Way of Essenic Studies
Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let’s put Mary out of our group, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus replied, ‘Look, I myself will lead her to
make her male...
Gospel of Thomas
Was the Most Powerful Man in First Century Rome
Emperor Claudius was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness at a young age. His family excluded him from public office until his consulship in 37 CE which he shared with his nephew Caligula. Antonia, daughter of Mark Antony, was Claudius' mother, and she pointed to this son as an example of stupidity. According to historians, the real power in Rome during Claudius' reign was wielded by his two freedmen. Their names were rather curious: Tiberius Claudius Narcissus and Marcus Antonius Pallas.
The name Pallas comes from Homer's goddess, Pallas Athena, who frequently transformed herself into a man when she believed it would help achieve her goals. She seemed quite proud of her successful deceptions:
‘… my love, two of a kind we are, contrivers both.
Of all men now alive, you are the best in plots and story-telling.
My own fame is for wisdom among the gods – deceptions, too.’
Ovid wrote a poem about Narcissus, a name adopted because it carries a blatant clue to one of the identities of the "freedman":
When, looking for his corpse they only found,
A rising stalk with yellow blossoms crowned.
The story of the god Narcissus,
a mythological explanation
of the origin of the Easter Lily.
From the fifteen-book narrative poem,
Metamorphoses, by Ovid
Early first century Latin poet
These and a multitude other short strands of evidence leave little doubt that "Marcus Antonius Pallas" was to be associated with the goddess "Pallas Athena" and was the granddaughter of Marcus Antonius. Pliny the Elder and his nephew Pliny the Younger were related to this same Royal Family. Therefore, they held important information about their relative, Pallas which Pliny the Younger passed on, tongue in cheek, to reveal all the things "Mary Magdalene" accomplished while disguised as a freedman called Pallas.
Gaius Plinius to his friend Montanus: Greetings. As you know from my last letter, I recently saw the monument of Pallas with this inscription: The senate decreed the praetorian ornaments and 15,000,000 HS for this woman on account of her extraordinary loyalty and pietas towards her patrons. She was content with the honor.
I then decided that it might be worth the effort to look up the actual decree of the senate. I found it so effusive and verbose that the arrogant inscription seemed moderate and humble by comparison. If all the Africani, Achaici, Numantini – and I will not speak only of the ancient, but even more recent characters such as the Marri, Sullae, and Pompeys (I will not go on any longer) – should they put themselves all together they would still fall short of the praise of Pallas.
Should I think that the people who voted on this were witty or wretched? I would say witty, if wit was appropriate for the senate; I would say wretched, but I have no idea how wretched one would have to be that he could be compelled to say this sort of thing. Maybe it was ambition and a desire to get ahead. But who could be so insane that he would want to get ahead through his own and the state's disgrace in a state in which the reward for the highest office is to be the first person in the senate to be able to praise Pallas?
I pass over the fact that praetorian ornaments were offered to the slave Pallas (since they were offered by slaves); I pass over the fact that they voted that she should not just be encouraged, but actually compelled to wear a golden ring, for it would lower the dignity of the senate if an ex-praetor wore the iron ring of a slave.
These trivialities may be ignored; what must stand on record is that the senate, on behalf of Pallas – (the senate house has not subsequently been purified) – that the senate gave thanks to Caesar on behalf of Pallas because he spoke about her with the highest honor and gave the senate the chance to testify to their appreciation of her.
What could be more pleasant for the senate than that it should seem to be sufficiently grateful to Pallas? It was added, ‘That Pallas, to whom all say that they are obliged with the best of their ability, has received the most justly deserved reward for her singular faith and industry.’ You would think that she had extended the borders of the Empire, or that she had brought the armies of the state home again!
And there follows that, ‘Since there will be no more gratifying occasion for the Roman senate and people to display their generosity that if it should be able to add to the resources of the most abstemious and faithful manager of the Emperor’s wealth.’ This then was the prayer of the senate; this was the particular joy of the people; this was the most pleasant material for demonstrating liberality: that the fortune of Pallas should be increased by wasting public money.
