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Brief history of Tiberias
   Following the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C.E., 1  Antipas, the king ’ s son by his Samaritan wife Malthace, 2  was awarded the title of tetrarch and rule of Galilee and Peraea by Augustus. 3  For many years the new tetrarch ’ s administration was centered in the Galilean city of Sepphoris, rebuilt in sumptuous fashion 4  from the ruins left by Syrian proconsul Quintilius Varus only years earlier. 5  Not a quarter of a century later, Sepphoris would be abandoned for a new capital on the Western shores of Lake Gennesaret: Tiberias. Though it is universally acknowledged that the city was founded during the reign of emperor Tiberius (14-37 C.E., earlier if one counts those two years of coregency with Augustus), scholars have long debated the precise year. Relatively late dates were offered by Emil Schürer, who early in the 20th century argued that its establishment could have not been “ till A.D. 26 or later, ” 6  and Harold Hoehner, who thought the year 23 C.E. most likely. 7  Several scholars, notably among them Sean Freyne, posited dates as early as 13 C.E. 8  However, in recent years a growing body of numismatic evidence has convinced most that the city was founded in 19/20 C.E. 9  Coins dating to Antipas ’  24th regnal year (19/20 C.E.) name Tiberias on their reverse and it seems likely that the series was minted to commemorate its foundation. 10  Though hard evidence is elusive, Antipas ’  decision to uproot the capital was likely motivated by several distinct considerations. The beautiful new city would no doubt have seemed 1  Jos.  A.J.  17.191;  B.J.  1.665. All references to the works of Josephus are from the critical edition of Niese (1887-1895).   2    B.J.  1.562.   3    A.J.  17.318.   4    A.J.  18.27.   5    A.J.  17.289.   6  On the grounds that Josephus ’  account in the  Antiquitates  follows the introduction of Pontius Pilate who assumed office in 26 C.E (  A.J.  18.33, 35;  A.J.  18.89) ; Schürer 1980, 143. As Hoehner (1972, 94) rightly observes, the events in this section of  Antiquitates  are not in strict chronological order. Further, the foundation of Tiberias is narrated  prior   to the arrival of Pilate in the  Bellum Judaicum  parallel (  B.J  . 2.168 and  B.J.  2.169).   7  Hoehner 1972, 94-95.   8  Freyne 1980, 129.   9  E.g. Chancey 2004, 88; 2005, 86; Jensen 2006, 136; 2007, 297; Qedar 1986-7, 30; Strange 1992, 547.   10  See the discussion in Jensen (2007, 297).    an inviting way-point for Jewish pilgrims of the Eastern diaspora on their way to Jerusalem, allowing Anitpas and his retainers to “ rub elbows and make business contacts with the wealthy travelers from Damascus and Babylon... ” . 11   Additionally, the Western shores of Lake Gennesaret abutted established trade routes linking Syria to Egypt in the Southwest, 12  and the hot-springs of Hammath, renowned for their supposed curative properties, were but a short walk away. 13  In 39 C.E. the Emperor Gaius banished Antipas to Gaul on charges of conspiring with Rome ’ s Parthian enemies. 14  In his place, Caligula appointed Antipas ’  nephew and brother-in-law Agrippa I, a long-time friend of the imperial family since his formative years in Rome. 15  When Agrippa I died of a sudden illness in 44 C.E., 16  Claudius reorganized the entire region into a Roman province administered from the coastal city of Caesarea, bringing Tiberius under direct Roman rule for the first time in its brief history. 17  Under Nero the city changed hands yet again. Agrippa I ’ s son Agrippa II had been slowly accumulating territory since the early 50s C.E., first receiving the kingdom of his deceased uncle Herod of Chalcis 18  and later the lands that had belonged to Herod Phillip, Lysanius and Varus. 19  During the procuratorship of Felix (54-60 C.E.), Nero granted him four addition cities -- including Tiberias -- which he would control almost uninterrupted for the next 40 years. 20  According to Josephus, as early as the spring/summer of 66 C.E. the city ’ s administration was structured along the lines of a Greek city-state or πολις . Matters of public importance could 11   Sawicki 2000, 92-3. This might also have been true of Northern Palestinian pilgrims. As Meier (2000, 225) observes, it was not uncommon to detour eastward around Samaria to avoid hostilities with Samaritans. 12   Avi-Yohah 1950-1, 161.   13  According to some sources, Hammath was joined to Tiberias proper as early as the first century C.E.   14    A.J.  18.240-256.   15    A.J.  18.143.   16    A.J  . 