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.

Read more at Bible History Daily

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict