From Caesar’s Death to Jesus’ Birth
By Scott Rohter, July 2012
Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Caesar Augustus all have something in common. What is it that unites all of these historic figures?… They all lived during the few centuries prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. Many important events took place during those years especially in the forty years between the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and the birth of Jesus Christ around 4 B.C. No other time in human history is quite as significant. So many significant events occurred which altered the course of human history in those four decades between the murder of Caesar and the birth of the Savior that you have to wonder if anybody alive at the time understood the actual significance of the events they were witnessing. The future of the world was being determined during these forty crucial years before Jesus’ birth
The period between 44 B.C and 4 A.D was such a pivotal time in the development of western civilization that many of the world’s current troubles owe their origins back to decisions that were made during those years. In the span of one man’s lifetime Rome’s emperor was murdered and Rome was plunged into a bloody civil war which lasted for over ten years. It took Rome far away from its Republican roots. The struggle for control of the Roman Empire pitted one half of Roman society against the other half. The battle for succession became a personal fight between two trusted allies of the late emperor. One of these men was Julius Caesar’s trusted military commander Mark Antony and the other man was his nephew Octavian. Their fight to the death split Roman society into warring factions.
Mark Antony formed a strategic alliance with Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt who was the mother of Caesar’s son and the presumptive heir to the throne. Cleopatra was the name of an entire dynasty of Egyptian Queens that were descendents of the Greeco-Macedonian rulers who sat on the throne of Egypt since Ptolemy. This particular queen was Cleopatra VII. Mark Antony fell in love with her and fathered three of her four sons. After Mark Anthony’s defeat at the hands of Octavian, Cleopatra’s death by suicide in 30 B.C. ended the Ptolemaic dynasty.
When Alexander the Great’s unexpectedly died and left no instructions on how the vast territories he had conquered were supposed to be administered one of his generals, Ptolemy took control of Egypt and finished building the new capitol which Alexander had begun on the shores of the Mediterranean. He named the city Alexandria. The city was built on a grand scale and it was said to be the finest city of its time. Today it is still referred to in Arabic as El Iskandaria, the City of Alexander.
Ptolemy went on to found a dynasty of Greek-Macedonian rulers who ruled Egypt for the next three hundred years. The Ptolemaic dynasty ended with the death by suicide of its last Queen Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C. She was the Egyptian Queen who made the alliance with Mark Antony after Julius Caesar’s assassination. She had four children, one by Julius Caesar and three by Mark Anthony.
After a family feud led to a full-fledged struggle for power between Cleopatra and her brother, Julius Caesar intervened and restored her to her throne, but for two years between 46 B.C. and 44 B.C. Cleopatra lived in Rome with Julius Caesar where she gave birth to her first son. This child of Caesar and Cleopatra was always a source of contention to Romans who did not want any child of an Egyptian Queen to rule over them so after Julius Caesar’s death in 44 B.C. Cleopatra was compelled to return to Egypt where she had her brother put to death to ensure that her son would become the uncontested ruler of Egypt.
Two years later in 42 B.C. Cleopatra had a fateful meeting with Mark Antony in Tarsus in modern day Turkey. Tarsus was the birthplace of one of the world’s most influential writers and thinkers , namely the Apostle Paul who is credited with writing much of the New Testament. Paul was one of the principle leaders of the early Christian Church. He was born a less than thirty years after that fateful meeting between Cleopatra and Mark Antony.
According to legend when Mark Antony first met Cleopatra he immediately fell in love with her. Together they formed a strategic alliance to oppose Octavian’s attempts to rule Rome. Cleopatra was the mother of Julius Caesar’s son who was the rightful heir apparent to the Roman throne, but the Romans did not want the son of an Egyptian Queen to rule over them. That is how Julius Caesar’s trusted friend and military commander, Mark Anthony came to vie for the throne. He hoped to rule Rome jointly with Cleopatra after defeating partisan forces aligned with Caesar’s nephew Octavian, but in order to do this he needed Cleopatra’s help . She furnished him with ships and grain to feed his soldiers and money to pay them in return for which she wanted Egypt to play a more prominent role in the Roman Empire. Her long term goal was the same as it always had been. She wanted to unite Egypt and Rome. Whether she was co-regent with Julius Caesar or Mark Anthony didn’t really make any difference. Her only goal was power.
The shrewd and cunning Cleopatra turned Mark Antony ‘s heart away from his wife which was Octavian’s sister and into this strategic alliance and personal relationship which ultimately led to both of their deaths by suicide. After their demise Octavian went on to rule Rome, but at the moment they were locked in a bitter struggle for power over the future of Rome. The fact that Mark Antony left Octavian’s sister did nothing to assuage the animosity that existed between the two rivals. The tensions between them eventually culminated in the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. where the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated.
After learning of false rumors that Cleopatra had died Mark Antony took his own life by the sword before the advancing legions of Octavian’s soldiers, but just before his death he learned that Cleopatra was actually still alive and his last request was to be taken to her where history records that he died in her arms.
With Mark Antony gone, the wily Cleopatra sought to entice Octavian by offering herself to him in the same way that she had done with Mark Antony and Julius Caesar before him. She sent emissaries and used her considerable charm to try to entice him into an alliance with her, but all of her overtures were unsuccessful and rather than suffer humiliation at the hands of her enemies drank poison and took her own life before Octavian’s advancing armies could reach her. It was ten days after Mark Antony had died.
When Octavian entered the royal city and the palace in August of 30 B.C. he found both Antony and Cleopatra dead, one by the sword and the other by poison The last Queen of Egypt was just 39 years old at the time of her death. It was 30 B.C., only a mere twenty five years before the birth of Christ in the little Jewish town of Bethlehem a few hundred miles away.
The events of those forty years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea set the stage for even more cataclysmic upheavals during the next seventy years. The Christ child would grow into a man only to be crucified by Roman soldiers, and his death and resurrection would give rise to one of the world’s great religions. The Jewish homeland would be destroyed by Roman Legions under the command of Octavian’s successor,Titus in 70 AD and the million or so survivors would be scattered all over the Greek and Roman world. In the absence of significant numbers of Jews in the Holy land the world stage was set for the beginning of another religion which still troubles the world to this day. That religion is Islam
The expulsion of the Jews from their homeland in 70 A.D. resulted in a worldwide Diaspora of millions of displaced persons and set the conditions for the following world events.
1) The Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century led to the confiscation of Jewish property by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain which provided the finances to fund the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World. His voyages led to the discovery of America.
2) The subsequent maritime competition between England and Spain for supremacy of the high seas led to the formation of the British Empire.
3) The British Empire tried to keep the German Nation down which ultimately led to World War I and World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.
4) A centuries long hostility between Islam and the other two Abrahamic faiths has resulted in the current War on Terror.
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