Containing The Interval Of Fourteen Years.
From The Finishing Of The Temple By Herod To The Death Of Alexander And Aristobulus.
How, Upon Herod's Going Down Into David's Sepulcher, The Sedition In His Family Greatly Increased.
1. AS for Herod, he had spent vast sums about the cities, both without and within his own kingdom; and as he had before heard that Hyrcanus, who had been king before him, had opened David's sepulcher, and taken out of it three thousand talents of silver, and that there was a much greater number left behind, and indeed enough to suffice all his wants, he had a great while an intention to make the attempt; and at this time he opened that sepulcher by night, and went into it, and endeavored that it should not be at all known in the city, but took only his most faithful friends with him. As for any money, he found none, as Hyrcanus had done, but that furniture of gold, and those precious goods that were laid up there; all which he took away.
However, he had a great desire to make a more diligent search, and to go farther in, even as far as the very bodies of David and Solomon; where two of his guards were slain, by a flame that burst out upon those that went in, as the report was. So he was terribly affrighted, and went out, and built a propitiatory monument of that fright he had been in; and this of white stone, at the mouth of the sepulcher, and that at great expense also. And even Nicolaus (9) his historiographer makes mention of this monument built by Herod, though he does not mention his going down into the sepulcher, as knowing that action to be of ill repute; and many other things he treats of in the same manner in his book; for he wrote in Herod's lifetime, and under his reign, and so as to please him, and as a servant to him, touching upon nothing but what tended to his glory, and openly excusing many of his notorious crimes, and very diligently concealing them.
And as he was desirous to put handsome colors on the death of Mariamne and her sons, which were barbarous actions in the king, he tells falsehoods about the incontinence of Mariamne, and the treacherous designs of his sons upon him; and thus he proceeded in his whole work, making a pompous encomium upon what just actions he had done, but earnestly apologizing for his unjust ones. Indeed, a man, as I said, may have a great deal to say by way of excuse for Nicolaus; for he did not so properly write this as a history for others, as somewhat that might be subservient to the king himself. As for ourselves, who come of a family nearly allied to the Asamonean kings, and on that account have an honorable place, which is the priesthood, we think it indecent to say any thing that is false about them, and accordingly we have described their actions after an unblemished and upright manner. And although we reverence many of Herod's posterity, who still reign, yet do we pay a greater regard to truth than to them, and this though it sometimes happens that we incur their displeasure by so doing.
2. And indeed Herod's troubles in his family seemed to be augmented by reason of this attempt he made upon David's sepulcher; whether Divine vengeance increased the calamities he lay under, in order to render them incurable, or whether fortune made an assault upon him, in those cases wherein the seasonableness of the cause made it strongly believed that the calamities came upon him for his impiety; for the tumult was like a civil war in his palace, and their hatred towards one another was like that where each one strove to exceed another in calumnies. However, Antipater used stratagems perpetually against his brethren, and that very cunningly; while abroad he loaded them with accusations, but still took upon him frequently to apologize for them, that this apparent benevolence to them might make him be believed, and forward his attempts against them; by which means he, after various manners, circumvented his father, who believed all that he did was for his preservation.
Herod also recommended Ptolemy, who was a great director of the affairs of his kingdom, to Antipater; and consulted with his mother about the public affairs also. And indeed these were all in all, and did what they pleased, and made the king angry against any other persons, as they thought it might be to their own advantage; but still the sons of Marianme were in a worse and worse condition perpetually; and while they were thrust out, and set in a more dishonorable rank, who yet by birth were the most noble, they could not bear the dishonor. And for the women, Glaphyra, Alexander's wife, the daughter of Archclaus, hated Salome, both because of her love to her husband, and because Glaphyra seemed to behave herself somewhat insolently towards Salome's daughter, who was the wife of Aristobulus, which equality of hers to herself Glaphyra took very impatiently.
