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.

8. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-The Accusations

Mariamne Wife of Herod and Her Children Going to Their Execution Edward Hopley 1868 The sons of Mariamne will be executed by Herod but not until they are grown men.

As stated in the last post Josephus’ narrative of what led up to Mariamne’s death is confusing. He tells it twice and it has perplexed scholars for centuries…was there one incident or two. I have chosen here to start with an Antiquities quote and then switch to the earliest version Josephus wrote in Wars of the Jews. It is shorter but also rawer with less embellishments than the Antiquities version, and Salome’s role is very clear. Salome and her mother Cypros are the main cause of the death of Mariamne.

While Herod was in Egypt because Cleopatra had gotten Antony to bring Herod to trial over the death of Jonathan Aristobulus, Mariamne’s younger brother, Alexandra tried to take back the government (as we saw in the last post). It had been falsely reported that Antony had killed Herod…but when letters were received from Herod…very much alive…

…the women left off their attempt…yet was not that purpose of theirs a secret; but when the king had …returned to Judea, when both his sister Salome and his mother, informed him of Alexandra’s intentions. Salome also added somewhat further against Joseph (their uncle left in charge of Mariamne and Alexander with orders to kill them if he didn’t return…Salome’s own husband Joseph), though it was no more than a calumny, that he had often had criminal conversation with Mariamne. The reason of her saying so was this, that she for a long time bare her ill-will; for when they had differences with one another, Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth.

But Herod, whose affections to Mariamne was always very warm, was presently disturbed at this, and could not bear the torments of jealousy…which made him ask Mariamne  by herself about the matter with Joseph; but she denied it upon her oath, and said all that an innocent woman could possibly say in her own defense…so little by little the king was prevailed upon to drop his suspicion…till at last, as usual between lovers, they both fell into tears and embraced one another….Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

Switching to Wars of the Jews…after the death of her younger brother…

For these reasons Mariamne reproached Herod, and his sister and mother, after a most contumelious manner, while he was dumb on account of his affection for her; yet had the women great indignation at her, and raised a calumny against her, that she was false to his bed: which thing they thought most likely to move Herod to anger.

They also contrived to have may other circumstances believed, in order to make the thing more credible, and accused her of having sent her picture into Egypt to Antony, and that her lust was so extravagant, as to have thus shewn herself, though she was absent, to a man that ran mad after women, and to a man that had it in his power to use violence to her. This charge fell like a thunderbolt upon Herod and put him into disorder; and that especially, because his love to her occasioned him to be jealous, and because he considered with himself that Cleopatra was a shrewd woman, and…his fear did not only extend to the dissolving of his marriage, but to the danger of his life.

When, therefore he was about to take a journey abroad, he committed his wife to Joseph, his sister Salome’s husband, as to one who would be faithful to him, and bare him good-will on account of their kindred; he also gave him a secret injunction, that if Antony slew hm, he should slay her; but Joseph, without any ill design, and only  in order to demonstrate the king’s love to his wife, how he could not bear to think of being separated from her, even by death itself, discovered this grand secret to her; upon which, when Herod was come back, and as they talked together, and he confirmed his love to her by many oaths, and assured her that he had never such an affection for any other woman as he had for her,–

“Yes,” says she, “thou didst, to be sure, demonstrate thy love to me by injunctions thou gravest Joseph, when thou commandest him to kill me.”

When he heard that this grand secret was discovered, he was like a distracted man, and said, that Joseph would never have disclosed that injunction of his unless he had debauched her. His passion also made him stark mad, and leaping out of his bed, he ran about the palace after a wild manner; at which time his sister Salome took the opportunity also to blast her reputation, and confirmed his suspicion about Joseph; whereupon, out of his ungovernable jealousy and rage, he commanded both of them to be slain immediately…Wars of the Jews I.XXII.

