The Two Kings Change Identities
1, 2. (a) What led Antiochus IV to bow to Rome’s demands? (b) When did Syria become a Roman province?
SYRIAN monarch Antiochus IV invades Egypt and crowns himself its king. At the request of Egyptian King Ptolemy VI, Rome sends Ambassador Caius Popilius Laenas to Egypt. He has with him an impressive fleet and orders from the Roman Senate that Antiochus IV renounce his kingship of Egypt and withdraw from the country. At Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria, the Syrian king and the Roman ambassador come face-to-face. Antiochus IV requests time for consultation with his advisers, but Laenas draws a circle around the king and tells him to answer before stepping across the line. Humiliated, Antiochus IV complies with Roman demands and returns to Syria in 168 B.C.E. Thus ends the confrontation between the Syrian king of the north and the Egyptian king of the south.
2 Playing a dominant role in the affairs of the Middle East, Rome goes on dictating to Syria. Hence, even though other kings of the Seleucid dynasty rule Syria after Antiochus IV dies in 163 B.C.E., they do not occupy the position of “the king of the north.” (Daniel 11:15) Syria finally becomes a Roman province in 64 B.C.E.
3. When and how did Rome gain supremacy over Egypt?
3 Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty continues to hold the position of “king of the south” for a little over 130 years after the death of Antiochus IV. (Daniel 11:14) During the battle of Actium, in 31 B.C.E., Roman ruler Octavian defeats the combined forces of the last Ptolemaic queen—Cleopatra VII—and her Roman lover, Mark Antony. After Cleopatra’s suicide the following year, Egypt too becomes a Roman province and no longer plays the role of the king of the south. By the year 30 B.C.E., Rome has supremacy over both Syria and Egypt. Should we now expect other rulerships to assume the roles of the king of the north and the king of the south?
A NEW KING SENDS OUT “AN EXACTOR”
4. Why should we expect another ruling entity to assume the identity of the king of the north?
4 In the spring of 33 C.E., Jesus Christ told his disciples: “When you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, . . . then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15, 16) Quoting from Daniel 11:31, Jesus warned his followers about a future ‘disgusting thing causing desolation.’ This prophecy involving the king of the north was given some 195 years after the death of Antiochus IV, the last Syrian king in that role. Surely, another ruling entity would have to assume the identity of the king of the north. Who would that be?
5. Who stood up as the king of the north, taking the position once occupied by Antiochus IV?
5 Jehovah God’s angel foretold: “There must stand up in his position [that of Antiochus IV] one who is causing an exactor to pass through the splendid kingdom, and in a few days he will be broken, but not in anger nor in warfare.” (Daniel 11:20) The one ‘standing up’ in this way proved to be the first Roman emperor, Octavian, who was known as Caesar Augustus.—See “One Honored, the Other Despised,” on page 248.
6. (a) When was “an exactor” caused to pass through “the splendid kingdom,” and what was the importance of this? (b) Why can it be said that Augustus died “not in anger nor in warfare”? (c) What change took place in the identity of the king of the north?
6 “The splendid kingdom” of Augustus included “the land of the Decoration”—the Roman province of Judea. (Daniel 11:16) In 2 B.C.E., Augustus sent out “an exactor” by ordering a registration, or census, probably so that he could learn the number of the population for purposes of taxation and military conscription. Because of this decree, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for registration, resulting in Jesus’ birth at that foretold location. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-12) In August 14 C.E.—“in a few days,” or not long after decreeing the registration—Augustus died at the age of 76, neither “in anger” at an assassin’s hands nor “in warfare,” but as a result of illness. The king of the north had indeed changed identity! This king had by now become the Roman Empire in the person of its emperors.
‘THE DESPISED ONE STANDS UP’
7, 8. (a) Who stood up in Augustus’ position as the king of the north? (b) Why was “the dignity of the kingdom” unwillingly bestowed upon the successor of Augustus Caesar?
