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

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.

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Read more at Bible History Daily

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

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy