Kingdom of Chalcis

Chalcis was a small ancient Iturean majority kingdom situated in the Beqaa Valley, named for and originally based from the city of the same name. The ancient city of Chalcis (a.k.a. Chalcis sub Libanum, Chalcis of Coele-Syria was located midway between Berytus and Damascus.[1] The modern town of Anjar in Lebanon is believed to be the site of ancient Chalcis sub Libanum, although this has not been definitively demonstrated. The ruins of a Roman temple are located a few kilometers south-west of Anjar near Majdal Anjar. Other sources indicate that Chalcis sub Libanum is located at "Husn esh-Shadur" near Baalbek.[2][3]

Kingdom of Chalcis
Vassal state of Roman Empire
c. 80 BC–92 CE
CapitalChalcis sub Libanum (Anjar, Lebanon?)
Tetrarch (King between 41 - 48 CE) 
• c. 80 – 40 BCE
Ptolemaeus Menneus
• 40 – 33 BCE
• 23 – 20 BCE
• 41 – 48 CE
Herod of Chalcis
• 48 – 53 CE
Agrippa II
• 57 – 92 CE
Aristobulus of Chalcis
Historical eraClassic era
• dissolution of the Seleucid Empire
c. 80 BC
• Chalcis becomes vassal Roman Kingdom
64 BCE
• death of Aristobulus of Chalcis, incorporation into Roman Syria
92 CE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Seleucid Empire
Herodian Tetrarchy
Roman Syria
Today part ofIsrael

Independent kingdomEdit

Originally, Chalcis was a city in Coele-Syria. When the Seleucid influence in the area began to dissipate, the Itureans created the Kingdom of Chalcis, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to near Damascus. They made Chalcis the capital of their realm, Baalbek was the center of worship. The founder of the kingdom seems to have been Ptolemaeus, son of Menneus, an Ituraean dynast.

During the time of Alexander Jannaeus, Hasmonaean king of Judea, Ptolemaeus had to cede part of his territory to the Hasmonaeans. This area was later known as Iturea (Iturea, in an ethnic sense, covered a much larger area). In 64 BCE Ptolemaeus bribed the Roman general Pompeius to refrain from annexing his kingdom and allow him to continue to rule as Tetrarch. Pompey also returned to him the areas lost to Jannaeus when he brought an end to the independent Hasmonaean state in 63 BCE.

Roman vassal stateEdit

The Kingdom of Chalcis (no boundaries indicated) is north of the territory marked here in yellow, which highlights instead the adjacent realm of Philip the Tetrarch (Iturea, Gualanitus, Batanea, Trachonitis, and Aurantis)

Chalcis was a vassal state under Roman rule during the remainder of Ptolemaeus' reign. In 40 BCE, he was succeeded by his son Lysanias. Lysanias supported the efforts of the Hasmonean scion Antigonus II Mattathias to take the throne of Judea in 42 and 40 BCE, allying with him against the Roman client king Herod, whom he temporarily supplanted on his Parthian-supported second attempt. Lysanias's anti-Roman sympathies eventually led to his execution by Mark Antony in 33 BCE, at the instigation of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, who had eyes on his territories.[4]

Though Antony gave Lysanias' territory to Cleopatra, a remnant realm of Chalcis persisted after this disaster, with the most important cities being Chalcis and Abila. Cleopatra leased it to Zenodorus, possibly a son of Lysanias, and following her suicide in 30 BCE, Augustus initially allowed Zenodorus to rule as Tetrarch, only to depose him in 23 BCE for conducting raids into Trachonitis, which had prompted complaints from his neighbors. Augustus then gave some or all of his lands to Herod, including Iturea, Batanaea, Trachonitis and Auranitis. Little is known about Chalcis itself in the time immediately after Lysanias' death; Chalcis sub Libanum and its district may have been made part of the Roman province of Syria, while Abilene, the area around Abila, appears to have made up a separate statelet at least part of the time.


The districts surrendered to Herod continued to be ruled by him and his family, who in time came to control the core regions of the former kingdom as well. After Herod's death, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Trachonitis became a tetrarchy under Philip, one of his sons. Meanwhile, Abilene may have gone to another Lysanias, mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 3:1 as tetrarch of Abilene in the time of John the Baptist. It is possible, however, that the reference to Lysanias in Luke is an anachronistic reference to the Lysanias put to death by Antony.

In AD 37, Emperor Caligula gave Herod Agrippa I the former tetrarchies of Philip (Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Trachonitis) and Lysanias (Abilene). His realm was subsequently augmented in AD 39 by the non-Iturean regions of Galilee and Perea, formerly ruled by Herod Antipas[5][6] (to which Caligula's successor Claudius would add Judea and Samaria in AD 41). Agrippa ruled all these territories until his death in AD 44.

Meanwhile, in AD 39, the district of Iturea was given by Caligula to a certain Soemus, who is called by Dio Cassius (lix. 12) and by Tacitus (Annals, xii. 23) "king of the Itureans." Soemus reigned until his death in AD 49, when his kingdom was incorporated into the province of Syria (Tacitus, l.c.).

In AD 41, at Agrippa's request, his brother Herod was given Chalcis and allowed the title of basileus by Claudius.[7] King Herod of Chalcis reigned until his death in AD 48, whereupon his kingdom was given to Agrippa's son Agrippa II, though only as a tetrarchy.[8][1]

Agrippa II was forced to give up the tetrarchy of Chalcis in AD 53, but in exchange Claudius made him ruler with the title of king over the territories previously governed by Philip (Batanea, Trachonitis and Gaulanitis), and Lysanias (Abilene).[9][10][11] In 55, the Emperor Nero added to his realm the cities of Tiberias and Taricheae in Galilee, and Livias (Iulias), with fourteen villages near it, in Perea.

The tetrarchy of Chalcis previously surrendered by Agrippa II was subsequently in 57 given to his cousin Aristobulus, the son of Herod of Chalcis (Acts 25:13; 26:2,7). After the death of Aristobulus in AD 92, Chalcis was absorbed into the province of Syria.

According to Photius, Agrippa died at the age of seventy in the third year of the reign of Trajan (AD 100,[12] but statements of Josephus, in addition to the contemporary epigraphy from his kingdom, cast this date into serious doubt.[citation needed] The modern scholarly consensus holds that he died before 93/94.[13] Following his death his realm as well came under the direct rule of Rome.

Rulers of ChalcisEdit


  1. ^ a b Herod Agrippa II at
  2. ^ "Chalcis sub Libano". Pleiades.
  3. ^ "Chalcis sub Libano, Husn esh-Shadur". Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire. Archived from the original on 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  4. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.92.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Daniel R. Agrippa I Mohr 1990
  6. ^ Rajak, Tessa (1996), "Iulius Agrippa (1) I, Marcus", in Hornblower, Simon (ed.), Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  7. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Agrippa, Herod, I.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 425.
  8. ^   Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Agrippa II". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.: "In the year 50, without regard to the rights of the heir to the throne, he had himself appointed ... to the kingdom of Chalcis by the emperor."
  9. ^ Josephus, Antiquities (book 20, chapter 7, verse 1); Josephus, Wars of the Jews (book 2, chapter 12, verse 8).
  10. ^ Hoehner, Harold W. (1980) [1972]. Herod Antipas. Contemporary evangelical perspectives: biblical history (Volume 17). Zondervan. p. 108. ISBN 9780310422518. Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  11. ^ Orr, James, ed. (2018) [1939]. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Delmarva. p. 6669. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  12. ^ Photius cod. 33
  13. ^ Rajak (1996), Iulius Agrippa (2) II, Marcus