The Star of Bethlehem
Appendix 3 

The Banishment of Julia

Read and Listen Philip the Tetrarch built a city in his territory east of the Sea of Galilee and called it Julias after the emperor’s daughter Julia. But late in 2 B.C.E., Julia was disgraced and banished by her father Augustus for openly practicing wantonness. It has been suggested by modern historians that the naming of this city after Julia had to have taken place before she was banished in late 2 B.C.E. But there are major difficulties with this hypothesis. Is it possible that a complete city could be built for thousands of people in a year and a half from the summer of 4 B.C.E. to the winter of 2 B.C.E.? This is highly doubtful because we have the plain testimony of Josephus that it took Herod twelve years to build Caesarea, and it was only given its name after it was finished. 1

We are not told how long it took Philip to build Julias, but if it were only a quarter of the size of Caesarea it would have taken at a bare minimum three years. With Philip beginning his tetrarchy in 1 B.C.E., the completion of the city would have occurred long after Julia was disinherited late in 2 B.C. Most probably, the city of Julias was not finished and dedicated until at least C.E. 4 or 5.

This date would fit quite favorably with the overall history of this period. In C.E. 4 it is recorded that Julia’s father Augustus relaxed the strict requirements he had imposed on his daughter. Dio said that Julia “was restored from banishment” at that time. 2 And though Augustus never forgave his daughter in the absolute sense for her wayward behavior, he did allow her to enjoy more freedom and to do good works from C.E. 4 until his death in C.E. 14.

It is said that in this period of mercy from her father, Julia and her own daughter concentrated their activities to engaging in many benevolent enterprises. They helped the poor and the unfortunate as best they could. This won a love and respect from the people of Rome. And though her father Augustus remained adamant in his refusal to allow her a full reprieve, there was no doubt in Rome that Julia was now reckoned an honorable and repentant woman and admired by the people of Rome and the Empire.

It could have been in this period of time that Philip built a new city on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee and named it Julias ― after the daughter of the emperor. This would have been quite feasible from C.E. 4 to 14. Since Philip had spent his youth in Rome, he could well have known Julia and her daughter (and others near the imperial family), and the ten-year period of her “relaxed” confinement could have been an appropriate time to name a new city after her. Surely, Augustus would not have minded, though his firm stand on his early judgment did not allow him to relinquish his sentence of banishment.

Thus, Philip named his new city Julias. It was only when Tiberius (the former husband of Julia, and one who hated her very much) came to the emperorship in C.E. 14 that Julia again fell out of favor with the ruling powers. Within a year after Tiberius took over the imperial authority, Julia died — apparently of starvation ordered by Tiberius. One thing is certain, the building and naming of the city of Julias nowhere interferes with the suggestions in this book that Herod died in 1 B.C.


1 Josephus, War, I.414.

2 Dio Cassius, LV.13.1a.


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