In the Antiquities version, Salome could see that Herod was ready…finally…to do Mariamne violence and rolled out her plan to make it worse…

…Salome…sent to the king his cupbearer, who had been prepared long beforehand for such a design, and bade him tell the king how Mariamne had persuaded him to give his assistance in preparing a love-potion for him; and if he appeared to be greatly concerned, and to ask what that love-potion was, to tell him that she had the potion, and that he was desired only to give it him; but in case he did not appear to be much concerned at this potion, to let the thing drop; …

So he went in after a composed manner, to gain credit to what he should say…When Herod heard what he said, and was in an ill disposition before is indignation grew more violent; and he ordered that eunuch of Mariamne, who was most faithful to her, to be brought to torture about this potion…and when the  man was under the utmost agonies, he could say nothing concerning the thing he was tortured about, but so far he knew, that Mariamne’s hatred against him was occasioned by somewhat that Sohemus had said to her. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

“Sohemus” is the culprit in Antiquities while Joseph is the hapless one in Wars. Both versions say that Herod “bound Alexandra and kept her in custody. In Wars (above) he had both Joseph and Mariamne slain immediately. In Antiquities, he had Sohemus killed immediately but …he allowed his wife to take her trial…Antiquities of the Jew XV.VII

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…

6. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-Salome sister of Herod

Jigsaw Puzzle of Herod consults with Cypros and Salome
King Herod the Great discusses with his mother Cypros and sister Salome the alleged infidelity of his wife Mariamne Date: 0 B.C

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Herod Consults Cypros and Salome and Cypros

Mariamne, now Queen of the Jews at perhaps 15-17 years old…finally…found herself wedded to her family’s enemy and now ally Herod. Herod may have been now in his early 30s, having previously been made Governor of Galilee for is valor in fighting her family alongside Marc Antony and the Romans…and now for fighting her cousin for the kingdom…but he keenly knew that he did not have royal blood and therefore did not deserve to be King of the Jews. He was also now face to face with his own Hasmonean, Mariamne.

We have seen Mariamne’s family tree. But now Josephus begins to tell us about Herod’s large extended family that had just risen to power with him.

Josephus lists Herod’s family. His father Antipater was…

in great repute in Idumaea…out of which nation he married a wife, who was the daughter of one of their eminent men, and her name was Cypros, by whom he had four sons, Phasael and Herod, who was afterwards made king, and Joseph, and Pheroras; and a daughter named Salome. Antiquities of the Jews XIV. VII3

Thought to be a young King Herod

Herod’s family will play a large role in his personal life as king as well as in his administration of the kingdom. His older brother Phasael will also be Governor of Roman provinces and one brother will commit suicide when captured in the war with Antigonus. His uncles will be a great help to him and were given positions and power in the new government and Hasmonean women as trophy wives.

To understand what Mariamne and her mother Alexandra walked into, it will help to understand the role of two Herodian women in particular…another mother/daughter pair: Salome, sister of Herod and their mother Cypros. Josephus gives us tremendous detail so we can trace the inevitability of what happened…

***

One of many great maps on Google or Bing

Herod and his family came from Idumea, the country directly south of Judea. When Herod has to flee from Antigonus and the Parthians, he fought his way to Idumea where he had support and where he sheltered his women-folk in the desert fortress of Masada. Idumea or Edom had been subjugated by John Hyrcanus in ca 110 B.C. He later built the lavish palace complex there to commemorate his victory.

Hyrcanus also initiated a military campaign against the Idumeans (Edomites). During this campaign Hyrcanus conquered Adora, Maresha and other Idumean towns (Ant.13.257). Hyrcanus then instituted forced conversions on the Idumeans to Judaism…This was an unprecedented move for a Judean ruler. John Hyrcanus – Wikipedia

***

To do that, we need to go back to that moment (in the last post) when Antigonus son of King Aristobulus attacked Herod in a surprise assault, causing him to flee Jerusalem. He was betrothed to Mariamne but not yet wed and not yet king.  

(Herod) therefore …set his wives(?) upon the beasts, as also his mother and sister, and her whom he was about to marry…with her mother…with tears in their eyes, and sad lamentation…left their own country…

Fighting his way there, he “deposited the women and several hundred of his closest followers” in the rough desert fortress of Masada with “sufficient quantity of corn and water.” Those three years before Herod could rescue them will leave scars on the women that will not heal. Herod will be named king by the Roman Senate and sent back with Roman Legions and eventually won his kingdom and his Jewish queen…but…

…fortune was avenged on Herod in his external great successes, by raising him up domestic troubles; and he began to have wild disorders in his family on account of his wife…Wars of the Jews I.XXII.1

Masada

It will be a few more years before Salome is mentioned again and one can readily see the enmity that grew out of that time on Masada between Salome and Mariamne.

…but as for Mariamne his wife, because of the misunderstanding between her and his sister, and his sister’s mother, which made it impossible for them (the women) to live together…(more later) Antiquities of the Jews XV.VI.4,5

(Salome)…for a long time bare (Mariamne) ill-will; for when they had differences with one another, Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

(later on)..so much the greater were the distresses that came upon him in his own family, and chiefly in the affair of his wife, wherein he formerly appeared to have been most of all fortunate; for the affection he had for Mariamne was no way inferior to the affections of such as are on that account celebrated in history, and this very justly. 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 with 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…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

The new young king…not one born and bred to rule and a young queen who had been born and bred into a 100-year royal lineage, and though young, knew how to be a queen. Even in defeat, her House and nation would look to her to play to win. Beguile the king, give them heirs, and like Esther, know how to approach the king with petitions to help her people.  

Alexandra had her role to play at court as mother of the Queen and advisor to the King, but also as the only remaining royal in a position to aid her House return to any semblance of power and she had the warrior gene, as we will see. Mariamne will keep the king agreeable to their presence at court and presented him with heirs…five children in eight years…that were also heirs to her lost kingdom.  

Herod knew he needed the good will of Mariamne (and Alexandra) to remain king…and often, that is what is meant by “love” among the ruling class. But Jerusalem is not Camelot. Josephus’ reports stress the conflict between Mariamne and Salome, but the strife will also include both their mothers. Strife that began at Masada. Newly royal Cypros was now mother of the king, a role valued by Mid-Eastern courts and the Jews in particular, as we have seen, as advisor to her son, a role Alexandra challenged her for. Cypros and Salome were learning their roles in the face of apparent harassment from Mariamne. Alexandra would be given her own castle in Jericho to get her out of the Jerusalem palace harem.

While Mariamne may have played her royalty card to the maximum…and even enjoyed some of it…she could not escape the new regime in her old family home in Jerusalem and all that was lost.

Not an easy way to try to pick up the pieces of their new kingdom depleted of men and treasures and a whole generation, and under the watchful eye of Rome.

The stage has been set for one of history’s tragedies…the war of the women inside those walls…

3. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-Genealogy

The Maccabees
By Wojciech Stattler –
Od starożytności do współczesności – Malarstwo i rzeźba, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN S.A., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/Maccabees

None of us live in a vacuum. Each is a link in a very long chain both before and after us. And each has a role to play in moving the gene pool forward. Here is Mariamne’s pedigree on her father’s side:

Mariamne daughter of Prince Alexander son of King and High Priest Aristobulus son of King/High Priest Alexander Janneus, son of High Priest/Regent John Hyrcanus, son of High Priest/Regent Simon son of Priest and leader of the rebellion against the Greeks Matthias Hasmon…and brother of Judas the Maccabee…the new House of the Hasmoneans in ca 165 BCE

John Hyrcanus ended up having a good reign, but he also had a big problem

But…(John) was not ignorant of anything that was to come afterwards; insomuch that he foresaw and foretold that his two eldest sons would not continue masters of the government: and it will highly deserve our narration to describe their catastrophe, and how far inferior these men were to their father in felicity.  Wars of the Jews I. II.7-8

John did something new in Israel and Judaism. He left the kingdom to his own unnamed wife and named her “mistress of all.” Not unexpectedly, their eldest son will have none of it:

Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus, intending the change the government into a kingdom… first put a diadem on his head, four hundred and eighty-one years and three months after the people had been delivered from the Babylonian slavery…This Aristobulus loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds and cast his mother into prison, because she disputed the government with him; for Hyrcanus had left her to be mistress of all. He also proceeded to that degree of barbarity, as to kill her in prison with hunger…Antiquities of the Jews XIII.XI.1

It is interesting to note that John Hyrcanus set a precedent…as we will see…by leaving the government to his wife.  And we have seen how the mother of High Priest John Hyrcanus was “martyred for the law” and became an icon and role model for mothers of sons during the war. Where did this idea come from? The only example of Jewish queens after King David’s wives were infamous in the Old Testament:  the evil Jezebel and her daughter Athalia in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. (See blog post on History of Queens)