19.350.   17    A.J.  19.363.   18    B.J.  2.223.   19    A.J. 20.138.   20  A.J. 20.159. On the controversy surrounding the date of the grant, see Jensen (2006, 137).     be decided by civic assemblies held in the stadium or large synagogue. 21  Citizens elected a βουλη  (council or senate) of 600 men 22  and an αρχων  (roughly, the council president), 23  all of whom were assisted by ten πρωτοι  (leading men) 24  and an αγορανομος  (ruler/head of the market). 25 This latter office is the only that can be confidently placed during the reign of Antipas; in addition to the testimony of Josephus, one of two lead weights discovered outside the modern city names a certain Gaius Julius as αγορανομος  in the 34th year of Antipas (i.e. 30 C.E.). 26  As historian Morton Jensen rightly cautions in this regard, there is a “ need for rigid distinction  between what Josephus does and does not explicitly attribute to Antipas, since the city was ruled  by different groups from its foundation and up until the war, ” 27  making the confident assertion of some scholars that Tiberias was founded with a Hellenistic constitution somewhat  premature. 28  With the outbreak of war against Rome in the first half of 66 C.E., control of the city,  both formally and informally, vacillated between competing Jewish factions. Immediately following the failure of Syrian legate Cestius ’  preliminary offensive in the spring of 66 C.E., the moderate Jerusalem aristocracy entrusted preparations for Galilee ’ s defense to the historian Josephus, himself a wealthy Judaean aristocrat, who fortified Tiberias and several other important Galilean population centers. 29  Not long after, Tiberias passed into the hands of a faction led by Justus, an educated native of Tiberias 30  whom Josephus (erroneously) 31  claims 21    B.J.  2.618   22    B.J.  2.641.   23   Jos. Vit.  1.278.   24   Vit  . 1.296.   25    A.J.  18.149.   26  Qedar 1986-7, 29-30; see also Stein 1992, 144.   27  Jensen 2006, 138.   28  Compare Bernett (2007, 343) who writes that “ Antipas founded a Jewish  polis  as capital of his tetarchy, which combined elements of Hellenistic and Jewish culture. ”   29    B.J.  2.573.   30   Vit  . 1.40.     beguiled the masses with his Greek rhetoric and convinced them to take up arms against Rome. One of their first actions was to visit destruction upon villages belonging to Hippos, Gadara and Scythopolis, all Hellenistic cities with predominately pagan gentile populations, in retaliation for the cruelty their inhabitants had recently shown Decapolean Jews. 32  Later, Josephus traveled from Sepphoris to Bethmaus, a village a short distance from Tiberias, with instructions from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin to convene the city ’ s principal men and demolish the palace of Herod Antipas. 33  Though hesitant, Justus and the πρωτοι  -- among whom Josephus names Julius Capellus, the leader of the city ’ s aristocratic pro-Roman faction 34  -- reluctantly acquiesced to Josephus ’  demands, but a moment too late; a rebellious faction of fisherman and other city poor, led by Jesus son of Sapphias, the city ’ s αρχων , 35  plundered the  palace, burnt it to the ground and proceeded to slaughter the city ’ s gentile inhabitants. 36  Once word reached Nero that Cestius ’  offensive had failed, Vespasian was charged with  pacifying the rebellion. 37 Together with his son Titus, the future emperors marched their legions to Sennabris, a place “ easily seen ”  by the rebels, 38  and dispatched the decurion Valerian and fifty calvarymen to convene with the pro-Roman faction and win a peaceful surrender. 39  Though the rebels would force the embassy from the city, 40  Tiberias was ultimately won without bloodshed. The city ’ s pro-Roman faction assembled at Vespasian ’ s camp and begged the general to spare their lives and ensure the safety of the city. As a favor to King Agrippa II who had campaigned 31  That Justus favored war is unlikely; as Mason (2003, 41-2), Freyne (1980, 236-7) and Rajak (1973, 352) argue, Josephus ’  portrait is highly polemical and surely intended to counter the charge, made by Justus in his own (now lost) history, that it was Josephus who bore responsibility for the escalation of hostilities.   32   Vit.  1.25-7, 42.   33   Vit  . 1.64-6. The palace was decorated with images of animals, a great offense to aniconistic Jews.   34   Vit  . 1.32.   35    B.J.  2.599; Vit  . 1.134.   36   Vit  . 1.66-7.   37    B.J.  3.1-8.   38    B.J.  3.447   39    B.J.  3.448  


Jul 23, 2017


Jul 23, 2017
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