The Amarna Do-Overs

The following is an excerpt (#16 of 20) from:

"Jesus Among the Julio-Claudians"
copyright 2017 Charles N. Pope

The Amarna Period All Over Again

Caligula as the Roman Akhenaten

The dynasty of Alexander the Great was not a traditional, linear dynasty, but one of fits and starts. Yet, it had somehow managed to become one of the most stable and globally successful royal franchises of all time. It could boast multiple sub-dynasties of four generations and endured for well over a century before morphing into the equally dominant Roman Empire. Ironically, Ptolemaic success abroad was accompanied by a catastrophic meltdown at home. Ptolemy IV surprisingly took as his direct inspiration the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), who was blamed for the ignominious collapse of the glorious New Kingdom. After a 17-year reign, Ptolemy IV vanished from Egypt and left his son Sekhem-ankhamun (Ptolemy V) to deal with the fall-out of a growing civil and religious rebellion in Upper Egypt (even as Akhenaten had left a devastated Upper Egypt for Tutankhamun to “restore”).


Note: There were so few princes during the time of Ptolemy IV that this pharaoh had to play the parts of both Akhenaten and the short-reigned Smenkhkare. Prior to the birth of Ptolemy V, late in his reign, Ptolemy IV was evidently also prepared to play the role of Tutankhamun.

In Heroes of the Hellenistic Age, it was shown that the ill-fated Ptolemy IV (latest incarnation of “Moses son of Joseph”) was not the true son of Ptolemy III, but that of Antiochus III (“The Great”). However, rather than being ignored or suppressed by the Julio-Claudians, the role of Ptolemy IV was one that received complete respect and attention. After claiming the role of Antiochus III, the former Caesarion/Drusus immediately began grooming his oldest true son, Germanicus, as the new Ptolemy IV.

With the exception of having spindly legs (also a trait of Akhenaten), the wildly popular Germanicus possessed all of the physical and intellectual traits desired in a kingly successor. However, every indication is that Germanicus could not sire a true royal son of his own. Although Germanicus was (and still is) credited with three sons (Nero, Drusus III and Caligula), the Gospels suggest that all of the sons of his Roman spouse Agrippina (“Mary”) were considered to be those of Caesarion/Drusus (“Joseph”), including her firstborn/holy-child Torquatus (“Jesus”). For this reason, Germanicus was unable to complete the role of Ptolemy IV, at least as his father wished and willed it. Caesarion/Drusus demanded a Moses-figure like Ptolemy IV (who eventually sired two actual sons) rather than one like Akhenaten (that had none).

After a “Farewell Tour” that parodied the campaign of Alexander the Great, Germanicus was effectively “put to pasture” in 19 AD (and about the same age as Alexander the Great when he “departed” Babylon for the last time). Like Alexander, Germanicus would not have literally died at that time (i.e., from “fever induced from poison” administer by Governor Piso), but would have continued his kingly career elsewhere under a different name, such as Sampsigeramus of Emesa. Germanicus had already been exiled from a related kingship (modeled after Ptolemy IV) in Jerusalem under the regional alias of Archelaus (immediate successor of Herod the Great). If Germanicus were to acquire an heir in the years to come (from a new generation of princesses), he could always return from “exile” (like “Moses”) to complete the role of Ptolemy IV, as well as claim the status of the next Alexander the Great in a succession of Alexander the Greats. Integral to any return of Germanicus and fulfillment of the Akhenaten/Ptolemy IV/Moses role would, however, be a devastating blow to Rome and/or Jerusalem and “exodus” of its people.

In that same year (19 AD), the wife of Drusus II, heir of Tiberius, gave birth to twin boys, but they were widely rumored to have been sired by Sejanus. Sejanus permitted Drusus II (like Germanicus) ample time opportunity to produce an heir. He was eventually “poisoned” (as was Germanicus), but not until the younger Drusus dared to strike him during a dispute. Drusus II quietly continued his career in Jerusalem as Herod Antipas, but he was done in Rome. With the disappointing Drusus II out of the way, Sejanus proposed marriage to the “widowed” Livilla for himself. Tiberius objected and postponed it, but ultimately he could not stop the wedding. This is another clear statement of the true pecking order within the larger Empire. There was nothing for Tiberius to do other than defer to Sejanus and blunt his growing frustration on the Isle of Capri. These events are of course completely inexplicable without knowledge of the position and continuing activities of Caesarion/Drusus as the royal family “Godfather.”

