Alexander the Alabarch
Alexander the Alabarch, full name Tiberius Julius Alexander Major (Major, Latin for the elder, 15 BC/10 BC – 69 AD) was an Alexandrian Jewish aristocrat who was one of the pro-Roman leaders of the Alexandrian Jewish community and one of the brothers of the exegete and philosopher Philo.
Ancestry and family 
Alexander was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. He came from an aristocratic family who lived in Alexandria for generations. His ancestors and family were contemporaries to the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the rule of the Seleucid Empire. Although the names of his parents are unknown, Alexander came from a family who were noble, honourable and wealthy. According to Josephus (Antiquities 20.100), Alexander surpassed his fellow local Jewish citizens in Alexandria in both ancestry and wealth.
It was either his father or paternal grandfather who was granted Roman citizenship from the Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar. Alexander’s eldest brother was Philo and according to Philo On Animals, Alexander had another brother called Lysimachus. His ancestors and family had social ties and connections to the priesthood in Judea, the Hasmonean dynasty, the Herodian Dynasty, and the Julio-Claudian dynasty in Rome.
What is known of Alexander’s life comes from referenced sources from Philo, the historian Josephus and the New Testament of the Bible (he is mentioned in Acts chapter 4). Alexander was a contemporary to the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the lives of The Apostles of Jesus.
Alexander along with his brothers received a thorough education. They were educated in the Egyptian, Jewish, Greek and Roman cultures, particularly in the traditions of Judaism, the study of the Old Testament and in Greek philosophy. He was devoted to Judaism and to his ancestral practices.
At some unknown date, Alexander was appointed as Alabarch of Alexandria. The alabarch was a magistrate responsible for customs in Alexandria. Later Alexander became an administrator for the extensive land estates in Egypt, owned by Antonia Minor. Antonia Minor was a Roman noblewoman, who was the niece of Emperor Augustus and the youngest daughter of the triumvir Mark Antony. Alexander had been a long-time friend of Antonia Minor’s youngest child, the future Emperor Claudius.
In 35, the Herodian prince and future King Agrippa I, was broke and needed to travel to Italy. Agrippa sailed to Alexandria and begged Alexander to loan him 200,000 drachmas. Alexander loaned Agrippa the money and the prince repaid the money back to Alexander in 41.
As an indication of Alexander’s great wealth, he had nine gates at the Temple in Jerusalem overlaid with massive plates of silver and gold. This was most probably done as a gift to the temple and could be a sign that Alexander was on good terms with the high priests at the Temple.
Between 37 and 41, the Emperor Caligula, in a fit of anger for an unknown reason, ordered Alexander to be imprisoned in Rome. This could be connected to Philo’s embassy to Caligula in Rome in 38, when there was rising racial tensions in Alexandria. After the death of Caligula in 41, his paternal uncle Claudius became Emperor.
Claudius released Alexander from prison and at unknown date in Claudius’ reign, Claudius promoted Alexander to Equestrian rank. Alexander married an unnamed Roman woman and they had two sons: Tiberius Julius Alexander and Marcus Julius Alexander. In 41, Alexander with Agrippa I arranged for their children to marry each other. His second son Marcus Julius married one of the daughters of Agrippa, who was princess Berenice. Unfortunately, Alexander’s second son died in 43 or 44 and left no children from his marriage to Berenice.
- Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2002
- Article: Hellenistic Jewish Literature - Chapter 6: The Life in the Mind: Reader’s Digest: Jesus and His Times, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. Printed by Fourth Printing USA, July 1990