Containing The Interval Of Fourteen Years.
From The Finishing Of The Temple By Herod To The Death Of Alexander And Aristobulus.
How Eurycles Falsely Accused Herod's Sons; And How Their Father Bound Them, And Wrote To Caesar About Them. Of Sylleus And How He Was Accused By Nicolaus.
1. THE disorders about Herod's family and children about this time grew much worse; for it now appeared certain, nor was it unforeseen before-hand, that fortune threatened the greatest and most insupportable misfortunes possible to his kingdom. Its progress and augmentation at this time arose on the occasion following: One Eurycles, a Lacedemonian, (a person of note there, but a man of a perverse mind, and so cunning in his ways of voluptuousness and flattery, as to indulge both, and yet seem to indulge neither of them,) came in his travels to Herod, and made him presents, but so that he received more presents from him. He also took such proper seasons for insinuating himself into his friendship, that he became one of the most intimate of the king's friends. He had his lodging in Antipater's house; but he had not only access, but free conversation, with Alexander, as pretending to him that he was in great favor with Archclaus, the king of Cappadocia; whence he pretended much respect to Glaphyra, and in an occult manner cultivated a friendship with them all; but always attending to what was said and done, that he might be furnished with calumnies to please them all.
In short, he behaved himself so to every body in his conversation, as to appear to be his particular friend, and he made others believe that his being any where was for that person's advantage. So he won upon Alexander, who was but young; and persuaded him that he might open his grievances to him with assurance and with nobody else. So he declared his grief to him, how his father was alienated from him. He related to him also the affairs of his mother, and of Antipater; that he had driven them from their proper dignity, and had the power over every thing himself; that no part of this was tolerable, since his father was already come to hate them; and he added, that he would neither admit them to his table, nor to his conversation. Such were the complaints, as was but natural, of Alexander about the things that troubled him; and these discourses Eurycles carried to Antipater, and told him he did not inform him of this on his own account, but that being overcome by his kindness, the great importance of the thing obliged him to do it; and he warned him to have a care of Alexander, for that what he said was spoken with vehemency, and that, in consequence of what he said, he would certainly kill him with his own hand.
Whereupon Antipater, thinking him to be his friend by this advice, gave him presents upon all occasions, and at length persuaded him to inform Herod of what he had heard. So when he related to the king Alexander's ill temper, as discovered by the words he had heard him speak, he was easily believed by him; and he thereby brought the king to that pass, turning him about by his words, and irritating him, till he increased his hatred to him and made him implacable, which he showed at that very time, for he immediately gave Eurycles a present of fifty talents; who, when he had gotten them, went to Archclaus, king of Cappadocia, and commended Alexander before him, and told him that he had been many ways of advantage to him, in making a reconciliation between him and his father. So he got money from him also, and went away, before his pernicious practices were found out; but when Eurycles was returned to Lacedemon, he did not leave off doing mischief; and so, for his many acts of injustice, he was banished from his own country.
2. But as for the king of the Jews, he was not now in the temper he was in formerly towards Alexander and Aristobulus, when he had been content with the hearing their calumnies when others told him of them; but he was now come to that pass as to hate them himself, and to urge men to speak against them, though they did not do it of themselves. He also observed all that was said, and put questions, and gave ear to every one that would but speak, if they could but say any thing against them, till at length he heard that Euaratus of Cos was a conspirator with Alexander; which thing to Herod was the most agreeable and sweetest news imaginable.
3. But still a greater misfortune came upon the young men; while the calumnies against them were continually increased, and, as a man may say, one would think it was every one's endeavor to lay some grievous thing to their charge, which might appear to be for the king's preservation. There were two guards of Herod's body, who were in great esteem for their strength and tallness, Jucundus and Tyrannus; these men had been cast off by Herod, who was displeased at them; these now used to ride along with Alexander, and for their skill in their exercises were in great esteem with him, and had some gold and other gifts bestowed on them. Now the king having an immediate suspicion of those men, had them tortured, who endured the torture courageously for a long time; but at last confessed that Alexander would have persuaded them to kill Herod, when he was in pursuit of the wild beasts, that it might be said he fell from his horse, and was run through with his own spear, for that he had once such a misfortune formerly. They also showed where there was money hidden in the stable under ground; and these convicted the king's chief hunter, that he had given the young men the royal hunting spears and weapons to Alexander's dependents, at Alexander's command.
4. After these, the commander of the garrison of Alexandrium was caught and tortured; for he was accused to have promised to receive the young men into his fortress, and to supply them with that money of the king's which was laid up in that fortress, yet did not he acknowledge any thing of it himself; but his son came ill, and said it was so, and delivered up the writing, which, so far as could be guessed, was in Alexander's hand. Its contents were these:
"When we have finished, by God's help, all that we have proposed to do, we will come to you; but do your endeavors, as you have promised, to receive us into your fortress."