I think the idea came from Mattathias Hasmon, the patriarch of the Maccabee/Hasmoneans because of this story about Simon son of Mattathias who established their dynasty:

Simon also erected a very large monument for his father and his brethren, of white and polished stone, and raised it a great height…and set up pillars…a work it was wonderful to see. Moreover, he built seven pyramids also for his parents and brethren, one for each of them, which were made very surprising, both for largeness and beauty. Antiquities of the Jews XIII. VI.5

The wife of Mattathias and the mother of all those Maccabean hero sons was left stubbornly unnamed, though she earned her own pyramid…but she must have been a force in her own right, perhaps picking up the mantle from her husband when he died and earned her own “blessed memory” that had impressed her youngest son Simon.

This Aristobulus, though, besides starving his mother in prison, took for himself the title of King for the first time since the last son of David, fifteen generations ago. Aristobulus, was a Sadducee, a “conservative.” He made a marriage alliance with “Salome, who, by the Greeks, was called Alexandra.” She had a brother who was a very highly esteemed Pharisee and a Nasi, (prince of the congregation), head of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court—an alliance of opposites to help keep the peace by sharing power. Shalomzion, the Hebrew name of the new queen, would not let her new husband Aristobulus rule…or take the title of king.

…upon this occasion, the queen very cunningly contrived the matter with those that plotted his ruin…Wars of the Jews I.III.3

An elaborate plot unfolded…When Aristobulus was dead, Salome…

…let his brethren out of prison, (for Aristobulus had kept them in bonds, as we have said already,) and made Alexander Janneus king, who was the superior in age and in moderation… Antiquities of the Jews XIII.XII.1

The Jewish Encyclopedia says that she was thirty-seven and he twenty-two when they married…and she “made him the king” and bore him at least two sons…

Alexander may have been a good king in the expanding the territory and making war category, though he earned the nickname “Thracian” for his ruthlessness. The Pharisees were against him saying he should just stick to being king and not a high priest. They declared war on each other. He had to flee to the mountains, but he eventually triumphed, and brought his enemies to Jerusalem and…

Did the most barbarous actions in the world to them; for as he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes.  Antiquities of the Jews XIII.X.

When Alexander Janneus the Sadducee died, he left the kingdom to his wife, as his father had done before him, because his sons may have been too young to inherit. The documents Josephus was working from say that the reason he left the government to Salome (Shalomzion) Alexandra was that she was a Pharisee and the Pharisees so hated him that they would kill his young sons before they could inherit the kingdom…but also because his father had done it first.

The people had become polarized in a Sadducee vs. Pharisee divide…a Sunni vs. Shiite split…a red state vs. blue state impasse and though the king’s ploy worked for a while. Salome Alexandra ruled as a regent for nine years and gave the Pharisees ascendancy and angered the Sadducees but did keep the peace while she was alive.

…when the queen was fallen into a dangerous distemper, (her son) Aristobulus resolved to attempt the seizing of the government…for he was…displeased at his mother’s conduct, so he was now much more afraid, lest, upon her death, their whole family should be under the power of the Pharisees….but Aristobulus chiefly made manifest what were his sentiments, and using many reproachful expressions to his mother, [saying] “Nay, indeed, the case is this, that they have been themselves the authors of their own calamities, who have permitted a woman who, against reason, was mad with ambition, to reign over them, when there were sons in the flower of their age fitter for it.” Antiquities XIII.XVI.

Aristobulus married the daughter of Absalom, Commander of the Army—in effect, made an alliance with the army and began to gather followers. When Salome heard what Aristobulus was up to, she threw his wife and children in a tower in Jerusalem as hostages.

Now there was a mighty conflux of people that came to Aristobulus from all parts, insomuch that he had a kind of royal attendants about him; for in a little more than fifteen days, he got twenty-two strong palaces, which gave him the opportunity of raising an army…for men are easily led by the greater number…Now the elders of the Jews, and Hyrcanus with them, went in unto the queen, and desired that she tell them what to do because they were in affect surrounded by Aristobulus and as soon as she died, all hell was going to break loose.

