Samsigeramus, Zenobia, and the End of the Bloodline
After listening to Episode B43, astute listener Jacob asked (on the TAW Facebook page): "So with the death of Samsigeramus is that technically the end of the Bloodline as far as we can prove?" My answer is a reluctant but unqualified “yes.” Samsigeramus, like Severus Alexander, may well have been a tenth generation descendant of Cleopatra and Mark Antony - though it’s worth noting that the generations (and exact connections) between Gaius Julius Alexio and Julius Bassianus are pretty sparsely documented. In the Bloodline series I’ve proposed what I think is a reasonable reconstruction to span the requisite gaps.
But even that’s a six-lane freeway compared to the dusty unmarked trail connecting Cleopatra’s descendants – in any reasonable way – to the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia. My initial research hinted at connections, and I used those connections to frame the series. But I’ve since read works by modern historians who argue (convincingly) that there’s just no “there” there. Zenobia’s claims in this regard were pretty clearly propaganda, designed to appeal at a critical time to a very critical power base. This revelation does little to diminish her stature - and she remains a remarkable, heroic, and ultimately tragic figure. But it does throw a monkey wrench into the series structure, by forcing the end of the family through-line with the death of Samsigeramus.
So…what now? Well, never fear – I’m still fully committed to finishing the story of the meteoric rise and fall of the Palmyrene Empire, and the series will still conclude with the ultimate fate of Zenobia. In a broader sense it’s also the story of a particular time and place: the Syria of the late third century, precariously balanced between a distant Rome, an aggressive Persia, and the rising power of Palmyra. At the same time it’s the story of Emesa - modern Homs in Syria - the Jerusalem of the Sun God and cradle of the Severan Dynasty. Even after Samsigeramus’ death the city will remain a historical nexus, and witness the murder of a King, the defeat of an Empire, and the first declaration of monotheism by a sitting Roman Emperor.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
PS A quick word about timing. Due to an overflow of competing commitments, it’s recently proven extremely challenging to post episodes on a regular basis. It’s my general intention to complete the series before the end of the year, but aside from that I really can’t provide much in the way of details. So please keep subscribed to the Bloodline feed and look forward to the occasional happy surprise as new episodes (or groups of episodes) make it your way. And, as always, thanks for listening!