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Antonius Felix from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "
Bronze prutah minted by Antonius Felix.
Obverse: Greek letters NEP WNO C (Nero) in wreath.
Reverse: Greek letters KAICAPOC (Caesar) and date LC (year 3 = 56/57 A.D), palm branch.

Marcus Antonius Felix (Felix in Greek: ο Φηλιξ, born between 5/10-?) was the Roman procurator of Iudaea Province 52-58, in succession to Ventidius Cumanus.



Felix was the younger brother of the Greek freedman Marcus Antonius Pallas. Pallas served as a secretary of the treasury during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Felix was a Greek freedman either of Claudius, according to which theory Josephus (Antiq. xx. 7) calls him Claudius Felix, or for Claudius's mother Antonia Minor, a daughter of Triumvir Mark Antony to Octavia Minor and niece of Emperor Augustus. According to Tacitus, Pallas and Felix descended from the Greek Kings of Arcadia.

Felix’s cruelty and licentiousness, coupled with his accessibility to bribes (see Book of Acts 24:26), led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. The period of his rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, which he put down with severity.

After Paul the Apostle was arrested in Jerusalem and rescued from a plot against his life, the local Roman chiliarch transferred him to Caesarea, where he stood trial before Felix. On at least one further occasion Felix and his wife Drusilla heard Paul discourse, and later on frequently sent for Paul and talked with him (Acts 24:24-26). When Felix was succeeded as procurator, having already detained Paul for two years, he left him imprisoned as a favor to the Jews (Acts 24:27).

On returning to Rome, Felix was accused of using a dispute between the Jews and Syrians of Caesarea as a pretext to slay and plunder the inhabitants, but through the intercession of his brother, the freedman Pallas, who had great influence with the Emperor Nero, he escaped unpunished. Porcius Festus succeeded him as procurator of Judea.

Marriages and issue

Felix married three times. His first wife was princess Drusilla of Mauretania, a maternal second cousin of Emperor Claudius. Drusilla was an only child to Claudius’ late maternal cousin King Ptolemy of Mauretania and his wife Queen of Mauretania Julia Urania. Claudius arranged for Felix and Drusilla to marry around 53 in Rome. Like Felix, Drusilla was partly of Greek descent. Felix and Drusilla had no children. Felix between 54-56, divorced Drusilla to marry a Judean Princess of the same name.

Felix’s second wife was a Judean princess, also named Drusilla, and the daughter of King of Judea Herod Agrippa I, from his wife and cousin Cypros. Felix and the Judean Drusilla, had a son, Marcus Antonius Agrippa, who died along with this Drusilla and many of the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79, and a daughter, Antonia Clementiana. The Judean Drusilla was one of only two major figures reported as dying in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the other being Pliny the Elder. Antonia Agrippina could be a daughter from their son‘s marriage (this name was graffiti in a Royal Tomb in Egypt). Clementiana became a grandmother to a Lucius Anneius Domitius Proculus. Two possible descendants from this marriage are Marcus Antonius Fronto Salvianus (a quaestor) and his son Marcus Antonius Felix Magnus a high priest in 225. After the eruption, Felix married for a third time, but little is known about his third wife.

See also


External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by
Ventidius Cumanus
Procurator of Judea
52 to 58 AD
Succeeded by
Porcius Festus

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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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 24:24). 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).

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This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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