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”

Cleopatra Thea, a Greek Queen in Syria

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Cleopatra Thea was the daughter of Ptolomy Philometor Greek ruler of Egypt. She is known to have been more beautiful than the famous Cleopatra who married Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. There are several coins depicting her likeness. This one is from http://www.touregypt.net with information by Jimmy Dunn.

Though the Jews had no official royal women during this war and rule by priests—after the end of the Old Testament and before the New Testament—and their heroine was a priestly/pure widow named Judith, Josephus gives an example of the political marital life of a daughter of the Greek Ptolomy House that ruled in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. This Cleopatra lived during Jonathan’s reign, the brother and successor of Judas Maccabee the Savior and was one of seven Cleopatra’s. Josephus says…

Demetrius being thus slain in battleAlexander [Balas] took the kingdom of Syria; and wrote to Ptolemy Philometor, and desired his daughter in marriage; and said it was but just that he should be joined in affinity to one that had now received the principality of his forefathers… and that he was on other accounts not unworthy of being related to him. Ptolemy received this proposal of marriage gladly; and wrote him an answer…promising him that he would give him his daughter in marriage; and assured him that he was coming to meet him at Ptolemais…and would there marry his child to him. When Ptolemy had written thus, he came suddenly to Ptolemais, and brought his daughter Cleopatra along with him; and as he found Alexander there…he gave him his child in marriage, and for her portion gave her as much silver and gold as became such a king to give…

Continue reading “Cleopatra Thea, a Greek Queen in Syria”