But she bade them do what they felt proper to be done: that they had many circumstances in their favor still remaining; a nation in good heart, an army, and money in their several treasuries; for that she had small concern about public affairs now, when the strength of her body already fails her. Now a little after she had said this to them, she died, when she had reigned nine years, and had in all lived seventy-three. A woman she was who shewed no signs of the weakness of her sex; for she was sagacious to the greatest degree in her ambition of governing, and demonstrated by her doings at once, that her mind was fit for action…However, she brought the affairs of her house to such an unfortunate condition…and this out of what does not belong to a woman…Antiquities of the Jews XIII.5

Josephus does not condemn her for being a woman, but he does blame her, I think, for being the queen/regent and not stopping the civil war between her sons. Perhaps a male king would have had one of his sons killed or exiled.

Shalomzion/Alexander Salome

Shalomzion is mentioned more than once in the Dead Sea scrolls where the writer is commenting on a biblical prophetic book attempting to show how the prophecy is fulfilled by events happening in his own political world. The commentary is called a “Pesher.” Scholars think that a portion of Pesher Nahum refers to Queen Salome as a harlot.

…[….) foundation, Shelamzion entered […] […] to receive […] […] Hyrcanus rebelled […]…

(4Q322 Frag. 2. Also see 4Q324 with just her name.)

(From The Jewish Women’s Archive—Queen Shelamziyyon) from the Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation with Commentary by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, Harper San Francisco 1996)

Pesher Nahum… goes on to describe the rule of the Pharisees, obviously during the queen’s reign. Jerusalem under the rule of the new queen is described as “the bloody city” and the queen herself is described in the words of the prophet Nahum: “Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot, the winsome mistress of sorcery, who ensnared nations with her harlotries and peoples with her sorcery.” (Nahum 3:4). (From The Jewish Women’s Archive—Queen Shelamziyyon)

There are coins with “King Jonathan” on them (see Jewish Encylopedia.com) and a hymn to “King Jonathan” was found in a Dead Sea Scroll, (4Q448). (Josephus’ describes “Essens” at length in this section, ca 160s B.C.)

Alexandra Salome had, during her lifetime, made her eldest son Hyrcanus II, the High Priest with her as Regent. After she died, Hyrcanus became the High Priest Regent:

Hyrcanus(II) then began his high priesthood…when presently Aristobulus(II) began to make war against him, and as it came to a battle with Hyrcanus at Jericho, many of his soldiers deserted him, and went over to his brother; upon which Hyrcanus fled into the citadel where Aristobulus’ wife and children were imprisoned by his mother…So when he had sent a message to his brother about agreeing the matters between them, he laid aside his enmity to him on these conditions, that Aristobulus should be king, that he should live without intermeddling with public affairs, and quietly enjoy the estate he had acquired. When they agreed upon these terms in the temple…and giving one another their right hands and embracing one another in the sight of the whole multitude, they departed; the one, Aristobulus, to the palace, and Hyrcanus, as a private man, to the former house of Aristobulus. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.I.2

No small country lives in a vacuum, though. Some of Judea’s neighbors did not want Aristobulus the warrior to be the ruler on their borders. And more importantly, neither did Rome.

Rome steps in

King Alexander Janneus and Queen Salome Alexandra worked closely with a man named Antipater whom they appointed their governor of Idumaea. He was Idumaean by birth but a Jew by religion, perhaps a product of forced conversion by John Hyrcanus. Antipater made Hyrcanus II son of Salome Alexandra his “friend” and propped him up to fight for the kingdom against his warrior brother:

Hyrcanus gave no credit to these words of (Antipater’s) as being of a gentle disposition and one that did not easily admit of calumnies against other men. This temper of his not disposing him to meddle with public affairs, and want of spirit, occasioned him to appear to spectators to be degenerated and unmanly; while Aristobulus was of a contrary temper, an active man, and one of a great and generous soul. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.II.3

To make a very long, detailed story, short, the civil war between the sons of Shalomzion, allowed the Romans under Pompey and his legions in. Both Aristobulus and Hyrcanus went to meet him to plead with him for his “friendship” to determine who would be the Rome-backed (puppet) ruler of the Jews. Pompey decided to come to Jerusalem to see for himself what was going on; there, he sided with Hyrcanus and came to Jerusalem and camped outside the gates demanding to be admitted. Those with Aristobulus said no, but “others” opened the gates and Aristobulus was besieged in the Temple. When Pompey broke through the walls, he had the audacity to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple—around 63 BCE—and “make Jerusalem tributary to the Romans.”

