Greetings everyone, I must say that this topic has become very interesting. I'm learning new information as I continue to do more research. What started as an attempt to discover what the Magi were interpreting when they took off to Judea has lead into very diverse topics. I claim not to be an expert in any one field, but know a little about each, which is enough to connect strands together. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the Chinese comet observed in Capricorn in March of 5 BCE as being one of the indicators to the Magi that Jesus was about to be born. I focused on the fact that Augustus was a Capricorn, and the Magi must of knew that something was up. Since we really do not know where the Magi were from, although most likely Parthia, we really do not have details on how they interpreted the Star of Bethlehem. They may have taken it as a good sign or a bad sign for Caesar. This comet had Augustus' divinity all over it. First, it was spotted in Capricorn, Augustus' zodiac, and I have uncovered ancient sources that tell of comets as evidence as his justification for rule. Shortly after Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, a comet was seen over Rome. Augustus, who believed himself to be the heir of Caesar, was also a savvy politician.
Two ancient sources tell of Augustus’ use of comets for propaganda. The first is from Pliny the Elder (CE 23 – 79). He was a Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of the emperor Vespasian. Pliny wrote in the encyclopecic Natural History about Augustus’ use of a very brillant comet observed shorlty after Julius Caesar’s assissination in 44 BCE, and just before Augustus dedicated the olympic games to Venus. Augustus used this comet to connect its appearance with his family in their claim of divine honour, as being directly descended from Venus. Pliny writes:
In one only Place of the whole World, namely, in a Temple at Rome, a Comet is worshipped: even that by Divus Augustus Caesar himselp was judged fortunate to him. Who, when it began to appear, acted in Person as Overseer in those Games which he made to Venus Genetria, not long after the Death of his father, Caesar, in the College by him erected.
Augustus also used the image of a comet on the reverse of many of his coins to assert the deification of Julius Caesar. On some the comet is on front of the coin above his head. It must be remembered that Julius Caesar was never offically proclaimed emperor. This belief is reinforced through the writings of Ovid. Named Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BCE – 17/18 CE), he was a popular Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. Ovid writes in the Metamorphses about Julius Caeser’s death and the comet of 44 BCE.
No sooner had he spoken when the goddess slipped back into the senate house unseen and took the still-fresh soul from Caesar’s body, which she would not let vanish in the air, and carried it up to the stars in heaven; and as she did so, she could see it glowing and feel it start to kindle in her bosom: she let it go; and as it flew through space trailing fire, it flickered like a star.
The coins above prove Augustus' fondness with comets and his zodiac Capricorn. Therefore, I believe it is very likely that the Magi would have seen the Chinese comet as an indication that something was happening in the Roman Empire. Next blog I will examine how this comet during Passover of 5 BCE relates to Jesus and Herod. Until then, as always, GO WITH GOD!
1 Pliny the Elder, Holland, Philemon, Pliny’s Natural History in Thirty-Seven Books (London: Barclay, 1847-49), 65.
2 Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV; 1060.
14 years ago I became interested in the date that Jesus was born. This led to several years of research, I quickly realized that there was no valid information that provided any real answers to this question. Since this website is getting some interest I will post from time to time some of the information I learned during this quest.