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Author Topic: Chapter 14: The Death of Sulla and Rise of Pompey & Caesar  (Read 790 times)
Chuck-Star
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« on: January 10, 2016, 01:31:01 PM »

Chap. 14-Heroes of the Hellensitic Age (2016) Charles N. Pope

The main Roman identity of Alexander Jannaeus in his latter years was as Gaius Marius, the rival of Sulla.  Much is made of the civil war between these two Roman generals, however succession to the greater kingdom had long been settled.  Therefore, the turmoil in Rome at this time was merely staged for political and financial advantage.  In Rome, Jannaeus as Marius made himself champion of the populares (“democrats”).  In Latin, Marius conveys a sense of manliness and martial prowess ala the god Mars.  His half-brother Aristobulus (Sulla) took control over the optimates (“republicans”).

A grotesquely obese Marius practiced his martial arts openly in the Roman forum and to the considerable embarrassment of his colleagues.  He did not remove himself from the scene until 86 BC, and tellingly this did not occur before he had vainly garnered an unprecedented 7th consulship.  According to Josephus, the last years of Jannaeus were not spent in Rome or a nearby “Club Med,” but in tireless campaigning throughout Syria, Phoenicia and Idumaea (Edom/Trans-Jordan).  His return to the Middle East (under his Seleucid identity Antiochus X Eusebes) allowed his son and kingly successor (Marius the Younger) to be groomed in Rome as its new leading man.  Sulla was made to bear the stigmatism associated with revival of Roman dictatorship, last exercised by his great-grandfather Fabius Maxiumus, and the atrocities of the dynastic turnover that were to follow.

The “death” of Marius the Elder was followed two years later by the “murder” of Cinna after he was paid a short visit by Pompey.  The staged death of Sulla would have been the next major event expected.  However, due to the circumstances, it suited the royal agenda for him to exit the kingly stage as a winner rather than ignominious loser.  As his last hurrah, Sulla was allowed to claim a stunning victory over Mithridates VI of Pontus.  However, prior to laying down absolute authority, Sulla inexplicably orchestrated a “bloodbath.” Normally, a purge would take place after the death of a king, but Sulla was facilitating the regime change in advance!  He posted death warrants for hundreds of people that represented identities controlled by him, and by which he controlled Rome and Italy itself.  (Josephus called it the “business of names” and was the reason the office of Censor was Rome’s most prestigious.)

The property of those condemned by Sulla was seized by Crassus as the new “Chief Financial Officer” of the Empire.  Although still the nominal strong man of Rome, Sulla addressed his leading military charge Pompey as Imperator (“King/Emperor”) and Magnus (“The Great”).   The reputation of Pompey was carefully cultivated at a young age.  He was allowed to take credit for major military victories and celebrate multiple triumphs in Rome before he had even held any high public office.  Sulla pretended to resent this, but the only resentment would have been the fact that Sulla was a lame duck politically, and the real power was transitioning to his brother and brother’s son.  Although Sulla had produced a son or sons, they had died young.  With a sense of irony (and mockery), Sulla began calling himself by the epithet of Felix (“Fortunate”) and when he managed to father another son in his old age, he called this son Faustus (“Lucky”), as well.  The birth of Faustus came too late to change the election, but he could still hope for the same good fortune as Ptolemy II, whose son in his old age had produced the collateral royal line that was now (almost unbelievably) eclipsing his own!  As part of his “negotiated surrender” Sulla had also arranged for his only son Faustus to retain his royal status and remain in the royal breeding pool.  Faustus was later granted even the daughter of Pompey in marriage, the opportunity to produce royal heirs was honored.

Plutarch declared that the death of Sulla represented the end of an age.  This is equivalent to the statement made by Polybius about the death of Ptolemy III.  Pompey was the one tasked to give Sulla a grand burial, which further symbolized the transfer of kingly succession from Sulla to the line of Marius.  The warrior Messiah of Judah (Judas) had come, as “foretold” in the Book of Jubilees.  Afterwards, and only when he was fully established as successor to Sulla and leader of the optimates, Pompey jettisoned his identity as Marius the Younger and placed his half-brother/nephew Caesar as head of the populares in his stead.  Cinna had been the active supporter of Marius the Elder and his son by the same name became the ally of Caesar, as well as his brother-in-law.  However, the elder Cinna preserved his aristocratic identity of Catulus (Capitolinus), and as such, he generally opposed Caesar or pretended to!  Crassus had been the young supporter of Sulla even though he was a natural son of Cinna.  This of course belies any real conflict within the royal family at this time.  They all stuck together as a well-traveled troupe of grifters.

The contemporary Hasmonean princes, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, attempted to out-do each other in their gifts to their new Roman overlord Pompey.  King Aristobulus presents Pompey with an exquisite article from the temple equivalent in value to “five hundred talents,” which was in turn placed in the temple of Jupiter in Rome with the inscription, “The Gift of Alexander, the King of the Jews.”  The implication is that the priest-king Alexander was either still alive at the time of the donation or had authorized the transfer of wealth and treasures prior to his passing.  High Priest Hyrcanus matches the gift of Aristobulus in terms of raw monetary value, however it fails to draw similar interest.