3. Now, besides this second contention that had fallen among them, neither did the king's brother Pheroras keep himself out of trouble, but had a particular foundation for suspicion and hatred; for he was overcome with the charms of his wife, to such a degree of madness, that he despised the king's daughter, to whom he had been betrothed, and wholly bent his mind to the other, who had been but a servant. Herod also was grieved by the dishonor that was done him, because he had bestowed many favors upon him, and had advanced him to that height of power that he was almost a partner with him in the kingdom, and saw that he had not made him a due return for his labors, and esteemed himself unhappy on that account. So upon Pheroras's unworthy refusal, he gave the damsel to Phasaelus's son; but after some time, when he thought the heat of his brother's affections was over, he blamed him for his former conduct, and desired him to take his second daughter, whose name was Cypros. Ptolemy also advised him to leave off affronting his brother, and to forsake her whom he had loved, for that it was a base thing to be so enamored of a servant, as to deprive himself of the king's good-will to him, and become an occasion of his trouble, and make himself hated by him.
Pheroras knew that this advice would be for his own advantage, particularly because he had been accused before, and forgiven; so he put his wife away, although he already had a son by her, and engaged to the king that he would take his second daughter, and agreed that the thirtieth day after should be the day of marriage; and sware he would have no further conversation with her whom he had put away; but when the thirty days were over, he was such a slave to his affections, that he no longer performed any thing he had promised, but continued still with his former wife. This occasioned Herod to grieve openly, and made him angry, while the king dropped one word or other against Pheroras perpetually; and many made the king's anger an opportunity for raising calumnies against him. Nor had the king any longer a single quiet day or hour, but occasions of one fresh quarrel or another arose among his relations, and those that were dearest to him; for Salome was of a harsh temper, and ill-natured to Mariamne's sons; nor would she suffer her own daughter, who was the wife of Aristobulus, one of those young men, to bear a good-will to her husband, but persuaded her to tell her if he said any thing to her in private, and when any misunderstandings happened, as is common, she raised a great many suspicions out of it; by which means she learned all their concerns, and made the damsel ill-natured to the young man.
And in order to gratify her mother, she often said that the young men used to mention Mariamne when they were by themselves; and that they hated their father, and were continually threatening, that if they had once got the kingdom, they would make Herod's sons by his other wives country schoolmasters, for that the present education which was given them, and their diligence in learning, fitted them for such an employment. And as for the women, whenever they saw them adorned with their mother's clothes, they threatened, that instead of their present gaudy apparel, they should be clothed in sackcloth, and confined so closely that they should not see the light of the sun. These stories were presently carried by Salome to the king, who was troubled to hear them, and endeavored to make up matters; but these suspicions afflicted him, and becoming more and more uneasy, he believed every body against every body. However, upon his rebuking his sons, and hearing the defense they made for themselves, he was easier for a while, though a little afterwards much worse accidents came upon him.
4. For Pheroras came to Alexander, the husband of Glaphyra, who was the daughter of Archelaus, as we have already told you, and said that he had heard from Salome that Herod has enamored on Glaphyra, and that his passion for her was incurable. When Alexander heard that, he was all on fire, from his youth and jealousy; and he interpreted the instances of Herod's obliging behavior to her, which were very frequent, for the worse, which came from those suspicions he had on account of that word which fell from Pheroras; nor could he conceal his grief at the thing, but informed him what word: Pheroras had said. Upon which Herod was in a greater disorder than ever; and not bearing such a false calumny, which was to his shame, was much disturbed at it; and often did he lament the wickedness of his domestics, and how good he had been to them, and how ill requitals they had made him. So he sent for Pheroras, and reproached him, and said,
"Thou vilest of all men! art thou come to that unmeasurable and extravagant degree of ingratitude, as not only to suppose such things of me, but to speak of them? I now indeed perceive what thy intentions are. It is not thy only aim to reproach me, when thou usest such words to my son, but thereby to persuade him to plot against me, and get me destroyed by poison. And who is there, if he had not a good genius at his elbow, as hath my son, but would not bear such a suspicion of his father, but would revenge himself upon him? Dost thou suppose that thou hast only dropped a word for him to think of, and not rather hast put a sword into his hand to slay his father? And what dost thou mean, when thou really hatest both him and his brother, to pretend kindness to them, only in order to raise a reproach against me, and talk of such things as no one but such an impious wretch as thou art could either devise in their mind, or declare in their words? Begone, thou art such a plague to thy benefactor and thy brother, and may that evil conscience of thine go along with thee; while I still overcome my relations by kindness, and am so far from avenging myself of them, as they deserve, that I bestow greater benefits upon them than they are worthy of."
