Hadrian the Chrestian
|Hadrian as Pontifex Maximus - pontiff.|
|Bust of L. Caecilius Iucundus, donated by Antonius Felix|
Near the end of the first century, Chrestians are so ensconced within the imperial court that they can commit another assassination (as they had with Nero): that of Domitian on 18 September 96:
Domitian was assassinated on 18 September 96, in a palace conspiracy organized by court officials.[Jones (1992), p. 193] A highly detailed account of the plot and the assassination is provided by Suetonius, who alleges that Domitian's chamberlain Parthenius was the chief instigator behind the conspiracy, citing the recent execution of Domitian's secretary Epaphroditus as the primary motive.[Grainger (2003), p. 16][Suetonius, Life of Domitian 14;16] The murder itself was carried out by a freedman of Parthenius named Maximus, and a steward of Domitian's niece Flavia Domitilla, named Stephanus.[Grainger (2003), p. 19]
(Domitian, Assassination (96))
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.The cause was probably Domitian's execution of Chrestians (e.g. Titus Flavius Clemens), including Epaphroditus for assassinating Nero.
|Epaphroditus, Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas and Caesar|
Flavia Domitilla was daughter of Domitilla the Younger by an unknown father, perhaps Quintus Petillius Cerialis. She married her cousin, the consul Titus Flavius Clemens.
Dio reports:[Epitome of Cassius Dio, 67.4]
Domitian slew, along with many others, Flavius Clemens the consul, although he was a cousin and married to Flavia Domitilla, who was also a relative of the emperor's. The charge brought against them both was that of atheism (ἀθεότης), a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned. Some of these were put to death, and the rest were at least deprived of their property. Domitilla was merely banished to Pandateria (Ventotene).
As a Christian saintWe know of these Chrestians because Christianity did not yet exist, so when later a person of the first century is described as Christian, the claim is either completely spurious, or the person is a Chrestian; anyway, once the character of Chrestianity is understood, many Chrestians are easy to identify (they are the bad guys, or goodfellas).
Flavia Domitilla is a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church, which celebrates her feast day on 12 May. And also as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, which honoured her on 12 May together with Saints Nereus and Achilleus, in whose church of Santi Nereo e Achilleo in Rome, her supposed relics were housed.
(Flavia Domitilla (saint))
|Part of Hadrian's cartouche - UC16580 (Petrie Museum).|
Hadrian - though he may be thought of as a person of the second century - is of the first century, born in 76. He was 20 when Domitian was killed and already in public service. His travels across the Levant, both in service and privately, put him in good contact with numerous of the important people from Greece to Egypt, especially priests (of which one is Plutarch, priest of the Delphic temple), and the polymath Ptolemy, who I regard as a Ptolemy (if you catch my drift).
Look at who he was: a grecophile from childhood, when the Greek/Greco-Roman world was turning violently against Judaism in general and messianic Judaism in particular. His personal life was to excess - a perfect Chrestian.
To see Hadrian as a Chrestian, there are these pointers, remembering how Chrestians regarded messianic Judaism as the major threat to Rome's provincial rulers in the Levant:
- His holocausts against Jews - his role in the Second Jewish-Roman War and his instigation of the Third.
- His destruction of Jerusalem and building of Aelia Capitolina atop; his erasure of Judaea.
- His sacrifice of his catamite, Antinous, then his resurrection, in a ceremony mimicking that of Osiris.
|Antinous as Osiris, found in the ruins of Hadrian's villa during the 18th century|
|Isis, in the form of a bird, copulates with the deceased Osiris. At either side are Horus, although he is as yet unborn, and Isis in human form|
|Coin of Hadrian with personification of Pietas (Piety) in Orans pose, beside an altar.|
Aquila of SinopeLet us take a quick look at this Priscilla, because she is also presented as a Christian:
AQUILA Άκύλας, (1) a Jew from Rome, who with his wife Prisca or Priscilla had settled in Corinth, where Paul stayed with them (Acts xviii. 2,3). They became Christians and fellow-workers with Paul, to whom they seem to have shown their devotion in some special way (Rom. xvi. 3, 4). (2) A native of Pontus, celebrated for a very literal and accurate translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Epiphanius (De Pond. et Mens. c. 15) preserves a tradition that he was a kinsman of the emperor Hadrian, who employed him in rebuilding Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina, q.v.), and that he was converted to Christianity, but, on being reproved for practising pagan astrology, apostatized to Judaism. He is said also to have been a disciple of Rabbi ’Aqiba (d. A.D. 132), and seems to be referred to in Jewish writings as עקילס. Aquila’s version is said to have been used in place of the Septuagint in the synagogues.