What next? The senate wished that she be given 15,000,000 HS from the treasury, and since her soul was so far removed for all desires of this sort, the senate should ask all the more fervently that the Father of the state should compel her to accede to the wishes of the senate!
The only thing that was missing was for Pallas to be approached on public authority, for Pallas to be begged to accede to the wishes of the senate, that Caesar himself, the patron of that arrogant abstinence, should make the request in person that she should not spurn 15,000,000 HS!
Pallas did reject it! The only thing she could have done that was more arrogant than to accept so much money from the public treasury was to reject it. The senate took this with further praises, though this time couched with a complaint, in these words, ‘When the best Emperor and Father of the State was asked by Pallas that the part of the decree of the senate that pertained to giving her 15,000,000 HS from the public treasury be rescinded, the senate states that it bestowed this amount freely and with good reason amongst the other honors that it voted because of Pallas' faith and diligence; and since it felt that it was not right to oppose the will of the Emperor in any manner, she ought to obey him in this manner as well.
Can you imagine Pallas, vetoing, as it were, a decree of the senate, moderating her own honors, refusing 15,000,000 HS as too much, and taking praetorian insignia as being of less importance! Imagine the Emperor obedient to the prayers, or rather, the orders, of his freedman before the senate (for the freedman ordered her patron that he should make this request in the senate)!
Imagine the senate going so far as to asset that it offered this sum, amongst other honors, freely and deservedly to Pallas, and that it would persevere if it did not have to bow to the will of the Emperor, whom it was not right to oppose in any way. So, in order that Pallas not take 15,000,000 HS out of the public treasury, it took her modesty, and the obedience of the senate, which would not have happened in this case, if it had not been thought right to disobey on any point!
You think that this is all? Hold on and hear some more. ‘Since it will be a good thing that the generous promptness of the Emperor to praise and reward deserving people be known everywhere, and especially in those places where those who are entrusted with the management of affairs might be incited to imitation, and where outstanding loyalty and innocence, as exemplified by Pallas should be able to encourage zeal for honest emulation, that those things that the Emperor had said before a full meeting of the senate on January 23, and the decrees of the senate that had been passed in subsequent meeting, should be inscribed on bronze and that the bronze tablet should be erected next to the armored statue of the Divine Julius.’”
It was not enough for the senate house to be witness to these disgraceful events, but a very public place was chosen in which these events would be published so that they could be read by contemporaries and members of future generations! It was decreed that all the honors of this dutiful slave should be inscribed on bronze, along with those that she had refused, and those that she took up insofar as those voting them had the power to do it. The praetorian ornaments of Pallas were cut and inscribed on a public monument for all time just like ancient treaties, just as if they were sacred laws. [Possibly a reference to the inscriptions in Athens honoring Juba’s daughter.]
So far did the Emperor, so far did the senate, so far did the – I don't know what to call it – of Pallas go that they wished to display the insolence of Pallas, the subservience of Caesar and the humiliation of the senate for all to see! Nor were they ashamed to find a reason for their wretched conduct, a wonderful and beautiful reason, that others would be encouraged by the example of Pallas with enthusiasm for rewards and emulation!
Honors, even those that Pallas did not refuse, were to be cheap. Nevertheless, people of good family could be found who competed for and desired those very honors that they saw given to freedmen and promised to slaves.
How glad I am that I did not live in those days, I would be ashamed if I had. I don't doubt that you feel the same way since I know what a lively and freeborn mind you have; it has been easier for me, even though I have allowed my indignation in places to go beyond the accepted limits of a letter, you will know that I have grieved less rather than too much. Farewell
How in the world could a woman disguise herself as a man? Her voice would surely give her away. We turn to Tacitus who explained how she got away with it:
‘…the proved innocence of Pallas did not please men so much as his arrogance offended them. When his freedmen, his alleged accomplices, were called, they reported that at home Pallas signified his wishes only by a nod or a gesture, or, if further explanation was required, he used writing, so as not to degrade his voice in such company.’”
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