7 Continuing with the prophecy, the angel said: “There must stand up in his [Augustus’] position one who is to be despised, and they will certainly not set upon him the dignity of the kingdom; and he will actually come in during a freedom from care and take hold of the kingdom by means of smoothness. And as regards the arms of the flood, they will be flooded over on account of him, and they will be broken; as will also the Leader of the covenant.”—Daniel 11:21, 22.
8 The “one who is to be despised” was Tiberius Caesar, the son of Livia, Augustus’ third wife. (See “One Honored, the Other Despised,” on page 248.) Augustus hated this stepson because of his bad traits and did not want him to become the next Caesar. “The dignity of the kingdom” was unwillingly bestowed upon him only after all other likely successors were dead. Augustus adopted Tiberius in 4 C.E. and made him heir to the throne. After the death of Augustus, 54-year-old Tiberius—the despised one—‘stood up,’ assuming power as the Roman emperor and the king of the north.
9. How did Tiberius “take hold of the kingdom by means of smoothness”?
9 “Tiberius,” says The New Encyclopædia Britannica, “played politics with the Senate and did not allow it to name him emperor for almost a month [after Augustus died].” He told the Senate that no one but Augustus was capable of carrying the burden of ruling the Roman Empire and asked the senators to restore the republic by entrusting such authority to a group of men rather than to one man. “Not daring to take him at his word,” wrote historian Will Durant, “the Senate exchanged bows with him until at last he accepted power.” Durant added: “The play was well acted on both sides. Tiberius wanted the principate, or he would have found some way to evade it; the Senate feared and hated him, but shrank from re-establishing a republic based, like the old, upon theoretically sovereign assemblies.” Thus Tiberius ‘took hold of the kingdom by means of smoothness.’
10. How were ‘the arms of the flood broken’?
10 “As regards the arms of the flood”—the military forces of the surrounding kingdoms—the angel said: ‘They will be flooded over and will be broken.’ When Tiberius became the king of the north, his nephew Germanicus Caesar was commander of the Roman troops on the Rhine River. In 15 C.E., Germanicus led his forces against the German hero Arminius, with some success. However, the limited victories were won at great cost, and Tiberius thereafter aborted operations in Germany. Instead, by promoting civil war, he tried to prevent German tribes from uniting. Tiberius generally favored a defensive foreign policy and focused on strengthening the frontiers. This stance was fairly successful. In this way “the arms of the flood” were controlled and were “broken.”
11. How was ‘the Leader of the covenant broken’?
11 “Broken” too was “the Leader of the covenant” that Jehovah God had made with Abraham for blessing all the families of the earth. Jesus Christ was the Seed of Abraham promised in that covenant. (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16) On Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate in the Roman governor’s palace in Jerusalem. The Jewish priests had charged Jesus with treason against the emperor. But Jesus told Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world. . . . My kingdom is not from this source.” So that the Roman governor might not free the faultless Jesus, the Jews shouted: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar.” After calling for Jesus’ execution, they said: “We have no king but Caesar.” According to the law of “injured majesty,” which Tiberius had broadened to include virtually any insult to Caesar, Pilate handed Jesus over to be “broken,” or impaled on a torture stake.—John 18:36; 19:12-16; Mark 15:14-20.
A TYRANT ‘SCHEMES OUT HIS SCHEMES’
12. (a) Who allied themselves with Tiberius? (b) How did Tiberius “become mighty by means of a little nation”?
12 Still prophesying about Tiberius, the angel said: “Because of their allying themselves with him he will carry on deception and actually come up and become mighty by means of a little nation.” (Daniel 11:23) Members of the Roman Senate had constitutionally ‘allied themselves’ with Tiberius, and he formally depended upon them. But he was deceptive, actually becoming “mighty by means of a little nation.” That little nation was the Roman Praetorian Guard, encamped close to Rome’s walls. Its proximity intimidated the Senate and helped Tiberius keep in check any uprisings against his authority among the populace. By means of some 10,000 guards, therefore, Tiberius remained mighty.
