Drusilla (daughter of Herod Agrippa)
She was six years of age at the time of her father's death at Caesarea in 44. Her father had betrothed her to Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, first son of King Antiochus IV of Commagene, with a stipulation from her father that Epiphanes should embrace the Jewish religion. The prince in the end refused to abide by his promise to do so, and the marriage had still not been contracted on her father's death. On Agrippa's death:
|“||...the inhabitants of Caesarea and of Sebaste forgot the kindnesses he had bestowed on them, and acted the part of the bitterest enemies; for they cast such reproaches upon the deceased as are not fit to be spoken of; and so many of them as were then soldiers, which were a great number, went to his house, and hastily carried off the statues of [Agrippa I]'s daughters, and all at once carried them into the brothels, and when they had set them on the brothel roofs, they abused them to the utmost of their power, and did such things to them as are too indecent to be related. They also laid themselves down in public places, and celebrated general feastings, with garlands on their heads, and with ointments and libations to Charon, and drinking to one another for joy that the king was expired, not only unmindful of Agrippa, who had extended his liberality to them in abundance, but also of his grandfather Herod the Great, who had himself rebuilt their cities, and had raised them havens and temples at vast expense.||”|
Once Drusilla's brother, Herod Agrippa II, had been assigned the tetrachy of Herod Philip I (along with Batanea, Trachonites and Abila) in around 49/50, he broke off her engagement to Epiphanes and gave her in marriage to Gaius Julius Azizus, Priest King of Emesa, who, in order to obtain her hand, consented to be circumcised. Herod also at around this time married Mariamne to her betrothed, Gaius the prince of Commagene.
It appears that it was shortly after her first marriage was contracted that Antonius Felix, the Roman procurator of Judaea, met Drusilla, probably at her brother's court (Berenice, the elder sister, lived with her brother at this time, and thus Drusilla probably did too). Felix was struck by the great beauty of Drusilla, and determined to make her his (second) wife. In order to persuade her, a practising Jew, to divorce her Jewish husband and marry him, a pagan, he took the following steps:
|“||While Felix was procurator of Judea, he saw this Drusilla, and fell in love with her; for she did indeed exceed all other women in beauty; and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon (Note: in some manuscripts, Atomos), a Jewish friend of his, by birth a Cypriot, who pretended to be a magician. Simon endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry Felix; and promised, that if she would not refuse Felix, he would make her a happy woman. Accordingly she acted unwisely and, because she longed to avoid her sister Berenice's envy (for Drusilla was very ill-treated by Berenice because of Drusilla's beauty) was prevailed upon to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and to marry Felix.||”|
She was about nineteen years of age when she appeared at Felix's side, during St. Paul's captivity at Caesarea - Acts 24:24 reports her thus:
- "Several days later Felix came [back into court] with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess."
Acts gives no further information on her subsequent life, though Josephus states that they had a son named Marcus Antonius Agrippa and a daughter Antonia Clementiana. Their son perished together with his mother Drusilla, along with noted Roman historian Pliny the Elder plus most of the populations of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. For further information about the family of Felix and Drusilla, see Antonius Felix.
- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xix. 9. § 1.
- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xx.7.1
- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xix. 9. 1 and xx.7.1
- Atomos in some manuscripts
- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xx.7.2
- Mentioned in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, xx.7.2, and in a lost section of the work.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Drusilla". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.