Pompey…

…also carried bound along with him Aristobulus and his children; for he had two daughters, and as many sons; the one of whom ran away; but the younger, Antigonus, was carried to Rome, together with his sisters.

Hyrcanus was re-installed as the High Priest and Ethnarch…not King…but now under the tutelage of Antipater, the Roman Procurator. But…there is always a “but”—Alexander the son of Aristobulus II who escaped made his way back to continue the war:

Sometime after this, when Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, made an incursion into Judea, Gabinius came from Rome to Syria, as commander of the Roman forces. He…made war with Alexander…However, Alexander went over all the country round about, and armed many of the Jews, and suddenly got together ten thousand armed footmen, and fifteen hundred horsemen, and fortified Alexandrium, a fortress near to Coraae, and Macherus…Gabinius therefore came upon him, having sent Marcus Antonius, with other commanders, before…and also their friends that were with Antipater, and met Alexander…Whereupon Alexander retired to the neighborhood of Jerusalem, where they fell upon one another, and it came to a pitched battle; in which the Romans slew of their enemies about three thousand, and took a like number alive…Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VI-VIII

Alexander was eventually captured and beheaded by Rome. His father escaped from Rome again and came back to fight again, was captured again, and was finally poisoned.

Alexander son of Aristobulus is Mariamne’s father.

Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus is Mariamne’s mother.

Genealogy Chart for the Ruling Line of the House of the Hasmoneans


My Search for a Political Mary

Black Madonna
A Black Madonna…Our Lady of Czestochowa…see Page “Mary as the Black Madonna” for her story.

This blog is about my search for a Mary that made sense to me…a Mary that fit into the patriarchal culture of her day…but also a Mary that could travel with her son and tell him what to do… something only a queen mother could get away with. She had to be a Mary that could help explain why her son, a Galilean citizen brutally killed by the Roman Occupier of Palestine in Jerusalem at the behest of the Jewish High Court and the High Priest…all the forms of political power of the day…died with a sign over his head saying “King of the Jews.” All four versions of the story in the gospels include the sign but do not explain in real time why it was there and why the first question Pilate, the Roman governor and his judge, jury and executioner, asked him was “Are you a King of the Jews?” to which Jesus answered, “Yes” all four times.

 

Being a king in a Middle Eastern monarchy even in the first century A.D. required a royal bloodline….even to be a puppet king in an occupied nation…as we will see. As a curious layperson, after years of studying Christian “Search for the Historical Jesus” books, I literally stumbled across an 800-page book of The Collected Works of Josephus, a Jewish historian born 4 years after the death of Jesus who wrote Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews in basically the same timeframe that the earliest gospels were being written (ca 90 A.D.) but using Jewish court records. Josephus spoke at length about a Jewish Royal family–other than the legendary Davidic one–that included queens with the dynastic name of Mariamne, often translated in Christian documents as Mary.

I have re-written this manuscript a hundred times over thirty-plus years and continue to at least look at the indexes of books still being written on the Historical Jesus…or less common…Mary…to see if my “idea” holds up…so far, so good but others are starting to take a hard look at the women also. I will share their ideas as we go along.

Simply comparing the rich and royal women and their stories in Josephus with the New Testament story does reveal a time of liberated women that answer the questions…Why are there so many women in the New Testament? Was Jesus a feminist? Or…more to my theory…was Jesus accompanied by his royal mother and her handmaidens who supported him? If so, then a certain amount of “veiling” on both the Jewish and the Christian side has been going on, as we will see…

By simply comparing Josephus’ histories of the New Testament era from the Jewish side…with the story of Jesus “son of Mary” as it has come down to us from the Christian side…and by studying a history of Jewish queens and their role in the politics of their nation…gives much needed context to the New Testament Mary and her role in the life and death of her son…see what you think. Even if you disagree, with “my Mary,” you will have to agree that looking at the women’s history…changes our understanding of the era and the role that royal women were expected to play…and did play…and that they were  relevant…