13. In what way did Tiberius exceed his forefathers?
13 The angel added prophetically: “During freedom from care, even into the fatness of the jurisdictional district he will enter in and actually do what his fathers and the fathers of his fathers have not done. Plunder and spoil and goods he will scatter among them; and against fortified places he will scheme out his schemes, but only until a time.” (Daniel 11:24) Tiberius was extremely suspicious, and his reign abounded with ordered killings. Largely because of the influence of Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, the latter part of his reign was marked by terror. Finally, Sejanus himself fell under suspicion and was executed. In tyrannizing over people, Tiberius exceeded his forefathers.
14. (a) How did Tiberius scatter “plunder and spoil and goods” throughout the Roman provinces? (b) In what way was Tiberius regarded by the time he died?
14 Tiberius, however, scattered “plunder and spoil and goods” throughout the Roman provinces. By the time of his death, all the subject peoples were enjoying prosperity. Taxes were light, and he could be generous to those in areas undergoing hard times. If soldiers or officials oppressed anyone or promoted irregularity in handling matters, they could expect imperial vengeance. A firm grip on power maintained public security, and an improved communications system helped commerce. Tiberius made sure that affairs were administered fairly and steadily inside and outside Rome. The laws were improved, and social and moral codes were enhanced by the furthering of reforms instituted by Augustus Caesar. Yet, Tiberius ‘schemed out his schemes,’ so that Roman historian Tacitus described him as a hypocritical man, skilled at putting on false appearances. By the time he died in March 37 C.E., Tiberius was considered to be a tyrant.
15. How did Rome fare in the late first and early second centuries C.E.?
15 The successors to Tiberius who filled the role of the king of the north included Gaius Caesar (Caligula), Claudius I, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian. “For the most part,” says The New Encyclopædia Britannica, “the successors to Augustus continued his administrative policies and building program, though with less innovation and more ostentation.” The same reference work further points out: “In the late 1st and early 2nd centuries Rome was at the peak of its grandeur and population.” Although Rome had some trouble on the imperial frontiers during this time, its first foretold confrontation with the king of the south did not occur until the third century C.E.
AROUSED AGAINST THE KING OF THE SOUTH
16, 17. (a) Who took on the role of the king of the north referred to at Daniel 11:25? (b) Who came to occupy the position of the king of the south, and how did this occur?
16 God’s angel continued with the prophecy, saying: “He [the king of the north] will arouse his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great military force; and the king of the south, for his part, will excite himself for the war with an exceedingly great and mighty military force. And he [the king of the north] will not stand, because they will scheme out against him schemes. And the very ones eating his delicacies will bring his breakdown. And as for his military force, it will be flooded away, and many will certainly fall down slain.”—Daniel 11:25, 26.
17 About 300 years after Octavian had made Egypt a Roman province, Roman Emperor Aurelian assumed the role of the king of the north. Meanwhile, Queen Septimia Zenobia of the Roman colony of Palmyra occupied the position of the king of the south.* (See “Zenobia—The Warrior Queen of Palmyra,” on page 252.) The Palmyrene army occupied Egypt in 269 C.E. under the pretext of making it secure for Rome. Zenobia wanted to make Palmyra the dominant city in the east and wanted to rule over Rome’s eastern provinces. Alarmed by her ambition, Aurelian aroused “his power and his heart” to proceed against Zenobia.
18. What was the outcome of the conflict between Emperor Aurelian, the king of the north, and Queen Zenobia, the king of the south?
18 As the ruling entity headed by Zenobia, the king of the south ‘excited himself’ for warfare against the king of the north “with an exceedingly great and mighty military force” under two generals, Zabdas and Zabbai. But Aurelian took Egypt and then launched an expedition into Asia Minor and Syria. Zenobia was defeated at Emesa (now Homs), whereupon she retreated to Palmyra. When Aurelian besieged that city, Zenobia valiantly defended it but without success. She and her son fled toward Persia, only to be captured by the Romans at the Euphrates River. The Palmyrenes surrendered their city in 272 C.E. Aurelian spared Zenobia, making her the prize feature in his triumphal procession through Rome in 274 C.E. She spent the rest of her life as a Roman matron.
