An Unnamed Daughter of King Antigonus

Unnamed photo on the site Marg Mowczko, Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism, “Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church” April 19, 2017

We need to backtrack a bit and look at the last year or so of Herod’s life from a different woman’s angle. Remember that when the sons of Mariamne the Queen had been brought back to court and were blaming Herod for killing their mother, Herod had brought to court also, his son from his first wife in the days before he married Mariamne I the Queen. He had sent Doris his wife and his son Antipater to the outback of Galilee. But then, with Antipater back at court and his mother Doris “back in Mariamne’s bed” and with the re-betrothals more in his favor, Antipater, along with just about everybody at court, now turned their attention to getting rid of his aging father. He plots with his uncle Pheroras, Pheroras’ women, and his own mother but not with Salome, his aunt. She runs to tell her brother Herod everything she hears…and she has spies everywhere. Herod again banished Pheroras and his women from court and forbids them to contact Antipater.

Then, Pheroras becomes ill, and Herod reconciles with him. Pheroras’ dies soon after and two of his freedmen go to Herod and accuse the women of poisoning Pheroras. Herod is beside himself and immediately begins torturing…yet again. If “they” poisoned his brother, they were coming for him, also.

Hereupon the king was provoked, and put the women slaves to the torture, and some that were free with them; and…at length one of them, under the utmost agonies, said no more but this, that she prayed that God would send the like agonies upon Antipater’s mother who had been the occasion of these miseries to all of them. This prayer induced Herod to increase the women’s tortures, till thereby all was discovered; their merry meetings, their secret assemblies….And what hatred (his son) bore to his father; and that he complained to his mother how very long his father lived; and that he was himself almost an old man, insomuch that if the kingdom should come to him, it would not afford him any great pleasure…for that even now, if he should himself not live, Herod had ordained that the government should be conferred, not on his son, but rather on a brother…

So, the king having satisfied himself of the spite which Doris, Antipater’s mother, as well as Antipater, bore to him, took away from her all her fine ornaments, which were worth many talents (and had belonged to Mariamne I), and sent her away, and entered into friendship with Pheroras’s women. (After having put her on trial for the abuse of his granddaughters!)Herod learned from Pheroras’ wife the convoluted story of how Antipater had poison brought from Egypt to Pheroras who then gave it to her to hold for safekeeping. Herod sent her to get the poison and she threw herself off the palace wall but landed on her feet. Herod promised to let her, and her women live if she would just please tell him the truth. She accused Antipater and that is the last we hear of her.  Paraphrasing Antiquities of the Jews XVII. IV.2, Wars of the Jews I.XXX.5

This is when Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter was “accused to have been conscious of all this,” and Herod divorced her and deprived her father of the High Priesthood. And this is when Matthias who is married to another “daughter of Boethus” has a very similar story to Elizabeth “daughter of Aaron” in the book of Luke.

During all the chaos at court, Antipater had wisely taken himself off to Rome. Upon hearing the confessions accusing Antipater, Herod sent him a letter saying he missed him, please come home. Antipater arrives all unaware and…

…came into the palace clothed in purple. The porters indeed received him in but excluded his friends. And now he was in great disorder, and…upon his going to salute his father, he was repulsed by him, who called him a murderer of his brethren (the sons of Mariamne I), and a plotter of destruction against himself, and told him that Varus (Roman Procurator of Syria) should be his auditor and his judge the very next day…upon which his mother and his wife met him, (which wife was the daughter of Antigonus, who was king of the Jews before Herod,) from whom he learned all circumstances which concerned him, and then prepared himself for his trial. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.V.2 

This is the first and last time that a daughter of King Antigonus is directly mentioned. I will discuss her more fully in a future post. It is odd, though, that with all the merry meetings and the women being behind just about every plot to kill Herod, that this daughter of a king defeated by Herod was unnamed and not included with the women. She will cause no end of scholarly debate, as we will see. Perhaps she held herself aloof from harem politics, but she did do her duty to come to Antipater her husband in “the lion’s den” when her bloodline might be of help…not with Herod who hated all things Hasmonean but with Rome. Royal marriages are alliances. She would have been expected to support her husband and in turn, she would/could be the next Queen of Judea/Palestine if Antipater survived his father. But even the last full-blooded daughter of the last Jewish king could not help Antipater now.

After a tearful accusation by Herod, he put Antipater bound into the dungeon in the Jericho palace to await word from Augustus that would allow him to execute his first-born son…the third and last son he will execute.

Daughter of King Antigonus

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