Imperial and Royal Chrestians of the First Century

Isis being served wine by the deceased. Egypt, Roman Period. Coffin floorboard
The strategy of Augustus to dominate his empire was to have women of his family raise the children of provincial royalty, as well as the Roman elite, to be loyal to him and his imperial theocracy. Antonia Minor is the first-named Chrestian and this is how she made those children (or at least, tried to, for she seems to have failed with a few).

Chrestianity comes from the "Is Chrest" in the early manuscripts, perhaps derived from the Isis Chrest cult; it is Ptolemaic in origin, specifically from Alexandria, home of the great library and of Philo's family (treated as Chrestian in the previous post).

Most of the hostage children survived and here are some. (Please note than when others refer to Christians, they should mean Chrestians.)

Part III

Diademed heads of Polemon and Tryphaen
1. Antonia Tryphaena
also known as Tryphaena of Thrace or Tryphaena (her name in Greek: η Άντωνία Τρύφαινα or Τρυφαίνη, 10 BC - 55 CE) was a Princess of the Bosporan, Pontus, Cilicia, Cappadocia and a Roman Client Queen of Thrace.
Tryphaena bore Cotys four known children:
  1. A son, Rhoemetalces II, he was named after his paternal grandfather and ruled with Tryphaena from when his father died in 18 until his death in 38.
  2. A daughter, Gepaepyris, she married the Roman Client King Tiberius Julius Aspurgus of the Bosporan Kingdom.
  3. A son, Cotys IX, he was the namesake of his father. He became Roman Client King of Lesser Armenia from 38 to until at least 47.
  4. A daughter, Pythodoris II or Pythodorida II. She was named after her maternal grandparents and her paternal grandmother. In 38, after the death of Rhoemetalces II, Tryphaena abdicated the throne at the request of Roman Emperor Caligula. Pythodoris II married her second paternal cousin Rhoemetalces III and they ruled Thrace as Roman Client Rulers from 38 until 46.
While Tryphaena’s children were growing up they were part of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor in Rome. Antonia Minor was another great maternal aunt of Tryphaena’s.
They enter the textual tradition:
Tryphena of Rome is a Christian woman mentioned in Romans 16:12 of the Bible ("Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord." KJV)
Saint Thecla monastery in Ma'loula, Syria
The ancient Roman Martyrology for November 10th reports: "At Iconium in Lycaonia, the holy women Tryphenna and Tryphosa, who profited by the preaching of blessed Paul and the example of Thecla to make great progress in Christian perfection." This tradition connects Tryphena of Romans 16:12 with Antonia Tryphaena, a Roman Client Queen of Thrace who, according to the ancient Acts of Paul and Thecla was discipled to Christianity by St. Thecla. Tryphaena’s brother Polemon II married the Judean Princess Julia Berenice and through their marriage Polemon converted to Judaism and probably later became a Christian.
The Acts of Paul and Thecla (Acta Pauli et Theclae) is an apocryphal story—Goodspeed called it a "religious romance"- of St Paul's influence on a young virgin named Thecla. It is one of the writings of the New Testament apocrypha.
Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II, found in 1918.
2. Cleopatra Selene II
Cleopatra Selene II (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Σελήνη; late 40 BC – ?[1]), also known as Cleopatra VIII of Egypt or Cleopatra VIII, was a Ptolemaic Princess and was the only daughter to Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony. She was the fraternal twin of Ptolemaic prince Alexander Helios.
Cleopatra had two full brothers, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos. Her mother also had an older son, Caesarion, and her father had five children with previous wives.
Octavian captured Cleopatra and her brothers and took them from Egypt to Italy. Octavian celebrated his military triumph in Rome by parading the three orphans in heavy golden chains in the streets. The chains were so heavy that they could not walk, eliciting sympathy from many of the Roman onlookers. Octavian gave the siblings to Octavia Minor to be raised in her household in Rome. Octavia Minor, who became their guardian, was Octavian's second eldest sister and was their father's former wife.
Between 26 and 20 BC, Augustus arranged for Cleopatra to marry King Juba II of Numidia in Rome. The Emperor Augustus gave to Cleopatra as a wedding present a huge dowry and she became an ally to Rome. By then her brothers, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, disappear from all known historical records and are presumed to have died, possibly from illness or assassination. When Cleopatra married Juba, she was the only surviving member of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Juba and Cleopatra could not return to Numidia as it had been made a Roman province in 46 BC. The couple were sent to Mauretania, an unorganized territory that needed Roman supervision. They renamed their new capital Caesarea (modern Cherchell, Algeria), in honor of the Emperor.Cleopatra is said to have exercised great influence on policies that Juba created.
Mark Antony and Octavia
This Octavia Minor (full sister of Augustus and mother of Antonia Minor) thus began the child-hostage practice.
Octavia the Younger (69 BC – 11 BC), also known as Octavia Minor or simply Octavia, was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus (known also as Octavian), half-sister of Octavia the Elder, and fourth wife of Mark Antony. She was also the great-grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, maternal grandmother of the Emperor Claudius, and paternal great-grandmother and maternal great-great grandmother of the Emperor Nero.
Between 40 and 36 BC, she travelled with Antony to various provinces and lived with him in his Athenian mansion. There she raised her children by Marcellus as well as Antony's two sons; the two daughters of her marriage to Antony, Antonia Major and Antonia Minor, were born there.
3. Gaius Julius Antiochus IV Epiphanes
(before 17 CE – after 72 CE) was the last king of Commagene, who reigned between 38-72 as a client king to the Roman Empire.
Antiochus himself would marry his full-blooded sister Iotapa...he was a direct descendant of the Greek Seleucid kings. 
Antiochus appears to have been very young when in 17, his father died. Roman Emperor Tiberius agreed with the citizens of Commagene to make their kingdom apart of the Roman province of Syria. Between 17 and 38, Antiochus seems to have gained Roman citizenship. He lived and was raised in Rome, along with his sister. While he and his sister were growing up in Rome, they were part of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor, a niece of the first Roman Emperor Augustus and the youngest daughter of triumvir Mark Antony. Antonia Minor was a very influential woman and supervised her circle of various princes and princesses. Her circle assisted in the political preservation of the Roman Empire’s borders and affairs of the client states.
In 38, Antiochus received his paternal dominion from Antonia’s grandson, the Roman Emperor Caligula. In addition, the emperor enlarged Antiochus' territory with a part of Cilicia bordering on the seacoast. Caligula also gave him the whole amount of the revenues of Commagene during the twenty years that it had been a Roman province. The reasons for providing a client king with such vast resources remain unclear; it was perhaps a stroke of Caligula's well-attested eccentricity. Antiochus was on most intimate terms with Caligula, and he and King Agrippa I are spoken of as the instructors of the emperor in the art of tyranny. This friendship, however, did not last very long, for he was subsequently deposed by Caligula.
Antiochus did not obtain his kingdom again till the accession of Roman Emperor Claudius in 41.
He took the side of Vespasian when the latter was proclaimed Roman emperor in 70; and he is then spoken of as the richest of the tributary kings. 
The emperor Claudius is the son of Antonia Minor.

