Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos or Philopappus (Greek: Γάϊος Ἰούλιος Ἀντίοχος Ἐπιφανής Φιλόπαππος; 65–116), was a Prince of the Kingdom of Commagene who lived in the Roman Empire during the 1st century and 2nd century. He was one of the most prominent Greeks who lived in the Roman Empire.
Ancestry, family and early life
Philopappos was a man of aristocratic and well-connected origins. He was the first-born son of the Greek prince of Commagene, Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes and an Egyptian Greek woman called Claudia Capitolina. His younger sister and only sibling was the poet and friend to Roman Emperor Hadrian and Roman Empress Vibia Sabina, Julia Balbilla.
Philopappos’ parents were distantly related. The paternal grandmother of Claudia Capitolina was Greek Princess Aka II of Commagene, who was a great granddaughter of King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, while his father was the first-born son of King Antiochus IV of Commagene and his wife Queen Julia Iotapa of Commagene. Antiochus IV and Iotapa were direct descendants of Antiochus I Theos.
His maternal grandparents were Tiberius Claudius Balbilus and his unnamed wife. Balbilus was an astrologer and a learned scholar, who was later Prefect of Egypt. Balbilus and his father, Egyptian Greek Grammarian and Astrologer called Thrasyllus of Mendes or Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus, were friends to the first Roman Emperors, which included Tiberius, Claudius and Vespasian.
His paternal grandparents were Roman Client Monarchs, King Antiochus IV of Commagene and Queen Julia Iotapa. Antiochus IV and Iotapa were husband, wife and full blooded-siblings. He was of Armenian, Greek and Medes descent. Through his paternal grandparents, he was a direct descendant of the Greek Syrian Kingdom, the Seleucid Empire and the Greek Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom.
Philopappos was the first-born grandchild and grandson born to King Antiochus IV and Antiochus’ late wife, Iotapa. He was born in Samosata, the capital of the Kingdom of Commagene, in the court of the palace of Antiochus IV. He lived there and was raised safely there until 72. Philopappos’ birth name was Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes. His nickname and the name he is known by now is Philopappos or Philopappus. Philopappos means Fond of Grandfather. He received this nickname because of his close relationship to Antiochus IV and possibly Tiberius Claudius Balbilus. Philopappos had a traditional Greek education of the wealthy class.
In 72 Lucius Caesennius Paetus, the Roman Governor of Syria sent letters addressed to Vespasian accusing Antiochus IV, Philopappos’s father Epiphanes, and his paternal uncle Callinicus of planning to revolt against Rome and of allying themselves with the King of Parthia.
In these letters, Paetus accused Antiochus IV, Epiphanes and Callinicus of disloyalty to the Emperor. It is not known whether these accusations were true or false. After reading the letters Vespasian felt that he could longer trust the family of Antiochus IV and that he could not trust them to protect the strategic crossing at the Euphrates River at Samosata. Vespasian gave orders to Antiochus IV to terminate his rule in Commagene.
Paetus invaded the Kingdom of Commagene as head of the Legio VI Ferrata. The client Kings Aristobulus of Chalcis and Sohaemus of Emesa also supplied troops to Paetus. They all arrived the night before the Battle. As Epiphanes and Callinicus prepared themselves that night for war, Antiochus IV was preparing to flee to Cilicia.
On the morning of the day on which the war was supposed to occur, out of fear of the Romans, Epiphanes, along with his family, and Callinincus fled to the King of Parthia while Antiochus IV fled to Cilicia. There is a possibility that Epiphanes and Callinicus had engaged in a short-lived attempt to resist invasion before they fled to Parthia.
The family of Antiochus IV had let their own army and the citizens of Commagene down. Antiochus IV and his family had never wanted to cause a war with Rome and they wanted to clear themselves of these accusations. Vespasian brought Epiphanes and his family and Callinicus peacefully back to Rome in an honourable Roman Military Escort. Epiphanes and his family and Callinicus lived in Rome with Antiochus IV for the remainder of his life. Vespasian had given Antiochus IV and his family sufficient revenue to live on. Antiochus IV and his family had a glamorous life and were treated with great respect.
Philopappos and his family never returned to Commagene. Commagene was reinstated as a part of the Roman Province of Syria and there the citizens of Commagene proved to be loyal subjects of the Roman Empire.
Life after Commagene
In 72, Philopappos’s sister Julia Balbilla was born in Rome. After the deaths of both of his grandfathers, Epiphanes, his mother, himself with his sister moved and finally settled in Athens Greece. His father died in 92 of unknown causes. After the death of Epiphanes, Claudia Capitolina returned to her birth city of Alexandria, Egypt where she married for the second time to the Roman Politician Marcus Junius Rufus. Capitolina spent her remaining years in her birth city and for a period of time Balbilla was with her mother and later returned to Philopappos in Athens.
Throughout his life, Philopappos always considered himself as having the status of a monarch. He spent the remainder of his life in Athens and became a prominent and respected benefactor of the city. Philopappos assumed civic, political and religious duties in Athens and Rome. He belonged to the Roman elite and became friends with the Roman Emperor Trajan and Trajan’s heir and second paternal cousin Hadrian. Through Trajan and Hadrian, Philopappos also met their families.
Philopappos had Roman and Athenian citizenship. He served as an Archon in Athens and had become friends to Greek philosophers. Through his friendship with the philosophers, he became an acquaintance to the Greek historian Plutarch. Plutarch in his writings describes Philopappos as ‘very generous and magnificent in his rewards’ and describes his character as ‘good-humored and eager for instruction’.
Philopappos served as a Choregos (producer for a chorus) twice; as an Agonothetes (magistrate of games) once and was a member of the Deme Besa. Between 105-116, Philopappos was made a member of the Arval Brethren. The Arval Brethren was an ancient group of priests that offered annual sacrifices to Lares and the gods to guarantee good harvests.
Through his friendship and influence from Trajan, Trajan promoted him as a member of the Praetorian Guard in Rome. Trajan and Hadrian through his praetorian rank, promoted him to the Roman Senate. He became a Roman Senator, although his father nor paternal grandfather was not of senatorial rank. Philopappos rose through the ranks and served as a suffect consul in 109.
There is a possibility that Philopappos married at some point, and may have had children and further descendants; however there are no surviving records of this.
Philopappos died in 116. When he died, his death caused great sadness to his sister Julia Balbilla, citizens of Athens and possibly to the imperial family. As a dedication to honor the memory of Philopappos, Balbilla with the citizens of Athens erected a tomb structure on Mouseion Hill, located southwest of the Acropolis of Athens. His marble tomb monument is known as the “Philopappos Monument”, and from it, the hill became known as “Philopappos Hill”.
Philopappos in popular culture
One of the adversaries of the title character of Digenis Akritas is a leader of brigands named Philopappas. According to Dension Bingham Hall, the name of this character was taken from the historical personage, adding that "many legends surround this name, some of which have been woven into the poem."
- Kleiner, D.E.E. “The Monument of Philopappos.” Archaeologica 30 (1983)
- Athenaeus Deipnosophistae VIII.350c
- Josephus Bellum Judaeum 238-243
- Pausanias I.25.8
- Plutarch Quaestiones Convivales 628a; & Quomodo ab adulatore discernatur amicus 48e & 66c
- IG II² 1759, 3112, 3450, 3451, & 4511; IG V.2.524; Inscriptions du Colosse de Memnon nos. 28-31, & OGIS 408
- Hall, Digenis Akritas: The two-blood border lord (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1972), p. xliii