19. How did Aurelian fall ‘because of schemes against him’?
19 Aurelian himself ‘did not stand because of schemes against him.’ In 275 C.E., he set out on an expedition against the Persians. While he was waiting in Thrace for the opportunity to cross the straits into Asia Minor, those who ‘ate his food’ carried out schemes against him and brought about his “breakdown.” He was going to call his secretary Eros to account for irregularities. Eros, however, forged a list of names of certain officers marked for death. The sight of this list moved the officers to plot Aurelian’s assassination and to murder him.
20. How was the “military force” of the king of the north “flooded away”?
20 The career of the king of the north did not end with the death of Emperor Aurelian. Other Roman rulers followed. For a time, there was an emperor of the west and one of the east. Under these men the “military force” of the king of the north was “flooded away,” or “scattered,”* and many ‘fell down slain’ because of the invasions of the Germanic tribes from the north. Goths broke through the Roman frontiers in the fourth century C.E. Invasions continued, one after the other. In 476 C.E., German leader Odoacer removed the last emperor ruling from Rome. By the beginning of the sixth century, the Roman Empire in the west had been shattered, and German kings ruled in Britannia, Gaul, Italy, North Africa, and Spain. The eastern part of the empire lasted into the 15th century.
A GREAT EMPIRE IS DIVIDED
21, 22. What changes did Constantine bring about in the fourth century C.E.?
21 Without giving unnecessary details about the breakdown of the Roman Empire, which stretched over centuries, Jehovah’s angel went on to foretell further exploits of the king of the north and the king of the south. However, a brief review of certain developments in the Roman Empire will help us to identify the two rival kings in later times.
22 In the fourth century, Roman Emperor Constantine gave State recognition to apostate Christianity. He even called and personally presided over a church council at Nicaea, Asia Minor, in 325 C.E. Later, Constantine moved the imperial residence from Rome to Byzantium, or Constantinople, making that city his new capital. The Roman Empire continued under the rulership of a single emperor until the death of Emperor Theodosius I, on January 17, 395 C.E.
23. (a) What division of the Roman Empire took place after the death of Theodosius? (b) When did the Eastern Empire come to an end? (c) Who ruled Egypt by 1517?
23 Following the death of Theodosius, the Roman Empire was divided between his sons. Honorius received the western part, and Arcadius the eastern, with Constantinople as his capital. Britannia, Gaul, Italy, Spain, and North Africa were among the provinces of the western division. Macedonia, Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt were provinces of the eastern division. In 642 C.E., the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, fell to the Saracens (Arabs), and Egypt became a province of the caliphs. In January 1449, Constantine XI became the last emperor of the east. Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople on May 29, 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire. The year 1517 saw Egypt become a Turkish province. In time, though, this land of the ancient king of the south would come under the control of another empire from the western sector.
24, 25. (a) According to some historians, what marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire? (b) What finally happened to the title of “emperor” of the Holy Roman Empire?
24 In the western wing of the Roman Empire arose the Catholic bishop of Rome, notably Pope Leo I, who was renowned for asserting papal authority in the fifth century C.E. In time, the pope took it upon himself to crown the emperor of the western section. This occurred in Rome on Christmas day of 800 C.E., when Pope Leo III crowned Frankish King Charles (Charlemagne) emperor of the new Western Roman Empire. This coronation revived the emperorship in Rome and, according to some historians, marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. From then on there existed the Eastern Empire and the Holy Roman Empire to the west, both claiming to be Christian.
25 As time passed, the successors of Charlemagne proved to be ineffectual rulers. The office of the emperor even lay vacant for a time. Meanwhile, German King Otto I had gained control of much of northern and central Italy. He proclaimed himself king of Italy. On February 2, 962 C.E., Pope John XII crowned Otto I emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Its capital was in Germany, and the emperors were Germans, as were most of their subjects. Five centuries later the Austrian house of Hapsburg obtained the title of “emperor” and held it for most of the remaining years of the Holy Roman Empire.
THE TWO KINGS AGAIN IN CLEAR FOCUS
26. (a) What can be said about the end of the Holy Roman Empire? (b) Who emerged as the king of the north?
