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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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DEATH OF HEROD

[320] ANTIPATER, having at last got rid of his brethren, went to reside in Rome, where he lived in great splendor. But although he had managed to commit many crimes without being found out, he had not been in Rome very long before one of his plots came to light in a very sudden and terrible manner. Pheroras, his uncle, who had assisted him in plotting against the young princes, fell ill, and was kindly nursed by Herod until he died. After the death of Pheroras some of his freedmen waited upon Herod, and told him that Pheroras had been poisoned by his wife. The king ordered inquiries to be made, and it came to light and was clearly proved that the wicked Antipater had sent poison to Pheroras that with it he might kill the king. The wife of Pheroras confessed the whole plot, and said that the kindness of Herod towards Pheroras while he was lying ill had melted the heart of the brother, so that he ordered the poison sent by Antipater to be thrown into the fire. But the wife only destroyed part of it, and part of it she kept. A wife of Herod's bearing the same name as the one he had killed, Mariamne, daughter of Simon the high-priest, was also found to have been concerned in this plot. And so the king blotted out of his will the name of her son, Herod, whom he had appointed successor to Antipater.

Antipater, at Rome, heard of the death of Pheroras, but did not know of the discovery of the plot, for Herod had taken care that he should not be informed of it. He was [321] greatly grieved over the death of his uncle, or rather disappointed at the failure of his designs upon the life of Herod. Antipater made up his mind to return to Judea, and wrote to his father to that effect. Anxious to get the conspirator in his hands, Herod wrote an affectionate letter to his son, urging him to return without delay. Antipater landed at Caesarea, and from thence proceeded to Jerusalem. Everywhere he was met by averted looks, and sometimes open expressions of hatred. All seemed to know some secret of which he alone was ignorant. However, it was now too late to fly, and as Antipater had heard nothing, he was in hopes that nothing had been discovered. Or even if anything had been brought to light, he flattered himself that his artifice and cunning would save him, as upon many former occasions.

Cheered with these hopes, he entered the palace at Jerusalem. But he was repulsed by Herod when he attempted to embrace him, and charged with being a parricide. Herod gave him one day in which to prepare his defence, and then called him before a court over which he presided, together with Varrus, the Roman governor of Syria. Antipater made an artful defence, couched in such touching language that he moved the compassion of Varrus and all those present except Herod. Nicolaus, of Damascus, at the king's command, then spoke against Antipater, and completely refuted everything he had said. Such strong proofs were brought before the court as left no doubt of the culprit's guilt. The poison which had been kept by the wife of Pheroras was given to a criminal under sentence of death, who expired immediately after drinking it. Antipater was condemned, and messengers were sent to Caesar that he might confirm the sentence.

Herod now commenced to decline rapidly. Age and grief increased his ailments, for he was now almost seventy years old. As he lay upon his bed, suffering the greatest agonies of mind and body, he was further distressed by an insurrection against him. Two of the Jews, named Judas and Matthias, [322] very learned in the laws and honored by the nation, incited band of young men to tear down a large golden eagle which Herod had caused to be placed over the great gate of the temple in defiance of the law, which forbade the image of any living thing to be introduced into the temple. The young men were arrested in the act and brought before Herod, who ordered the ringleaders to be burnt alive and the remainder of the band to be executed.

After this Herod grew rapidly worse and suffered the most horrible torments. His sufferings seemed to make him all the more cruel. He assembled the men of distinction throughout Judea, and ordered them to be shut up in the Hippodrome, and enjoined his sister Salome that as soon as he died all these men should be killed, in order that there might be wide-spread grief throughout the country.

Scarcely had he given these orders when letters arrived from Rome giving Caesar's assent to Antipater's execution. Herod was now suffering such terrible agony that he attempted to stab himself, but was prevented by his cousin. Instantly the place was filled with lamentations; and Antipater, hearing them, thought the king was dead, and besought his guards to free him from his bonds, promising them large rewards. The keeper of the prison immediately went to the king and told him of Antipater's designs. Herod ordered his spearsmen to go and despatch Antipater at once, which being done, he gave orders that the body should be buried at Hyrcanium. He then again amended his will, appointing Archelaus, his eldest son, to succeed him, and Antipas, the younger brother, tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip tetrarch of Trachonitis and the neighboring territories.

Herod survived the execution of his son five days. He had reigned thirty-four years since the execution of Antigonus, when he really became master of the state; but thirty-seven years from the date of his having been declared king by the Romans.

[323] Upon his death his sister Salome liberated the chief men of the Jews whom Herod had shut up in the Hippodrome. The will of Herod was then read to the people, and Archelaus was received with acclamations. Great preparations were then made for the funeral of Herod. Archelaus spared no expense. The bier was of solid gold, studded with precious stones, and the bed of variegated purple. On this lay the body, also covered with purple. On Herod's head a diadem was placed, and over him a crown of gold. At his right hand was a sceptre. Around the bier were Herod's sons and his numerous relatives. Next in order were the royal guards and hired soldiers, while in front marched the army, preceded by the generals and officers. These were followed by five hundred servants and freedmen, bearing aromatic spices. The procession marched in great pomp to Herodium, which was about twenty-five miles from Jerusalem, where the body of the king was buried.

Archelaus mourned for his father for seven days, and feasted the people at a funeral feast, according to the custom of the Jews. He then prepared to set out for Rome, in order that he might gain Caesar's consent that he should be king of the Jews. He called the people together, and addressed them from a throne made of gold. He thanked the people for the submission they had made to him, but said he would not take upon himself the authority of king until Caesar should ratify Herod's will, and that he would make ample returns for the good will the people had shown him, and that he would try to be a better king than was his father.

