Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 29.


D. W. Roller, The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier. London: Routledge, 2003. Pp. xvi + 335, incl. 26 figures and 4 maps. ISBN 0-415-30596-9. UKú60.00.

D. B. Saddington
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Juba II was the son of the last king of Numidia, Juba I, who died in 46 BC. While still an infant he was taken to Rome for Caesar's African triumph in that year. He remained there until appointed king of Mauretania (now Morocco and western Algeria) in 25 BC. He had recently married Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, the last ruler of Egypt, who was also brought up in Rome. They had a son, Ptolemaeus, who succeeded to the throne in AD 23 but was executed by the emperor Gaius in 40, after which Mauretania became a Roman province. Juba II was a voluminous writer, but only a few brief fragments of his works survive. He seems to have had a special interest in what today would be called geography and ethnography, interestingly especially in little known areas of north Africa and the Canary Islands.

Roller has produced an attractive well-illustrated book on this, and the relevant historical background, the 'world' of the title.

In the preface (p. ix) Cleopatra Selene is assigned a rich cultural heritage as the heir of the Ptolemies of Egypt (little is said of the possible influence of the memory of her father, one of the most powerful Romans of his day, on her, or of the effects of her education from a tender age in Rome itself). Juba, 'a Romanized Numidian', is presented as an 'implementer of the Augustan programme', a sympathetic monarch at the fringes of the Roman empire, who could be relied upon to uphold Roman interests, both culturally and politically (pp. ixf.). Client kings certainly had to uphold Rome's political interests, but it remains to be proved that they were assigned a cultural role. In the introduction (pp. 1-10) there is a useful summary of the main themes of the book. By origin Juba was a 'barbarian' (p. 2). But this is misleading. As Roller himself shows, his family had long assimilated not only the Punic culture of Carthage but that of the Hellenistic world as well. And at the age at which Juba arrived in Rome he could have had no culture at all. (We do not know who brought him up. It is of course possible that Caesar provided him with an entourage of Numidian noblemen and servants.) By the time he was an adult he had the education given to wealthy Roman aristocrats. From his scholarship it seems that he was attracted to themes popular with the Greek intelligentsia of the day, such as those found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus or Strabo the geographer. In any case, Roman aristocrats had been bilingual since before the time of Cicero.

Chapter 1, 'Juba's Numidian Ancestry' (pp. 11-38), gives a full account of Numidia from the time of Massinissa in the second century BC to the defeat of Juba I and the Pompeians in 46 BC. Chapter 2 (pp. 39-58) does the same for Mauretania. Chapter 3 (pp. 59-75) discusses 'Juba's Youth and Education'. Roller is of the view that he was educated with the children of the Augustan household and quotes Suetonius (Aug. 48) to the effect that Augustus had children of client kings educated together with his own. But whether this can be backdated to the chaotic period of the Second Triumvirate between the Ides of March and the Battle of Actium is uncertain. It is true that his sister, Octavia, once married to Mark Antony, brought up his children by his next wife, Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It is not known whether Juba was included (he would have been a young teenager by the time his future wife, Cleopatra Selene, came to Octavia), yet Roller frequently asserts that this was the case.

But of far greater importance for his future role is Juba's military training. Dio (51.15) merely refers to his having served with Augustus. There was a long tradition of Numidians (and, later, Mauri), serving in the Roman army as auxiliaries. Possibly Juba was assigned to a Numidian regiment. The Cheruscan nobleman, Arminius (PME A 25),[[1]] on the German frontier, could provide a parallel. He commanded a contingent of his fellow tribesmen, a unit of cavalry, as a praefectus equitum. He was given not only Roman citizenship, but equestrian status as well (Vell. 2.118). One might suppose that Juba was made commander of a regiment of Numidians to serve perhaps in Spain under Augustus (who certainly granted him his kingdom while there -- Dio 53.26). That Athenaeus Mechanicus taught him about 'military strategy and tactics' is extremely unlikely. He is known only as a writer on artillery, not on strategy in general. His date, too, is uncertain, so that it can hardly be said that Augustus' nephew, Marcellus, was a 'student of his' or that 'he prepared him' (whatever that implies) for Augustus' expedition to Spain. All that is known of Athenaeus is that he dedicated his work to a Marcellus. But it is not certain if the Marcellus was Augustus' nephew.

