The Execution of Mariamne the Queen

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Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod (1887), by Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse. This picture is all over the internet as the only attempt to illustrate her life and death. There is at least one legend about her in Jewish sources. “According to Talmudic legend, when the rebelling slave, Herod, had killed all the other members of her royal family Mariamne threw herself from the palace roof to her death rather than marry him; Herod then preserved her body in honey for seven years”      ( Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.geni.com/people/Mariamne-I-Hasmonean for two.) What the legend illustrates is an attempt to redeem Mariamne from being a sinning woman for being a Jewish princess and marrying a “strange” man and defiling the royal bloodline for all times. In truth, her marriage alliance with Herod will change everything.

In the last post, Alexandra had prevailed upon Cleopatra to make Marc Antony demand that Herod come to Egypt to defend himself for killing her son, Mariamne’s younger brother; the seventeen year-old Hasmonean High Priest Jonathan Aristobulus. But now another woman is heard from: Salome, Herod’s sister who had hated Mariamne since those three years trapped with her on Masada—Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth—told Herod that Mariamne had been unfaithful to him with her own husband and their uncle Joseph while he was gone—Herod had left Joseph to guard the two women during his absence with secret orders to kill them if he did not return. Herod confronted Mariamne in private but she convincingly denied any impropriety and Herod again made a declaration of his love for her… until…she said too much…

Mariamne said, Yet was not that command thou gavest (to his uncle Joseph), that if any harm came to thee from Antony, I, who had been no occasion of it, should perish with thee, a sign of thy love to me?” When these words were fallen from her, the king was shocked at them, and presently let her go out of his arms, and cried out, and tore his hair with his own hands, and said, that now he had an evident demonstration that Joseph had had criminal conversation with his wife; for that he would never have uttered (his secret orders) unless there had been such a great familiarity between them. And while he was in this passion he had liked to have killed his wife; but being still overborne by his love to her…he only gave order to slay Joseph without permitting him to come into his sight; and as for Alexandra, he bound her, and kept her in custody, as the cause of all this mischief. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

Continue reading “The Execution of Mariamne the Queen”

Mariamne I Queen of the Jews

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Mariamne I Queen of the Jews.  Images were forbidden in Judaism but here is an instance when Alexandra Queen Mother made use of them…for good or ill. Alexandra was much distressed at Herod for not letting her son be the High Priest as was his due.  A friend of Antony’s gave Alexandra this advice on how to get his attention: “…when he saw Aristobulus, he stood in admiration at the tallness and handsomeness of the child, and no less at Mariamne, the king’s wife, and was open in his commendations of Alexandra, as the mother of most beautiful children: and…he persuaded her to get pictures drawn of them both, and to send them to Antony, for when he saw them, he would deny her nothing… Accordingly Alexandra…sent the pictures to Antony…(And his friend) also talked extravagantly, saying that these children seemed not derived from men, but from some god or other. His design in doing so was to entice Antony into lewd pleasures with them, who was ashamed to send for the damsel, as being the wife of Herod, and avoided it because of the reproaches he should have from Cleopatra on that account…” Antiquities of the Jews XV.II.5-6

Herod consummated his marriage alliance with the young teenager Mariamne, officially making himself king to the Judeans, Samaritans and Galileans, having already been king by Roman appointment for three years. While he was away in Rome and since his return, he has been battling Antigonus son of Aristobulus…the current royal house…for the kingdom, though. Now, he had to rush back to Jerusalem to take the city and Antigonus, Mariamne’s uncle, who was barricaded in the Temple. Antigonus had actually been the King/High Priest for about three years before Herod could get his siege towers and Roman legions in place. But he now “stormed the city,” pleading with the Roman commander to not totally destroy it and leave him “king of a desert.” Thousands were killed and the city nearly destroyed but Antigonus was taken prisoner and was going to be shipped to Rome for Marc Antony’s victory parade but Herod feared that in Rome, Antigonus with his royal blood would plead his case before the Senate…

Out of Herod’s fear of this it was that he, by giving Antony a great deal of money, endeavoured to persuade him to have Antigonus slain.

And thus did the government of the Asamoneans cease, a hundred and twenty-six years after it was first set up. This family was a splendid and an illustrious one, both on account of the nobility of their stock, and of the dignity of the high priesthood, as also for the glorious actions their ancestors had performed for our nation: but these men lost the government by their dissensions one with another, and it came to Herod, the son of Antipater. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XVI.4

The Fight Falls to the Women

The only thing was, the Hasmonean women did not know that it was the end. Josephus was writing with the benefit of one hundred years of hindsight—not to mention a male viewpoint. For the Hasmoneans left alive then, the struggle continued even though it now fell primarily to the women of the family…Queen Mother Alexandra and new young Mariamne I Queen of the Jews…locked into a marriage alliance with an Idumaean warrior in occupied Palestine that had just been through another devastating war with Jerusalem as good as destroyed.

