Julia Berenice ., Princess of Judaea, Queen of Chalcis
|Also Known As:||"miniature Cleopatra", "Berenike"|
|Death:||Died in AD,,,|
Daughter of Herod Agrippa I and Cypros III of Judaea
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About Julia Berenice ., Princess of Judaea, Queen of Chalcis
Princes Berenice (daughter of Herod Agrippa I)
Berenice of Cilicia, also known as Julia Berenice and sometimes spelled Bernice (28 AD – ?), was a Jewish client queen of the Roman Empire during the second half of the 1st century. Berenice was a member of the Herodian Dynasty, who ruled the Roman province of Judaea between 39 BC and 92 AD. She was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I, and sister of King Herod Agrippa II.
What little is known about the life and background of Berenice has been handed down to us through the New Testament book of Acts, the 25th chapter. Also the early historian Flavius Josephus, who detailed a history of the Jewish people and wrote an account of the Jewish Rebellion of 67. It is for her tumultuous love life however that Berenice is primarily known today. After a number of failed marriages throughout the 40s, she spent much of the remainder of her life at court of her brother Agrippa II, amidst rumors the two were carrying on an incestuous relationship. During the First Jewish-Roman War, she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. Her unpopularity among the Romans however compelled Titus to dismiss Berenice upon his accession as emperor in 79. When he died two years later, so did Berenice disappear from the historical record.
Berenice was born in 28 to Herod Agrippa and Cypros, as granddaughter to Aristobulus IV and great-granddaughter to Herod the Great. Her elder brother was Agrippa II (b. 27), and her younger sisters were Mariamne (b. 34) and Drusilla (b. 38). According to Josephus, there was also a younger brother called Drusus, who died before his teens. Her family constituted part of what is known as the Herodian Dynasty, who ruled the Judaea Province between 39 BC and 92.
Josephus records three short-lived marriages in Berenice's life, the first which took place sometime between 41 and 43, to Marcus Julius Alexander, brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander and son of Alexander the Alabarch of Alexandria. On his early death in 44, she was married to her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis, with whom she had two sons, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus. When he died in 48, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years until she married Polemon II of Pontus, king of Cilicia, who she subsequently deserted again. According to Josephus, Berenice requested this marriage to dispel rumors that she and her brother were carrying on an incestuous relationship, with Polemon being persuaded to this union mostly on account of her wealth. However the marriage did not last and she soon returned to the court of her brother. Josephus was not the only ancient writer to suggest incestuous relations between Berenice and Agrippa. Juvenal, in his sixth satire, outright claims that they were lovers. Whether this was based on truth remains unknown. Berenice indeed spent much of her life at the court of Agrippa, and by all accounts shared almost equal power. Popular rumors may also have been fueled by the fact that Agrippa himself never married during his lifetime.
Like her brother, Berenice was a client queen, allowed to rule parts of the Roman Empire in present-day Syria. The Acts of the Apostles records that during this time, in 60, Paul of Tarsus appeared before their court at Caesarea.
Great Jewish revolt
In 64 emperor Nero appointed Gessius Florus as procurator of the Judaea Province. During his administration, the Jews were systematically discriminated in favour of the Greek population of the region. Tensions quickly rose to civil unrest when Florus plundered the treasury of the Temple of Jerusalem under the guise of imperial taxes. Following riots, the instigators were arrested and crucified by the Romans. Appalled at the treatment of her countrymen, Berenice travelled to Jerusalem in 66 to personally petition Florus to spare the Jews, but not only did he refuse to comply with her requests, Berenice herself was nearly killed during skirmishes in the city. Likewise a plea for assistance to the legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus, met with no response.
To prevent Jewish violence from further escalating, Agrippa assembled the populace and delivered a tearful speech to the crowd in the company of his sister, but the Jews alienated their sympathies when the insurgents burned down their palaces. They fled the city to Galilee where they later gave themselves up to the Romans. Meanwhile Cestius Gallus moved into the region with the twelfth legion, but was unable to restore order and suffered defeat at the battle of Beth-Horon, forcing the Romans to retreat from Jerusalem.
