(happy, Graecized Φῆλιξ, Acts 23-24 in Tacitus, Hist. v, 9, called ANTONIUS FELIX; in Suidas, CLAUDIUS FELIX; in Josephus and Acts, simply FELIX: so also in Tacitus, Ann. 12:54), the Roman procurator of Judaea, before whom Paul so "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," that the judge trembled, saying, " Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee" (Ac 24:25; see Abicht, De Claudio Felice, Viteb. 1732; Eckhard, Paulli oratio ad Felicem, Isen. 1779). The context states that Felix had expected a bribe from Paul; and, in order to procure this bribe, he appears to have had several interviews with the apostle. The depravity which such an expectation implies is in agreement with the idea which the historical fragments preserved respecting Felix would lead the student to form of the man.
The year in which Felix entered on his office cannot be strictly determined. He was appointed by the emperor Claudius, whose freedman he was, on the banishment of Velatidius Cumanus, probably A.D. 53. Tacitus (Ann. 12:54) states that Felix and Cumanus were joint procurators, Cumanus having Galilee, and Felix Samaria. In this account Tacitus is directly at issue with Josephus (Ant. 20:6, 2), and is generally supposed to be in error; but his account is very circumstantial, and by adopting it We should gain greater justification for the expression of Paul (Ac 24:10) that Felix had been judge of the nation "for many years." Those words, however, must not even thus be closely pressed; for Cumanus himself only went to Judea in the eighth year of Claudius (Josephus, Ant. 20:5, 2). From the words of Josephus (Ant. 20:7, 1), it appears that his appointment took place before the twelfth year of the emperor Claudius. Eusebius fixes the time of his actually undertaking his duties in the eleventh year of that monarch. The question is fully discussed under SEE CHRONOLOGY, vol. ii, 311, 312.
Felix was a remarkable instance of the elevation to distinguished station of persons born and bred in the lowest condition. Originally a slave, he rose to little less than kingly power. For some unknown but probably not very creditable services, he was manumitted by Claudius Caesar (Sueton. Claudius, 28; Tacit-us, Hist. v, 9), on which account he is said to have taken the praenomen of Claudius. In Tacitus, however (1. c.), he is surnamed Antonius, probably because he was also a freedman of Antonia, the emperor's mother. Felix was the brother of Claudius's powerful freedman Pallas (Josephus, War, ii, 12, 8; Ant. 20:7,.1); and it was to the circumstance of Pallas's influence surviving his master's death (Tacitus, Ann xiv,65) that Felix was retained in his procuratorship by Nero. In speaking of Pallas in conjunction with another freedman, namely, Narcissus, the imperial private secretary, Suetonius (Claudius, 28) says that the emperor was eager in heaping upon them the highest honors that a subject could enjoy, and suffered them to carry on a system of plunder and gain to such an extent that, on complaining of the poverty of his exchequer, some one had the boldness to remark that he would abound in wealth if he were taken into partnership by his-two favorite freedmen.
The character which the ancients have left of Felix is of a very dark complexion. Suetonius speaks of the military honors which the emperor loaded him with, and specifies his appointment as governor of the province of Judaea (Claudius, 28), adding an innuendo, which loses nothing by its brevity, namely, that he was the husband of three queens or royal ladies ("trium reginarum maritum"). Tacitus, in his History (v, 9), declares that, during his governorship in Judaea, he indulged in all kinds of cruelty and lust, exercising regal power with the disposition of a slave; and, in his Annals (xii, 54), he represents Felix as considering himself licensed to commit any crime, relying on the influence which he possessed at court. The country was ready for rebellion, and the unsuitable remedies which Felix applied served only to inflame the passions and to incite to crime. The contempt which he and Cumanus (who, according to Tacitus, governed Galilee while Felix ruled Samaria; but see Josephus, Ant. xx. 7, 1) excited in the minds of the people, encouraged them to give free scope to the passions which arose from the old enmity between the Jews and Samaritans, while the two wily and base procurators were enriched by booty as if it had been spoils of war. This so far was a pleasant game to these men, but in the prosecution of it Roman soldiers lost their lives, and but for the intervention of Quadratus, governor of Syria, a rebellion would have been inevitable. A court-martial was held to inquire into the causes of this disaffection, when Felix, one of the accused, was seen by the injured Jews