A Judean Queen’s Romance with the Roman Emperor Who Destroyed the Second Temple

March 22 2019

Born in the third decade of the Common Era to the Judean client king Herod Agrippa I, Julia Berenice married her uncle, Herod of Chalcis, thus becoming queen of that small territory in modern-day Syria. Sometime after his death and that of her father, she returned to Jerusalem to reign as queen alongside her brother Agrippa II. Carly Silver describes the twists of her life thereafter:

When [Berenice] saw the havoc the Roman soldiers were wreaking in Jerusalem [in the period leading up to the Judean Revolt], she sent her retainers to plead with the Roman procurator Florus, [to whose authority the Herodian monarchs were ultimately subject], asking him to ease up. Beseeching divine intervention for her people, Berenice swore a vow that “she had made to God,” according to [the ancient Jewish historian] Josephus. After boycotting alcohol and sacrificing at the Temple, as well as shaving her head, she stood barefoot before Florus, pleading with him again. Florus denied her and Berenice herself just barely escaped assault from his soldiers. . . .

In 66 CE, the Romans sent General Vespasian with three legions, along with his son Titus, to quell the unrest. . . . Vespasian and Titus cultivated support among local Jews; after all, not all residents hated Rome, while others couldn’t imagine the Jews succeeding against the legions. Among these pro-Roman Jews was Berenice. . .

Their common education and shared interests trumped their differences, as well as their age gap; Berenice was nearly a dozen years Titus’s senior. The two carried on a passionate affair for three years in Judea, until Titus finally incinerated Jerusalem in 70 CE. He went home to Rome the following year—by then, Vespasian was already named emperor. In 75, Berenice and Agrippa II followed.

In Rome, Titus and Berenice resumed their relationship, to the horror of more conservative Romans. . . . It’s no coincidence that [the Roman historian] Tacitus places Titus’s “notorious passion for Queen Berenice, to whom it was even said that he promised marriage” among references to Titus’s other debaucheries, like eunuch parties. Never mind Berenice’s pro-Roman attitudes; she was a foreigner, her strangeness exemplified by her single status and independence.

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, History & Ideas, Josephus, Second Temple

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy