Marcus Antonius Felix

Marcus Antonius Felix: Roman governor of Judaea (52-58). He is also known as Claudius Felix.

Marcus Antonius Felix was a brother of Marcus Antonius Pallas, a freedman and a powerful courtier of the emperor Claudius. He was so influential that he could convince the ruler of the Roman empire to marry his niece Agrippina Minor and adopt her son Nero.

It was probably due to the influence of Pallas that Felix first received a military command and was later made procurator (governor) of Samaria, the northern part of the province of Judaea. At the same time, Claudius gave new territories to king Julius Marcus Agrippa, so it appears that the emperor reorganized the entire area.

More changes were to come, because Felix quarreled with his colleague in the southern part, Ventidius Cumanus, and was rewarded by the emperor with the latter's procuratorship as well. According to Flavius Josephus, Felix suppressed bands of bandits and the messianic movement of the Egyptian prophet. Josephus also accuses Felix of ordering the assassination of the high priest Jonathan by religious fanatics, which is probably untrue. Yet, it comes as no surprise that the Roman historian Tacitus calls Felix' behavior "tyrannical". He often ordered harsh measures - for example to suppress riots in Caesarea.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, the Christian teacher Paul was put on trial, but Felix never pronounced sentence, because he was hoping for bribes. Nevertheless, the apostle was kept imprisoned for two years (56-58).

In 58, the inhabitants of Caesarea appealed to the emperor Nero and told him about the riots. Felix was recalled, but Pallas made sure that his brother was not convicted.

Suetonius informs us that Felix was married to three princesses, but unfortunately, we know the names of only two of them - and both have the same name.note If we are to believe Tacitus, the first Drusilla was a granddaughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII Philopator; but he is probably confusing her with the other Drusilla, the wife of king Aziz of Emessa and daughter of Herod Agrippa. In c.54, the latter gave birth to a son named Agrippa, who was killed during the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79.

This page was created in 2003; last modified on 23 April 2020.