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The Rôle of Basilides in the events of A.D. 69


In the establishing of Vespasian on the imperial throne an important part was played by Ti. Iulius Alexander, the prefect of Egypt. Before any decisive step was taken by Vespasian, the Egyptian prefect had deliberated with either Mucianus or Vespasian, or with both, and had pledged his support. The prefect was, moreover, the first to have his soldiers take the oath of allegiance to Vespasian, on July 1st, 69. The die was cast by Vespasian at the conclusion of a conference held with Mucianus at Mt. Carmel, and it is only reasonable to suppose that Ti. Iulius Alexander had a representative at this all-important meeting. I suggest that there was such a representative, a certain Basilides, concerning whom we have considerable information.

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1 Tac. Hist. 11, 74 : ‘Muciani animus nec Vespasiano alienus et in Titum pronior; praefectus Aegypti Ti. Alexander consilia sociaverat.’ Cf. Dessau , PIR ii, p. 165 : ‘Cum eo Mucianus consilium transferendi in Vespasianum imperii communicat.’ According to Tacitus (Hist. ii, 76) Mucianus points out to Vespasian the fact that he has the support of the troops in Egypt.

2 Suet. Vesp. 6, and Tac. Hist. ii, 79.

3 Cf. Weynand, ‘Flavius (206)’ in P-W, 12 Halbbd., col. 2634 : ‘Als nun Vitellius die Oberhand gewonnen hatte, drängte Mucian bei einer Zusammenkunft am Berge Karmel den unentschlossenen Vespasian, von den hoheren Offizieren und den Freunden des Vespasian unterstützt, zum, festen Entschlusse (ego te, Vespasiane, ad imperitum voco Tac. Hist. ii, 76. Josephus, Bell. iv, 605).’

4 Ditt. Or. Gr., 665.

5 Cf. v. Rohden, P-W, s.v. ‘Basileides.’

6 PIR2 i (1933). 355, no. 61.

7 Basilides, meaning ‘Fitzroy,’ is evidently taken to portend imperial sway.

8 Hist. iv, 82.

9 Cf. Weber W., Josepbus und Vespasian (1921), pp. 250258, on the dating of the miracula.

10 According to Tacitus there was at Carmel neither image nor temple but only an altar and worship of the god. Before attempting a struggle for the throne it was natural enough that Vespasian should consult the god with sacrifice, and it would not be surprising if a priest from the Roman army assisted and consulted the exta. There is no indication that Basilides was a priest of the god of Carmel. In Suet. Vesp. 5, the lots are said to have been favourable, but no mention is made of Basilides.

11 Op. cit., p. 355, nos. 60 and 61.

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The Journal of Roman Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4358
  • EISSN: 1753-528X
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