Berenice (daughter of Herod Agrippa I)

Berenice (daughter of Herod Agrippa I)

Berenice of Cilicia, also known as Julia Berenice and sometimes spelled Bernice (28 AD – ?), was a Jewish client queen of the Roman Empire during the second half of the 1st century. Berenice was a member of the Herodian Dynasty, who ruled the Roman province of Judaea between 39 BC and 92 AD. She was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I, and sister of King Herod Agrippa II.

What little is known about the life and background of Berenice has been handed down to us through the works of Flavius Josephus, a contemporary historian who detailed a history of the Jewish people and wrote an account of the Jewish Rebellion of 67. It is for her tumultuous love life however that Berenice is primarily known today. After a number of failed marriages throughout the 40s, she spent much of the remainder of her life at court of her brother Agrippa II, amidst rumors the two were carrying on an incestuous relationship. During the First Jewish-Roman War, she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. Her unpopularity among the Romans however compelled Titus to dismiss Berenice upon his accession as emperor in 79. When he died two years later, so did Berenice disappear from the historical record.

Early life

Berenice was born in 28 [Josephus writes that Berenice was sixteen at the time of her father's death, which fixes her birthdate on the year 28. See Josephus, "Ant." ] to Herod Agrippa and Cypros, as granddaughter to Aristobulus IV and great-granddaughter to Herod the Great. Her elder brother was Agrippa II (b. 27), and her younger sisters were Mariamne (b. 34) and Drusilla (b. 38).Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" ] Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" ] According to Josephus, there was also a younger brother called Drusus, who died before his teens. Her family constituted part of what is known as the Herodian Dynasty, who ruled the Judaea Province between 39 BC and 92.

Josephus records three shortlived marriages in Berenice's life, the first which took place sometime between 41 and 43, to Marcus Julius Alexander, brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander and son of Alexander the Arabarch of Alexandria.Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" ] cite journal | last = Ilan | first = Tal | title = Julia Crispina, Daughter of Berenicianus, a Herodian Princess in the Babatha Archive: A Case Study in Historical Identification. | journal = The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser. | volume = 82 | pages = 361–381 | issue = 3/4 date = 1992 | url =
accessdate=2007-07-28 | doi = 10.2307/1454863 | year = 1992
] On his early death in 44, she was married to her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis, with whom she had two sons, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus.Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" ] When he died in 48, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years until she married Polemon II, king of Cilicia, who she subsequently deserted again.Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" ] According to Josephus, Berenice requested this marriage to dispel rumors that she and her brother were carrying on an incestuous relationship, with Polemon being persuaded to this union mostly on account of her wealth. However the marriage did not last and she soon returned to the court of her brother. Josephus was not the only ancient writer to suggest incestuous relations between Berenice and Agrippa. Juvenal, in his sixth satire, outright claims that they were lovers. [Juvenal, "Satires" ] Whether this was based on truth remains unknown.cite journal | last = Macurdy | first = Grace H. | title = Julia Berenice | journal = The American Journal of Philology | volume = 56 | issue = 3 | pages = 246–253 | date = 1935 | url = | accessdate=2007-07-28 | doi = 10.2307/289676] Berenice indeed spent much of her life at the court of Agrippa, and by all accounts shared almost equal power. Popular rumors may also have been fueled by the fact that Agrippa himself never married during his lifetime.

Like her brother, Berenice was a client queen, allowed to rule parts of the Roman Empire in present-day Syria. The Acts of the Apostles records that during this time, in 60, Paul of Tarsus appeared before their court at Caesarea. [King James Bible, "Acts" , ]

Jewish-Roman wars

Great Jewish revolt

In 64 emperor Nero appointed Gessius Florus as procurator of the Judaea Province. During his administration, the Jews were systematically discriminated in favour of the Greek population of the region.Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] Tensions quickly rose to civil unrest when Florus plundered the treasury of the Temple of Jerusalem under the guise of imperial taxes. Following riots, the instigators were arrested and crucified by the Romans. Appalled at the treatment of her countrymen, Berenice travelled to Jerusalem in 66 to personally petition Florus to spare the Jews, but not only did he refuse to comply with her requests, Berenice herself was nearly killed during skirmishes in the city. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] Likewise a plea for assistance to the legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus, met with no response. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ]

