Remembering James Whitehead and “The Panther”

Reposted from my former Jesus Dynasty blog archives: May 14, 2014

I am in Germany this week carrying out some further research on 1st century CE Roman cemetery sites, remains, and fortifications on the northern German frontier area of the Rhine and Nahe Rivers around Mainz, Bad Kreuznach and Bingerbrück. Long time readers will of course immediately recognize my interest in the particular tombstone of one Tiberius Julius Abded Pantera, an archer of the 1st Sagittariorum cohort, discovered in 1859 in the course of construction on the Bingerbrück railway station. I have written extensively on this subject in my book, The Jesus Dynastyand on this blog, see links here, and further links here.

This morning I am mainly thinking though about the late great poet James Whitehead who visited this area in the summer of 2001 on his own “quest for the historical Pantera,” whom he used as an inspiration for a series of poems now posthumously published in a slim little volume simply titled The Panther. Jim suddenly and tragically died of a heart attack in August 2003.  The story behind those poems, how I became connected to Whitehead’s quest, and much more you can read here and here. Whitehead’s guides on his Pantera quest in Germany were the young and aspiring Mainz scholars Peter Haupt and Sabine Hornung, whom he affectionally called “the German kids.” I had corresponded with them but never met them.  Lo and behold, this week Dr. Hornung, who has done some extraordinary archaeological work on Roman camps and fortifications [1]see her report here on finding what is very likely a camp related to Julius Caesar’s Gaul campaign, is going to guide us. We plan to retrace some of the same places Whitehead visited and expanding our inquiries regarding “The Panther” beyond what we presently know. It promises to be an exciting week, so stay tuned, but in the meantime if you have not these amazing poems of James Whitehead I highly recommend this handsome little chap book.

Both new and used copies are readily available through Amazon and other booksellers. One might say Jim was following in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy, whose fascinating poem “Pantera,” paved the way, but his body of work is surely the most thoughtful and poetic reflection on the notion of Jesus’ biological father I have encountered.


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