The Jewish Princess Who Almost Became a Roman Empress—and the Enduring Anti-Semitic Fears of Her Opponents

Jan. 14 2020

After his legions crushed the Jewish Revolt in 70 CE, Titus—son and heir of then-Emperor Vespasian—took as his consort Berenice, whose brother, Agrippa II, had been the last king of Judea. (Since the Judean royal family had opposed the rebellion, Titus’ choice might have been a gesture of reconciliation with local loyalists.) Frederic Brandfon notes that many Romans reacted with fear that Berenice would persuade Titus to become a Jew, or that their children would be raised as Jews, and they might find themselves with a Jewish emperor:

Indeed, preceding dynasties had also faced the charge of Judaizing the empire. Emperor Claudius, who preceded Titus by fewer than twenty years, had a visiting dignitary, Isidorus of Alexandria, executed for accusing him of being Jewish. A few years later, Nero, who ruled Rome until 68 CE . . . could not escape association with Jews. His wife was a “God-Fearer,” that is. a person who engaged in some Jewish practices without converting. There was precedent, therefore, for both Titus’s romantic entanglement and the accusations that came with it

Titus understood that Berenice’s potential ascendance to imperial power was a threat, real or imagined, to the future of the nascent Flavian dynasty [founded by his father], which, like all dynasties, needed stability and not controversy. Berenice was forced into exile. . . . The notion that a single Jew could transform Western society into a Jewish empire was a fear that did not die.

Even the actual transformation of the Roman empire through the establishment of Christianity as the state religion—a faith that incorporated the Jewish Bible, and replaced traditional Roman Gods with a crucified Jew—did not bring an end to the charge of Judaizing: later emperors were accused of being Jewish when they took the side of Jews against Christians. In 387 and 388, synagogues were burned in both Rome and Callinicum in Mesopotamia. The Western emperor Magnus Maximus ordered the Roman synagogue rebuilt, and was promptly labeled a Jew.

As Brandfon goes on to demonstrate, strikingly similar fears persisted in Rome itself into modern times.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Ancient Rome, Anti-Semitism, Judean Revolt

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

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