4. Julia Iotapa
(before 17-around 52) was ... the daughter of the late King Antiochus III of Commagene and Queen Iotapa of Commagene. Her parents were full-blooded siblings who had married each other.
While Iotapa and Antiochus were growing up in Rome, they were apart of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor. Her circle assisted in the political preservation of the Roman Empire’s borders and affairs of the client states.
The Roman Emperor Caligula returned to her and Antiochus IV their paternal dominion in 38. In addition, the emperor even enlarged their territory with apart of Cilicia bordering on the seacoast. Caligula also gave them one million gold pieces the whole amount of the revenues of Commagene during the twenty years that it had been under a Roman province. The reasons for providing a client kingdom with such vast resources remain unclear; it was perhaps a stroke of Caligula's well-attested eccentricity.
Iotapa had married her brother and became Roman Client Monarchs of Commagene. Iotapa and Antiochus IV had three children:
  • Son and prince: Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes. Through him they would become paternal grandparents to Philopappos who was a prominent citizen of Athens and poet Julia Balbilla.
  • Son and prince: Callinicus
  • Daughter and princess: Iotapa
She appeared to have died before Commagene was annexed by Roman Emperor Vespasian in 72. When she died, Antiochus IV in her honor founded a town called Iotape (modern Aytap, Turkey). On coinage her royal title is ‘Queen Iotape Philadelphus’ or ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑ ΙΩΤΑΠΗ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΣ’. The title Philadelphus reveals to us that she is the sister-wife of Antiochus IV. This also shows her descent and claim to the Royal Cult that was established by her late ancestor Antiochus I.
A prutah of Herod the Great,  bearing the Chi-Rho
The Herodian dynasty had most to lose from the messianic, Jewish insurrection, so are obvious targets for Chrestian indoctrination in Rome. However, the best-laid plans of mice and men... when Herod Agrippa left the home of Antonia Minor and became king of Judea, it became increasingly apparent to the Chrestians that not only was he following his own, patriotic line, he supported messianic Judaism at Qumran and allied with "Izates", actually king Abgarus of Osroene. His death is celebrated in the New Testament:
Herod’s Death
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts of the Apostles 12)
Seems to me like poison, the first Chrestian assassination.