To prevent Jewish violence from further escalating, Agrippa assembled the populace and delivered a tearful speech to the crowd in the company of his sister, [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] but the Jews alienated their sympathies when the insurgents burned down their palaces. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] They fled the city to Galilee where they later gave themselves up to the Romans. Meanwhile Cestius Gallus moved into the region with the twelfth legion, but was unable to restore order and suffered defeat at the battle of Beth-Horon, forcing the Romans to retreat from Jerusalem. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ]

Emperor Nero then appointed Vespasian to put down the rebellion, who landed in Judaea with fifth and tenth legions in 67. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] He was later joined by his son Titus at Ptolemais, who brought with him the fifteenth legion.Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] With a strength of 60,000 professional soldiers, the Romans quickly swept across Galilee and by 69 marched on Jerusalem.

Affair with Titus

It was during this time that Berenice met and fell in love with Titus, who was ten years her junior.Tacitus, "Histories" ] The Herodians sided with the Flavians during the conflict, and later in 69, the Year of the Four Emperors—when the Roman Empire saw the quick succession of the emperors Galba, Otho and Vitellius—Berenice reportedly used all her wealth and influence to support Vespasian on his campaign to become emperor. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] When Vespasian was declared emperor on December 21 of 69, Titus was left in Judaea to finish putting down the rebellion. The war ended in 70 with the destruction of the Second Temple and the sack of Jerusalem, with approximately 1 million dead, and 97,000 taken captive by the Romans. [Josephus, "The War of the Jews" , ] Triumphant, Titus returned to Rome to assist his father in the government, while Berenice stayed behind in Judaea.

It took four years until they reunited, when she and Agrippa came to Rome in 75. The reasons for this long absence are unclear, but have been linked to possible opposition to her presence by Gaius Licinius Mucianus, a political ally of emperor Vespasian who died sometime between 72 and 78.cite journal | last = Crook | first = John A. | title = Titus and Berenice | journal = The American Journal of Philology | volume = 72 | issue = 2 | pages = 162–175 | date = 1951 | url = | accessdate=2007-07-30 | doi = 10.2307/292544] Agrippa was given the rank of praetor, while Berenice resumed her relationship with Titus, living with him at the palace and reportedly acting in every respect as his wife.Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [*.html#66-15 LXV.15] ] The ancient historian Cassius Dio writes that Berenice was at the height of her power during this time, and if it can be any indication as to how influential she was, Quintilian records an anecdote in his "Institutio Oratoria" where, to his astonishment, he found himself pleading a case on Berenice's behalf where she herself presided as the judge. [Quintilian, "Institutio Oratoria" [*.html#1 IV.1] ] The Roman populace however perceived the Eastern Queen as an intrusive outsider, and when the pair was publicly denounced by Cynics in the theatre, Titus caved in to the pressure and sent her away.

Upon the accession of Titus as emperor in 79, she returned to Rome, but was quickly dismissed amidst a number of popular measures of Titus to restore his reputation with the populace. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Titus [*.html#7 7] ] It is possible that he intended to send for her at a more convenient time. However after reigning barely two years as emperor, he suddenly died on September 13, 81. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Titus [*.html#10 10] , [*.html#11 11] ]

It is not known what happened to Berenice after her final dismissal from Rome. Her brother Agrippa died around 92, and with him the Herodian Dynasty came to an end.

In modern history, her aspirations as a potential empress of Rome have led to her being described as a 'miniature Cleopatra'. [cite book |last=Mommsen |first=Theodor |title=The History of Rome, Book V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy |url= |accessdate=2007-07-30 |year=1885 ]

Berenice in the Arts

From the seventeenth century to contemporary times, there has been a long tradition of works of art (novels, dramas, operas, etc.) devoted to Berenice and her affair with the Roman Emperor Titus. [Gabriele Boccaccini, "Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts" (Turin: Zamorani, 1992); S. Akermann, "Le mythe de Bérénice" (Paris: 1978); Ruth Yordan, "Berenice" (London: 1974) ] The list includes:

