Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Judas Maccabeus To The Death Of Queen Alexandra.
How Alexandra By Gaining The Good-Will Of The Pharisees, Retained The Kingdom Nine Years, And Then, Having Done Many Glorious Actions Died.
1. SO Alexandra, when she had taken the fortress, acted as her husband had suggested to her, and spake to the Pharisees, and put all things into their power, both as to the dead body, and as to the affairs of the kingdom, and thereby pacified their anger against Alexander, and made them bear goodwill and friendship to him; who then came among the multitude, and made speeches to them, and laid before them the actions of Alexander, and told them that they had lost a righteous king; and by the commendation they gave him, they brought them to grieve, and to be in heaviness for him, so that he had a funeral more splendid than had any of the kings before him. Alexander left behind him two sons, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, but committed the kingdom to Alexandra. Now, as to these two sons, Hyrcanus was indeed unable to manage public affairs, and delighted rather in a quiet life; but the younger, Aristobulus, was an active and a bold man; and for this woman herself, Alexandra, she was loved by the multitude, because she seemed displeased at the offenses her husband had been guilty of.
2. So she made Hyrcanus high priest, because he was the elder, but much more because he cared not to meddle with politics, and permitted the Pharisees to do every thing; to whom also she ordered the multitude to be obedient. She also restored again those practices which the Pharisees had introduced, according to the traditions of their forefathers, and which her father-in-law, Hyrcanus, had abrogated. So she had indeed the name of the regent, but the Pharisees had the authority; for it was they who restored such as had been banished, and set such as were prisoners at liberty, and, to say all at once, they differed in nothing from lords. However, the queen also took care of the affairs of the kingdom, and got together a great body of mercenary soldiers, and increased her own army to such a degree, that she became terrible to the neighboring tyrants, and took hostages of them: and the country was entirely at peace, excepting the Pharisees; for they disturbed the queen, and desired that she would kill those who persuaded Alexander to slay the eight hundred men; after which they cut the throat of one of them, Diogenes; and after him they did the same to several, one after another, till the men that were the most potent came into the palace, and Aristobulus with them, for he seemed to be displeased at what was done; and it appeared openly, that if he had an opportunity, he would not permit his mother to go on so.
These put the queen in mind what great dangers they had gone through, and great things they had done, whereby they had demonstrated the firmness of their fidelity to their master, insomuch that they had received the greatest marks of favor from him; and they begged of her, that she would not utterly blast their hopes, as it now happened, that when they had escaped the hazards that arose from their [open] enemies, they were to be cut off at home by their [private] enemies, like brute beasts, without any help whatsoever. They said also, that if their adversaries would be satisfied with those that had been slain already, they would take what had been done patiently, on account of their natural love to their governors; but if they must expect the same for the future also, they implored of her a dismission from her service; for they could not bear to think of attempting any method for their deliverance without her, but would rather die willingly before the palace gate, in case she would not forgive them.
And that it was a great shame, both for themselves and for the queen, that when they were neglected by her, they should come under the lash of her husband's enemies; for that Aretas, the Arabian king, and the monarchs, would give any reward, if they could get such men as foreign auxiliaries, to whom their very names, before their voices be heard, may perhaps be terrible; but if they could not obtain this their second request, and if she had determined to prefer the Pharisees before them, they still insisted that she would place them every one in her fortresses; for if some fatal demon hath a constant spite against Alexander's house, they would be willing to bear their part, and to live in a private station there.
3. As these men said thus, and called upon Alexander's ghost for commiseration of those already slain, and those in danger of it, all the bystanders brake out into tears. But Aristobulus chiefly made manifest what were his sentiments, and used 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."
So Alexandra, not knowing what to do with any decency, committed the fortresses to them, all but Hyrcania, and Alexandrium, and Macherus, where her principal treasures were. After a little while also, she sent her son Aristobulus with an army to Damascus against Ptolemy, who was called Menneus, who was such a bad neighbor to the city; but he did nothing considerable there, and so returned home.
