Persia 32: The Persian Precedent for Vespatian

The decision was made last Fall for Persia to be the focus of research for the coming year. Even I totally underestimated its value as a window into the later Roman Period. The Romans used the Persian Dynasty as a template for their own "success". The insight that we have now gained is more than we could have ever achieved by studying the Roman Period in isolation!

As unpopular as the choice to study Persia was last Fall, I hope everyone agrees it has now been entirely vindicated. Yet, there is still so much more learn from Persia. The first imperial dynasty of Rome borrowed as heavily from the second half of the Persian Empire as it had the first.

In the weeks to come we will study the reign of Darius II and the succession battle upon his death between his sons Prince Cyrus and Artaxerxes II. Then we will evaluate the reigns of Artaxerxes II & III, which were almost entirely overlapping. Artaxerxes III, we will find, only survived his father by four years. We will also find that Egypt and Macedonia were controlled by Persian princes from start to finish, from the time of Darius I on through the reign of Darius III. And we will learn that Alexander the Great himself was a Persian Prince of very high-standing, an offspring of Zeus as he claimed (in the form of the Great King Artaxerxes II).

During the Persian Dynasty, the role of Zebulun became important for the first time. This was due initially to Cyrus the Great having been a "sixth son" in the pecking order of princes during his lifetime. Darius appears to have been a "seventh son". Xerxes was in turn the "seventh" son of Darius and gained the birthright. The "sixth son" of Darius (named Hystaspes/Pisuthnes) began to pressure Pericles and assert himself as the new leader of the West. Xerxes appointed Pisuthnes satrap of Sardis, capital of the Persian West.

In future segments of the Persia sereies, we will see that when Darius II came to power, he naturally displaced Pisuthnes with one of his own sons. Yet, he did not have seven sons to work with but only two. The younger of them therefore became the new "Zebulun" and was even named Cyrus (after the earlier Zebulun and his namesake, Cyrus the Great). In Macedon, Cyrus was however called by the Greek name of Archelaus. In Athens was adopted as the heir of Pericles and went by the peculiar name of Alcibiades (a direct play on Zebulun).

In the New Testament Period, the sixth son of Herod the Great is also called Archelaus, but known as Zebedee in the Gospels. His Roman identity was Germanicus, who like Cyrus ventured east to establish his claim to the throne, but would not return to the west alive. Like the Persian princes named Cyrus, Germanicus was hugely popular. His popularity would not win him the throne. The fate of a Zebulun was to be a promising prince and even crown prince, but never a king. Archetypal Zebulun, prince Wegaf, was murdered while still heir apparent to the throne. The name Zebulun itself was derived from the barren goddess Isis/Izebel ("where is the prince?").

Yet, with Drusus/Vespatian son of Germanicus (John son of Zebedee), something remarkable and apparently unprecedented occurred. The son of a Zebulun became a Great King.