If Germanicus ever did became father to a royal prince, it was too little too late. A prince born in 12 AD was eventually to take the place of Germanicus in the role neo-Ptolemy IV (who had in turn been patterned after Akhenaten). Caligula was such a promising young prince that his elevation merited the temporary suppression of his older brothers Nero (a.k.a. Titus Flavius Sabinus) and Drusus III (a.k.a. future Emperor Vespasian), not to mention Torquatus and Galba/Lepidus the Younger. Due to the sterility of Germanicus and Drusus II, as well as Gaius and Lucius Caesar, Tiberius had succeeded Augustus in Rome as something of a stop-gap solution, and was consequently given the typecasting of the tragic 18th Dynasty pharaoh Roman Thutmose IV (“Judah”) from the Egyptian 18th Dynasty. This further allowed his putative son Drusus II (Herodian Antipas) to remain in the role of Pharaoh Aye son of Thutmose IV, at least in Jerusalem/Israel.

Note: Tiberius eventually even conceded that Drusus II was not his own offspring by shockingly allowing the paternity boast of Asinius Gallus Soloninus (a.k.a. Caesarion/Drusus I) to stand.

The disturbing reign of Caligula can best be understood as a deliberate Roman analog of the reign of Ptolemy IV (and Pharaoh Akhenaten before him), which would not have been necessary if Germanicus had managed to fulfill the role to the satisfaction of his elders. When compared schematically with Akhenaten, the role of Caligula becomes self-evident:

-Caligula commissioned a number of engineering marvels.

-Caligula transported an obelisk from Egypt.

-Caligula was hailed as a child prodigy, but also prophesied to become a ruination on the order of mythical Phaethon (related to the Aton/Aten).

-Caligula was extravagant in bestowing gifts upon the populace as well as his friends, and to the point of bankrupting the state.

-The early rule of Caligula was promising and praiseworthy, but it quickly disintegrated into capricious and murderous madness. (The god Re had become dangerously senile at the end of his reign.)

-Caligula insisted on being worshipped as a living god, and particularly as the sun god (“Neos Helios”), as well as Hercules and Jupiter (deities also associated with Akhenaten/“Moses son of Joseph”)

-A serious famine was associated with Caligula’s reign, and one that was likely made more severe by his ill-advised actions.

-As the sun god, Caligula “executed” two Osiris (Smenkhkare/Elijah) figures, namely Gemellus and Ptolemy of Mauretania.

-Caligula was particularly opposed to Judaism, which was the cult successor to the Egyptian Amen/Amun previously and virulently attacked by Akhenaten. Caligula created a religious crisis among the Jews of both Alexandria and Jerusalem by imposing his divinity upon them.

-Caligula could not produce an heir, although like Akhenaten it was not for the lack of trying.

-Caligula emulated Xerxes (as an earlier self-styled Moses-figure).
-The reign and histories of Caligula, like that of Akhenaten, were largely denigrated and suppressed.

With the “failure” of Germanicus, Drusus and then Caligula to produce any royal sons, the role of Ptolemy IV, as Caesarion chose to define it, was essentially still up for grabs. Caesarion himself claimed a share of it by producing multiple sons for both Germanicus and Drusus II. Eventually, Torquatus/Aristobulus V (“Jesus”) and Claudius/Agrippa I (“John”) also produced two sons, each, and could therefore claim a share of that prestigious role as well.

Note: After Ptolemy V (Hasmonean “Hyrcanus I”) was initially unable to produce an heir, Ptolemy IV became father of a second son, Ptolemy VII (Hasmonean “John Hyrcanus II”). This prince was also claimed as the son and heir of Ptolemy VI. However, when Ptolemy VII also failed to produce a male heir, the succession then reverted to the former Ptolemy V through a son, Ptolemy D (Hasmonean “Aristobulus I”) of his own old age.

Previous blog in the series:

Next blog in the series:

First blog in the series:

The prequel "Heroes of the Hellenistic Age" is posted at the page below: