Antonius Felix (Procurator)

 

Antonius Felix was the procurator of the Roman Province of Judea.  Tacitus indicates that Felix served in this capacity jointly with Cumanus for a number of years and thereafter as sole procurator of Judea (Annals XII, 54).  Josephus however makes no mention of this joint rule with Cumanus.  Most scholars place Felix as procurator starting in 52 C.E.

Historians attest that Felix and his brother Pallas were once slaves and granted their freedom by the Emperor Claudius.  Tacitus described him as "one who practised every kind of cruelty and lust, wielding the power of a king with all the instincts of a slave" (Histories V, ix).  He is reported to have engineered the killing of High Priest Jonathan and Suetonius says that Felix became the husband of three queens (Lives of the Caesars, Claudius XXVIII).  The Bible also sheds some light on the kind of person Antonius Felix was.

Following the apostle Paul's arrest a certain military commander named Claudius Lysias, moved the apostle from Jerusalem to Caesarea under heavy guard.  He feared for his prisoners safety in Jerusalem and ordered his accusers to bring their charges against Paul to Felix (Acts 23:23-30).  Five days later the High Priest Ananias and the lawyer Tertullus along with others came down from Jerusalem to lay charges against Paul.  Felix listened to the charges but deferred judgment.  He ordered Paul be kept in custody but allowed his friends to wait upon him.  Paul remained in custody for the next two years.  The bible tells us that Felix would send for Paul regularly to converse with him, hoping in vain that the apostle would bribe him for his release.  On at least one of these occasions Felix wife Drusilla was present (Acts 24:24-27).

Felix administration was resented by the Jews and in 58 C.E. he was succeeded by Porcius Festus.  The Jews sent a delegation to Rome to press their case against Felix.  He escaped punishment after his recall to Rome only because of his brother Pallas' favored position and influence with the Emperor Nero.

Coinage:

From the Forum Catalog:

Bronze prutah

 Hendin 651, Meshorer TJC 342, 

 Caesarea mint, 54 A.D.

obverse IOU/LIA AG/RIPPI/NA (Julia Agrippina - wife of Claudius), within a wreath tied at the bottom with an X;

 reverse TI KLAUDIOC KAICAP GEPM (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Germanicus), two crossed palm fronds, L ID below (year 14)

 Bronze prutah

 Hendin 652, SGICV 5626

Caesarea mint, 54 A.D.

obverse NEPW KLAV KAICAP (Nero Claudius Caesar), two oblong shields and two spears crossed

 reverse BPIT (Britannicus), six-branched palm bearing two bunches of dates, L ID KAI (year 14 of Caesar) below