Chapter 4 (pp. 76-90) is devoted to Cleopatra Selene, Chapter 5 (pp. 91-118) to 'The Mauretanian Client Kingdom: Foundation, Military History, and Economy'. Little is known of Mauretania under Juba, but more important than his cultural legacy there, which Roller explains well, was his military role (p. 106f.) which needs to be put in much sharper focus. Roller (p. 7, n. 5) does indeed refer to Tacitus, Annals 4.5, but does not quote the passage or discuss it. In it Tacitus lists the military resources of the Roman empire. Between the three legions in Spain and the two in the province of Africa he says that Juba had accepted the Moors as a gift of the Roman people. In other words, his forces in Mauretania were to serve the same functions as legions in the provinces. In passing it may be noted that Roller (p. 108) calls Tacfarinas (for whom see PIR[1] T 1) 'a Gaetulian auxilary' (sic). Tacitus, however, calls him a Numidian (Ann. 2. 52). Roller misunderstands Tacitus who goes on to say that Tacfarinas became the leader of the Musulamians (a Gaetulian people), not that he was himself a Gaetulian. It is also incorrect to say that the Apronii were honoured by a poem on a public inscription in Rome (p. 112, n. 133). The poem referred to was in honour of Venus Erycina and was written by the son for the father. It was set up on Mt. Eryx in Sicily, not in Rome (ILS 939).

'The Artistic and Cultural Programme of Juba and Cleopatra Selene' is discussed in Chapter 6 (pp. 119- 62). The main evidence for it is derived from the physical remains of Iol Caesarea (Cherchel), the new capital of Mauretania, and Volubilis (Ksar Pharaoun), a former royal seat. It is very difficult to unravel cultural influences in architectural styles, as Jacobson has shown in a discussion of the many strands observable in the masonry of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem.[[2]] Roller gives a clear description of the position in the Mauretanian capitals. But on the basis of three or four pieces of Egyptian sculpture found in Cherchel he advances to a theory of an Egyptianizing policy on the part of the queen. And, apparently because her son was given the Egyptian royal name of Ptolemaeus, she can be thought of as regarding herself as the leader 'of a Ptolemaic government in exile' (p. 151). If so, not only was she very unrealistic but also on risky ground.

Roller (p. 132) speaks of Mauretania as a 'Romanized kingdom'. Presumably he means cultural influences, which are really only apparent in Caesarea and Volubilis. But even their architecture is rather part of a pan-Mediterranean style than specifically Roman. Contra, the Romans did not expect client kingdoms to adopt Roman culture (p. 212): in his foreign policy Herod the Great was completely pro-Roman, but a reading of Josephus and the New Testament shows how completely Jewish the ethos of Judaea under him was. Although St. Paul was a Roman citizen and used his status to protect himself in legal situations, his thought is Hellenistic Jewish. Official Romanization may be regarded as expressing itself in the field of law, and establishment of Roman communities (that is coloniae and municipia) and grants of Roman citizenship (a status not a cultural change: at most a new citizen might be expected to know some Latin). The only traces of official Romanization in early first century AD Mauretania were several Roman colonies on the coast. But these had been founded by Augustus before the kingdom was given to Juba and under him, as Roller himself points out (cf. p. 104), were probably assigned administratively to the Roman province of Baetica in Spain.

Chapters 7 and 8 (pp. 163-211), 'Rex Litteratissimus' and 'Libyka', are a lucid and valuable exposition of Juba's literary output. In Chapter 9 (pp. 212-26), 'The Eastern Expedition with Gaius Caesar', paucity of evidence is again a serious problem. But the preposition 'with' in the heading can hardly be allowed to stand. Augustus sent C. Caesar to the East in about 1 BC He died in AD 4. Was Juba actively involved? All that we have are three passages in Pliny the Elder which refer to a work on Arabia which Juba wrote for and dedicated to the young prince. Of themselves they do not indicate participation by Juba in the expedition. This has been posited on the basis of his marriage to Glaphyra (PIR2 G 176), the daughter of Archelaus (PIR[2] A 1023), the king of Cappadocia. Archelaus had 'paid court to' (Dio 57. 17. 4) C. Caesar on his way east. But the exact date of Juba's marriage to Glaphyra is unknown, nor is it known whether it was celebrated in Mauretania or in Cappadocia. It is of course possible that if Juba went to Cappadocia at the time of the expedition he also 'paid court' in some sense to C. Caesar, but we cannot state that he accompanied him on (part of) his expedition. All that is certain is that he wrote a work on Arabia (this only a minor objective for the expedition, which was basically directed towards Armenia and Parthia) for C. Caesar. Yet Roller is keen to see Augustus behind the composition of the De Arabia and to have Juba important in Rome's foreign policy in the East as well as 'part of C. Caesar's retinue' (p. 235f.). Client kings might assist Roman operations on the frontiers, but never had greater roles than that. Thus Herod Antipas (PIR[2] A 746) facilitated a meeting between the governor of Syria and the king of Parthia, and hosted a banquet for them (Jos. AJ 18.101f.): his advisory role could only have been very minor. There is no evidence that Juba had a personal knowledge of Arabia or political links there which was so far from his homeland in the West.