Priscilla and Aquila were a first century Christian missionary married couple described in the New Testament and traditionally listed among the Seventy Disciples. They lived, worked, and traveled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus".[Rom. 16:3 NASB] Priscilla and Aquila are described in the New Testament as providing a presence that strengthened the early Christian churches. Paul was generous in his recognition and acknowledgment of his indebtedness to them.[Rom. 16:3-4] Together, they are credited with instructing Apollos, a major evangelist of the first century, and "[explaining] to him the way of God more accurately".[Acts 18:26] While it is never stated, it has been conjectured, in light of her apparent prominence, that Priscilla held the office of teacher. She is thought by some to be the anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
(Priscilla and Aquila)
Prisca, often written in the diminutive form Priscilla, was a 2nd century C.E. foundational leader and prophet of the religious movement known today as Montanism based in the Phrygian towns of Pepuza and Tymion.
Saint Prisca was a young Roman woman allegedly tortured and executed for her Christian faith. The dates of her birth and death are unknown. She is revered as a pre-schism Western saint and martyr by the Orthodox Church and as a saint and a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Though some legends suggest otherwise, scholars do not believe she is the Priscilla (Prisca) of the New Testament couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who were friends of the Apostle Paul.
|The earliest known depiction of the Eucharist, in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, Rome. Second century CE.|
The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome, Italy, is situated in what was a quarry in Roman times. This quarry was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. The Catacombs of Priscilla are believed to be named after Priscilla, a member of the gens Acilia and who was probably the wife of the Consul Acilius who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian.This Acilius is another Chrestian:
(Catacomb of Priscilla)
Manius Acilius Glabrio was the name of a Roman consul in AD 91, conjointly with Trajan, who was afterwards emperor. He belonged to one of the noblest families of Rome, and no fewer than nine men sharing his name held the consular office. As he was of great strength and activity, he was commanded by Domitian to descend into the arena and fight a huge lion. He slew the animal, and was greeted with so much applause, that he roused the jealousy of the emperor, who first banished, and then put him to death on some false pretext.Also for Aquila:
According to Suetonius, the emperor caused several senators and ex-consuls to be executed on the charge of conspiring against the empire -- quasi molitores rerum novarum, "as contrivers of revolution" (Domit., c. x), which in Glabrio's case was adhering to the Christian religion. Xiphilinus, speaking of the executions of AD 95, says that some members of the imperial family and other persons of importance were condemned for atheism, as having embraced the Christian faith. After his death, his body was brought to Rome, and buried on the Via Salaria, in the catacomb of Priscilla.
(Manius Acilius Glabrio (consul 91))
ONKELOS AND AQUILA (second century C.E.), two translators of the Bible, the one into Aramaic and the other into Greek, both of whom were proselytes. Although there is no doubt of their separate existence, the translation of Onkelos being preserved in its entirety, and that of Aquila in fragments (see *Aramaic (Middle Aramaic) and *Bible, Translations), the similarity of the names has caused considerable confusion. Similar or identical incidents are given in the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta as applying to Onkelos, and in the Jerusalem Talmud and the Palestinian Midrashim to Aquila (Akilas). It is therefore convenient to treat both of them primarily as one, while indicating where possible where they can be distinguished from one another. Fact and legend are inextricably interwoven.He is a pagan Roman, a relative of Hadrian, a Jew and when there were no Christians, one of those, too. (A part of Jewish legend because the Herodian ruling dynasty was nominally Jewish, like Saul/Paul.) Here is his constellation, entwined with that of Antinous - they were originally the other way about, with Antinous riding Aquila:
According to Epiphanius, Aquila was a native of Pontus and a relative of the emperor *Hadrian, who in about 128 appointed him to an office connected with the rebuilding of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina. The Midrash (Tanḥ. 41a, Mishpatim 3) also refers to him as the son of the sister of Hadrian...
|The former constellation Antinous was merged into Aquilla in 1930, but both can be seen in this 1825 chart from Urania's Mirror. The star catalogue of Ptolemy is the only known astronomical work of Antiquity to mention Antinous.|
Known nowadays as one of the "Good Emperors", there has been speculation that Hadrian was a Christian:
Finally, after his return to Rome from Africa, he immediately set out for the East, journeying by way of Athens. Here he dedicated the public works which he had begun in the city of the Athenians, such as the temple to Olympian Jupiter and an altar to himself; and in the same way, while travelling through Asia, he consecrated the temples called by his name.*Hadrian's adopted son and successor is Antoninus Pius and I think he is later misrepresented as Pope Pius; Chrestians now ruled Rome in comfort and security.
* They were later called simply "Hadrian's temples," and it was asserted that he had intended to consecrate them to Christ; see Alex. xliii.6. They were, in fact, temples dedicated to the cult of the emperors, including Hadrian himself, who was worshipped in the cities of Asia Minor as well as in the Olympieion at Athens. In inscriptions he has the cult-name Olympios or Zeus Olympios.
(Historia Augusta, published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1921)