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Wednesday, February 1 2012

A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars

The complete series of studies for A History Of Jerusalem:
1. In The Beginning
5. The Glory Of Solomon
9. Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids
13. The Herodian Dynasty
17. Constantine and Muhammad
2. Melchizedek's Salem
6. The Temple Of The LORD
10. Abomination Of Desolation
14. The Coming Of The Messiah
18. The British Mandate
3. Jebus Of Canaan
7. The Capital Of Judah
11. The Hasmonean Kingdom
15. Titus And The Zealots
19. Zionism
4. The City Of David
8. Ezra And Nehemiah
12. Pompey And The Caesars
16. Hadrian and Simon bar Kokhba
20. War And Peace


Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, more popularly known as Pompey the Great, or simply Pompey, was a Roman military leader during the last century of the Roman Republic. He lived from 106 to 48 BC, up to the time just before the birth of the Roman Empire, and through the most of the era of the Hasmonean Kingdom of Judah (see A History Of Jerusalem: The Hasmonean Kingdom). While Pompey served at home and abroad in various campaigns in the service of the Republic, his most-notable connection to the history of Jerusalem was when he and his forces became involved in a Judean civil war, within the Hasmonean Kingdom of Judah, between Hyrcanus I, supported by the Pharisees, and Aristobulus II, supported by the Sadducees (in effect, a high priest civil war - Hyrcanus and Aristobulus were brothers). After a three-month siege of Jerusalem, the defenses fell and Pompey and Hyrcanus entered the city, and the Temple. Pompey As recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus:

"Of the Jews there fell twelve thousand, but of the Romans very few ... and no small enormities were committed about the temple itself, which, in former ages, had been inaccessible, and seen by none; for Pompey went into it, and not a few of those that were with him also, and saw all that which it was unlawful for any other men to see but only for the high priests. There were in that temple the golden table, the holy candlestick, and the pouring vessels, and a great quantity of spices; and besides these there were among the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money: yet did Pompey touch nothing of all this, on account of his regard to religion; and in this point also he acted in a manner that was worthy of his virtue. The next day he gave order to those that had the charge of the temple to cleanse it, and to bring what offerings the law required to God; and restored the high priesthood to Hyrcanus, both because he had been useful to him in other respects, and because he hindered the Jews in the country from giving Aristobulus any assistance in his war against him." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 14, chapter 4, translated)

Pompey also held a high-level political position in the Roman Republic (see The Politics Of Rome) - as a member of the First Triumvirate ("a group of three men responsible for public administration or civil authority"), with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Julius Caesar. Pompey and Caesar later contested for sole possession of the leadership, which eventually resulted in a civil war of their own. If he had won, Pompey may have been to history what Julius Caesar became, however when Pompey lost the Battle of Pharsalus in August of 48 BC, his Roman military and political career was over. Pompey sought asylum in Egypt, then still held by the Ptolomies of the former Greek Empire (see A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids and the Fact Finder question below), but he was assassinated upon his arrival.

Julius Caesar

It was from Julius Caesar that the world got the imperial (i.e. regarding an emperor and/or an empire) term "Caesar," however Julius Caesar himself was not an emperor. He almost certainly would have been, if he had lived, however he was assassinated in the Roman Senate, ironically by Senators who feared that Caesar was becoming too politically powerful and therefore a threat to their own power.

Julius Caesar To understand their supposed justification for the assassination, it's necessary to understand some of the political roles in the Roman system of that time. Various offices of government were established by and for the Roman republic, with no one individual having power and authority over others in their area of power and authority. Some examples:

  • A consul was a magistrate of the highest rank.

  • A praetor was a civil law administrator who could also command local or provincial armed forces.

  • A censor conducted the census of the people, and was in charge of the Senate membership.

  • A tribune represented specific tribes of people; it was also a term used for a high-ranking military officer.

  • A plebeian was a term used for a representative of the "common" people.

  • A dictator was appointed with near-absolute power, for a limited time, to deal with specific national threats or emergencies. Julius Caesar (at a time when "Caesar" was merely a family name) became such a "dictator" during Rome's wars.

It was Julius Caesar's role of "dictator" that resulted in his assassination in 44 BC. The murder took place in the Roman Senate, by Roman senators, led by Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius, who resented that Caesar had taken their democratic authority from them - in effect, making himself a king. The irony of Caesar's assassination, in supposed defense of the republic, was that it marked the end of the Roman republic and the establishment (or re-establishment if one goes back to 500 BC) of a Roman monarchy - Roman kings who, as the military power of Rome grew, became emperors. "Imperialism" is from the Latin word which means empire-ism. The result was the creation of the Roman Empire that would engulf the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem for centuries afterward.

Octavian / Augustus

Octavian was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar, but was adopted by Julius Caesar according to the terms of his will. When Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, during the Roman Republic, right in the Roman Senate by treacherous Roman Senators themselves, it sealed the fate of the Roman Republic in the eyes of Octavian.

Augustus After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the relatively-young Octavian was appointed to the Second Triumvirate, along with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. When Octavian was ready, and the time was right, Lepidus was exiled. Marc Antony was then manipulated into the Battle of Actium - a "two birds with one stone" victory for Octavian - he rid himself of Antony and defeated the remnant of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great in Egypt, which then was ruled by the famous Cleopatra, who had allied herself with Antony (see the Fact Finder Question below).