One of the Great Romances

Josephus assures us that Herod and Mariamne loved one another and that their love rivaled that of any of the great loves of history such as Antony and Cleopatra, who were their friends.[1] (Well, Antony was Herod’s friend and Cleopatra was Alexandra’s friend. Herod hated Cleopatra with a grand passion because they were rivals for Antony’s favors and she had an unfair womanly advantage. He repeatedly advised Antony to kill her.) Continue reading “Mariamne I Queen of the Jews”

Alexandra Queen Mother of Mariamne the Virgin

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A Young Herod…this photo of a statue of Herod was found in a Jerusalem dig. I could find no original source for it. But statues were forbidden Jews and no likenesses were to be used on coins, either. Herod did not put his “image” on coins he minted but Herod always pushed the envelope where practicing Judaism was concerned. As will Alexandra mother of Mariamne…as we will see.

After the beheading of her warrior prince husband, Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus II, (Hasmonean Ethnarch and High Priest backed by Rome) did not remarry but returned to her father’s home as a widow. She devoted herself to her daughter Mariamne and her son Jonathan Aristobulus as Queen Mother. Mariamne was at the age of betrothal for a royal virgin and was an asset to be used with care. Because…to add to the mix…their long-time benefactor and buffer with Rome, Antipater, had just been poisoned by someone.

The Marriage Alliance from Hell

Hyrcanus and his daughter Alexandra now make a controversial move that will change everything.  What pushed them to do what they did was the dire fact that Hyrcanus still needed a Roman protector because his nemesis, his now dead brother Aristobulus, had a second son who was beginning to make noises about getting an army together to fight Hyrcanus for the kingdom…yet again…So he and his daughter did something illegal and devastating but that also kept the nation intact under Roman protection rather than in another war they couldn’t win…Alexandra betrothed her young virgin princess daughter Mariamne to Herod son of Antipater. Continue reading “Alexandra Queen Mother of Mariamne the Virgin”

Two Virgin Marys…

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I could find no identification of this painting of the young virgin Mary but I have given the coordinates. I chose this picture because she looks closer to what I think the young virgin princess Mariamne, daughter of both sides of the civil war might also have looked like…a crown and a blue mantle…royal blue…

We should now have a slightly better understanding of the role that royal women could and did play in the political life of the Jewish nation…mostly through their marriage alliances and their advocacy for their children as heirs…but not always.

We have also seen the beginning of religious sects and political parties who will vie for dominance until the nation’s last days…the Sadducees, Pharisees, and the Essene. We know that there is a purist/priest/warrior faction/militia that believes in Holy Wars and bodily resurrection and/or resurrection as a star into heaven as a reward for martyrdom. We will see the rise of another cycle of this group as we go along from both Josephus and the New Testament…

As we approach that great dividing line in history, the B.C./A.D. year, I hope to show that all things progressed along a continuum. I don’t have the expertise or inclination or even space to show all of what befell this small nation, of course. Josephus wrote reams of pages on all of it and it is fascinating and one gets pulled this way and that…but…my red thread running through it all is the very fact of the existence of royal/noble women even if often unnamed.

The generation of women that were of an age to be the grandmothers of the people around Mary mother of Jesus crossed that B.C./A.D. divide—and how odd that there is a young virgin princess in a key political position on both sides of that time line….as we will see. Both these young girls, though two generations apart, carry with them the story of what happened next to the House of the Hasmoneans and the nation. Josephus gives speaking roles to their queens who will be the royal women in the New Testament. A good many of these women in both narrations will be named Mary/Mariamne. They are relevant and they have been “veiled,” both by Jewish historians and New Testament theologians alike…all because of a marriage alliance from Hell, as we will see.

As we pick up the story of the first Mariamne–daughter of Alexander son of King and High Priest Aristobulus son of Regent Salome Alexandra AND daughter of Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus Ethnarch and High Priest son of the same Salome–with both sides of the civil war in her very person, being the eldest child and not a boy…is about 9-10 years old and about to be betrothed….

Two Alexandra’s daughters of the Hasmonean Civil War

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Hyrcanus II son of Salome Alexandra

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.”

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Aristobulus son of Salome Alexandra

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) Continue reading “Two Alexandra’s daughters of the Hasmonean Civil War”