Gary Greenberg's blog on biblical studies and related matters

Berenice, the Jewish Queen of Rome, and the Origins of Replacement Theory

An interesting article about the rise of fears in non-Jewish cultures that Jews would take them over. The article begins with an exploration of the role Berenice played in Rome, after the Romans defeated the Jewish nation and destroyed the Temple. Berinice, and her brother Agrippa II, were Herodians, descendants of Herod the Great, whose descendants ruled over various parts of the Jewish nation in the first century. The Herodians were Roman loyalists (who owed their titles to the Roman emperors) and opposed the Jewish revolt.

Here’s a portion of the opening. The article goes on to explore subsequent historical developments within the Christian world in which fears that a Jew could someday become Pope fueled some Christian reactions against the Jewish people.

In 70 CE, the Roman Emperor Vespasian’s son, Titus, had defeated the Judean rebellion, destroying Jerusalem and the Second Temple. However, once victorious, he chose as his willing consort Berenice, the sister of Agrippa II, the former king of conquered Judaea. This choice was not so odd as it may sound: Berenice and her brother had opposed the Jewish revolt from the beginning. Along with the spoils of the Temple, Titus brought Berenice back to Rome, where, according to Cassius Dio (Roman History LXV 15), she lived with him as if she were his empress, exerting considerable power.

Some Romans were troubled by the romance of Titus and Berenice and spoke out against her. In her prior marriage to the king of Pontus, Berenice had required that he convert to Judaism and be circumcised. There was probably concern that Titus would be convinced to do the same. The result would be a Jewish emperor of Rome, in effect reversing the outcome of the Jewish War. Worse, Titus and Berenice’s children would be Jewish, ensuring that future emperors would be Jewish. In other words, the Roman Empire would be in Jewish hands.


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