9. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-The Death of her

In previous posts we have seen how the pressure was building at court. Salome and Cypros, Herod’s sister and mother, plotted endlessly to rid themselves of Mariamne. But she always vigorously defended herself from accusations of being “false to his bed;” unchastity being the time-honored way to take down an “uppity” woman. And, so far, Herod had believed her over his own mother and sister. And he felt he still needed her to keep his kingdom.

But then, we learned that Herod was truly in danger of losing the kingdom when he went to meet with Octavian after the death of his patrons Antony and Cleopatra. He had to convince the new brand-new Augustus that yes, he sided with Antony, but he was now at the new Emperor’s service. But return, again, Herod did, full of joy at his grand success with Augustus. He was still king. Only one blessed by God could have survived what he had survived. Augustus had even expanded his dominion and they would become lifelong friends.

But before he left for Rome, he put Mariamne and Alexandra into an old Hasmonean fort under guard…

So Mariamne was greatly displeased to hear that there was no end of the dangers that she was under from Herod, and was greatly uneasy at it, and wished that he might obtain no favors (from Caesar), and esteemed it almost an unsupportable task to live with him any longer; and this she afterwards openly declared, without concealing her resentment.

And now Herod sailed home with joy, at the unexpected good success he had had; and went, first of all, as was proper, to this his wife, and told her, and her only, the good news, as preferring her before the rest, on account of his fondness for her, and the intimacy there had been between them, an saluted her; but it so happened, that as he told her f the good success he had had, she was so far from rejoicing at it, that she rather was sorry for it; nor was she able to conceal her resentments, but depending on her dignity, and the nobility of her birth, in return for his salutations, she gave a groan, and declared evidently that she rather grieved than rejoiced at his success,–and this till Herod was disturbed at her, as affording him, not only marks of her suspicion, but evident signs of her dissatisfaction. This much troubled him, to see that this surprising hatred of his wife to him was not concealed, but open; and he took this so ill, and yet was so unable to bear it, on account of the fondness he had for her, that he could not continue long in any one mind…and was frequently disposed to inflict punishment on her for her insolence to him…but was not able to get quit of this woman…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.1

 And yet again, Josephus adds more information of what contributed to the death of Mariamne…

…but upon (Herod’s) return from his grand success with Caesar…so much the greater were the distresses that came upon him in his own family, and chiefly in the affair of his wife…As for her, she was in other respects a chaste woman, and faithful to him; yet had she somewhat of a woman rough by nature, and treated her husband imperiously enough, because she saw he was so fond of her as to be enslaved to her. She did not also consider seasonably in herself that she lived under a monarchy, and that she was at another’s disposal, and accordingly would behave herself after a saucy manner to him, which yet he usually put off in a jesting way and bore with moderation and good temper. She would also expose his mother and his sister openly, on account of the meanness of their birth, and would speak unkindly of them, insomuch that there was before this a disagreement and unpardonable hatred among the women, and it was now come to greater reproaches of one another than formerly, which suspicions increased, and lasted a whole year after Herod returned from Caesar.

However, these misfortunes, which had been kept under some decency for a great while, burst out all at once upon such an occasion as was now offered; for as the king was one day about noon lain down on his bed to rest him, he called for Mariamne, out of the great affection he had always for her. She came in accordingly, but would not lie down by him; and when he was very desirous of her company, she shewed her contempt of him; and added, by way of reproach that he had caused her grandfather and her brother to be slain; and when he took this injury very unkindly, and was ready to use violence to her, in a precipitous manner, the king’s sister, Salome …Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

This is where Salome steps forward with the very convoluted plan she had laid against Mariamne that I quoted in the last blog that led to her trial and the order for her death…