In the nature of blogs…begin at the end if you want to read it like a book. Start with the earliest post under “Archives” October 2014 and come forward…if you want to look at queens from a specific time frame look under menus “Queens of Israel” as a sidebar. Under “Pages” are personal stories of my search and research and further topics that caught my interest but don’t flow chronologically. This blog presupposes a strong level of interest in the reader…a reader with some level of knowledge of the New Testament story…

Cleta Marie Flynn

The Last Mary and the Apocalypse

080323-151749 The Virgin Mary in Glory from the book of Revelation
The Virgin Mary in Glory from the Book of Revelation

Josephus, lastly, tells a story about one final Mary…the last one in his index and on my list. This Mary’s story is pretty awful. She does something that is the crowning evil that a woman could do; and not just any woman but a wealthy noble woman. Even Josephus hesitates to tell her story, except I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age….

There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies “the House of Hyssop.”[i] She was eminent for her family and for her wealth, and had fled to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time.

When all exits were closed to the Jews, every hope of escape was now eliminated; and the famine, strengthening its hold, devoured the people, houses and families, one after another. The roofs were full of women and infants in the last stages of exhaustion, the alleys with the corpses of the aged: children and young men, swollen with hunger, haunted the market places and collapsed wherever faintness overcame them…Many, as they buried the fallen, fell dead themselves, while others set out for their graves before their fate was upon them. And throughout these calamities, no weeping or lamentation was heard…Deep silence blanketed the city, and night laden with death was in the grip of a yet fiercer foe—the brigandsJosephus and The Jewish War V.XII.3 Cornfeld.

Continue reading “The Last Mary and the Apocalypse”

The Family of Mariamne in the End Times

download (2) Bernice
King Agrippa II and his sister Queen Bernice listening to Paul tell them about Jesus and the Resurrection.

The Book of Acts mentions both Queen Bernice and Princess Drusilla in ca 57-59 A.D. Paul had been arrested to save him from young priests who vowed to kill him for bringing Gentiles into the Temple and Roman Procurator Felix wanted to hear what Paul was saying that was causing such turmoil in Jerusalem. His nineteen year old wife Drusilla daughter of King Agrippa also came to hear him.

“And, after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. (Acts 24:24

Continue reading “The Family of Mariamne in the End Times”

Nazarite Queens

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A statue of Aphrodite showing the elaborate hairdos upper class women used around the Mediterranean which might be a version of a “Nazarite from his/her mother’s womb”…the hair being wound or “broided” and wound on the head…as the men’s hair was to be wound as a crown on his head…see last post.  Pinterest from cristogenea.org, Susie Jackman Pinterest page.

Nothing we have heard so far about royal women would lead us to believe that they were religious. There were many rules women were to follow and sacrifices they were to make and a court in the Temple was called the Women’s Court so they could perform their duties and not contaminate the others. But, perhaps a clue can be found that might indicate a woman’s degree of religion…by hints like this…this quote from the mother of five high priest about her hair:

The hair was regarded by the Rabbis as so powerful an augmentation of beauty that married women were recommended to hide it…(T)he Talmud relates the following: Ḳimhit, the mother of seven sons who successively held the office of high priest, was once asked by what merit of hers she was so blessed in her sons. “Because,” said she, “the beams of my house have never seen my hair” (Yoma 47a). www.jewishencyclopedia.com

Continue reading “Nazarite Queens”

The Death of James the Nazarite

james-the-just1
James the Just from website deepinto scripture.com http://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/james-the-just1.jpg as seen on Google Images. The artist, unnamed, noted that James was a “Nazarite from his mother’s womb.” However, this is the amount of hair a man might grown in 2-4 years, not a lifetime.

There are many good books out there now that look at James/Jacob son of Mary.[i] It is possible they even have found his ossuary…a stone bone box. Google it.[ii]  But once again, I am just trying to pick my way through looking for things relating to royal women, especially Mariamne III, James’ mother. In my last post on Agrippa’s daughters, I mentioned how his virgin daughters were having the same problem that the disciples…especially James and Paul…were arguing about…did Gentiles who joined their group/married a Jewish princess have to be circumcised; same issue at the same time. Here, I want to touch on James being a Nazarite and his ongoing feud with the High Priesthood.

When I quoted the famous passage in Hegesippus’ Fifth Book in the last post (also repeated below), I left out one sentence. Here is the full quote again with the sentence added… Continue reading “The Death of James the Nazarite”