The people were pleased by Archelaus's speech, and immediately put his good intentions to test by asking him to grant them many favors. Some wished the taxes to be reduced, while others begged him to release the prisoners. Archelaus promised to attend to these requests, in order that he might gain the good will of the people.

In the evening great crowds of people, who had been dissatisfied [324] under Herod's reign, collected together, and began loudly to mourn for those men whom Herod had put to death because they had attempted to cut down the golden eagle over the gate of the temple. They cried out that Herod's advisers should be put to death, and that the man whom he had made high-priest should be deprived of his office.

Archelaus was provoked by these clamors, but tried to quiet them in a peaceful manner. He sent his general among the authors of these complaints, and by him exhorted them to be quiet. But the mob threw stones at the general, and would not let him speak. In like manner they treated others whom Archelaus sent in order to quietly quell the tumult.

It was now the feast of unleavened bread, called by the Jews the Passover.

Multitudes came to Jerusalem from the country, among whom the rioters began to spread their seditious doctrines. Archelaus now saw that he must take strong measures in order to nip in the bud a terrible rebellion. He therefore sent an officer with a cohort to seize the leaders of the insurrection. But the multitude in anger stoned the soldiers and killed many of them; the officer himself escaped with difficulty. Archelaus then sent his whole army against the rioters. Falling upon them suddenly while at sacrifice, the soldiers dispersed and slew about three thousand of the rioters, and drove the rest to the mountains. The heralds of Archelaus then commanded all the strangers to return to their several homes, and so all withdrew without finishing the festival.

Archelaus, accompanied by Nicolaus, set out for Rome together with many of the royal family, who went apparently to aid Archelaus in securing the throne, but in reality to accuse him of misdemeanors against the temple, and thus in reality to assist the younger brother, Antipas, who had gone to Rome to claim the crown upon the grounds of a former will, made, as his party asserted, when Herod was in a saner state of mind, and in which Antipas was made heir.

[325] On his way to Rome Archelaus met Sabinus, the procurator of Syria, at Caesarea, who was marching to Judea in order to make himself master of Herod's treasures. But, at the request of Varrus, the governor of Syria, Sabinus agreed to remain at Caesarea and leave Archelaus in possession of the treasures and fortresses of Judea until a decision had been made at Rome. But no sooner had Varrus gone away to Antioch, and Archelaus set sail for Rome, than Sabinus hurried to Jerusalem, seized the palace, and commanded the keepers of the treasures to render up their accounts, and tried to obtain possession of the fortress. All, however, remained faithful to their charge, and refused to obey any orders until some came from Rome.

In the mean while the two brothers disputed before Caesar their rights to the crown of Judea. Before he came to a decision in the matter, news came that Judea was in a state of insurrection. The greed of Sabinus incited the people to rebellion. The feast of the Pentecost came on again, and the Jews gathered from all quarters to wreak their vengeance upon Sabinus. Dividing themselves into three sections, they encamped on the north, south, and west of the temple, and proceeded to besiege the Romans. Sabinus sent to Varrus for aid, and, greatly frightened, crawled up to the top of a high tower, and from thence ordered his troops to attack the Jews. The people mounted on the roofs of the porticoes which surrounded the outer court of the temple, and from there hurled missiles upon their enemies. The Romans set fire to the porticoes, and thus the unhappy Jews were either burned alive, or slaughtered by the enemy when they attempted to jump to the ground. The Romans then broke into the temple and plundered the sacred treasures. Maddened by this outrage, vast numbers of Jews collected together from all parts of the country, and besieged Sabinus and his forces in the royal palace.

A number of the king's troops, who were aiding Sabinus, [326] deserted and joined the besiegers, who vigorously pressed the siege, but sent word to Sabinus to depart from the city with his soldiers and leave them to recover their national independence. Sabinus would gladly have retired, but he was afraid the Jews wished to ensnare him, and so in hope of aid from Varrus he maintained the defence.

The whole country, being without any government, became a scene of carnage and bloodshed. Two thousand of Herod's army who had been dismissed overran Judea, and drove a cousin of Archelaus's with some royal troops into the mountains. A robber chief plundered at will the country of Galilee. All over the rural districts adventurers arose, who collected together armed bodies of men and spread ruin and desolation all over the country.

Varrus, fearful for the safety of the Roman legion besieged in Jerusalem, hastened to the relief of Sabinus as soon as he received his despatches. He gathered together his forces, and assisted by an army under Aretas, king of Arabia, he hastened towards Jerusalem. Many cities were burned and sacked upon the way by the cruel Arabians. When Varrus approached Jerusalem, the forces of the Jews who were besieging Sabinus hurriedly fled to the country and dispersed. The inhabitants of the city then opened the gates to the invading army, and declared that they were not in revolt, but laid the whole blame upon the multitudes of strangers who had come into the city to attend the Pentecost. Sabinus, ashamed to look Varrus in the face after his dastardly conduct, slunk away to the sea-coast and set sail for Rome.

Varrus sent his troops all over the country in order to capture those who had been involved in the sedition. A great number were arrested, and those that appeared to be ring-leaders were crucified, to the number of about two thousand; the rest were pardoned. About ten thousand of the insurgents collected together in Idumea. Varrus sent the Arabians home because he could not restrain their excesses, and with [327] his own soldiers marched against the rebels, who immediately surrendered to him. He pardoned the common soldiers, but sent the officers to Rome for trial. Having thus settled matters, the Roman general left a garrison in Jerusalem and went back into Syria.


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