autumn, Plautius and his two Legions (VII & ___) start planning for war against the Isaurian Tribes, east of Pisidia.[10]


So much war, in this so called “Peace of Rome”.[11]

Ongoing war in Germany, the brink of war in Illyricum, new plans for war in Galatia…

And soon, a new revolt in Israel.

Next Year Book: 6 AD!

Begin Footnotes:

[1] Yes, it’s worse – if you’re the Emperor! Think about it. Run short on food, and some poor people starve, leave, or get run out of the city. But run short on money, and your unpaid Legions might get mean ideas!

[2] Well, actually-actually, it was a too-many-years-of-peace problem! See, in times of war, an Army lives off the conquered land and newly claimed plunder. Then the Army (generally) gets disbanded, or paid with land in the newly conquered area. But in times of peace, the Army wants cash payments! So by this time, in 5 AD, Rome was running out of new lands to conquer. The last decade of conflicts hadn’t resulted in any new conquests, and that was before Germany revolted! So Augustus had finally come to the point where a retirement fund was the only viable permanent option.

[3] The bonus actually equaled more than 20 years worth of regular pay!

[4] The letter must have been specific on certain points, but we have no idea what they were, precisely.

[5] This year, Rome “conquered” the tribes of the Cauchi, the Langobardi, the Semnones and the Hermunduri. Most of the encounters were surrenders or pre-emptive peace entreaties.

[6] Julius Caesar had visited England, but no Roman ships had sailed as far as Denmark, until now.

[7] Bohemia is a wide stretch of land between the upper Elbe and the Danube – basically everything between modern Prague & Vienna. The Romans originally named it after the Boii tribe, who had long since moved on.

[8] The Romans needed Bohemia badly. It was the middle ground between their territories in Northern and Eastern Europe, and the first easily passable land route beyond the Alps. The conquest of Bohemia would streamline Roman communications and military transportation across Central Europe. Essentially, it was the last piece of territory on Augustus’ personal “need-it” list!

[9] Tiberius camped his German Legions north of Bohemia, and left them under the command of Saturninus (G.S. not L.V.) with instructions to march on Bohemia at a certain time, come Spring. Saturninus had cooperation from the Hermunduri tribes to march into Bohemia from the West. As for the South, Tiberius called on the Legions in Raetia (below Bohemia, across the Danube) and organized them with similar instructions. Finally, Tiberius sent word for the Illyrican Legions to move from their normal posts (? – where - ?) to Carnuntum, on the Danube (just east of modern Vienna). Come spring, the General was planning to lead the Illyrican Legions into Bohemia himself, from the Southeast.

[10] The Isaurians were mentioned in the 3 BC Year Book. Their territory was close to the Homanadensian region Quirinius conquered that year. But since then, evidently, they proved they needed defeating, as well.

[11] To be fair, the “peace” was mainly felt around the Mediterranean, far from the frontier. Still, it’s fair to note that, since 9 BC, we haven’t seen a year without a war. The “Pax Romana” was far from universal!

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