26 Napoléon I delivered a deathblow to the Holy Roman Empire when he refused to recognize its existence following his victories in Germany during the year 1805. Unable to defend the crown, Emperor Francis II resigned from Roman imperial status on August 6, 1806, and withdrew to his national government as emperor of Austria. After 1,006 years, the Holy Roman Empire—founded by Leo III, a Roman Catholic pope, and Charlemagne, a Frankish king—came to an end. In 1870, Rome became the capital of the kingdom of Italy, independent of the Vatican. The following year, a Germanic empire began with Wilhelm I being named caesar, or kaiser. Thus the modern-day king of the north—Germany—was on the world scene.
27. (a) How did Egypt become a British protectorate? (b) Who came into the position of the king of the south?
27 But what was the identity of the modern-day king of the south? History shows that Britain took on imperial power in the 17th century. Wanting to disrupt British trade routes, Napoléon I conquered Egypt in 1798. War ensued, and a British-Ottoman alliance forced the French to withdraw from Egypt, identified as the king of the south at the onset of the conflict. During the following century, British influence in Egypt increased. After 1882, Egypt was actually a British dependency. When World War I broke out in 1914, Egypt belonged to Turkey and was ruled by a khedive, or viceroy. After Turkey sided with Germany in that war, however, Britain deposed the khedive and declared Egypt a British protectorate. Gradually forming close ties, Britain and the United States of America became the Anglo-American World Power. Together, they came into the position of the king of the south.
Since the designations “the king of the north” and “the king of the south” are titles, they can refer to any ruling entity, including a king, a queen, or a bloc of nations.
See the footnote on Daniel 11:26 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• Which Roman emperor first stood up as the king of the north, and when did he send out “an exactor”?
• Who took the position of the king of the north after Augustus, and how was ‘the Leader of the covenant broken’?
• What was the outcome of the conflict between Aurelian as the king of the north and Zenobia as the king of the south?
• What became of the Roman Empire, and which powers occupied the positions of the two kings by the end of the 19th century?
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ONE HONORED, THE OTHER DESPISED
ONE transformed a strife-ridden republic into a world empire. The other increased its wealth twentyfold in 23 years. One was honored when he died, but the other was despised. The reigns of these two emperors of Rome spanned Jesus’ life and ministry. Who were they? And why was one honored, whereas the other was not?
HE “FOUND ROME BRICK AND LEFT IT MARBLE”
In 44 B.C.E. when Julius Caesar was assassinated, his sister’s grandson Gaius Octavian was only 18 years of age. Being an adopted son of Julius Caesar and his chief personal heir, young Octavian immediately set out for Rome to claim his inheritance. There he encountered a formidable opponent—Caesar’s chief lieutenant, Mark Antony, who expected to be the principal heir. The political intrigue and power struggle that followed lasted 13 years.
Only after defeating the combined forces of Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony (in 31 B.C.E.) did Octavian emerge as the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire. The following year Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, and Octavian annexed Egypt. The last vestige of the Grecian Empire was thus removed, and Rome became the world power.
Remembering that Julius Caesar’s exercise of despotic power had led to his assassination, Octavian was careful not to repeat the mistake. So as not to offend Roman sentiments favoring a republic, he disguised his monarchy under a republican garment. He declined the titles “king” and “dictator.” Going a step further, he announced his intention to turn over the control of all provinces to the Roman Senate and offered to resign from the offices he held. This tactic worked. The appreciative Senate urged Octavian to retain his positions and keep control of some of the provinces.
Additionally, on January 16, 27 B.C.E., the Senate bestowed upon Octavian the title “Augustus,” meaning “Exalted, Sacred.” Octavian not only accepted the title but also renamed a month for himself and borrowed a day from February so that August would have as many days as July, the month named after Julius Caesar. Octavian thus became the first emperor of Rome and was thereafter known as Caesar Augustus or “August One.” Later he also assumed the title “pontifex maximus” (high priest), and in 2 B.C.E.—the year of Jesus’ birth—the Senate gave him the title Pater Patriae, “Father of His Country.”