among the judges, and even seated on the judgment-seat, placed there by the president Quadratus expressly to outface and deter the accusers and witnesses. Josephus (Ant. 20:8, 5) reports that under Felix the affairs of the country grew worse and worse. The land was filled with robbers and impostors who deluded the multitude. Felix used his power to repress these disorders to little purpose, since his own example gave no sanction to justice. Thus, having got one Dineas, leader of a band of assassins, into his hands by a promise of impunity, he sent him to Rome to receive his punishment. Having a grudge against Jonathan, the high-priest, who had expostulated with him on his misrule, he made use of Doras, an intimate friend of Jonathan, in order to get him assassinated by a gang of villains, who joined the crowds that were going up to the Temple worship-a crime which led subsequently to countless evils, by the encouragement which it gave to the Sicarii, or leagued assassins of the day, to whose excesses Josephus ascribes, under Providence, the overthrow of the Jewish state. Among other crimes, some of these villains misled the people under the promise of performing miracles, and were punished by Felix. An -Egyptian impostor, who escaped himself, was the occasion of the loss of life to four hundred followers, and of the loss of liberty to two hundred more, thus severely dealt with by Felix (Josephus, Ant. 20:8, 6; War, ii, 13, 5; comp. Ac 21:38). A serious misunderstanding having arisen between the Jewish and the Syrian inhabitants of Caesarea, Felix employed his troops, and slew and plundered -till prevailed on to desist. His cruelty in this affair brought on him, after he was superseded by Festus, an accusation at Rome, which, however, he was enabled to render nugatory by the influence which his brother Pallas had, and exercised to the utmost, with the emperor Nero. Josephus, in his Life (§ 3), reports that, "at the time when Felix was procurator of Judaea, there were certain priests of my acquaintance, and very excellent persons they were, whom, on a small and trifling occasion, he had put into bonds and sent to Rome to plead their cause before Caesar." At the end of a two years' term Porcius Festus was appointed to supersede Felix, who, on his return to Rome, was accused by the Jews in Caesarea, as above noticed (Ant. 20:8, 9). This was in A.D. 55 (not in the year 60, as Anger, De temporum in Act. Apost. ratione, p. 100; Wieseler, Chronologie der Apostelgeschichte, p. 66-82).
While in his office, being inflamed by a passion for the beautiful Drusilla, a daughter of king Herod Agrippa, who was married to Azizus, king of Emesa, he employed one Simon, a magician, to use his arts in order to persuade her to forsake her husband and marry him, promising that if she would comply with his suit he would make her a happy woman. Drusilla, partly impelled by a desire to avoid the envy of her sister Berenice, was prevailed on to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and consented to a union with Felix. In this marriage a son was born, who was named Agrippa: both mother and son perished in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius;' which took place in the days of Titus Caesar (Josephus, Ant. 20:7, 2). With this adulteress was Felix seated when Paul reasoned before the judge, as already -stated (Ac 24:24). Another Drusilla is mentioned by Tacitus as being the wife (the first wife) of Felix. This woman was niece of Cleopatra and Antony. SEE DRUSILLA. By this marriage Felix was connected with Claudius. Of his third wife nothing is known. (See Salden, De Felice et Drusilla, Amst. 1684).
Paul, being apprehended in Jerusalem, was sent by a letter from Claudius Lysias to Felix at Caesarea, where he was at first confined in Herod's judgment-hall till his accusers came. They arrived. Tertullus appeared as their spokesman, and had the audacity, in order to conciliate the good-will of Felix, to express gratitude on the part of the Jews, "seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence" (Ac 23; Ac 24). Paul pleaded his cause in a worthy speech; and Felix, consigning the apostle to the custody of a centurion, ordered that he should have such liberty as the circumstances admitted, with permission that his acquaintance might see him and minister to his wants. This imprisonment the apostle suffered for a short period (not two years, as ordinarily supposed, that expression having reference to Felix's whole term of sole office), being left bound when Felix gave place to Festus (q.v.), as that unjust judge "was willing," not to do what was right, but "to show the Jews a pleasure" (Walch, De Felice procuratore, Jena, 1747; also in his Dissertt. in Act. iii, 29; Smith's Dictionary of Classical Biography, s.v.).