Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan

The OrphansKing Herod had his two sons by Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen executed in 7 BCE clearing the way for his Idumaean son Antipater to be his first heir but…

…an intolerable hatred fell upon Antipater from the nation, though he had now an indisputable title to the succession…However, he began to be in a terrible fear, as he saw the posterity of those that had been slain growing up; for Alexander had two sons by Glaphyra, Tigranes and Alexander; and Aristobulus had Herod, and Agrippa, and Aristobulus, his sons, with Herodias and Mariamne, his daughters. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.I

Like his father, Antipater, too, feared Hasmonean blood. Even with their grandmother and their fathers executed and with their royal bloodline diluted the sons and daughters of Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamne, were political rivals even though they were “below the age of puberty.” What Antipater feared was for the orphans to be betrothed in political alliances that would support the “orphans” before Augustus to take the throne away from him when his father died.

Betrothal of the Orphans

Herod waxed very maudlin about his grandchildren by the sons of Mariamne the Queen but really he knew he had to do right by them or Augustus would step in. He had to do exactly what Antipater feared. He…

got together his kindred and friends, and set before them the children, and with his eyes full of tears, said thus to them: “It was an unlucky fate that took away from me these children’s fathers… however, I will endeavor…to appear a better grandfather, and to leave these children such curators after myself as are dearest to me. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.1,2

The two sons of Alexander were sent back to Cappadocia with their royal mother Glaphyra, perhaps in part to get them away from Antipater. It will be the sons and daughters of Aristobulus who now cause Herod the most concern. He was afraid that Antipater would do them mischief.

Aristobulus had three sons by Bernice, Salome’s daughter, and two daughters(Herod) caused them to be betrothed against they should come to the proper age of marriage…(betrothing) Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’ eldest son (Herod). He also allotted one of Aristobulus’ daughters (Mariamne III) to Antipater’s son, and Aristobulus’ other daughter (Herodias) to Herod, a son of his own, who was born to him by the high priest’s daughter…Now the king made these espousals for the children…endeavouring to render Antipater kind to them by these intermarriages…

Antipater was in great disorder immediately, and lamented publickly at what was done; for he supposed that this dignity, which was conferred on these orphans, was for his own destruction… So he resolved by all the ways possible to get these espousals dissolved. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.3-4

Apparently, one of the things Antipater objected so strenuously to here was that he did not get one of the pre-puberty granddaughters of the Queen, himself.

He contrived, therefore, to overturn his father’s settlements, as thinking it a terrible thing that they should be so related to him, and so powerful withal. So Herod yielded to him, and changed his resolution at his entreaty; and the determination now was that Antipater himself should marry Aristobulus’s daughter… Antiquities of the Jews XVII:2

Why Mariamne III?

According to every source I looked at, betrothals for a virgin damsel in Judea was often by 12 years of age. By the time of the betrothals—probably 7-6 BCE—all the “orphans” were still below the age of puberty, being born between 16 BCE when Herod had given his sons wives and 7 BCE when Herod had them killed. Herodias was the first daughter listed in the citation quoted above so was probably the oldest. She was betrothed to the next heir after Antipater—Herod son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter. Her sister Mariamne III[i] went to Antipater’s son…which makes sense, as he would be his father’s heir. The thing is, Antipater himself had already been married to a Hasmonean princess, the daughter of Antigonus the last pure-blooded Hasmonean king. She was the mother of Antipater’s son Antipater, Jr. so he had Hasmonean blood on his mother’s side…which his father lacked, making Antipater fear his own son. As with Mariamne I’s betrothal to Herod, this daughter of the King’s status may have made it possible for Antipater to be named as Herod’s heir to the kingdom. (We only learn about her later in Josephus…more on her in chronological order.)

So why would Antipater demand that the virgin orphan Mariamne III be betrothed to him also? I have a theory, of course, that I will share in the coming posts, but perhaps Mariamne III had a special place in the hearts of the people. She was the only granddaughter named for the Queen and perhaps was her spitting image. Perhaps certain factions of the multitude thought she was the Queen come again?[ii] Perhaps Antipater just hoped that if she was allied to him, it would soften his image and help people forget he had a hand in killing her father and uncle, the rightful heirs.

In the next post, we will see that Antipater was not the only enemy of the “orphans.” The boys get sent to Rome but the two granddaughters of Mariamne the Queen are fair game for other hopefuls.

The Betrothals



[i] As we go along, I will delve a bit more into the numbering of the Mariamnes. Some have the granddaughter of Mariamne the Queen as III and some as IV.

[ii] We know the concept of one person actually being another reborn from the New Testament: And Jesus…asked his disciples…‘Who do men say that I am?’ And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets. Mark 8:27-28..(Thirty odd years after Antipater’s betrothal to young Mariamne III.)

2 thoughts on “Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan

  1. I have a thesis:
    Mariamne 1 gave birth to a 3rd son … possibly Herod’s son … or possibly the son of Joseph … Salome’s husband who Herod had appointed as Queen Mariamne’s overseer. Salome accused Joseph of having an affair with Queen Mariamne causing Herod to have him immediately executed … and this may have caused this 3rd son … mentioned but unnamed by Josephus … to have a questionable paternity. This 3rd son was raised in Rome by Augustus … who may have faked the child’s death after noticing Herod’s regicidal behavior … sending the young boy to live in the plush apartments and gardens of the Great Library, Museum and Serapeum … the center of learning in Alexandria … where he became a leading Rabbi of the 70 member Gerousia in the Great Basilica Synagogue … known by his Hebrew name as Jedidiah ha Cohen … in Greek as Theophilos the Priest … and by his pen name as Philo … the celebrated exegete and Jewish Apologist who blended the Jewish religion with Greek Philosophy, Egyptian Mysticism and other religious ideas … thus giving birth to Gnostic Christianity. Hidden in the many parables of Philo’s treatises are many clues suggesting two possibilities … either Philo was the Rabbi who taught a youthful Jesus the new theology that evolved into Christianity … or Philo answered the call of the Essene “Sons of Light” for the promised Messiah … a Teacher of Righteousness… to come and lead them against the Sons of Darkness in accordance with the War Scroll found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In order to keep his true identity a secret … he was baptized and reborn as Yah Shua … meaning the Lord’s Savior … a Messianic title … and led them in a failed attempt to take back the Holy Temple of God. Philo was the historic Jesus who survived the cross and returned to Alexandria to guide his spiritual rebellion from underground.


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