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

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.

Read more at Tablet

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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy