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Would Jesus Have Been Crucified Under Antony and Cleopatra?
The Battle of Actium: No Beheaded John the Baptist?
An Ancient Day of Remembrance for Cleopatra and Antony –
Historians talk about how the Battle of Tours kept Islam out of Europe. Charles Martel, Charlemagne’s grandfather stopped the “unstoppable” Muslims in southern France in October 732. Historians talk about the importance of the Battle of Britain and how English stubbornness and Nazi fatigue prevented Hitler from invading Britain in 1942. And historians talk about how Robert E. Lee’s series of unfortunate decisions at the Battle of Gettysburg sealed the victory of the North in the Civil War.
History is full of key battle moments that changed or ensured historic outcomes.
There are momentous moments like these that populate the chronicle of history. The defeat of the Spanish Armada by the smaller, more mobile English armada, and some lucky winds and storms, in 1588, is probably the most marked end of the empire and the beginning of the empire in all of history. For hundreds of years, thinkers and writers have pondered what the world would be like if the Spanish Armada had landed in England and defeated the fledgling country. There are some battles that, IF THEY HAD GONE ANOTHER WAY, they would have changed everything. A good example are the Muslims who left Spain in 1492. In that same year, Spain began its search for empire and the exploration of the New World. If that hadn’t happened, imagine that all the Spanish-speaking peoples of the world are Islamic instead of Roman Catholic.
Since this is Memorial Day, the numerous battles that saved the world from the domination of the Axis powers during World War II cannot be left out. The historic battles of D-Day and then the Battle of the Bulge. And, in the Pacific, the Battle of Midway, in which the American navy completely dealt a stunning body blow to the Japanese navy, and then the island-hopping campaigns of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and others and the bloodbath in Okinawa, which was a effort to clear land so that the bombers could have a place to refuel on their way to Japan. Many have asked –
“What would the world be like now if Germany and Japan won?”
And maybe you’ve never heard of it, but some people have wondered what the world would be like if Antony and Cleopatra won the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and if John the Baptist was beheaded—if Jesus was crucified—if the Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem totally destroyed — and how that would have affected the world.
The Battle of Actium –
The Battle of Actium was fought by Cleopatra and Mark Antony and their Roman and Egyptian armies against the Roman armies of Octavius, who would become Emperor Augustus. Yes, everyone remembers Elizabeth Taylor playing Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony. They were helplessly in love as the story goes, but they had real plans. This battle was barely covered in the movie, and is now dismissed as the one where the two lovers LOST to the superior Romans. But remember, these were Romans against Romans and the forces were relatively evenly matched. It was not a safe outcome for Octavian.
Naval Battle of Actium (31 BC): The decisive battle in the last of the civil wars of the Roman Republic. Octavio defeated Mark Antony and founded the monarchy.
After the violent death of Julius Caesar in 44 a. C., a civil war broke out between, on the one hand, the assassins, republicans such as Brutus and Cassius, and on the other hand the Caesars, led by Marco Antonio and Octavius. Mark Antony, one of the best generals of his time and loved like a god by his men, defeated the last Republicans in 42 at Philippi and began to reorganize the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Octavius accepted the west. Without going into the details of the relationship leading up to the time of the battle, Antony’s plan was to rule the East. Cleopatra, as a member of Ptolemaic royalty, (Ptolemy was the Alexandrian general who established Hellenic control of Egypt. The Seleucids and Ptolemies (both Greek rulers) fought each other over the Holy Land area).
The Romans moved to the Holy Land in 64 a. C., so the battle of Actium was going to decide some issues. Antonio and Cleopatra’s idea was that the “Roman Empire of the East” would be heavily influenced by Ptolemaic (Greek) and Egyptian culture and philosophy. They wanted to create a new and different Eastern Roman Empire, co-ruled by Cleopatra.
Two liberal cultures in contrast to the Roman –
The Egyptians were famous for thousands of years for allowing their slaves (subordinate populations) and foreign tribes a great attitude. The Greeks “sharing culture” were also this way. Since ancient times they have absorbed Eastern and Western ideas while standing in their rocky world at the Gate of Europe and Asia. When Alexander died, his four generals divided the kingdoms and ruled and Hellenized their worlds. Now none of these kingdoms were benign, but none were anything like the relentless and relentless Romans. Antony and Cleopatra’s plans would be a DELIBERATE CONTRAST to the Romans in the West. IF THEY WON, their plan was to allow local economies to be left alone to freedom, to local religions, unless they caused real trouble. When you think of Moses and Pharaoh, you realize that the children of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. That’s a long time to live peacefully in a foreign country.
Imagine that Antony and Cleopatra WON the Battle of Actium instead of LOSING IT. This “oriental plan” would have been reinforced by the love/marriage of Cleopatra and the alliance with Antonio. Instead of Cleopatra and Antony dying of the bite of an Asp and self-emotion, as happened in reality, they would rule in splendid glory, imagining a great new group of economies (at that time Egypt was the cradle of the Roman Empire and they had great economic influence). They envisioned a world ruled from Alexandria: the entire Eastern Roman world would be very different from old Western Rome.
A BIG WHAT IF –
This idea has been written about and contemplated by others, and deserves real consideration. If Antonio and Cleopatra had established this Eastern Empire in the year 42 a. C., there would have been an immediate loosening of the strong Roman control over the Holy Land. The Romans had only been in that area for twenty years. With the departure of those “Western” Roman troops from the region, greater freedom and autonomy would have been granted to Judea. If the Jews had been granted more freedom and control, the talk of a Messiah and an inevitable revolt might have been reduced to more theoretical theological models. Yes, they would be devout and committed to their doctrines, but they might not be so virulently angry with their rulers. A tough government creates tough revolutionary opposition. The merciful rule has a softening effect.
Without a constant battle with harsh Roman rulers, the “need” for a Messiah could be reduced to a religious concept rather than a true revolutionary Jewish holy man who would throw off foreign rule. It was the fear of this and the anticipation of this that created the potential for conflict in the Holy Land at that time. Without this dynamic, Jesus might have been a prophet or a teacher, but he probably wouldn’t have been crucified. He probably would have allowed himself to preach his thoughts and talk about the “Kingdom of Heaven.” He might have quarreled with the Jewish system, but the political dynamic of an emerging rebel would not have been there, and Jesus and John the Baptist could have been preachers who would not have been killed.
The need for a corrupt Herodian (Edomite) government may not have been so great, and if they were in power, they would not have been able to “triangulate” with the ruthless Roman government and Jewish priests. So John the Baptist, who would probably still be loud and “in your face” telling people in power to repent, probably wouldn’t have had his head cut off by the Herodian family. It would have been too “over the top” politically.
If there was no John the Baptist dead, no Jesus crucified and no Jerusalem destroyed. (the spoils from the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem were used to finance the Colosseum), the Eastern Roman rulers of Alexandria would see no reason to destroy this ancient and beautiful city, because the Jews were not going to revolt.
Without John the Baptist beheaded? Is there no crucified Christ? Isn’t there a destroyed temple? Is there no desolate Jerusalem? –
If the Battle of Actium had been won by Antony and Cleopatra, there probably would not have been a Christianity, or if there had been, it would not have been based on a dead prophet crucified and resurrected. Without Christianity the whole world would have developed and evolved religions that could have been very different. Western Rome may have fallen much earlier and a whole Eastern, liberal and syncretic philosophy could have developed in the Eastern Mediterranean, based on Greek, Egyptian, Persian and Asian ideas.
You can run wild with possible imaginative scenarios, but you can’t say that the world evolved in the same way. This theory may be disturbing to some, but it is intriguing to think about as we look at the path to where our current world is going to be. On this Memorial Day, it may be helpful to realize that the death and dying of soldiers not only secured America’s freedoms, but that those efforts literally have an ongoing impact on the world and world history. When we say “thank you for your service,” we can begin to feel and know the greater depth of the effects of that service.
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