In that same year, “a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus for all the inhabited earth to be registered; . . . and all people went traveling to be registered, each one to his own city.” (Luke 2:1-3) As a result of this decree, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.—Daniel 11:20; Micah 5:2.
The government under Augustus was marked by a measure of honesty and a sound currency. Augustus also established an effective postal system and constructed roads and bridges. He reorganized the army, created a permanent navy, and established an elite band of imperial bodyguards known as the Praetorian Guard. (Philippians 1:13) Under his patronage, such writers as Virgil and Horace flourished and sculptors created beautiful works in what is now called the classical style. Augustus completed buildings left unfinished by Julius Caesar and restored many temples. The Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) that he introduced lasted more than 200 years. On August 19, 14 C.E., at the age of 76, Augustus died and was deified thereafter.
Augustus boasted that he had “found Rome brick and left it marble.” Not wanting Rome to revert to the strife-filled days of the former republic, he intended to groom the next emperor. But he had little choice regarding a successor. His nephew, two grandsons, a son-in-law, and a stepson had all died, leaving only his stepson Tiberius to take over.
THE “ONE WHO IS TO BE DESPISED”
Less than a month after Augustus’ death, the Roman Senate named 54-year-old Tiberius emperor. Tiberius lived and ruled until March 37 C.E. Hence, he was the emperor of Rome for the duration of Jesus’ public ministry.
As an emperor, Tiberius had both virtues and vices. Among his virtues was a reluctance to spend money on luxuries. As a result, the empire prospered and he had funds to assist in recovery from disasters and bad times. To his credit, Tiberius viewed himself as but a man, declined many honorary titles, and generally directed emperor worship to Augustus rather than to himself. He did not name a calendar month after himself as Augustus and Julius Caesar had done for themselves, nor did he allow others to honor him in that way.
Tiberius’ vices, however, exceeded his virtues. He was extremely suspicious and hypocritical in his dealings with others, and his reign abounded with ordered killings—many of his former friends being counted among the victims. He extended the law of lèse-majesté (injured majesty) to include, in addition to seditious acts, merely libelous words against his own person. Presumably on the strength of this law, the Jews pressured Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to have Jesus killed.—John 19:12-16.
Tiberius concentrated the Praetorian Guard in the proximity of Rome by constructing fortified barracks north of the walls of the city. The Guard’s presence intimidated the Roman Senate, which was a threat to his power, and kept any unruliness of the people in check. Tiberius also encouraged the informer system, and terror marked the latter part of his rule.
At the time of his death, Tiberius was considered to be a tyrant. When he died, the Romans rejoiced and the Senate refused to deify him. For these reasons and others, we see in Tiberius a fulfillment of the prophecy saying that “one who is to be despised” would arise as “the king of the north.”—Daniel 11:15, 21.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• How did Octavian come to be the first emperor of Rome?
• What can be said about the accomplishments of the government of Augustus?
• What were the virtues and vices of Tiberius?
• How was the prophecy concerning the “one who is to be despised” fulfilled in Tiberius?
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ZENOBIA—THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF PALMYRA
“SHE was of a dark complexion . . . Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding was strengthened and adorned by study. She was not ignorant of the Latin tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages.” Such were the praises that historian Edward Gibbon bestowed upon Zenobia—the warrior queen of the Syrian city of Palmyra.
Zenobia’s husband was the Palmyrene noble Odaenathus, who was awarded the rank of consul of Rome in 258 C.E. because he had successfully campaigned against Persia on behalf of the Roman Empire. Two years later, Odaenathus received from Roman Emperor Gallienus the title corrector totius Orientis (governor of all the East). This was in recognition of his victory over King Shāpūr I of Persia. Odaenathus eventually gave himself the title “king of kings.” These successes of Odaenathus may to a large extent be attributed to Zenobia’s courage and prudence.