Emperor Nero then appointed Vespasian to put down the rebellion, who landed in Judaea with fifth and tenth legions in 67. He was later joined by his son Titus at Ptolemais, who brought with him the fifteenth legion. With a strength of 60,000 professional soldiers, the Romans quickly swept across Galilee and by 69 marched on Jerusalem.
Affair with Titus
It was during this time that Berenice met and fell in love with Titus, who was eleven years her junior. The Herodians sided with the Flavians during the conflict, and later in 69, the Year of the Four Emperors—when the Roman Empire saw the quick succession of the emperors Galba, Otho and Vitellius—Berenice reportedly used all her wealth and influence to support Vespasian on his campaign to become emperor. When Vespasian was declared emperor on December 21 of 69, Titus was left in Judaea to finish putting down the rebellion. The war ended in 70 with the destruction of the Second Temple and the sack of Jerusalem, with approximately 1 million dead, and 97,000 taken captive by the Romans. Triumphant, Titus returned to Rome to assist his father in the government, while Berenice stayed behind in Judaea.
It took four years until they reunited, when she and Agrippa came to Rome in 75. The reasons for this long absence are unclear, but have been linked to possible opposition to her presence by Gaius Licinius Mucianus, a political ally of emperor Vespasian who died sometime between 72 and 78. Agrippa was given the rank of praetor, while Berenice resumed her relationship with Titus, living with him at the palace and reportedly acting in every respect as his wife. The ancient historian Cassius Dio writes that Berenice was at the height of her power during this time, and if it can be any indication as to how influential she was, Quintilian records an anecdote in his Institutio Oratoria where, to his astonishment, he found himself pleading a case on Berenice's behalf where she herself presided as the judge. The Roman populace however perceived the Eastern Queen as an intrusive outsider, and when the pair was publicly denounced by Cynics in the theatre, Titus caved in to the pressure and sent her away.
Upon the accession of Titus as emperor in 79, she returned to Rome, but was quickly dismissed amidst a number of popular measures of Titus to restore his reputation with the populace. It is possible that he intended to send for her at a more convenient time. However after reigning barely two years as emperor, he suddenly died on September 13, 81.
It is not known what happened to Berenice after her final dismissal from Rome. Her brother Agrippa died around 92, and with him the Herodian Dynasty came to an end.
In modern history, her aspirations as a potential empress of Rome have led to her being described as a 'miniature Cleopatra'.
Berenice in books
Berenice appears in the Roman Mysteries book series. She shows up in The Enemies of Jupiter and is mentioned in The Assassins of Rome.
by Tal Ilan
Berenice, daughter of King Agrippa I, queen of Chalcis, was married three times and then became the lover of the emperor’s son, Titus. Inscriptions indicate that she was a Roman citizen and bore the Roman name Julia. Our information on her comes initially from Josephus, but it appears that because of personal considerations he withheld vital information about Berenice, which we learn only from various Roman historians.
Berenice was probably born in Rome to Agrippa and Cyprus, before her father became king in 36 C.E. Thus she was Herod the Great’s great-granddaughter. After her father’s ascension to the throne, as the Emperor Caligula’s favorite, she was betrothed to Marcus, son of Alexander, head of the Jewish community in Alexandria, and nephew of Philo the philosopher. According to calculations, she was only thirteen at the time (Josephus, Ant. 19.276–277). It is unclear whether or not she actually married Marcus. After his death in 44 C.E., when she was sixteen years of age, her father arranged a marriage for her with his older brother, Herod. The Emperor Claudius, who had confirmed Agrippa’s kingship in Judea, also nominated his brother Herod as king of Chalcis, a tiny principality in the Lebanon Mountains. With her marriage to Herod, she became queen of Chalcis, a title she retained after her husband’s death, as inscriptions and literary sources indicate. Berenice had two sons by Herod—Hyrcanus and Berenicianus—of whom we know nothing. She was widowed for a second time in 48 C.E., when only twenty (Ant. 19.277, 20.104).
