Having read Caesar's Messiah, I can now better appreciate little touches in the Gospels such as the Roman military man Longinus piercing Jesus in the side. The informed ancient reader would have instantly realized that a comparison was being made between the Jesus martyred in Jerusalem and Julius Caesar earlier martyred by another Longinus in Rome on the Ides of March (festival day of Osiris). It was said, in each case, that "it is good that one man die for the people".
By the way, I was at the University of Washington bookstore on Wednesday and came across the following title:
"Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat ..."
I would like to pull together a new chapter or two on the Hasmonean connection, if not a whole new book. (Joe likes the idea of calling it "Herod's Messiah" or something to that effect!) But first, there seems to be a few more identifications that can be teased from the tangled web of royal intrigue.
For example, it is likely that John Hyrcanus became king of Parthia under the name of Artabanus II (Artabanus before being equated with generic Hasmonean "John"). The later Artabanus III may in fact have been the same as Herodian Phillip II ("John the Baptist").
The two kings that follow Artabanus II are more elusive, those being Mithradates II and Orodes I. Possibly they were Hasmoneans, but more likely they were other scions of the Ptolemaic royal house, such as the brothers Ptolemy X Alexander and Ptolemy IX Soter.
With the next two Parthian kings, Phraates III and Orodes II, things get even more interesting. They are contemporary with Ptolemy XII (Neos Dionysos) and his brother, who were recalled from exile at the court of Mithradates VI of Pontus (and where J.C. uttered his famous words, veni, vidi, vici)! This Mithradates, if memory serves me, is the same one that gave Rome so much trouble. Also, Orodes II was the king that defeated and killed the Triumvr Crassus. However, circa 38 BC, Orodes II was murdered by his "son" Phraates IV (a.k.a. Herod the Great?) and Rome henceforth had little resistance in Egypt, Palestine, or Parthia.
Just prior to this coup the Roman consul Appius had traveled with little success to Armenia to demand the extradition of Mithradates VI. He was offered gifts from Tigranes king of Armenia, but not the man he was looking for. Appius was said to only accept a single cup from Tigranes, possibly an allusion to the "cup of Benjamin", and it appears as a symbol of the position of Appius within the greater family heirarchy.
I strongly suspect that the family of Appius, the dominant Roman clan, had already began to exercise the right of primogeniture over other royal families of the Near East by this time, including the Ptolemies. And they may have adopted other heirs to Near Eastern thrones into the Claudian family, as you suggest. The Romans were big on adoption.
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