It stands to reason that if Arthurian legend reached England with the Alan knights in the late 2nd Century, then Arthur himself was also a product of the earlier 2nd Century. And there is clearly a 2nd Century Roman model, Titus Aurelius (Antoninus Pius) the first emperor to care about the welfare of Christians, and his successor Marcus Aurelius. Collectively they represented the ideal king, reserved and distinguished, benign dictators devoted to peace, philosophy and inclined to do “nothing severe” even to a wayward wife. The wives of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius were the very independent-minded mother and daughter pair called by the same name, Annia Galeria Faustina (Elder and Younger), an obvious source for the character of Guinevere. (Cf Guinevere and the Roman name Verus, as in the contemporary magnate Marcus Annius Verus.)
The name Arthur relates well to the Roman Aurelius, but it originally derived from the Persian prince Oxyarthes/Oxyathres (Greek Perdiccas), who was made regent of the Empire (and its young heirs) upon the death of Alexander the Great. This archetypal Arthur was a first among many equals, but his attempt at democratic rule went horribly wrong. It resulted in the vicious murders of Alexander’s sons and generations of warfare among the “Successors” before a newly unified Empire was at last founded by Julius Caesar in Rome.
The reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius could be viewed by old-school imperialists as another noble but doomed experiment with tolerance and brotherhood, and one leading to the equally ruinous result of the so-called Roman 3rd Century Crisis (a period of disastrous near-anarchy in Rome and repeated losses to Eastern rivals).
Pius like legendary Arthur was a regent, a first among equals. Similarly, when Marcus Aurelius became emperor, he graciously elevated Lucius Verus to be his co-emperor, with Marcus Aurelius also being first among equals. All seemed to be going harmoniously until the apparent death of Lucius Verus. From then on, Marcus Aurelius and his successors faced nothing but troubles. There must be more to this story.
Antoninus was only Hadrian’s second choice as successor. The first had been Lucius Ceionius Commodus, who was called out of Egypt to become governor of Pannonia (and by association the Alans). The significance of this appointment might otherwise elude us, however later in the 2nd Century Commodus (son of Marcus Aurelius) did precisely the same thing in order to designate his eventual successor Septimus Severus, who was relocated from North Africa and made governor of Pannonia. The progression from Egypt/Africa to the East and then climaxing with Roman rule was a symbolic emulation of the Ptolemaic path to Roman power. However, there was clearly also an immediate need for a specific association for the successor with the eastern knightly nation of the Alans.
Note: For additional background on the Alans, see
From Scythia to Camelot
By C. Scott Littleton and Linda A. Malcor
Commodus is a play on Kanishka, the contemporary Kushan ruler, and more precisely an anagram of Kanishta, “the youngest”, i.e., the “Benjamin”. It appears then that Hadrian was accepting the inevitable “decrease” in the natural line of a John/Dionysos dynasty and deliberately willing that the greater empire (stretching from Britain to India and beyond) remain united under a single Jesus/Heracles king, that being Kanishka. However, to Hadrian’s chagrin Lucius Ceionius Commodus predeceased him, it was said of tuberculosis, shortly after taking up his position in Pannonia. Hadrian promptly revisited the election, but instead of decisively resolving the matter, he appointed the senior statesman Antoninus Pius to become regent for two young and potentially incompatible heirs to the throne, Marcus Auelius and Lucius Ceionius Commodus II (son of the former choice as successor).
Note: Antoninus Pius was considered to have been from an Italian family. Yet, the family of his nephew and successor Marcus Aurelius was said to be from Spain! This only points out the arbitrary nature of royal family roots.
The 16-year old Marcus Aurelius was effectively heir apparent/crown prince in Rome. An even younger Lucius Ceionius Commodus II (Lucius Verus) did not need to wait for his succession under the name Huvishka to the Kushan throne (where there were no objection to his tender age). Antoninus Pius was tasked with holding the world together, and at this he succeeded admirably. After the death of Antoninus Pius, the junior king Lucius Verus continued to show respect for authority of Marcus Aurelius, up until a point, and that breaking point occurred in 169 AD when Lucius Verus departed the Roman world somewhere near Venice and implicitly declared his Eastern throne to be the superior of the two. He ruled as the Kushan “king of kings” until after the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD and possibly as late as 191 AD.
A question that remains is whether or not the Arthurian figure of Lancelot should be equated with the Grail figure of Alain/Galains. If so, then the “Grail line” extended through Jesus Justus rather than Josephes/Josephus. This is perhaps a minor point of contention in that both were descended from Jesus. In Grail lore, King Arthur’s sidekick Lancelot is given a pedigree through Pelles (a Joseph/Pelius styled name) back to Bron the Blessed (an English alias of Josephus or Jesus Christ). Lancelot was more interested in courting Guinevere the wife of Arthur, but it was his son Sir Galahad by the resourceful Lady Elaine that was unique among Arthur’s knights in attaining the “Holy Grail” and “ascended to heaven”. On the Column of Antoninus Pius erected in Rome, Antoninus and his wife Faustina are depicted as gloriously ascending to heaven. (See photograph in Chris Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman Emperors, p 110) This is a metaphor for election to greater kingship and in the case of Antoninus and Faustina, to the highest possible kingship. The normally humble Antoninus did not understate his importance in this particular instance.
The name Elaine is a variant of Helen and corresponds to an Eastern queen or heiress (in contrast to the Western Empress Faustina/Guinevere). Elaine’s son Sir Galahad is by association Lucius Verus/Huvishta, the Eastern successor. Although he gave up his share of the throne in the West, he did so for the purpose of establishing an even greater one. From this time forward Rome steadily decreased and the Kushan throne increased. Kushan controlled Parthia was magically transformed from a feudal state back into a centralized monarchy modeled after the former Persian Empire. A new super-dynasty emerged from a Kushan cocoon, the Sassanid.
Note: The nickname Verissimus was given by Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius, which seems to relate to the son of Josephus called Agrippa/Simonides. Josephus names his other two sons as Hyrcanus and (Josephus) Justus. The Roman name Verus relates to an alias of Josephus, Arrius Varus, “Commissioner of the Grain Supply”.
Note: According to one source, Josephus suppressed the name of his eldest son Lucius, apparently because his association with early Christianity was far too obvious.
We have to wonder what else Josephus was suppressing, e.g., were his qualified royal sons (eligible for succession) actually born to him in the 80’s and 90’s AD instead of 70’s and therefore too young to help solidify his rule (hence the need to cut a deal with the family of Trajan). Antoninus Pius (Josue son of Josephes?) was 51 years old when he became Emperor, which means he was born about 87 AD.
Note: The Roman names Annia (as in Annia Galeria Faustina) and Annius (as in Marcus Annius Verus) appear to be a carry-over from the Hasmonean Era and the High Priesthood of Ananas/Anias/Onias.
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