Titus Flavius Clemens (consul)


Titus Flavius Clemens (consul)

Titus Flavius Clemens was a great-nephew of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. He was the son of Titus Flavius Sabinus (consul 69), brother to Titus Flavius Sabinus (consul 82) and a second cousin to Roman Emperors to Titus and Domitian.

In classical sources

Clemens married Flavia Domitilla (Vespasian's granddaughter). They had two sons, who were educated by Quintilian [ [http://honeyl.public.iastate.edu/quintilian/4/intro.html#2 Quintilian, "Institutio Oratoria", iv. 1, § 2] ] and according to the "On the Life of the Caesars" [ [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Domitian*.html#15 Suetonius, "Life of Domitian", 15] ] , Domitian "openly named them, whilst they were very young, as his successors, changing their former names and calling the one Vespasian and the other Domitian".

However, Domitian later put Clemens to death::suddenly and on a very slight suspicion, almost before the end of his consulship; and yet Flavius was a man of most contemptible laziness [Ibid]

In Jewish tradition

According to the Talmud, Clemens was greatly affected by the Jewish Sages of the time, especially Akiba ben Joseph. His first contact with Akiba ben Joseph was on a ship travelling through the Mediterranean to the Italian coast. The Rabbi was with an embassy from the Jewish homeland, on their way to deliver a gift to the newly appointed Emperor Domitian. There was a great storm that threatened the ship, and the Captain had given up hope. Clemens brought his wife below deck, and when he returned, he saw Akiba ben Joseph with his hands in the air, saying a prayer to God. Having completed his prayer, the sea immediately became calm. Clemens introduced himself to the Rabbi, and offered his service in Rome, mentioning that he was a close relative to the Emperor.

In the court of Emperor Domitian, Clemens stood up for Akiba ben Joseph and his companions as it appeared that their gift to the Emperor was an insult (a chest of dirt), and they were sentenced to death. Clemens explained that it could be blessed dirt, similar to what the Jewish Patriarch Abraham used against the Four Great Kings. There had been recent attacks by the wild Chatti (Hessians) on the Roman fortress Moguntiacum (Mayence) in Germany. Domitian decided to let the Rabbis stay with Clemens until he could test out the blessed earth.

In his home, Akiba ben Joseph taught Flavius Clemens and his wife Flavia Domitilla about the One True God and the teachings of Judaism. The earth proved successful against the Chatti and the Emperor returned and bestowed precious gifts on the Jewish deputation. Rabbi Akiva left Clemens on good terms, having planted the seed of love for The Almighty in his and his wife's hearts.

Approximately 15 years later the Rabbis' presence was requested by the Jewish citizens of Rome, as Emperor Domitian had turned into a despot, having proclaimed himself a god, and having put out an edict that all Jews and Christians (which at that time was still seen as a Jewish sect) in the entire Roman Empire were to be slaughtered. He and his wife had converted to Judaism [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=428&letter=D&search=Titus%20Flavius%20Clemens JewishEncyclopedia.com - DOMITIAN ] ] [ [http://www.convert.org/book2.htm Part Two ] ] and so they specifically requested Rabbi Akiva's presence.

When the Rabbis arrived, Clemens welcomed them and instructed them to spend the night at the house of Marcus Cocceius Nerva, another member of the Senate, who would go on to become the next Emperor, and who helped plan Domitian's assassination with Clemens' servant Stephanus.

When there were five days left until the edict would be voted on by the Senate, Clemens' wife Flavia Domitilla convinced him to commit suicide in order to postpone the Senate vote, in hopes that God would bring a miracle in the extra time. Since Clemens was the Roman Consul, if he were to die, another Consul would have to be elected before the Senate could pass any decisions. It took a long time to elect a new Consul, so this was one way he could help save the Jews. The next day Clemens went to Emperor Domitian and told him that he had become Jewish. That same day Domitian appeared in the Senate to accuse the Consul Flavius Clemens of apostacy to Judaism. Clemens did not deny the charge; he was unanimously condemned to death.

Before he died, Flavius Clemens circumcised himself and took the name Shalom with the surname Ketiah.

Had this story had any historical validity, Suetonius would have certainly had access to it and would have been very likely to include it in his account as a major historical senastion; and the person depicted in this story is far from the "contemptible laziness" which Suetonius, on the basis of now lost primary sources, attributed to the historical Flavius Clemens.

However, the historical consul may well have been favorable to the Jews and acted as their patron in the Imperial court. Such a genuine factual nucleus could have been the starting point for an oral tradition among Jews which connected Flavius Clemens' downfall to his advocacy of Jewish interests, and was later enlarged and embroidered to include a meeting with Akiba ben Joseph and the consul's own conversion to Judaism - the form finally set down in writing.

In Christian tradition

Flavius Clemens is a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church and his feast day is 22 June. His wife Flavia Domitilla was banished to the island Pandataria. Clemens' servant Stephanus avenged his master's death by assassinating Domitian with the help of the members of the Senate.

In the early Christian romance or novel known as the Clementine literature, Titus Flavius Clemens is identified with Pope Clement I - fourth Bishop of Rome, saint and martyr - an identitification which has no extant basis in actual historical fact. However, the Pope may have been a freedman of the consul.

References

Bibliography

*Grätz, Die, Jüdischen Proselyten im, Römerreiche, pp. 28 et seq.
*idem, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 403
*Lebrecht, in Geiger's Jüd. Zeit. xi. 273
*Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, p. 39
*Kraus, Roma Sotterranea, p. 41, Freiburg-in-Breisgau, 1873
*Reinach, Fontes Rerum, Judaicaram, i. 195
*Prosopographia Imperii Romani, ii. 81.G. S. Kr.


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