The first Passion performance: the fact that Jesus’ crucifixion

Jerusalem, Temple Mount
Jerusalem, Temple Mount

was so widely discussed was the result of a particular event described in the following:

The Jewish King Agrippa I went to Rome in 41 AD to pay his respects to Emperor Caligula (Ant. 19.4.1).

While there, he happened to witness the emperor’s murder. In this context Josephus refers (Ant. 19.1.13) to a theatrical performance on 24. 1. 41 AD, the day of the emperor’s death:

Here there were two new portents. In the first place a mime was presented in the course of which a chieftain (hegemon) is caught and crucified. Moreover, the play presented by the dancer was Cinyras, in which the hero and his daughter Myrrha are killed. Thus a great quantity of artificial blood was shed, what with the crucified man and Cinyras.

The crucified prince was the crucified Jesus, as the accompanying pantomime shows. To Roman ears the name Myrrha sounded like Maria, the mother of Jesus according to the legend. The myth of Myrrha (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10, 298-502) is about Myrrha’s incest with her father Cinyras. The allusion to the Christian faith in the Messiah’s virgin birth is clear. The origin of this belief is hinted at in an obscene way.

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