In consequence of this the monarchy of the high-priests was abolished and the Jewish land was broken up as Macedonia had formerly been, into five independent districts administered by governing colleges with an Optimate organization; Samaria and other townships razed by the Jews were re-established, to form a counterpoise to Jerusalem; and lastly a heavier tribute was imposed on the Jews than on the other Syrian subjects of Rome.

The Kingdom Of Egypt

It still remains that we should glance at the kingdom of Egypt along with the last dependency that remained to it of the extensive acquisitions of the Lagids, the fair island of Cyprus. Egypt was now the only state of the Hellenic east that was still at least nominally independent; just as formerly, when the Persians established themselves along the eastern half of the Mediterranean, Egypt was their last conquest, so now the mighty conquerors from the west long delayed the annexation of that opulent and peculiar country. The reason lay, as was already indicated, neitherin any fear of the resistance of Egypt nor in the want of a fitting occasion. Egypt was just about as powerless as Syria, and had already in 673 fallen in all due form of law to the Roman community.(28) The control exercised over the court of Alexandria by the royal guard--which appointed and deposed ministers and occasionally kings, took for itself what it pleased, and, if it was refused a rise of pay, besieged the king in his palace-- was by no means liked in the country or rather in the capital (for the country with its population of agricultural slaves was hardly taken into account); and at least a party there wished for the annexation of Egypt by Rome, and even took steps to procure it But the less the kings of Egypt could think of contending in arms against Rome, the more energetically Egyptian gold set itself to resist the Roman plans of union; and in consequence of the peculiar despotico- communistic centralization of the Egyptian finances the revenues of the court of Alexandria were still nearly equal to the public income of Rome even after its augmentation by Pompeius. The suspicious jealousy of the oligarchy, which was chary of allowing any individual either to conquer or to administer Egypt, operated in the same direction. So the de facto rulers of Egypt and Cyprus were enabled by bribing the leading men in the senate not merely to respite their tottering crowns, but even to fortify them afresh and to purchase from the senate the confirmation of their royal title. But with this they had not yet obtained their object. Formal state-law required a decree of the Roman burgesses; until this was issued, the Ptolemies were dependent on the caprice of every democratic holder of power, and they had thus to commence the warfare of bribery also against the other Roman party, which as the more powerful stipulated for far higher prices.

Cyprus Annexed

The result in the two cases was different. The annexation of Cyprus was decreed in 696 by the people, that is, by the leaders of the democracy, the support given to piracy by the Cypriots being alleged as the official reason why that course should now be adopted. Marcus Cato, entrusted by his opponents with the execution of this measure, came to the island without an army; but he had no need of one. The king took poison; the inhabitants submitted without offering resistance to their inevitable fate, and were placed under the governor of Cilicia. The ample treasure of nearly 7000 talents (1,700,000 pounds), which the equally covetous and miserly king could not prevail on himself to apply for the bribes requisite to save his crown, fell along with the latter to the Romans, and filled after a desirable fashion the empty vaults of their treasury.

Ptolemaeus In Egypt Recognized But Expelled By His Subjects

On the other hand the brother who reigned in Egypt succeeded in purchasing his recognition by decree of the people from the new masters of Rome in 695; the purchase-money is said to have amounted to 6000 talents (1,460,000 pounds). The citizens indeed, long exasperated against their good flute-player and bad ruler, and now reduced to extremities by the definitive loss of Cyprus and the pressure of the taxes which were raised to an intolerable degree in consequence of the transactions with the Romans (696), chased him on that account out of the country. When the king thereupon applied, as if on account of his eviction from the estate which he had purchased, to those who sold it, these were reasonable enough to see that it was their duty as honest men of business to get back his kingdom for Ptolemaeus; only the parties could not agree as to the person to whom the important charge of occupying Egypt by force along with the perquisites thence to be expected should be assigned. It was only when the triumvirate was confirmed anew at the conference of Luca, that this affair was also arranged, after Ptolemaeus had agreed to a further payment of 10,000 talents (2,400,000 pounds); the governor of Syria, Aulus Gabinius, now obtained orders from those in power to take the necessary steps immediately for bringing back the king. The citizens of Alexandria had meanwhile placed the crown on the head of Berenice the eldest daughter of the ejected king, and given to her a husband in the person of one of the spiritual princes of Roman Asia, Archelaus the high-priest of Comana,(29) who possessed ambition enough to hazard his secure and respectable position in the hope of mounting the throne of the Lagids. His attempts to gain the Roman regents to his interests remained without success; but he did not recoil before the idea of being obliged to maintain his new kingdom with arms in hand even against the Romans.

And Brought Back By Gabinius A Roman Garrison Remains In Alexandria

Gabinius, without ostensible powers to undertake war against Egypt but directed to do so by the regents, made a pretext out of the alleged furtherance of piracy by the Egyptians and the building of a fleet by Archelaus, and started without delay for the Egyptian frontier (699).

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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