Chapter 11 (pp. 244-56) considers Mauretania under Juba's son Ptolemaeus. In an interesting epilogue (pp. 257-60) Roller discusses Juba and Cleopatra Selene's featuring in modern literature and music.

There are three appendices. Appendix 1 (pp. 261-3), 'The Published Works of Juba II', is clear and very helpful. Appendix 2 (pp. 264-6) offers three stemmata. The first, of Juba and Cleopatra Selene, is highly misleading for implying links with the family of Augustus, whose relations dominate the page. But they should be deleted. The only 'connection' of Juba with the family of Augustus is that he married a daughter of M. Antony, whose former wife had been a sister of Augustus. Appendix 3 (pp. 267-75) is a brief discussion of client kingship, but is confined to the Republican period before Juba II. (On p. 275 there is a reference to the kings' 'senatorial rights'. It is true that some client kings were awarded such symbolic honours as the ornamenta consularia, the trappings of a consul, and some Eastern senators of royal descent were allowed the courtesy of calling themselves 'king', but no client king ever sat in the Senate or had rights there.)

Two general observations may be made. It is disconcerting to have Juba classified as a barbarian from time to time (pp. 2; 38; cf. 23; 274, of Herod the Great). Even if his physiognomy exhibited non-Roman features (this is deduced from the luxuriant hairstyle of his father on page 30) he was what we would call of Berber descent and therefore typically 'Mediterranean' in appearance. He was certainly not African (i.e., with negroid features) in the sense in which the ancients used the term Aithiops.[[3]] The Numidian royal house, from which he was descended, had long assimilated the Hellenistic culture of the late Republican period, and would not have been called barbarians by Romans (except in pejorative contexts). And Juba grew up in, and was educated in Rome. He was a Roman, not just 'heavily romanized' (p. 249, n. 24). Nor could he claim Punic scholarship as part of his 'ancestral heritage': he was not of Carthaginian, but of Numidian descent.

It is also misleading to classify him, and his wife Cleopatra Selene, as African (p. 162). In the ancient world one did not think continentally ('Europe', 'Africa' and 'continent', pp. 85; 257; 260, are modern terms which it is anachronistic to apply to the Roman world): one came from a town or a people; one was a Carthaginian or a Utican, a Gaetulian or a Numidian. In Roman parlance at this date Africa was a province containing districts, towns and peoples, not a homogeneous area. It is best to call Juba a Numidian by origin.

Roller's book is marred by considerable imprecision in the handling of data.[[4]] It attempts too broad a coverage, and occasionally uses Romantic, anachronistic and even inaccurate cultural categorizations and uses a superficial and inadequate model of the place of a client kingdom and its ruler in the Augustan empire. Mauretania as a client kingdom still awaits detailed treatment. There is an unfortunate tendency to unbridled speculation even leading at times (as noted above) to actual errors. That said there is much of great interest in this attractively produced and well- illustrated book which is not readily available elsewhere.


[[1]] Abbreviations used: PME = H. Devijver (ed.), Prosopographia Militiarum Equestrium (Louvain 1976-1987); PIR = H. Dessau et al. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani[1] (Berlin 1896-1898); E. Groag et al. (edd.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani[2] (Berlin 1933-1936).

[[2]] D. M. Jacobson, 'Decorated Drafted -- Margin Masonry in Jerusalem', Levant 32 (2000) 135-54.

[[3]] Cf. L. A. Thompson, Romans and Blacks (1989) 49-54.

[[4]] There are also various misprints, for example, of Carcopino (p. 9, n. 21) and Catiline (pp. 57f.). The modern country of Mauritania is so spelt, not with an 'e' as on p. 39 n.1. On p. 108 n. 103 PIR[2] S should read PIR[1] S.