Pompey is one and the same as Aristobulus, brother of Hyrcanus, the new High Priest in Jerusalem.  The reason that Aristobulus is giving so freely to Pompey is that Pompey is his own Roman alter ego.  He is essentially robbing Peter to pay Peter.  The gift of Aristobulus is used as propaganda in Rome.  The gift of Hyrcanus probably served a more mundane purpose, such as paying Roman soldiers under his command.
Josephus also tells us that Alexandra-Salome did as Jannaeus advised and catered to the Pharisees in order to ease the transition.  However, despite having two natural heirs, he did exactly as John Hyrcanus before him and left the succession up to his queen.  Alexandra chose the vigorous and extroverted Aristobulus II as king and his geeky brother Hyrcanus II as High Priest.  She is described as competent and ambitious, and said to have maintained a peaceful kingdom for the nine years that she survived Jannaeus.  Josephus then even more oddly proceeds to blame her for lack of foresight and the loss of the very kingdom bequeathed to her!

After the death of Alexandra-Salome (~67 BC), we are told (by Josephus) that constant in-fighting erupted between her two sons, which resulted in Roman intervention and Hasmonean defeat.  However, from a “God’s Eye View,” it can be discerned that Aristobulus II as King and Hyrcanus II as High Priest were working together quite harmoniously for their own mutual benefit.  By royal design, kingdoms of the Middle East were falling one by one to Rome, and the Hasmonean enclave would not be an exception.  Yet, the predetermined outcome still had to be someone’s “fault,” which is attributed primarily to Aristobulus II (and to Alexandra-Salome for electing him).

Aristobulus II (Pompey) and Hyrcanus II (Crassus) learned from and then repeated the same “tag-team routine” of Sulla (Aristobulus I) and Cinna (Antigonus I) in the previous generation.   Together they harvested the wealth of Jerusalem and also ensured that Rome continued to comply with the royal will.  Josephus describes Aristobulus as a man of brutality.  Pompey, likewise, was dubbed the “youthful butcher” for his executions in Africa.  If the two Hasmonean brothers had “lost” the kingdom to anyone, it was only to their own Roman alter egos, Pompey and Crassus.  Pompey became the undisputed conqueror of the world, and triumphed three times for subjugating the major three regions of the world, Europe, Africa and Asia.  On the other hand, Crassus was widely acknowledged to be the richest man in all the world.

After Pompey sacks Jerusalem, he enters the temple compound and makes an inventory, but refrains from actually removing any of the precious articles.  That sacrilegious role was being reserved for High Priest Hyrcanus/Crassus even as it had earlier been allotted to High Priest Jesus/Antiochus Epiphanes.  However, in both cases it was the superior king that reaped the benefit without any further compromising of their reputation.  Josephus places the blame (or should we say credit) for Jerusalem’s fall squarely on Aristobulus.  Despite this, he also says that Aristobulus was a man with a “great soul.”  It was Josephus’ way of tipping off Aristobulus’ true identity as Pompey the Great.

Even if Aristobulus II took the blame (along with his mother), it was Hyrcanus II that paid the price.  Crassus, as Hyrcanus, was intimately familiar with the temple and all its treasures.  We are told that he casually picked and chose which items he was interested in taking away.  However, when Hyrcanus as Crassus reached Parthia his sins caught up with him, or so Josephus leads us to believe.  Like Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Crassus supposedly died a horrible death.  Although the treasure itself was not retrieved, at least not from the perspective of the Jews and Jerusalem, it could at least be claimed that justice was served.

The shameless plundering of Jerusalem by Pompey (Aristobulus II) and Crassus (Hyrcanus II) was little different than that of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV only a couple of generations earlier.  However, there is none of the same demonization placed upon the Roman conquerors as with the previous Seleucid Antiochus IV.  The royal family provided leadership for all major sects and parties, and could therefore manipulate them at will for full political and financial advantage.  The ancient royal culture was that of a legalized pyramid scheme.  Fraud was not only institutionalized, it was considered imperative in order to honor the lives of the deified ancestors and ensure continued favor of the gods.

The Jewish temple was not the only one routinely pilfered by the royal family, who claimed that this was their hereditary right as vicars of the gods.  The Jewish temple was however the richest.  Josephus describes in some detail that the Jerusalem temple was especially tempting due to the generous world-wide contributions of Jews that came pouring into the temple treasury year after year.  Judaism was the leading cult of its day, and the association with the main Egyptian temple complex of Thebes/Luxor (along with Jewish centers in Babylon and elsewhere) only further accentuates its importance as a pump within the ancient global economy.  This is not a source of revenue that the royal family would have allowed outsiders to manage, and therefore the direct control of the religion by members of the royal family should no longer be surprising.

In his early career, Alexander II engaged primarily in sting operations with his uncle Hyrcanus II and half-brother/uncle Aristobulus II.  He was an adept provocateur and willing fall guy.  While this activity was necessary to support the family business, it did not represent the heroic resume of a future Emperor.   At the time of the Fall of Jerusalem to Pompey in 63 BC, Julius Caesar/Alexander II was about 30 years of age.  We are told that it suddenly dawned on him that he had accomplished little in comparison to the exploits of his namesake Alexander the Great by that age.  But, until then, Caesar probably didn’t expect to need such a resume.  That is, until Pompey was stricken with a serious illness and may also experienced difficulty fathering royal children.  As a result, Caesar became the leading candidate for succession, and his dodgy record would be remedied most spectacularly in the years to follow.

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