After Herod’s death, the Romans bestowed the kingdom of Chalcis on Berenice’s older brother, Agrippa II. Agrippa’s move into residence in his new kingdom brought brother and sister into close quarters. Many sources indicate that they were often found together in official capacities. Inscriptions mention them together (with Berenice noticed first). Josephus informs us that they appeared in public together, for example when Agrippa gave his peace address to the people of Jerusalem just before the outbreak of revolt against Rome (Josephus, BJ 2.333; 402–405). He also describes Philip son of Jacimus writing a letter addressing the two royal siblings (Josephus, Vita 48; 180). The New Testament mentions Berenice’s presence with her brother at Paul’s trial (Acts 25:13). Even in rabbinic literature she is mentioned as the queen alongside her brother, the king (BT Pesahim 57a). In two sources this constant companionship is interpreted as incest. One source is the Roman satirist Juvenal, who mentions their relationship in passing as a well known fact (Juvenal, Saturae 6.155–158). The other is Josephus, who claims that rumors of the siblings’ inappropriate relationship led Berenice to seek a third match (Ant. 20.145–146).
As a spouse, Berenice chose Polemo, King of Cilicia. This match led Polemo to undertake circumcision and a Jewish lifestyle. These concessions on his part, however, did not guarantee a successful marriage. Sometime later Berenice left Polemo and returned to her kingdom. Thus she was present in Palestine when the 66–70 C.E. Revolt against Rome broke out.
Josephus describes Berenice’s role as a solitary pacifying force in preliminaries of the Revolt. He explains her presence in Jerusalem as resulting from a vow she had made, which she needed to fulfill. As required by the vow, her hair was shorn and she walked barefoot. Nevertheless, she made her way to the Roman governor’s palace to ask Gessius Florus—the Roman governor—to desist from the violent activities he had undertaken against the Jewish population of Jerusalem (BJ 2.313). This attempt failed. So did her joint venture with her brother, who had meanwhile arrived in Jerusalem, to still the Jewish insurrection, which came in the wake of Florus’s outrages (BJ 2.402–405).
After this failure Berenice disappears from the pages of Josephus. Probably his special relationship with Titus prevented him from describing the relationship that developed between Berenice and his patron. Even his unflattering description of Berenice’s incestuous relationship with her brother appears only in his later work, Jewish Antiquities, composed after Titus died.
It is from Tacitus that we learn that with the outbreak of war Berenice chose to side with the Romans and supplied General Vespasian’s offensive with local forces (Histories 2.81.2). Tacitus is also our first source on Berenice’s love affair with Titus (Histories 2.2.1), the Roman general who eventually burnt Jerusalem and then succeeded his father to the throne of Rome. The two apparently became lovers in 68 C.E. Berenice was considerably older than Titus. However, Tacitus is not the only source that discloses this information. Seutonius and Cassius Dio relate similar details. In 75 C.E., they inform us, Berenice came to Rome and lived with Titus as his consort. However, public pressure made the emperor’s son relinquish his ties with the queen and she was sent away. Vaguely, we hear that when Titus himself became emperor in 79 Berenice returned to Rome but to no avail and she was compelled to leave (Suetonius, Titus 7.1; Cassius Dio, Roman History 66.15.3–4). Nothing more is known of her.
- Braud, D. C. “Berenice in Rome.” Historia 33 (1984): 12–13.
In this note Braud suggests that Titus dismissed Berenice only after he became emperor in 79 C.E., and that she returned to Rome before his death in 81, and not because of his promise when he first dismissed her.
- Crook, John A. “Titus and Berenice.” American Journal of Philology 72 (1951): 162–175.