The Battle of Actium occurred on 2 September 31 BC in the Ionian Sea (located south of the Adriatic Sea, between southern Italy and southern Greece) near the city of Actium, Greece. Octavian's navy was commanded by Marcus Agrippa, while Antony's ships were in formation with those of Cleopatra. When it was over (both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide when they lost the battle), Octavian was the sole political and military ruler of Rome and all of its territory - plus, with the acquisition of Cleopatra's Egypt, the Roman Empire was, that would soon thereafter rule Judea and Jerusalem, was born.

Octavian assumed to the name/title of Augustus (meaning "the revered one") and further, the title of "Caesar," thereby transforming it from a man's name to an imperial title, one of the few such times in history whereby it was done with lasting effect. Another major example is "Washington," which ironically began with a very patriotic anti-empire man by that name, but which now has come to mean an imperial capital city that has its "legions" occupying countries all around the world, undemocratically installing puppet governments at will (i.e. "we want a regime change over there") just as the Romans did.

Caesar Augustus also then established the imperial structure that would exist during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ, thereby bringing us to the famous census, decreed by Augustus, that resulted in the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (see also Bethlehem In History And Prophecy).

"2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed [see also Does Rome Have Christ's Birth Certificate?]. 2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)

Caesar Augustus reigned over Judea and Jerusalem during the first half of the human lifetime of Jesus Christ. After a reign of almost 41 years, beginning in 27 BC, Augustus died in 14 AD at age 75. During their sack of Rome in the fifth century AD, the Vandals removed the ashes of Augustus from the Mausoleum of Augustus and scattered them - where they were trampled into the dirt by humans and animals. Although the Vandals were heathens, they thereby unwittingly provided an object lesson of what is coming i.e. "4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:3 KJV).


Tiberius Caesar was the second of the two Caesars that reigned over Judea and Jerusalem during the human lifetime of the Messiah (roughly half of Christ's lifetime each).


"3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 3:4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight [see The Path To Glory and The Strait Gate]. 3:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:1-6 KJV)

Tiberius (full official name Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus) was born in 42 BC, the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. Livia divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, thereby making Tiberius a stepson of Octavian. After Tiberius married Julia, a daughter of Augustus, he was adopted by Augustus as a son. The marriage and adoption resulted in Tiberius having a strong family connection to the earliest Caesars, even as one himself i.e. Tiberius was the stepson and adopted son of Augustus, the great-uncle of Emperor Caligula, the paternal uncle of Emperor Claudius, and great-great uncle of Emperor Nero.

Tiberius became a great conquering general for Rome (i.e. facilitating the birth and growth of the Roman Empire; see the map in the study Pax Romana: The Birth Of The Roman Empire), but not a politician or diplomat. Despite his marriage and extensive family connections, historical accounts of Tiberius portray him as arrogant and reclusive.

Tiberius died in AD 37, at aged 77, from being smothered to death by one of his servants. His ashes were placed in the same tomb as Caesar Augustus (as explained above) - and were also scattered and trampled into the dirt by the Vandals. Both of the Roman Emperors during the time of Christ served as object lessons of the prophecy "4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:3 KJV).

Fact Finder: What was the connection of the famous Cleopatra to the rise of the Roman Caesars?
See The Cleopatra Connection

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This Day In History, February 1

1327: Edward III was coronated King of England. The Hundred Years War began during his reign.

1328: Charles IV of France, the last monarch in the direct line of the Capetian dynasty (named after Hugh Capet who became king in 987), died.

1542: Cardinal Girolamo Aleandro died at age 62. He was an active opponent of the Lutheran Reformation. In 1520 Pope Leo X sent him to Germany to lead the opposition against Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms (named after Vorms, a city in Germany). In Brussels, Aleandro was responsible for the death of the first martyrs of the Reformation.

1587: Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (Henry broke away from Rome and created the Church of England so that he could divorce his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn), signed the Warrant of Execution for (Roman Catholic) Mary Queen of Scots who was involved in three assassination attempts on Elizabeth I.

1793: Revolutionary France declared war on England and Holland. French King Louis XVI was executed shortly before.

1861: 25 years after seceding from Mexico in 1836, Texas seceded from the U.S. to join the Confederate States of America.

1884: The Oxford English Dictionary's first volume was published.

1908: King Carlos I (Carlos is the Spanish form of "Charles") of Portugal was assassinated with his son in Lisbon.

1909: U.S. invasion forces left Cuba after installing Jose Miguel Gomez as President. Gomez left Cuba in 1920 and died in exile in New York City.

1920: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the "Mounties") were established. They were created from the merger of the Northwest Mounted Police and Dominion Police.

1934: Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss dissolved all political parties except his own "Fatherland Front." Another Austrian, Adolf Hitler, had just been elected as Chancellor in Germany (see Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion).

1949: Israel formally annexed "West Jerusalem."

1958: Egypt and Syria proclaimed their union as "The United Arab Republic."

1979: In Teheran, Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from 15 years of exile in France. The Shah (king) had fled the country 2 weeks earlier for exile in the U.S.

2003: The US Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry killing all 7 astronauts aboard: Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, William McCool, and the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.

2004: 251 Muslims were trampled to death and 244 injured in a stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.


Copyright © Wayne Blank