Accordingly, when the court was at length satisfied that he was so resolved, they passed sentence of death upon her, but when the sentence was passed upon her, this temper was suggested by himself, and by some others of the court, that she should not be thus hastily put to death, but be laid in prison in one of the fortresses belonging to the kingdom; but Salome and her party labored hard to have the woman put to death; and they prevailed with the king to do so, and advised this out of caution, lest the multitude should be tumultuous if she were suffered to live; and thus was Mariamne led to execution. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII4

Josephus tells us that when the order was read out in the king’s chamber of the palace before the whole court…

When Alexandra observed how things went, and that there were small hopes that she herself should escape the like treatment from Herod, she changed her behaviour to quite the reverse of what might have been expected from her former boldness, and this after a very indecent manner; for out of her desire to shew how entirely ignorant she was of the crimes laid against Mariamne, she leaped out of her place, and reproached her daughter…And when she had…been so outrageous as to tear her hair, this indecent dissembling behaviour…was greatly condemned…but the poor woman who was to suffer…at the first she gave her not a word, nor was discomposed at her peevishness, and only looked at her, yet did she, out of a greatness of soul, discover her concern for her mother’s offence, and especially for exposing herself in a manner so unbecoming her…

History and Josephus treat Alexandra badly here, but bless him, Josephus also let us see that one long look that passed between Alexandra and her daughter, hinting, it seems to me, that Mariamne understood what her mother was up to and saluted her. The welfare of her sons was at stake; the future Hasmonean heirs of their kingdom were imperiled, any chance of anyone with Hasmonean blood coming back to the throne was at risk. Alexandra was the only one left to protect their heirs and she would do whatever debasing of herself was needed to do her duty by them…which Josephus also lets us see…

…but as for herself, she went to her death with an unshaken firmness of mind, and without changing the color of her face, and thereby evidently discovered the nobility of her descent to the spectators, even in the last moments of her life.  Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.5.

7. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-The Queen

Josephus declares that Mariamne’s marriage alliance with Herod meant that the kingdom of the Hasmoneans had come to an end. And officially it did. The new king got to establish his new House and Mariamne was now part of it. Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus, Mariamne’s mother and Mariamne herself, though, did not for a minute think that it was the end of their family’s reign…just that now the ball was in the women’s court.

Because Herod…

…never left off avenging and punishing every day those that had chosen to be the party of his enemies…At this time Herod, now he had the got Jerusalem under his power, carried off all the royal ornaments, and spoiled the wealthy men of what they had gotten; and when, by these means, he had heaped together a great quantity of silver and gold…He also slew forty-five of the principal men of Antigonus’ party, and set guards at the gate so that nothing might be carried out with the dead bodies. Antiquities XV.I.1, 2

Even considering all that, Josephus was very fond of saying that the…

…affection (Herod) had for Mariamne was no way inferior to the affections of such as are on that account celebrated in history, and this very justly. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

Mariamne and Herod in a 1959 movie “Herod the Great” Vic.
Many photos on http://www.facinate.com/people/queen-mariamne-facts

And she did live up to the marriage alliance agreement; she bore him five half-Herodian children in eight years…including two sons who would be Herod’s heirs. That was her role to play. Keep the new king happy and give him heirs. It may even have been a love-match…for a while. Herod had a passionate temperament and Mariamne was proclaimed to be a great beauty. And there had been signs and omens that it was good for her to make the alliance, like rain falling just when the women were out of water on Masada (last post). Josephus reports many times during this timeframe that…

 “…all the people believed that he was beloved of God, since he had escaped such a great and surprising danger…Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XV.11

At least Josephus quoting his source who tended to glorify Herod as was his job and put down Mariamne because she was the enemy…but it does appear that Herod was obsessed with his queen. He was also a pragmatist…he needed her buffer with the people—he needed the legitimacy she and Alexandra gave him that allowed him to use the title of king in Judaea; a non-royal Arabian/Roman converted Jewish warrior from “beyond Jordan.”  He walked a tightrope and so did she.