5. Thus did the king speak. Whereupon Pheroras, who was caught in the very act of his villainy, said that
"it was Salome who was the framer of this plot, and that the words came from her."
But as soon as she heard that, for she was at hand, she cried out, like one that would be believed, that no such thing ever came out of her mouth; that they all earnestly endeavored to make the king hate her, and to make her away, because of the good-will she bore to Herod, and because she was always foreseeing the dangers that were coming upon him, and that at present there were more plots against him than usual; for while she was the only person who persuaded her brother to put away the wife he now had, and to take the king's daughter, it was no wonder if she were hated by him. As she said this, and often tore her hair, and often beat her breast, her countenance made her denial to be believed; but the peverseness of her manners declared at the same time her dissimulation in these proceedings; but Pheroras was caught between them, and had nothing plausible to offer in his own defense, while he confessed that he had said what was charged upon him, but was not believed when he said he had heard it from Salome; so the confusion among them was increased, and their quarrelsome words one to another.
At last the king, out of his hatred to his brother and sister, sent them both away; and when he had commended the moderation of his son, and that he had himself told him of the report, he went in the evening to refresh himself. After such a contest as this had fallen out among them, Salome's reputation suffered greatly, since she was supposed to have first raised the calumny; and the king's wives were grieved at her, as knowing she was a very ill-natured woman, and would sometimes be a friend, and sometimes an enemy, at different seasons: so they perpetually said one thing or another against her; and somewhat that now fell out made them the bolder in speaking against her.
6. There was one Obodas, king of Arabia, an inactive and slothful man in his nature; but Sylleus managed most of his affairs for him. He was a shrewd man, although he was but young, and was handsome withal. This Sylleus, upon some occasion coining to Herod, and supping with him, saw Salome, and set his heart upon her; and understanding that she was a widow, he discoursed with her. Now because Salome was at this time less in favor with her brother, she looked upon Sylleus with some passion, and was very earnest to be married to him; and on the days following there appeared many, and those very great, indications of their agreement together. Now the women carried this news to the king, and laughed at the indecency of it; whereupon Herod inquired about it further of Pheroras, and desired him to observe them at supper, how their behavior was one toward another; who told him, that by the signals which came from their heads and their eyes, they both were evidently in love.
After this, Sylleus the Arabian being suspected, went away, but came again in two or three months afterwards, as it were on that very design, and spake to Herod about it, and desired that Salome might be given him to wife; for that his affinity might not be disadvantageous to his affairs, by a union with Arabia, the government of which country was already in effect under his power, and more evidently would be his hereafter. Accordingly, when Herod discoursed with his sister about it, and asked her whether she were disposed to this match, she immediately agreed to it.
But when Sylleus was desired to come over to the Jewish religion, and then he should marry her, and that it was impossible to do it on any other terms, he could not bear that proposal, and went his way; for he said, that if he should do so, he should be stoned by the Arabs. Then did Pheroras reproach Salome for her incontinency, as did the women much more; and said that Sylleus had debauched her. As for that damsel which the king had betrothed to his brother Pheroras, but he had not taken her, as I have before related, because he was enamored on his former wife, Salome desired of Herod she might be given to her son by Costobarus; which match he was very willing to, but was dissuaded from it by Pheroras, who pleaded that this young man would not be kind to her, since his father had been slain by him, and that it was more just that his son, who was to be his successor in the tetrarchy, should have her. So he begged his pardon, and persuaded him to do so. Accordingly the damsel, upon this change of her espousals, was disposal of to this young man, the son of Pheroras, the king giving for her portion a hundred talents.
(9) It is here worth our observation, how careful Josephus was as to the discovery of truth in Herod's history, since he would not follow Nicolaus of Damascus himself, so great an historian, where there was great reason to suspect that he flattered Herod; which impartiality in history Josephus here solemnly professes, and of which impartiality he has given more demonstrations than almost any historian whomsoever; but as to Herod's taking great wealth out of David's sepulcher, though I cannot prove it, yet do I strongly suspect it from this very history.