This leaves the Chrestians scrabbling to ensure infiltration of this ruling dynasty, through their appointments to Judea.
A section of the Herodian dynasty, ruling Judea
5. Herod Agrippa II
Herod Agrippa II was educated at the court of the emperor Claudius, and at the time of his father's death was only seventeen years old. Claudius therefore kept him at Rome, and sent Cuspius Fadus as procurator of the Roman province of Judaea.
It was before him and his sister Berenice that, according to the New Testament, Paul the Apostle pleaded his case at Caesarea Maritima, possibly in 59.
Agrippa failed to prevent his subjects from rebelling, and urged instead that they tolerate the behavior of the Roman procurator Gessius Florus; but in 66 the Jews expelled him and Berenice from the city. During the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73, he sent 2,000 men, archers and cavalry, to support Vespasian, showing that, although a Jew in religion, he was entirely devoted to the Roman Empire.
After the capture of Jerusalem, he went with his sister Berenice to Rome, where he was invested with the dignity of praetor and rewarded with additional territory.
He had a great intimacy with the historian Josephus, having supplied him with information for his history, Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus preserved two of the letters he received from him.
As he was educated at the court of Claudius, whose mother is Antonia Minor, he too was raised as Chrestian, though unlike his father, this stuck to him.

6. Drusilla (daughter of Herod Agrippa)
Several days later Felix came [back into court] with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess.
(Acts of the Apostles 24:24)
Drusilla (38 AD – 25 August 79 AD) was a daughter of Herod Agrippa I and thus sister to Berenice, Mariamne and Herod Agrippa II. She perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
Perhaps Chrestians regarded their greatest success was in gaining the wife of the emperor Nero:

7. Poppaea Sabina
Poppaea Sabina (30–65) — known as Poppaea Sabina the Younger (to differentiate her from her mother) and, after AD 63, as Poppaea Augusta Sabina — was a Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. She had also been wife to the future Emperor Otho. The historians of antiquity describe her as a beautiful woman who used intrigues to become empress.
The historian Josephus, on the other hand, tells us of a very different Poppaea. He calls her a deeply religious woman (perhaps privately a Jewish proselyte) who urged Nero to show compassion, namely to the Jewish people. However, in 64, she secured the position of procurator of Judaea for her friend's husband, Gessius Florus, who was harmful to the Jews.
Found at her family home:
Beryllus was Nero's tutor
Rights Annulled at Caesarea (60 CE)
A 20.8.9 182-184
The leaders of the Syrians in Caesarea, by offering a large bribe, prevailed on Beryllus, who was Nero's tutor apply for a letter from Nero annulling the grant of equal civic rights to the Jews. Beryllus exhorted the emperor and succeeded in getting his authorization for the letter. This letter provided the basis that led to the subsequent miseries that befell our nation. For the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea, when they learned of Nero's letter, carried their quarrel with the Syrians further and further until at last they kindled the flames of war.
(Excerpt from Josephus)
Beryllus and Poppaea Sabina had worked with other Chrestians to persuade Nero in this anti-Jewish act, which must have added to the instigations of Saul, moving Judea closer to rebellion and outright war. The warning to Beryllus is part of the process by which Nero discovered the Chrestian conspiracy.