* "Lettres de Bérénice à Titus" (1642), a French novel by Madeleine de Scudéry
* "Bérénice" (1648-50), a French novel by Jean Regnauld de Segrais
* "Tite" (1660), a French drama by Jean Magnon
* "Il Tito" (1666), an Italian opera by Antonio Cesti (mus.) and Nicola Beregani (libr.)
* "Bérénice" (1670), a French drama by Jean Baptiste Racine
* "Tite et Bérénice" (1670), a French drama by Pierre Corneille
* "Titus and Berenice" (1676), an English drama by Thomas Otway
* "Tito e Berenice" (1714), an Italian opera by Antonio Caldara (mus.) and Carlo Sigismondo Capace (libr.)
* "Berenice" (1725), an Italian opera by Giuseppe Maria Orlandini (mus.) and Benedetto Pasqualigo (libr.). Also set to music by Niccolò Vito Piccinni (1766)
* "Tito e Berenice" (1776), an Italian opera by Raimondo Mei (mus.) and Carlo Giuseppe Lanfranchi-Rossi (libr.)
* "Tito e Berenice" (1782), a ballet by Paolino Franchi (chor.)
* "Tito; o, La partenza di Berenice" (1790), a ballet by Domenico Maria Gaspero Angiolini (mus. and chor.)
* "Tito e Berenice" (1793), an Italian opera by Sebastiano Nasolini (mus.) and Giuseppe Maria Foppa (libr.)
* "Tito che abbandona Berenice" (1828), a painting by Giuseppe Bezzuoli
* "Titus et Bérénice" (1860), a French opera by Leon-Gustave-Cyprien Gastinel (mus.) and Edouard Fournier (libr.)
* "Berenice" (1890), a German novel by Heinrich Vollrat Schumacher
* "Bérénice" (1909), a French opera by Lucien-Denis-Gabriel-Alberic Magnard (mus. and libr.)
* "Titus und die Jüdin" (1911), a German drama by Hans Kyser
* "Lost Diaries: From the Diary of Emperor Titus" (1913), an English novel by Maurice Baring
* "Bérénice, l’Hérodienne" (1919), a French drama by Albert du Bois
* "Bérénice" (1920), incidental music by Marcel Samuel-Rousseau
* "Berenice" (1922), an English drama by John Masefield
* "Bérénice" (1934), a French parody by Noel Ouden
* "Berinikah" (1945), a Hebrew drama by Eisig Silberschlag and Carl de Haas
* "Le reine de Césarée" (1954), a French drama by Robert Brasillach
* "Berenice, Princess of Judea" (1959), an English novel by Leon Kolb
* "Mission to Claudies" (1963), an English novel by Leon Kolb
* "Agrippa’s Daughter" (1964), an Englich novel by Howard Melvin Fast
* "La pourpre de Judée: ou, Les délices du genre humain" (1967), a French novel by Maurice Clavel
* "Bérénice" (1968), a French TV-film by Piere-Alain Jolivet
* "Tito y Berenice" (1970), a Spanish drama by Rene Marques
* "Bérénice" (1983), a French TV-film by Raoul Ruiz

The love story between Berenice and Titus is also the premise of La clemenza di Tito (1734), an Italian opera by Antonio Caldara (mus.) and Pietro Metastasio (libr.), later set to music by more than 40 other composers, including Johann Adolph Hasse (1735), Giuseppe Arena (1738), Francesco Corradini (1747), Christoph Willibald Gluck (1752), Andrea Adolfati (1753), Niccolò Jommelli (1753), Ignaz Holzbauer (1757), Vincenzo Legrezio Ciampi (1757), Gioacchino Cocchi (1760), Marcello Bernardini (1768), Andrea Bernasconi (1768), Pasquale Anfossi (1769), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791).



*cite journal | last = Ilan | first = Tal | title = Julia Crispina, Daughter of Berenicianus, a Herodian Princess in the Babatha Archive: A Case Study in Historical Identification. | journal = The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser. | volume = 82 | pages = 361–381 | issue = 3/4 date = 1992 | url =
accessdate=2007-07-28 | doi = 10.2307/1454863 | year = 1992

*cite journal | last = Macurdy | first = Grace H. | title = Julia Berenice | journal = The American Journal of Philology | volume = 56 | issue = 3 | pages = 246–253 | date = 1935 | url = | accessdate=2007-07-28 | doi = 10.2307/289676
*cite journal | last = Crook | first = John A. | title = Titus and Berenice | journal = The American Journal of Philology | volume = 72 | issue = 2 | pages = 162–175 | date = 1951 | url = | accessdate=2007-07-30 | doi = 10.2307/292544

External links

Primary sources

*, English translation
*, English translation
*, English translation
* [*.html#15 Cassius Dio, "Roman History", Book 65, Chapter 15] , English translation


* [ Coinage of Berenice at]

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