Jerusalem was severely damaged after the siege, as we saw in earlier posts and Herod probably had a Hasmonean palace refurbished in time to bring his own family and his new wife back to the city, perhaps even Hyrcanus’ palace and Alexandra and Mariamne’s home…as Hyrcanus was still being held by the Parthians. While it was a time of jubilation for Herod, it was a time of sorrow for Mariamne and her mother…which they could not show to the new insecure king.

Antigonus had (had) the Parthians cut off Hyrcanus’ ears so he could not be High Priest anymore…the law required that this dignity should belong to none, but such as had all their members entire…(Moses’s Law in Lev. xxi. 17-24) Antiquities XIV.XIII.10

Knowing that Mariamne’s grandfather, Alexandra’s father, could not even be the High Priest anymore, Herod bargained with the Parthians to free Hyrcanus…who felt that since he had helped Herod in past times, including betrothing him to his granddaughter…that Herod would be appreciative and treat him benignly.

“But Herod’s zeal did not flow from this principle.” He knew that Hyrcanus was one of the few people left alive who could claim the throne over him. He brought him home with great pomp and respect…even calling him “father “and thereby deceived him that he was his friend.”

Alexandra also tried to live up to her side of the marriage alliance. While Mariamne was having children and antagonizing Salome and her mother, Alexandra was one of Herod’s trusted advisors at court in her role as queen mother of his royal wife and mother of Jonathan Aristobulus, a Hasmonean heir, though still young—until Herod went too far. Knowing that Hyrcanus could not again be High Priest and not wanting any Hasmonean to have the role, he brought in Ananias, a priest of a high-priestly line still living in Babylon to fill the role.

But Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus, and wife of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus the king, who had brought Alexander two children, could not bear this indignity. Now this son was one of the greatest comeliness and was called Aristobulus…This Alexandra was much disturbed, and took this indignity offered to her son exceedingly ill, that while he was alive, anyone else should be sent to have the dignity of the high-priesthood conferred on him. Accordingly, she wrote to Cleopatra…to desire her intercession with Antony, in order to gain the high-priesthood for her son.  Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.5.

Cleopatra proposed that Alexandra flee to her in Egypt with Jonathan Aristobulus her 16-year-old son being smuggled out of Jerusalem in coffins, but someone tipped Herod off, and they were found…in the coffins.     

…Cleopatra hereupon advised her to take her son with her and come away immediately into Egypt. This advice pleased her; and she had two coffins made, as if they were to carry away two dead bodies, and put herself into one, and her son into the other and gave orders to such of her servants as knew of her intentions, to carry them away in the night-time. Now their road was to be thence to the seaside; and there was a ship ready to carry them into Egypt…

But word leaked out among the servants…one named Sabion…hoping to get on Herod’s good side…told the king of this private stratagem of Alexandra: whereupon he suffered her to proceed to the execution of her project, and caught her in the very fact; but still he passed by her offense: and though he had a great mind to do it, he durst not inflict anything that severe upon her, for he knew that Cleopatra would not bear it…Antiquities of the Jews XV. III 2

Herod still didn’t feel he could go after Alexandra because of Cleopatra and her relationship with Marc Antony, his benefactor. So, he set his mind, right then, to getting rid of Johnathan Aristobulus.

 Mariamne also, perhaps for the first time, lay “vehemently” into Herod to get him to confer the high priesthood on her brother.

At length, he gave in lest he should lose her and her mother’s “friendship” but when the boy, who was now seventeen years of age, officiated at his first festival, the people wept and were “merry” with “warm zeal and affection…remembering the glory of their past and the exploits of his father Prince Alexander and his grandfather Aristobulus King and High Priest. Exactly what Herod feared…that Jonathan’s royal bloodline might lead Antony, pressured by Cleopatra, to give the government to him. Herod had the young man “accidentally” drowned in a pool at Alexandra’s palace in Jericho while playing water polo after the service. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.3