8. Josephus
A thoroughly dishonest, treacherous man and history's principle author on Judea in the 1st century and thus his works, whatever their merit, are the basis - then and now - for most histories of events, politics, religious arguments and people:
Josephus starts to tell about his aristocratic descent, devotes a few pages to his youth, and describes his activities as a general. It overlaps the story of the Jewish Wars, and comparison of the two narratives shows us that Josephus can simplify, exaggerate, invent, suppress, and distort his story as he likes. (Livius on Josephus)
Considering his identity and his claimed descent from Hasmonian royalty through the female line, we must consider that Josephus is, through the male line, a member of a royal family allied to Rome.
Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), born Joseph ben Matityahu (Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu),[3] was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.
He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 CE to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claimed the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome.
He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests.
It was while being confined at Yodfat (Jotapata) that Josephus claimed to have experienced a divine revelation, that later led to his speech predicting Vespasian would become emperor.
In 71 CE, he went to Rome in the entourage of Titus, becoming a Roman citizen and client of the ruling Flavian dynasty
He was a traitor; the question is, from when? I place this is Jerusalem, before we was selected to go to Rome the first time, to represent Jews at court.
The historian Josephus, on the other hand, tells us of a very different Poppaea. He calls her a deeply religious woman (perhaps privately a Jewish proselyte) who urged Nero to show compassion, namely to the Jewish people. However, in 64, she secured the position of procurator of Judaea for her friend's husband, Gessius Florus, who was harmful to the Jews
His voyage and the ship's sinking probably became the basis for the tale of Saul/Paul and his vessel sinking. On the voyage, Josephus is offered an introduction to the empress Poppaea Sabina. In my view, the purpose of this is to meet the Chrestian chamberlain, Epaphroditus, and have the honour of meeting the the empress.

Similarly, much of the New Testament (gospels and Acts) is drawn on his work and this includes events ascribed to its divine man. That is, without the works of Josephus, the bulk of the New Testament could not have been composed.
So I consigned myself to hardship, and underwent great difficulties, and went through them all. Nor did I content myself with the trying of these three only, for when I was informed that one whose name was Banus lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than what grew upon trees, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both night and day, to purify himself, I imitated him in those things, and continued with him three years.
Though we can never know with absolute certainty what a man thinks and believes in, there are signal facts in this man's life, for example: his claim to have been tutored by "Banus" of the Essenes, his treason to the people of Judea, his offering prophecies, his living in the private home of the Flavians (Vespasian and Titus), his introduction to the empress, tell us how he was pro-Roman, in support of Herod Agrippa II, and vehemently opposed to messianic Judaism and the Quman community. His politics and actions describe him as Chrestian.

9. Saul
The textual tradition, balanced against the slight historical record, could lead one to suppose he is an enigma. However, as the textual tradition is largely fictional, we can read his history with slightly more confidence.

First, the historical record:
Josephus for 63 CE:
Costobarus also, and Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favor among them, because of their kindred to Agrippa; but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves.
Josephus for 66 CE:
So the men of power perceiving that the sedition was too hard for them to subdue, and that the danger which would arise from the Romans would come upon them first of all, endeavored to save themselves, and sent ambassadors, some to Florus, the chief of which was Simon the son of Ananias; and others to Agrippa, among whom the most eminent were Saul, and Antipas, and Costobarus, who were of the king's kindred; and they desired of them both that they would come with an army to the city, and cut off the seditious before it should be too hard to be subdued. 
Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews, Or The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem, Book II, Chapter 20:
1. AFTER this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink; Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren, together with Philip, the son of Jacimus, who was the commander of king Agrippa's forces, ran away from the city, and went to Cestius. But then how Antipas, who had been besieged with them in the king's palace, but would not fly away with them, was afterward slain by the seditious, we shall relate hereafter. However, Cestius sent Saul and his friends, at their own desire, to Achaia, to Nero, to inform him of the great distress they were in, and to lay the blame of their kindling the war upon Florus, as hoping to alleviate his own danger, by provoking his indignation against Florus.
These passages describe the biblical Saul and his attacks on observant, messianic Jews: the historical Saul, above, is he basis for the biblical Saul/Roman Paul. Though Josephus may have regarded himself as more refined, less of a thug, the two are on the same side.

The above historical account also exposes the biblical lie of Saul's arrest voyage to Rome; he was sent to Nero in Greece, who was attending the games in Corinth - this is when he was interrogated and disappeared. Whatever Saul revealed, it seems to have initiated a series of deaths, first of Poppaea Sabina, then of Nero, and later, the executions on order of Domitian, then his own assassination.

The reason for this is because the Chrestian cult was not known to Nero, so when he found Rome at war with Judea, he needed to understand how this happened; Saul's interrogation must have produced some answers. Vespasian and other Chrestians attended Nero at Corinth, so they knew what was going on and this - particularly after the assassination of Herod Agrippa I - must have decided the Chrestians on their strategy for that century. Nero killed Poppaea Sabina and the Chrestians killed him.

