Thrasyllus of Mendes

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This article is about the Egyptian Greek Astrologer and Philosopher. For the Athenian General, see Thrasyllus. For the stick insect genus, see Thrasyllus (insect).

Thrasyllus of Mendes, also known as Thrasyllus of Alexandria[1] and by his Roman citizenship name Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus[2] (flourished second half of the 1st century BC and first half of the 1st century – died 36,[3][4] Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus Greek: Τιβέριος Κλαύδιος Θράσυλλος, Thrasyllus of Mendes Greek: Θράσυλλος Μενδήσιος), was an Egyptian Greek Grammarian and Literary Commentator. Thrasyllus was the astrologer, the personal friend of the Roman emperor Tiberius,[5] as he is mentioned in the Annals of Rome by Tacitus and Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius

Background[edit]

Thrasyllus[6] was an Egyptian of Greek descent from unknown origins, as his family and ancestors were contemporaries that lived under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. He originally was either from Mendes or Alexandria. Thrasyllus is often mentioned in various secondary sources as coming from Alexandria (as mentioned in the Oxford Classical Dictionary) as no primary source confirms his origins.

Tiberius[edit]

Thrasyllus encountered the future Roman emperor who became the heir of the first Roman emperor Augustus, on the Greek island of Rhodes perhaps from 1 BC until 4,[7] where Tiberius had lived in voluntarily exile. Thrasyllus became the intimate and celebrated servant of Tiberius, and, from Thrasyllus, Tiberius developed an interest in Stoicism and Astrology.[8]

He predicted that Tiberius would be recalled to Rome and officially named the successor to Augustus. When Tiberius returned to Rome, Thrasyllus accompanied him and remained close to him.[9] Thrasyllus during the reign of the emperor Tiberius who ruled from 14 until 37, served as his skilled Court Astrologer[10] in Rome and later, in Capri. As Tiberius had held Thrasyllus in the highest honor, Tiberius rewarded Thrasyllus for his friendship by giving Roman citizenship[11] to him and his family.

The daughter-in-law of Tiberius, his niece Livilla consulted Thrasyllus during her affair with Sejanus, the chief minister of Tiberius. Thrasyllus persuaded Tiberius to leave Rome for Capri while clandestinely supporting Sejanus. The grandson-in-law of Thrasyllus, Naevius Sutorius Macro carried out orders that destroyed Sejanus, whether with Thrasyllus’ knowledge is unknown. He remained on Capri with Tiberius advising the Emperor, on his relationship with the various claimants to his succession. Thrasyllus was an ally[12] who favored Tiberius’ great-nephew Caligula, by whom his granddaughter Ennia Thrasylla, became the mistress of Caligula.[13]

Thrasyllus is said in 36 to have made Tiberius believed that he would survive another ten years.[14] By giving this false prediction to Tiberius for his longevity, Thrasyllus saved the lives of a number of Roman nobles who would be suspected in falsely plotting against Tiberius. Tiberius believing in Thrasyllus was confident that he would outlive any plotters, and so failed to act against them. Although Thrasyllus died before Tiberius did, he didn’t live to see the realization of his prediction that Caligula would succeed Tiberius.

Academic work[edit]

Thrasyllus by profession was a Grammarian (i.e. literary scholar).[15] He edited the written works of Plato and Democritus. According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, he wrote that the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt took place in 1690 BC. The sections include, Dedumose I, Ipuwer Papyrus and Shiphrah.

He was the author of an astrological text titled Pinax or Table.[16] Pinax has been lost however the text has seem summarized in later sources, such as: CCAG - Catalogue of the Codices of the Greek Astrologers (8/3: 99-101) which borrows the astrological notions found in Nechepso/Petosiris (see article on Hellenistic astrology) and in Hermes Trismegistus, an early pseudepigraphical source of astrology. Pinax was known and cited by the later following astrological writers: Vettius Valens, Porphyry and Hephaistio.[17]

Family and issue[edit]

Thrasyllus married a Princess from the Kingdom of Commagene,[18] whose name was Aka,[19] often known as Aka II of Commagene.[20] Aka was a Commagenian Monarch of Armenian, Greek and Median descent. Chronically, Aka is one of the daughters born to the former Commagenian ruling monarchs Mithridates III of Commagene and his cousin-wife Iotapa, thus was a sister of Antiochus III of Commagene.[21] Through her parents, Aka was a descendant of the ruling monarchs of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Aka is known from a preserved incomplete poem, that mentions Aka as the wife of Thrasyllus and mentions she was of royal origins.[22] Thrasyllus married Aka at an unknown date in the late second half of the first century BC and the circumstances that led Thrasyllus to marry Aka are unknown.

Aka bore Thrasyllus two known children:

In fiction[edit]

Thrasyllus is a character in the novel series, written by Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Thrasyllus' predictions are always correct, and his prophecies are equally far-reaching. Thrasyllus predicts Jesus of Nazareth's crucifixion and that his religion shall overtake the Roman Pagan Religion. Similarly towards the end of his life it is explained that his final prophecy was misinterpreted by Tiberius. Thrasyllus states that "Tiberius Claudius will be emperor in 10 years," leading Tiberius to brashly criticize and mock Caligula, whereas his prophecy is correct as Claudius' name is "Tiberius Claudius".

In the TV miniseries adaptation of the novels, Thrasyllus was played by Kevin Stoney.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.7
  2. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.137
  3. ^ Thrasyllus’ article at ancient library
  4. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  5. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  6. ^ The name Thrasyllus is an ancient Greek name which derives from the Greek thrasy – meaning bold
  7. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.7
  8. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.7
  9. ^ Thrasyllus’ article at ancient library
  10. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  11. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.7
  12. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.167
  13. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.137
  14. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.167
  15. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  16. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  17. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.26
  18. ^ Beck, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays, p.42-3
  19. ^ Beck, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays, p.43
  20. ^ Royal genealogy of Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb
  21. ^ Royal genealogy of Mithradates III of Commagene at rootsweb
  22. ^ see Conrad Cichorius (1927) p. 103 note and Gundel/S. Gundel (1966) 148f. and 14th note
  23. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.p.137&230
  24. ^ Genealogy of daughter of Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus and Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb
  25. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.p.137&230
  26. ^ Genealogy of daughter of Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus and Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb
  27. ^ Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, p.p.137&230
  28. ^ Genealogy of daughter of Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus and Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb
  29. ^ Coleman-Norton, Ancient Roman Statutes, p.151-2
  30. ^ Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, p.29
  31. ^ Beck, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays, p.42-3
  32. ^ Royal genealogy of Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb

Sources[edit]

  • Encyclopaedia Judaica
  • Thrasyllus’ article at ancient library
  • F.H. Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA, 1954
  • P. Robinson Coleman-Norton and F. Card Bourne, Ancient Roman Statutes, The Lawbook Exchange Limited, 1961
  • B. Levick, Tiberius: The Politician, Routledge, 1999
  • M. Zimmerman, G. Schmeling, H. Hofmann, S. Harrison and C. Panayotakis (eds.), Ancient Narrative, Barkhuis, 2002
  • R. Beck, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004
  • J.H. Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, American Federation of Astrology, 2006
  • Royal genealogy of Mithradates III of Commagene at rootsweb
  • Royal genealogy of Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb
  • Genealogy of daughter of Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus and Aka II of Commagene at rootsweb

External links[edit]