Herod put on quite a show of grief according to Josephus, but Alexandra knew…

Her sorrow was greater than that of others, by her knowing how the murder was committed; but she was under the necessity of bearing up under it, out of her prospect of a greater mischief that might otherwise follow; and she sometimes came to an inclination to destroy herself with her own hand, but still she restrained herself, in hopes she might live long enough  to revenge the unjust murder…Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.4

..Accordingly she wrote an account of this treacherous scene to Cleopatra…how her son had been murdered…and Cleopatra…made the case her own, and would not let Antony be quiet, but excited him to punish the child’s murder: for that it was an unworthy thing that Herod, who had by him been made a king of a kingdom that no way belonged to him, should be guilty of such horrid crimes against those that were of the royal blood in reality. Antiquities of the Jew XV.III.5

 (I must remind you, in fairness, that Josephus himself carried the same royal blood through his mother, so was, perhaps, a bit biased. See my post on Josephus’ Mother.)

Cleopatra VII Philopater
Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom
reigned 51-30 BC, Roman sculpture from ca 46-44 BC. Now in Berlin. If you are a Cleopatra buff, Josephus wrote a lot about her.

Eventually Alexandra got Cleopatra to prevail on Antony to call Herod to trial over it. Herod went to Egypt to face Antony, but he left the government to his uncle Joseph ordering him that if he did not return, Mariamne and her mother were to be killed. He feared Alexandra to take over HIS kingdom…and he knew she would try.

(Josephus relates two incidents like this. It is a scholarly dilemma to this very day. I will quote what Josephus says on things that Alexandra and Mariamne said and did in both incidents…mostly to show their actions, not to clear up the controversy Josephus left us with. Way above my paygrade. It is totally unprecedented to have this much information on women.)

While Herod was gone, Joseph said too much to the women letting it slip about Herod’s order regarding them. He tried to make it okay by saying…

Herod had such tender affection for his wife and was afraid of the injury that would be offered him, if after his death, she, for her beauty, should be engaged to some other man…Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.5

 What the women heard, though, was that “they would be killed and not allowed to take back the kingdom, even if he were dead.” And then there were reports that Herod WAS dead…

As this time a report went about the city of Jerusalem, that Antony had tortured Herod and put him to death…upon which Alexandra endeavored…to go out of the palace, and fly away with them to the ensigns of the Roman legions which then lay encamped about the city as a guard to the kingdom…XV.III.7

Herod was not dead, though. When he returned, he heard reports of what Alexandra had done. Herod could not ignore her any longer in the name of domestic harmony…

…as Alexandra had already made attempts tending to innovations…he gave a command that she should dwell in the palace and meddle with no public affairs: her guards also were so careful, that nothing she did in private life every day was concealed. All these hardships put her out of patience…

Josephus said that Herod hated Cleopatra with a grand passion because they were rivals over Antony’s favors, and she had an unfair womanly advantage. He advised Antony to kill her. She carried out “flagrant enormities…and bewitched Antony…and was “irksome to all.” He also called a council to determine if he should kill her. (Antiquities of the Jews XV.IV)

And then, the unthinkable, Cleopatra and Antony lost a war to Octavian, and both committed suicide…an option allowed them because of their rank and bloodline.

After the death of Antony and Cleopatra, Herod had to go to Rome to talk to Octavian…Herod had backed Antony over Octavian…he was again in fear of his life…this led him to thinking that now was the time to get rid of old Hyrcanus…

…he saw that there was no one of royal dignity left but Hyrcanus (who) was of so mild a temper…that he desired not to meddle with public affairs…but Alexandra was a lover of strife, and was exceeding desirous of a change of government; and spoke to her father not to bear forever Herod’s injurious treatment of their family…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VI.2

Herod still knew better than to kill Alexandra if he hoped to keep Mariamne (and the kingdom), but before he left for Rome, more out of fear of Alexandra, he had Hyrcanus put to death on trumped up charges of treason, a plan he had waiting for the right time to implement.