After this writing was produced, Herod had no doubt about the treacherous designs of his sons against him. But Alexander said that Diophantus the scribe had imitated his hand, and that the paper was maliciously drawn up by Antipater; for Diophantus appeared to be very cunning in such practices; and as he was afterward convicted of forging other papers, he was put to death for it.
5. So the king produced those that had been tortured before the multitude at Jericho, in order to have them accuse the young men, which accusers many of the people stoned to death; and when they were going to kill Alexander and Aristobulus likewise, the king would not permit them to do so, but restrained the multitude, by the means of Ptolemy and Pheroras. However, the young men were put under a guard, and kept in custody, that nobody might come at them; and all that they did or said was watched, and the reproach and fear they were in was little or nothing different from those of condemned criminals: and one of them, who was Aristobulus, was so deeply affected, that he brought Salome, who was his aunt, and his mother-in-law, to lament with him for his calamities, and to hate him who had suffered things to come to that pass; when he said to her,
"Art thou not in danger of destruction also, while the report goes that thou hadst disclosed beforehand all our affairs to Syllcus, when thou wast in hopes of being married to him?"
But she immediately carried these words to her brother. Upon this he was out of patience, and gave command to bind him; and enjoined them both, now they were kept separate one from the other, to write down the ill things they had done against their father, and bring the writings to him, So when this was enjoined them, they wrote this, that they had laid no treacherous designs, nor made any preparations against their father, but that they had intended to fly away; and that by the distress they were in, their lives being now uncertain and tedious to them.
6. About this time there came an ambassador out of Cappadocia from Archelaus, whose name was Melas; he was one of the principal rulers under him. So Herod, being desirous to show Archelaus's ill-will to him, called for Alexander, as he was in his bonds, and asked him again concerning his fight, whether and how they had resolved to retire Alexander replied, To Archclaus, who had promised to send them away to Rome; but that they had no wicked nor mischievous designs against their father, and that nothing of that nature which their adversaries had charged upon them was true; and that their desire was, that he might have examined Tyrannus and Jucundus more strictly, but that they had been suddenly slain by the means of Antipater, who put his own friends among the multitude [for that purpose].
7. When this was said, Herod commanded that both Alexander and Melas should be carried to Glaphyra, Archelaus's daughter, and that she should be asked, whether she did not know somewhat of Alexander's treacherous designs against Herod? Now as soon as they were come to her, and she saw Alexander in bonds, she beat her head, and in a great consternation gave a deep and moving groan. The young man also fell into tears. This was so miserable a spectacle to those present, that, for a great while, they were not able to say or to do any thing; but at length Ptolemy, who was ordered to bring Alexander, bid him say whether his wife was conscious of his actions. He replied,
"How is it possible that she, whom I love better than my own soul, and by whom I have had children, should not know what I do?"
Upon which she cried out that she knew of no wicked designs of his; but that yet, if her accusing herself falsely would tend to his preservation, she would confess it all. Alexander replied,
"There is no such wickedness as those (who ought the least of all so to do) suspect, which either I have imagined, or thou knowest of, but this only, that we had resolved to retire to Archelaus, and from thence to Rome."
Which she also confessed. Upon which Herod, supposing that Archelaus's ill-will to him was fully proved, sent a letter by Olympus and Volumnius; and bid them, as they sailed by, to touch at Eleusa of Cilicia, and give Archelaus the letter. And that when they had ex-postulated with him, that he had a hand in his son's treacherous design against him, they should from thence sail to Rome; and that, in case they found Nicolaus had gained any ground, and that Caesar was no longer displeased at him, he should give him his letters, and the proofs which he had ready to show against the young men. As to Archelaus, he made his defense for himself, that he had promised to receive the young men, because it was both for their own and their father's advantage so to do, lest some too severe procedure should be gone upon in that anger and disorder they were in on occasion of the present suspicions; but that still he had not promised to send them to Caesar; and that he had not promised any thing else to the young men that could show any ill-will to him.
8. When these ambassadors were come to Rome, they had a fit opportunity of delivering their letters to Caesar, because they found him reconciled to Herod; for the circumstances of Nicolaus's embassage had been as follows: As soon as he was come to Rome, and was about the court, he did not first of all set about what he was come for only, but he thought fit also to accuse Sylleus. Now the Arabians, even before he came to talk with them, were quarrelling one with another; and some of them left Sylleus's party, and joining themselves to Nicolaus, informed him of all the wicked things that had been done; and produced to him evident demonstrations of the slaughter of a great number of Obodas's friends by Sylleus; for when these men left Sylleus, they had carried off with them those letters whereby they could convict him.