Saul is a descendant of general Costobarus, husband of Salome, sister of Herod I the Great. This family name signals that this family hold the hereditary high priesthood of the Cos temple in Idumaea, where the Herodian family had ruled before invading Judea. Though Cos was a typical, Levantine Baal, in the period of Greek colonisation, this Ball had become a typical, Greek sun god, Helios. This becomes important in helping to understand Saul's outlook: his family had been forced into Judaism, as had all of Idumaea; he worshipped in the Greek manner; he was royal, well connected to the whole Herodian dynasty, which enjoyed Roman citizenship as clients of imperial Rome. (As a royal, he would have known Josephus well.)

I regard Saul and the second, unnamed missionary to "Helen", then her agent in getting grain from the Alabarch, and in the textual tradition, as the magician called Simon Magus, with the prostitute partner Queen Helen.

Saul/Paul has always been regarded as the founder of the Church, but how should we understand that? The traditional answer has always been found in the bible, with accounts ascribed to him - the Epistles - describing his creating and managing them. It would be easy to dismiss all this in the same manner theologians have dismissed many of the works bearing his name. My own view is that some of his correspondence could well have a basis in history.

We have seen Saul as a Herodian agent, an agent provocateur being debriefed by Felix and Herod Agrippa II. If there is any truth at all in the biblical tales, he also infiltrated the royal court of Helen and "Izates" in Edessa; the famine in Judea appears to have substance, too. Maybe there is also some truth to his missionary journeys, for James sent missionaries from Qumran to raise both funds and volunteers, giving Saul the opportunity to betray James and instead recruit gentiles for his own cause.

The role of Marcion of Sinope

This scenario has plausibility and thus provides a link to the later textual tradition for him as Paul. The Pauline canon was formed by Marcion of Sinope and a little south of Damascus there is the remains of a meeting place with his name on it, dated firmly to the early 4th century.
Marcion was the first to introduce an early Christian canon. His canon consisted of still only eleven books grouped into two sections: the Evangelikon based on Luke with parts removed that did not agree with his views, and the Apostolikon, a selection of ten epistles of Paul the Apostle (also altered to fit his views), whom Marcion considered the correct interpreter and transmitter of Jesus' teachings. The gospel used by Marcion does not contain elements relating to Jesus' birth and childhood, although it does contain some elements of Judaism, and material challenging Marcion's ditheism.
We therefore have a gap from the mid-1st century to the early 4th, with Marcion compliing the Pauline canon. If Marcion did not invent it all - which he may have - then I am right in thinking some of the Epistles have some historicity (and assuming that even the historical has been altered in some manner). From where did these manuscripts come? We can only speculate and mine is that his correspondence, as a Chrestian agent for the Herodian monarchy, is that his Control kept copies and at the start of the First Jewish-Roman War, when the royal administration moved to Syria, these letters went also.

So where is the textual tradition connecting Saul in the mid-1st century with Marcion? We have mentioned, above, examples of this:
This tradition connects Tryphena of Romans 16:12 with Antonia Tryphaena, a Roman Client Queen of Thrace who, according to the ancient Acts of Paul and Thecla was discipled to Christianity by St. Thecla.
Western Anatolia and cities of the seven churches
Nobody can prove that Saul founded The Seven churches of Asia:
The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and The Seven Churches of Asia (referring to the Roman province of Asia, not the entire continent), are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation.
The seven churches are located in:
  1. Ephesus (Metropolis of Ephesus)
  2. Smyrna (Metropolis of Smyrna)
  3. Pergamon (Metropolis of Pergamon)
  4. Thyatira
  5. Sardis (See of Sardis)
  6. Philadelphia (Metropolis of Philadelphia)
  7. and Laodicea, near Denizli (see Laodicean Church)
Most of these are in or close by Phrygia, where we find much explicitly-Chrestian archaeology.

In Saul, we seem to have the found the person who advanced the Chrestian cause from cult to religion. "IS Chrest" appears with, I believe, Bardaisan in Edessa and then picked up by Marcion.

Given how fundamental resurrection is to Chrestianity, my feeling is that Saul was resurrected by Marcion, in a manner similar to the resurrection of Buddha in Bactria sometime in the late-1st/early-2nd century, and Antinous by Hadrian, i.e. by that syncretic mix of Greek Magic with the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and a strong dash of Philo's logos doctrine.

From a second-century inscription by a bishop:
[I] being by name Abercius, the disciple of a holy shepherd who feeds flocks of sheep [both] on mountains and on plains, who has great eyes that see everywhere. For this [shepherd] taught me [that the] book [of life] is worthy of belief. And to Rome he sent me to contemplate majesty, and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled; there also I saw a people bearing a shining mark.
(Inscription of Abercius)

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