The stage is set…

4. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-Alexandra the Maccabee

Photo on site Geni.com no artist attributed. https://www.geni.com/photo/view/6000000005790348026?album_type=photos_of_me&photo_id=6000000035805346583
Elizabeth Alexandra II…though so many of these photos are mislabeled…note the crosses she is wearing.

Prince Alexander son of King Aristobulus II was a “young man” when he was beheaded but he already had at least two children with his first cousin, Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus II. Theirs was a classic marriage alliance attempt to bridge the war between the two sides of the family by giving them heirs in common—but also, as ranking prince and princess, it was their right to marry each other. They would have started their own war if they were overlooked. They should have been the next king and queen.

With Prince Alexander and his father their King and High Priest dead, Alexandra returned to her father’s Hyrcanus’ home with her two small children. They were the hope of the nation to not be swept away by Rome. Rome favored letting nations rule themselves internally and allowed to keep their own royalty…if possible. It held rebellions of young princes to a minimum and they genuinely seemed to honor royal blood wherever they found it. Julius Caesar himself backed Hyrcanus over Aristobulus as the one less likely to go to war with them…yet again.

But times were tough. The nation was devastated by years of war and even greater loss of their relative freedom under stronger occupation. Hyrcanus had been backed and guided by Antipater, the governor of Idumaea for the Hasmoneans. He had taken Hyrcanus under his wing, to make him fight his brother Aristobulus for the kingdom. It still took Marc Antony’s legions to finally capture and kill Aristobulus and Alexander, as we saw in the last post. Josephus writes pages and pages of the war and wars between King Aristobulus and Prince Alexander.

And then Antipater, now the Roman procurator of Judea, was poisoned. Josephus suggests it was done by pro-King Aristobulus/Prince Alexander warrior factions still out there who hated Antipater and his son Herod and feared their strong ties with Rome and who had defeated them at great cost. Herod, especially was in great favor with Marc Antony as a valued warrior in the war against them. The Aristobulus faction still did not want Hyrcanus to the Regent/High Priest…they saw him as a traitor and apparently wrote the reports that Josephus used…

And (Antipater) seeing that Hyrcanus was of a slow and slothful temper, he made Phasaelus, his eldest son, governor of Jerusalem…but committed Galilee to Herod, his next son, who was a very young man, for he was but twenty-five years of age…but as he was a youth of great mind…But now the principal men among the Jews, when they saw Antipater and his sons to grow so much in the good-will the nation bare to them (Phasaelus and Herod)…and of the revenues which they received…but, the chief men of the Jews were therefore in fear, because they saw that Herod was a violent and bold man, and very desirous of acting tyrannically; so they came to Hyrcanus, and now accused Antipater openly… “Doest thou not see that Antipater and his sons have already seized on the government, and that it is only the name of a king which is given thee?

They accused Herod of slaughtering Hezekiah, a beloved Galilean of their party and eventually brought Hyrcanus around to making Herod come to trial before the Sanhedrin over it. Herod appeared dressed in purple with his hair carefully trimmed and a large bodyguard with him. The court feared for their lives but were ready to accuse Herod until Hyrcanus eventually got Herod off and told him to leave for awhile. Herod did but came back with an army to fight Hyrcanus but his father and brother “pacified his vehement temper.”  Herod was persuaded that he had made a fine show of his power and could let it go. “…and in this state of were the affairs of Judea at this time….” synopsis Antiquities of the Jews XIV.IX  

Alexndra the Maccabee from Nuremberg Chronicle, published 1493 (on her Wikipedia page…these two images only depictions I could find.)

This is the state of affairs that Princess Alexandra faced. Her father did not have the warrior gene…but she did, and she had the ear of her father, the High Priest Regent. After Antipater’s sudden death, she knew they needed a protector who had Rome’s ear. She may have been torn between the war at any cost side of the family, her husband’s clan…and her realization that Hyrcanus was also right. Rome was a fact of life. They were under occupation. They had just lost a major war and the nation was in a nosedive. What to do?

