Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
Table of Contents




[315] IN the sixteenth year of his reign Herod rebuilt the temple, which had been almost entirely destroyed during the siege. He also spent vast sums of money in improving his kingdom, by building cities and walls and temples and palaces. But although Herod was great and powerful, still, on account of his crimes, his family life was very unhappy. He loved his beautiful wife Mariamne very much indeed, and made two sons he had by her heirs to the throne. But he had committed too many wrongs against Mariamne's family to completely gain her affection in return. When the aged and unfortunate Hyrcanus, Mariamne's grandfather, returned to Jerusalem after a long captivity, Herod had him put to death because he feared the Jews might wish to make him king. He also slew Mariamne's young and beautiful brother, Aristobulus, whom he had made high-priest, but whom he feared when he saw how much the people loved him. Mariamne reproached Herod, and his mother and sister, for these crimes. The women resented this bitterly, and so, to revenge themselves, began to whisper wicked stories about Mariamne to Herod. Herod was a very jealous man, and his jealousy at times got the better of him and made him like a demon. He began to believe the stories his mother and sister told him, and at last in a fit of jealousy he commanded his beautiful wife be put to death. But when his passion was over he bitterly repented of what he had done, and such a fit of [316] remorse came upon him that for a long while he acted like one gone mad. He wandered about the palace calling for his wife, and would order the servants to bring her to him. He fell very ill, and though at length he slowly recovered, the memory of his crime threw a dark shadow on his after-life. He became sullen and cruel and suspicious, while his entire life was made bitter by the quarrels which arose among his family.

The two sons of Mariamne could not but feel some bitterness towards their father, Herod, for having put their mother to death. When they grew up, Alexander, the elder, married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia; Aristobulus, the younger son, espoused Mariamne, his cousin, the daughter of Salome, Herod's sister. The sons could not at times keep from speaking out their thoughts about the cruelty of Herod in killing their mother. Salome, who had been concerned in this death, and who distrusted and disliked her nephews, began to spread evil reports, with others of her party, about the young heirs, saying that they intended to avenge the death of their mother, and that they were plotting against Herod.

The king began to suspect his sons, and in order to put a check upon them he sent for his eldest son, Antipater, begotten from his first wife, called Doris, whom he had divorced when he married Mariamne. This Antipater was a very cunning and wicked young man. He entered into plots with Salome and her brother, Pheroras. He induced Herod to receive back his mother, Doris. He so won Herod's favor that the king made him his heir; and then he set himself to work to get rid of Alexander and Aristobulus, and told so many lies and calumnies about them, and about plots he alleged they laid against Herod, that the king thought of putting them to death. So he took them before the emperor Augustus to be judged. Alexander, however, answered the charges brought against him so well that Augustus ordered [317] father and sons to be reconciled to each other. Herod then returned with his sons to Jerusalem, and, calling the people together, declared that Antipater should be his heir, but that the sons of Mariamne or their children should be next in succession to the throne. The anger and distrust among the brethren, however, did not diminish. Aristobulus and Alexander were grieved that the privilege of the first-born had been conferred on Antipater; while Antipater did not like the idea of having the brothers succeed him. So that before long dissensions broke out among the family with greater violence than ever. Herod was kept in a continual fever of excitement by Antipater, who continued to plot the ruin of Alexander and Aristobulus. He hired the servants, and even the friends, of the brethren to prefer all sorts of charges against them, so that the whole court soon became a scene of gloom, suspicion, and distrust. The blood of suspected persons flowed freely. Spies were everywhere. Men accused their enemies of plots so that the king would kill them; and scenes of horror were enacted every day. At length Antipater so far succeeded in his designs as to make the king believe that Alexander meant to kill him, which threw Herod into such a fright that he ordered the unhappy youth to be bound and put into prison.

Alexander occupied his time in prison in a very strange way. He wrote four long letters to his father, in which he confessed that he had been in a plot, but declared that Salome, Pheroras, and the majority of the courtiers were all concerned in it. Alexander's father-in-law, Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, becoming alarmed for the safety of his son-in-law and daughter, came hastily to Jerusalem. He won Herod's confidence by first pretending to believe all the charges trumped up against Alexander, and by feigning great indignation against his son-in-law. But by degrees he showed Herod how improbable the charges were, and succeeded in fixing the blame upon the persons mentioned in Alexander's letters, [318] especially upon Pheroras, who had been suspected before of plotting against the king. Archelaus reconciled Herod and Alexander, and he also obtained the pardon of Pheroras, who humbly confessed his guilt. Having thus happily settled this affair, Archelaus went back to his own kingdom.

A little while afterwards there came to Jerusalem an adventurer from Sparta called Eurycles. He brought splendid gifts to Herod, and by his cunning and flattery completely won the favor of the king. As soon as he discovered the dissentions that existed in the royal family he began to turn them to his own advantage. He wormed himself into Alexander's confidence by pretending to be a friend of King Archelaus, and also took care to ingratiate himself with Aristobulus. He then hired himself to Antipater as a spy upon the brothers, and would tell him everything that they said and did, besides telling many things about them that were not true. At length Antipater hired Eurycles to charge his brethren with treason before Herod. So Eurycles went to the king and said that out of gratitude to him he would save his life, and then he pretended that he had discovered a plot. And he told Herod that Alexander had made up his mind to kill him, and then to fly with his brother Aristobulus, either to Archelaus or to Caesar, and denounce the wickedness of Herod's reign so as to justify the murder. Herod was greatly angered at this news, and the more so when Antipater sent others to accuse the unfortunate sons of Mariamne. The king ordered the young men to be bound, and though no good proofs were brought against them, he had them put in prison. Afterwards Herod, enraged by further accusations, wrote to Caesar, informing him of the dreadful charges against the sons of Mariamne. Caesar wrote back and gave Herod full power over his sons, but said that he would do well to examine the matter in a public court, and take for assessors his own kindred and the governors of his province. And he ordered the trial to take place at Berytus. Herod did not allow his sons [319] to appear at they trial, which he conducted himself, acting as his own advocate, and seemed so eager for the death of the young princes that they were condemned by a majority of the court, although no serious charges were proved against them.

Herod hesitated about carrying out this barbarous sentence, and the whole people, and particularly the army, by whom the young men were greatly beloved, awaited in anxious suspense to see what would be done. At length a gallant old soldier by the name of Tero, whose son was an intimate friend of Alexander's, and who had himself a great affection for the princes, gave voice to the general feeling of indignation before the king. Herod caused Tero and his son to be immediately arrested, which was no sooner done than a barber in Herod's household rushed about in a mad sort of a way and declared that Tero had tried to bribe him to cut the king's throat, promising that Alexander would pay him handsomely for so doing. Tero and his son were immediately put upon the rack. They both denied the accusation, but when Herod gave orders that Tero should be racked more severely, the son cried out that he would confess all, if only his father should be spared from further torments. The king agreed to this, and the son confessed that his father, at the persuasion of Alexander, had determined to kill Herod. It is believed that this confession was a false one, and only made because the son could not bear to behold his father's torments. Tero and the barber and several captains were accused before the people and put to death, and the unfortunate sons of Mariamne were sent to Sebaste, and then strangled by order of their father.

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More

 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Herod defeats the Arabians  |  Next: The Death of Herod
Copyright (c) 2000-2018 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.