When Nicolaus saw such an opportunity afforded him, he made use of it, in order to gain his own point afterward, and endeavored immediately to make a reconciliation between Caesar and Herod; for he was fully satisfied, that if he should desire to make a defense for Herod directly, he should not be allowed that liberty; but that if he desired to accuse Sylleus, there would an occasion present itself of speaking on Herod's behalf. So when the cause was ready for a hearing, and the day was appointed, Nicolaus, while Aretas's ambassadors were present, accused Sylleus, and said that he imputed to him the destruction of the king [Obodas], and of many others of the Arabians; that he had borrowed money for no good design; and he proved that he had been guilty of adultery, not only with the Arabian, but Reinan women also. And, he added, that above all the rest he had alienated Caesar from Herod, and that all that he had said about the actions of Herod were falsities. When Nicolaus was come to this topic, Caesar stopped him from going on, and desired him only to speak to this affair of Herod, and to show that he had not led an army into Arabia, nor slain two thousand five hundred men there, nor taken prisoners, nor pillaged the country. To which Nicolaus made this answer:
"I shall principally demonstrate, that either nothing at all, or but a very little, of those imputations are true, of which thou hast been informed; for had they been true, thou mightest justly have been still more angry at Herod."
At this strange assertion Caesar was very attentive; and Nicolaus said that there was a debt due to Herod of five hundred talents, and a bond, wherein it was written, that if the time appointed be lapsed, it should be lawful to make a seizure out of any part of his country.
"As for the pretended army," he said, "it was no army, but a party sent out to require the just payment of the money; that this was not sent immediately, nor so soon as the bond allowed, but that Sylleus had frequently come before Saturninus and Volumnius, the presidents of Syria; and that at last he had sworn at Berytus, by thy fortune, (12) that he would certainly pay the money within thirty days, and deliver up the fugitives that were under his dominion. And that when Sylleus had performed nothing of this, Herod came again before the presidents; and upon their permission to make a seizure for his money, he, with difficulty, went out of his country with a party of soldiers for that purpose. And this is all the war which these men so tragically describe; and this is the affair of the expedition into Arabia. And how can this be called a war, when thy presidents permitted it, the covenants allowed it, and it was not executed till thy name, O Caesar, as well as that of the other gods, had been profaned? And now I must speak in order about the captives. There were robbers that dwelt in Trachonitis; at first their number was no more than forty, but they became more afterwards, and they escaped the punishment Herod would have inflicted on them, by making Arabia their refuge. Sylleus received them, and supported them with food, that they might be mischievous to all mankind, and gave them a country to inhabit, and himself received the gains they made by robbery; yet did he promise that he would deliver up these men, and that by the same oaths and same time that he sware and fixed for payment of his debt: nor can he by any means show that any other persons have at this time been taken out of Arabia besides these, and indeed not all these neither, but only so many as could not conceal themselves. And thus does the calumny of the captives, which hath been so odiously represented, appear to be no better than a fiction and a lie, made on purpose to provoke thy indignation; for I venture to affirm that when the forces of the Arabians came upon us, and one or two of Herod's party fell, he then only defended himself, and there fell Nacebus their general, and in all about twenty-five others, and no more; whence Sylleus, by multiplying every single soldier to a hundred, he reckons the slain to have been two thousand five hundred."
9. This provoked Caesar more than ever. So he turned to Sylleus full of rage, and asked him how many of the Arabians were slain. Hereupon he hesitated, and said he had been imposed upon. The covenants also were read about the money he had borrowed, and the letters of the presidents of Syria, and the complaints of the several cities, so many as had been injured by the robbers. The conclusion was this, that Sylleus was condemned to die, and that Caesar was reconciled to Herod, and owned his repentance for what severe things he had written to him, occasioned by calumny, insomuch that he told Sylleus, that he had compelled him, by his lying account of things, to be guilty of ingratitude against a man that was his friend.
At the last all came to this, Sylleus was sent away to answer Herod's suit, and to repay the debt that he owed, and after that to be punished [with death]. But still Caesar was offended with Aretas, that he had taken upon himself the government, without his consent first obtained, for he had determined to bestow Arabia upon Herod; but that the letters he had sent hindered him from so doing; for Olympus and Volumnius, perceiving that Caesar was now become favorable to Herod, thought fit immediately to deliver him the letters they were commanded by Herod to give him concerning his sons. When Caesar had read them, he thought it would not be proper to add another government to him, now he was old, and in an ill state with relation to his sons, so he admitted Aretas's ambassadors; and after he had just reproved him for his rashness, in not tarrying till he received the kingdom from him, he accepted of his presents, and confirmed him in his government.
(12) This oath, by the fortune of Caesar, was put to Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna, by the Roman governor, to try whether he were a Christian, as they were then esteemed who refused to swear that oath. Martyr. Polycarp, Sect. 9.