Queen Salome Alexandra died knowing that her younger son was hell-bent on destroying what peace she had managed to hold together. As Josephus tells it, Hyrcanus, the eldest son, the High Priest and Regent when their mother, was a wimp…and a Pharisee. Aristobulus was a dashing warrior-type Sadducee, the high priestly party. Aristobulus basically told Hyrcanus to move out and leave the government to him and he wouldn’t kill him. Hyrcanus took the deal. Aritobulus moved into the palace and Hyrcanus left and became a “private man.”
No country operates in a vacuum and there was more going on than simple rivalry between brothers or Pharisees and Sadducees. Years before, “King Alexander and his wife” had appointed a man named Antipater to be the governor of Idumaea, an area conquered by John Hyrcanus and forcibly converted to the Jewish religion. Antipater became Rome’s adviser to Hyrcanus II. He insisted that Hyrcanus stand up and fight his brother for the kingdom…because their neighbors preferred the peaceful Hyrcanus on their borders to the warrior Aristobulus…and Rome preferred a civil war in the tiny nation that would make it easier for them to come in and take over. (Antiquities of the Jews XIV.II. 3)
Rome begins Pulling the Strings
At first Aristobulus and his warrior priests were winning. He had made a very stratigic marriage alliance with an unnamed daughter of Absalom, Commander of the Army. Hyrcanus had to flee to Aretas, “the king of Arabia” for protection and an army to fight his brother with under the direction of Antipater. The multitudes were on one side and then the other—hoping that Hyrcanus and his alliance with the Romans might preserve their nation—and then fighting with Aristobulus against the Romans knowing that if they allowed them a foothold their nation’s freedom was lost. King and High Priest Aristobulus and the priests were besieged in the Temple and eventually defeated by Pompey who came in with the inevitable Roman legions in 63 B.C.E.
He (Pompey) also carried bound along with him (to Rome) Aristobulus and his children; for he had two daughters, and as many sons; the one of whom ran away; but the younger, Antigonus, was carried to Rome, together with his sisters.
Hyrcanus was re-installed as the High Priest and Ethnarch…not King…under the tutelage of Antipater now the Roman Procurator for Judea. But…there is always a “but”—Alexander III son of Aristobulus II escaped—the son who ran away above—and continued the war. Alexander was eventually captured and beheaded by Rome. His father escaped from Rome and came back to fight again, was captured yet again, and was finally poisoned…and Judea/Israel became Palestine, the Roman name for the Roman “province.” Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VI-VIII
The Wife and Daughters of the King
King Aristobulus, as noted earlier, had married the unnamed daughter of Absalom Commander of the Army. As his queen widow, she had her work cut out for her to save their children. Somehow she got to Gabinius the Roman Commander who had captured her husband and held her remaining son and daughters as hostages:
However, the (Roman) senate let his children go, upon Gabinius’ writing to them that he had promised their mother so much when she delivered up the fortresses to him; and accordingly they then returned to Jerusalem. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VI.1
She delivered up the fortresses that her husband Aristobulus had captured from her place of exile in Askelon. As the daughter of the Commander of the Army as well as Queen, she had the clout to do it. Her two daughters and a son were returned to her but not for long. The oldest daughter was married off by Rome to a foreign king and her younger brother Antigonus and younger unnamed sister were sent into exile along with her. Rome always honored royal blood when it could…even royal blood that rebelled…and was well aware of the fact that leaving a son in country would lead to another rebellion. A political marriage alliance was arranged for Alexandra…love had nothing to do with it…
But Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, who was the ruler of Chalcis…sent his son Philippion to Askelon to Aristobulus’ wife, and desired her to send back with him her son Antigonus and her daughters: the one of whom, whose name was Alexandra, Philippion fell in love with, and married her; though afterwards his father Ptolemy slew him, and married Alexandra, and continued to take care of her brethren. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VII.4
Alexandra Daughter of Hyrcanus
At this point, with the warrior wing having been badly defeated, the old iron wheels began moving toward occupation. Israel, try as they might, will never truly get out from under Rome again. At first it wasn’t too bad. Hyrcanus II was kept on as Ethnarch and High Priest under Antipater’s watchful eye.
Unfortunately, Hyrcanus II had no son for an heir and he was getting old. He did have, however, a strong-willed daughter more like in temperament to the Aristobulus side of the family. Both sides of the family divide had named their first daughters Alexandra. While the daughter of warrior-King Aristobulus was exiled but made a queen, Alexandra the daughter of Ethnarch Hyrcanus had been betrothed at a very young age to her first cousin Alexander son of Aristobulus. They were Prince and Princess of opposing sides in the family civil war. They had two daughters and one son before he had escaped Roman capture, returned to fight, was captured again and beheaded.
The eldest child of Princess Alexandra and Prince Alexander was a daughter, Mariamne I. She was perhaps nine years old when Josephus first mentions her. She was born and raised in war…civil war and war with Rome…a full generation of war. And it is not over yet. She enters the story after the beheading of her father in 39 B.C. and under the thumb of her Queen Mother but she is the namesake for all the Mary/Mariamne’s in Josephus and the New Testament.