History is filled with intriguing mixtures of fate and fortune. Meet Tiberius Julius Alexander, a Jewish soldier from Africa who rose to the rank of general in the Roman army. He wasn’t the only African to serve the Roman Empire, but he was surely one of the most controversial and influential.
Here are five fascinating facts about Tiberius Julius Alexander:
1. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around 15 CE, to a prominent Jewish family. His father was a wealthy merchant, and his brother, Marcus Julius Alexander, became a distinguished Jewish leader.
2. Tiberius Julius Alexander served as a general in the Roman army and rose to the rank of Praetorian Prefect, one of the most powerful positions in the Empire. He was also a governor of Egypt and served as a procurator in Judea.
3. He played a vital role in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, which destroyed the Second Temple. He oversaw the Roman forces that attacked the city and was responsible for breaching the city walls.
Model of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by Tiberius Julius Alexander in 70 CE. (Source: Berthold Werner, via Wikimedia)
4. Despite his Jewish heritage, Tiberius Julius Alexander was a true believer in the Roman Empire and was known for his close ties to the imperial family. He was a friend and ally of Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus.
5. Tiberius Julius Alexander is mentioned in the Talmud, a central text of Jewish law and tradition. The Talmud paints him as a hero and a villain, on the one hand for his heroic efforts to protect the Jewish community in Alexandria and to rebuild the temple there, and on the other for his villainous role in destroying Jerusalem's great Second Temple.
Title Image: The temple of Hibis in Kharga oasis, Egypt. (Source: ASartan via Wikimedia Commons)