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FELIX (ANTONIUS FELIX):

Procurator of Judea. Felix, who was a freedman of the empress Antonia, was administrator of Samaria, and probably of Judea proper also, as early as the time of the procurator Cumanus (Tacitus, "Annales," xii. 54; Josephus, "Ant." xx. 7, § 1). The two procurators almost went to war with each other during the conflict that broke out between the Samaritans and the Galileans; but Cumanus was recalled. Felix was thereupon appointed sole procurator of Judea by Claudius (52 C.E.) on the suggestion of the high priest Jonathan, who had gone to Rome with other nobles on account of the Samaritan disturbances (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 11, § 6; "Ant." xx. 8, § 5). Felix was also entrusted with the entire military command, as Suetonius ("Claudius," § 28) and Victor ("Epit." § 4) distinctly point out. Felix exercised, as Tacitus says, "the royal prerogative in a slavish sense, with all manner of cruelties and excesses"; it was he who excited the bitter feelings of the Jewish patriots to the highest pitch, and for this even his patron Jonathan reproached him in the end.

Related to Claudius by a former marriage, Felix, immediately on entering office, alienated the affections of the Jewish princess Drusilla, sister of Agrippa II., from her husband, King Azizus of Emesa (Josephus, "Ant." xx. 7, § 2; comp. Acts xxiv. 24). He sent the chief of the Zealots, Eleazar b. Dinai, in chains to Rome, while taking relentless measures against his followers, whom he denounced as robbers, crucifying them in countless numbers ("B. J." ii. 3, § 2; "Ant." xx. 8, § 5). On the other hand, he tolerated the much more formidable Sicarii, and used them for his own purposes, as, for instance, in the murder of Jonathan (ib.). He also proceeded rigorously against the would be prophets that were disturbing the peace with their fanaticism, especially against an Egyptian Jew who, with several thousand followers, attempted to drive the Roman garrison from Jerusalem, but who was defeated ("B. J." ii. 13, §§ 4-5; "Ant." xx. 8, § 6; comp. Acts xxi. 38; Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl."ii. 21). His term of office was practically a reign of anarchy; for even the high-priestly families were at war with the lower priests ("Ant." xx. 8, § 8; "Vita," § 3).

During his term, the apostle Paul was taken prisoner at Cæsarea (Acts xxiii.-xxiv.). A fierce contest arose at that time between the Jewish and Syrian citizens of Cæsarea, and as Felix acted unjustly toward the Jews, he was recalled by Nero about 60 C. E. ("Ant." xx. 8, §§ 7-9; "B. J." ii. 12, § 7). At the intercession of Pallas he escaped punishment ("Ant." l.c.). He is mentioned in rabbinical sources (Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 459).

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 435, 439;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 571-579 (where bibliography is given);
  • Prosopographia Imperii Romani, ii. 95.
G. S. Kr.
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