In this article Crook suggests that all Titus’ actions regarding Berenice were politically motivated, since they belonged to one party which had supported the Flavian claim to the throne, and opposed another such party, headed by Mucianus.
- Ilan, Tal. Integrating Jewish Women into Second Temple History. Tübingen: 1999.
pp. 92–96: “Things Unbecoming a Woman” (Ant. 13:431) Josephus and Nicolaus on Women pp. 217–233: Julia Crispina, A Herodian Princess in the Babatha Archive. Two chapters in this book discuss certain aspects of Berenice’s life. In her chapter on women in the writings of Josephus, Ilan shows how Josephus’ rhetorical interests influence his description of the Queen. In her chapter on Julia Crispina, mentioned in the Babatha archive, Ilan suggests that the woman was Berenice’s granddaughter.
- Jordan, Ruth. Berenice. London: 1974.
Jordan is a journalist. In an enchanting book of documentary fiction Jordan outlines Berenice’s life with all its complexities and identity crises.
- Krieger, Klaus-Stefan. “Berenike—Die Schwester König Aggripas II., bei Flavius Josephus.” JSJ 28 (1997): 1–11.
This article discusses the very different representations of this woman found in Josephus’ BJ (positive) and Ant. (negative). He explains her positive portrait as a result of her connections with Titus, his patron, and her negative portrayal as emanating from her support of Justus of Tiberias, Josephus’ enemy.
- Levick, Barbara. “Titus and the Jewish Princess.” Wolfson College, Oxford: College Record (1999–2000): 60–73.
In this entertaining paper, Levick discusses and attempt by the foremost modern historian of Rome, Ronald Syme, to reconstruct Tacitus’ lost chapter on the affair of Titus and Berenice.
- Macurdy, Grace H. Vassal Queens and Some Contemporary Women in the Roman Empire, 84–90. Baltimore: 1937.
Macurdy was and remains the foremost historian on Helenistic and Roman royal women. In this chapter Macurdy places Berenice within the Hellenisitc-Roman setting of gender-power relationships. It is also an excellent survey of all the sources (literary and epigraphic) that mention Berenice.
- Mireaux, Emile. La Riene Bérénice. Paris: 1951.
This is the most complete attempt to write a biography for Berenice. Its most original contribution is to suggest that the Book of Judith was written in order to urge Berenice to do to Titus what Judith had done to Holophernes.
- Rogers, Perry M. “Titus, Berenice and Mucianus.” Historia 29 (1980): 86–95.
This article is an answer to Crook’s historical reconstruction, claiming that it was not politics that led to Berenice’s dismissal but commonsense on the part of the future emperor, who needed popular support.
- Schwartz, D. R. “κατά τούτον τόν καιρόν: Josephus’ Source on Agrippa II.” JQR 72 (1981–2): 241–268.
In this article Schwartz explores the sources on Agrippa II used by Josephus, and suggests that the texts denigrating Berenice that he uses in Ant. derive from a pious Jewish source and do not reflect Josephus own opinions.
Berenice was also immortalized in various plays and novels, e.g. Howard Fast, Agrippa’s Daughter. New York: 1964; Leon Kolb, Berenice: Princess of Judea. New York: 1959, and see further in Jordan, ibid. http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/berenice
Wagner, Sir Anthony Richard; ‘Pedigree and Progress: Essays in the Genealogical Interpretation of History’
Name: Berenice of Judea
Given Name: Berenice
Surname: of Judea
Change Date: 6 Oct 2005
Father: Agrippa I of Judea
Mother: Cypros of Judea
Marriage 1 Herod Pollio of Chalcis
Julia of Chalcis
Forrás / Source:
Please See Discussion on this NOT being the mother of Julia of Chalcis, but likely an error by Wagner not knowing this Berenike was also known as Julia Berenike, Queen of Chalcis herself. Opgalli vsJulia of Chalcis as Tigranes' wife