4. About this time news was brought that Tigranes, the king of Armenia, had made an irruption into Syria with five hundred thousand soldiers, (47) and was coming against Judea. This news, as may well be supposed, terrified the queen and the nation. Accordingly, they sent him many and very valuable presents, as also ambassadors, and that as he was besieging Ptolemais; for Selene the queen, the same that was also called Cleopatra, ruled then over Syria, who had persuaded the inhabitants to exclude Tigranes. So the Jewish ambassadors interceded with him, and entreated him that he would determine nothing that was severe about their queen or nation. He commended them for the respects they paid him at so great a distance, and gave them good hopes of his favor. But as soon as Ptolemais was taken, news came to Tigranes, that Lucullus, in his pursuit of Mithridates, could not light upon him, who was fled into Iberia, but was laying waste Armenia, and besieging its cities. Now when Tigranes knew this, he returned home.
5. After this, when the queen was fallen into a dangerous distemper, Aristobulus resolved to attempt the seizing of the government; so he stole away secretly by night, with only one of his servants, and went to the fortresses, wherein his friends, that were such from the days of his father, were settled; for as he had been a great while 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; for he saw the inability of his brother, who was to succeed in the government; nor was any one conscious of what he was doing but only his wife, whom he left at Jerusalem with their children. He first of all came to Agaba, where was Galestes, one of the potent men before mentioned, and was received by him. When it was day, the queen perceived that Aristobulus was fled; and for some time she supposed that his departure was not in order to make any innovation; but when messengers came one after another with the news that he had secured the first place, the second place, and all the places, for as soon as one had begun they all submitted to his disposal, then it was that the queen and the nation were in the greatest disorder, for they were aware that it would not be long ere Aristobulus would be able to settle himself firmly in the government.
What they were principally afraid of was this, that he would inflict punishment upon them for the mad treatment his house had had from them. So they resolved to take his wife and children into custody, and keep them in the fortress that was over the temple. (48) 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 places, which gave him the opportunity of raising an army from Libanus and Trachonitis, and the monarchs; for men are easily led by the greater number, and easily submit to them. And besides this, that by affording him their assistance, when he could not expect it, they, as well as he, should have the advantages that would come by his being king, because they had been the occasion of his gaining the kingdom.
Now the elders of the Jews, and Hyrcanus with them, went in unto the queen, and desired that she would give them her sentiments about the present posture of affairs, for that Aristobulus was in effect lord of almost all the kingdom, by possessing of so many strong holds, and that it was absurd for them to take any counsel by themselves, how ill soever she were, whilst she was alive, and that the danger would be upon them in no long time. But she bid them do what they thought 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 failed her.
6. Now a little while 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 showed 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, and that sometimes men themselves show the little understanding they have by the frequent mistakes they make in point of government; for she always preferred the present to futurity, and preferred the power of an imperious dominion above all things, and in comparison of that had no regard to what was good, or what was right. However, she brought the affairs of her house to such an unfortunate condition, that she was the occasion of the taking away that authority from it, and that in no long time afterward, which she had obtained by a vast number of hazards and misfortunes, and this out of a desire of what does not belong to a woman, and all by a compliance in her sentiments with those that bare ill-will to their family, and by leaving the administration destitute of a proper support of great men; and, indeed, her management during her administration while she was alive, was such as filled the palace after her death with calamities and disturbance. However, although this had been her way of governing, she preserved the nation in peace. And this is the conclusion of the affairs of, Alexandra.
(47) The number of five hundred thousand or even three hundred thousand, as one Greek copy, with the Latin copies, have it, for Tigranes's army, that came out of Armenia into Syria and Judea, seems much too large. We have had already several such extravagant numbers in Josephus's present copies, which are not to he at all ascribed to him. Accordingly, I incline to Dr. Hudson's emendation here, which supposes them but forty thousand.
(48) This fortress, castle, citadel, or tower, whither the wife and children of Aristobulus were new sent, and which overlooked the temple, could be no other than what Hyrcanus I. built, (Antiq. B. XVIII Ch. 4. Sect. 3,) and Herod the Great rebuilt, and called the "Tower of Antonia," Antiq. B. XV. Ch. 11. Sect. 5.