Plausibility check: A Jewish Roman Emperor?

Oct 2015
1,164
California
#1
Plausible? Most Roman emperors after the Flavians (with the exception of Nerva and several others) have been non-Italians and none Europeans. The Severii were Libyans more or less, who added their own native gods to the Roman pantheon and their own unique style of oriental despotism to the principate. The so-called "barrack room" emperors of the 3rd century military anarchy were a motley assortment of Arab, (Philip I) Thracian, (Maximus Thrax) Dalmatian, (Diocletian) and so on.

Could there have been a time in the period of the 3rd century for a Jew (or a Christian) from Palestine to become emperor? How would it be possible? I've heard that Philip The Arab had been a closet Christian or at least was sympathetic to them.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#2
There's a considerable difference between where someone was born and what religion they practised. The Romans persecuted people because of the latter, but never because of the former. They aren't really comparable or equatable with each other. I do not believe the Romans would have accepted a Christian or Jewish emperor - not a Christian emperor before the 4th century, and I would say probably never a Jewish emperor, because of how much smaller Judaism's following was compared to Christianity.
 
Oct 2015
1,164
California
#3
There's a considerable difference between where someone was born and what religion they practised. The Romans persecuted people because of the latter, but never because of the former. They aren't really comparable or equatable with each other. I do not believe the Romans would have accepted a Christian or Jewish emperor - not a Christian emperor before the 4th century, and I would say probably never a Jewish emperor, because of how much smaller Judaism's following was compared to Christianity.
I'm thinking maybe not a practicing Jew but perhaps a Hellenized/Romanized Jew, someone like Herod Agrippa . Not Herod Agrippa himself perhaps, but others like him.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,013
SoCal
#4
Have Jesus make an appearance on Earth sometime after Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That way, the Romans could massively rally around Jesus; after all, why have Constantine or another Roman Emperor when you can have Christ himself as the Roman Emperor?
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#5
Plausible? Most Roman emperors after the Flavians (with the exception of Nerva and several others) have been non-Italians and none Europeans. The Severii were Libyans more or less, who added their own native gods to the Roman pantheon and their own unique style of oriental despotism to the principate. The so-called "barrack room" emperors of the 3rd century military anarchy were a motley assortment of Arab, (Philip I) Thracian, (Maximus Thrax) Dalmatian, (Diocletian) and so on.

Could there have been a time in the period of the 3rd century for a Jew (or a Christian) from Palestine to become emperor? How would it be possible? I've heard that Philip The Arab had been a closet Christian or at least was sympathetic to them.
Perhaps the real question here is what degree of deviance the Roman senate and army was willing to tolerate in their rulers? Elagabalus didn't tone down his Emesene religion enough and he wound up knifed in a box.

But really, you don't want my opinion. You want to hear from @DiocletianIsBetterThanYou.
 
#6
Emperors mostly did stop being from Italy with the advent of the Libyo-Syrian Severan dynasty, but I can't think of any emperor for whom a Jewish background is a clear possibility. There were Near Eastern emperors, namely Elagabalus, Severus Alexander, Philip the Arab and Uranius Antoninus. However, none of these emperors were from Judaea, and the majority of third- and fourth-century emperors originated in the Balkans, especially Pannonia and Moesia. This is because a) the Danube frontier had the largest military presence (and many emperors had been military officers beforehand), b) from 260 to 274 the 'central empire' lost control of the east and the empire's north-west, meaning a greater reliance on the Danubian legions and their officers, and c) it was a matter of networking and dynasty, since those Balkan military emperors who were in power then forged dynasties (Tetrarchic, Constantinian, Valentinian).

As for Philip's supposed sympathies for Christians, this is indeed claimed in the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle and in the Church History of Eusebius. What exactly his sympathies entailed, who knows, but any successful emperor would need to play along with the norms and customs of the state religion, thus the failure of Elagabalus, mentioned by Kirialax above.
 
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#9
Have Jesus make an appearance on Earth sometime after Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That way, the Romans could massively rally around Jesus; after all, why have Constantine or another Roman Emperor when you can have Christ himself as the Roman Emperor?
Only if you happen to believe in him my friend. Religion and it's enslavement of people is a massive mystery to me.

Besides, from my old infant school hymn services - this Jesus fella doesn't strike me as one interested in becoming a military emperor
 
Likes: Futurist
#10
Only if you happen to believe in him my friend. Religion and it's enslavement of people is a massive mystery to me.

Besides, from my old infant school hymn services - this Jesus fella doesn't strike me as one interested in becoming a military emperor
Yeah a man like Jesus might not be crash hot when it comes to fulfilling military responsibilities. Then again, from 395 onwards, Roman emperors returned to delegating the chief military commands to others.
 
Likes: Futurist