ZENOBIA ASPIRES TO CREATE AN EMPIRE
In 267 C.E., at the height of his career, Odaenathus and his heir were assassinated. Zenobia took over her husband’s position, since her son was too young to do so. Beautiful, ambitious, capable as an administrator, accustomed to campaigning with her husband, and fluent in several languages, she managed to command the respect and support of her subjects. Zenobia had a love for learning and surrounded herself with intellectuals. One of her advisers was philosopher and rhetorician Cassius Longinus—said to have been “a living library and a walking museum.” In the book Palmyra and Its Empire—Zenobia’s Revolt Against Rome, author Richard Stoneman notes: “During the five years after the death of Odenathus . . . , Zenobia had established herself in the minds of her people as mistress of the East.”
On one side of Zenobia’s domain was Persia, which she and her husband had crippled, and on the other was foundering Rome. Regarding conditions in the Roman Empire at that time, historian J. M. Roberts says: “The third century was . . . a terrible time for Rome on the frontiers east and west alike, while at home a new period of civil war and disputed successions had begun. Twenty-two emperors (excluding pretenders) came and went.” The Syrian mistress, on the other hand, was a well-established absolute monarch in her realm. “Controlling the balance of two empires [Persian and Roman],” observes Stoneman, “she could aspire to create a third that would dominate them both.”
An opportunity for Zenobia to expand her regal powers came in 269 C.E. when a pretender disputing Roman rulership appeared in Egypt. Zenobia’s army swiftly marched into Egypt, crushed the rebel, and took possession of the country. Proclaiming herself queen of Egypt, she minted coins in her own name. Her kingdom now stretched from the river Nile to the river Euphrates. It was at this point in her life that Zenobia came to occupy the position of “the king of the south.”—Daniel 11:25, 26.
ZENOBIA’S CAPITAL CITY
Zenobia strengthened and embellished her capital, Palmyra, to such an extent that it ranked with the larger cities of the Roman world. Its estimated population reached over 150,000. Splendid public buildings, temples, gardens, pillars, and monuments filled Palmyra, a city encircled by walls said to be 13 miles [21 km] in circumference. A colonnade of Corinthian pillars over 50 feet [15 m] high—some 1,500 of them—lined the principal avenue. Statues and busts of heroes and wealthy benefactors abounded in the city. In 271 C.E., Zenobia erected statues of herself and her late husband.
The Temple of the Sun was one of the finest structures in Palmyra and no doubt dominated the religious scene in the city. Zenobia herself may have worshiped a deity associated with the sun-god. Syria of the third century, however, was a land of many religions. In Zenobia’s domain there were professing Christians, Jews, and worshipers of the sun and moon. What was her attitude toward these various forms of worship? Author Stoneman observes: “A wise ruler will not neglect any customs that seem appropriate to her people. . . . The gods, it was . . . hoped, had been marshaled on Palmyra’s side.” Apparently, Zenobia was religiously tolerant.
With her colorful personality, Zenobia won the admiration of many. Of greatest significance was her role in representing a political entity foretold in Daniel’s prophecy. Her reign, however, lasted no more than five years. Roman Emperor Aurelian defeated Zenobia in 272 C.E. and subsequently sacked Palmyra beyond repair. Zenobia was granted clemency. She is said to have married a Roman senator and presumably spent the rest of her life in retirement.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• How has Zenobia’s personality been described?
• What were some of the exploits of Zenobia?
• What was Zenobia’s attitude toward religion?
Queen Zenobia addressing her soldiers
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KINGS IN DANIEL 11:20-26
The King The King
of the North of the South
Daniel 11:20 Augustus
Daniel 11:21-24 Tiberius
Daniel 11:25, 26 Aurelian Queen Zenobia
The foretold The Germanic Britain,
breakdown Empire followed by the
of the Roman Anglo-American
Empire leads to World Power
the formation of
Statuette of Charlemagne
17th-century British warship
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[Picture on page 233]
[Picture on page 234]
[Picture on page 235]
Because of Augustus’ decree, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem
[Picture on page 237]
As foretold, Jesus was “broken” in death
[Pictures on page 245]
1. Charlemagne 2. Napoléon I 3. Wilhelm I 4. German soldiers, World War I