Alexandra put on the mantle of Queen Mother as demanded by tradition regarding the mother of royal sons.

“(W)hom though mayest make princes in all the earth. Psalm 45:16

She had a young prince to protect but first she had a daughter. She moved back into her father’s house with her children and began to look at the situation from that vantage point.  She may have been as young as still in her 20s, but she will not remarry and will become a Queen Mother with a vengeance…as we will see.

A quick inventory of their options showed that her father’s rule needed another protector with Rome now that Antipater had been killed. Josephus tells of many interactions between Antipater’s son Herod and Hyrcanus and how Hyrcanus had helped Herod get out from under the death sentence that the Sanhedrin wanted to level on him. He perhaps felt that Herod owed him and would work with him now. But how to capture and keep his help?

If one had a need to make an alliance with an enemy or even a friend, there was a classic remedy. One King marries his daughter to another king/tyrant/principal man in order to form a political alliance now called a marriage alliance. And there was Hyrcanus’ granddaughter, Alexandra’s daughter, the virgin damsel Mariamne, as if a gift from Providence. She was their perfect asset to help keep their foot in the door with Rome and to keep her younger brother Jonathan Aristobulus alive long enough to inherit the kingdom and/or the High Priesthood. Mariamne was a Jewish Princess at the age of betrothal; she was their only, and in the way of their world, their best card to play. 

We don’t know her date of birth…but from the use of her in a marriage alliance, she must have been of a marriageable age, and it goes without saying a virgin. Betrothals could happen at any age usually before puberty with marriages happening just after puberty…she would have been a virgin princess damsel.

And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, “Talitha cumi;” which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightaway the damsel arose and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. (Mark 5:39-42)

Like it or not…Hyrcanus betrothed the Princess Mariamne to Antipater’s son Herod, recently made Procurator of Galilee for fighting with Marc Antony against their family if he would be their advocate with Rome. He was not a choice that would bring peace to Judea or reconcile the warrior half of the family, but it would keep the Hyrcanus half in power and in favor at Rome.

Princess Mariamne had the right bloodline and was the right age, at the right time to be betrothed in a manner that would assist her family and nation. Herod was the best candidate available. The battlefield would now be the bedchamber.

She had been born for this.

But it was a move that changed the history of Judea, Israel…now Palestine, forever.

I would like to note that from the Hasmonean sons and royal daughters of John Hyrcanus on took a Greek name as well as their Hebrew name. All the Alexander’s and Aristobulus’ also had a family name like Mattathias. I did not know until I found this site that Alexandra II was also named Elizabeth…I will need to go back and do some editing…such is the life of a researcher…ha.

Alexandra Hasmonean (dau. Hyrcanus II) (c.-63 – c.-28) – Genealogy (geni.com)

Elizabeth of Jerusalem, Queen Alexandra II

Alexandra Hasmonean (dau. Hyrcanus II) Hebrew: אלכסנדרה החשמונאית, Dutch: Alexandra Maccabaeus
Also Known As:“Esther (Elizabeth) of Jerusalem (bat Hyrcanus) Hasmonean Princess Alexandra II )”
Birthdate:before circa -63
Birthplace:Judea
Death:circa -28
Jerusalem, Judea (Killed by King Herod The Great)
Place of Burial:Jerusalem, Judea
Immediate Family:Daughter of Hyrcanus II Hasmonean, King & High Priest of Judea and 
Wife of Alexander II Hasmonean, High Priest and King Antigonus II Mattathias, [Last Hasmonean King of Judaea]
Mother of Queen Mariamne (Hasmonean)Jonathan Aristobulus III Last Hasmonean High Priest and N.N. ., Hasmonean Princess, 1st wife of Pheroras
Managed by:Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:April 26, 2022

The Execution of Mariamne the Queen

waterh10
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

Mariamne_I_medium
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

herod
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…

8_22_queen google images
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

Hyrcanus
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.”

Aristobulus
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”