Concerning The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Seven Years.
From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Antiochus Epiphanes,
To The Death Of Herod The Great.
HOW EURYCLES (40) CALUMNIATED THE SONS OF MARIAMNE; AND HOW EUARATUS OF COSTS APOLOGY FOR THEM HAD NO EFFECT.
1. NOW a little afterward there came into Judea a man that was much superior to Arehelaus's stratagems, who did not only overturn that reconciliation that had been so wisely made with Alexander, but proved the occasion of his ruin. He was a Lacedemonian, and his name was Eurycles. He was so corrupt a man, that out of the desire of getting money, he chose to live under a king, for Greece could not suffice his luxury. He presented Herod with splendid gifts, as a bait which he laid in order to compass his ends, and quickly received them back again manifold; yet did he esteem bare gifts as nothing, unless he imbrued the kingdom in blood by his purchases. Accordingly, he imposed upon the king by flattering him, and by talking subtlely to him, as also by the lying encomiums which he made upon him; for as he soon perceived Herod's blind side, so he said and did every thing that might please him, and thereby became one of his most intimate friends; for both the king and all that were about him had a great regard for this Spartan, on account of his country. (41)
2. Now as soon as this fellow perceived the rotten parts of the family, and what quarrels the brothers had one with another, and in what disposition the father was towards each of them, he chose to take his lodging at the first in the house of Antipater, but deluded Alexander with a pretense of friendship to him, and falsely claimed to be an old acquaintance of Archelaus; for which reason he was presently admitted into Alexander's familiarity as a faithful friend. He also soon recommended himself to his brother Aristobulus. And when he had thus made trial of these several persons, he imposed upon one of them by one method, and upon another by another. But he was principally hired by Antipater, and so betrayed Alexander, and this by reproaching Antipater, because, while he was the eldest son he overlooked the intrigues of those who stood in the way of his expectations; and by reproaching Alexander, because he who was born of a queen, and was married to a king's daughter, permitted one that was born of a mean woman to lay claim to the succession, and this when he had Archelaus to support him in the most complete manner. Nor was his advice thought to be other than faithful by the young man, because of his pretended friendship with Archelaus; on which account it was that Alexander lamented to him Antipater's behavior with regard to himself, and this without concealing any thing from him; and how it was no wonder if Herod, after he had killed their mother, should deprive them of her kingdom.
Upon this Eurycles pretended to commiserate his condition, and to grieve with him. He also, by a bait that he laid for him, procured Aristobulus to say the same things. Thus did he inveigle both the brothers to make complaints of their father, and then went to Antipater, and carried these grand secrets to him. He also added a fiction of his own, as if his brothers had laid a plot against him, and were almost ready to come upon him with their drawn swords. For this intelligence he received a great sum of money, and on that account he commended Antipater before his father, and at length undertook the work of bringing Alexander and Aristobulus to their graves, and accused them before their father.
So he came to Herod, and told him that he would save his life, as a requital for the favors he had received from him, and would preserve his light [of life] by way of retribution for his kind entertainment; for that a sword had been long whetted, and Alexander's right hand had been long stretched out against him; but that he had laid impediments in his way, prevented his speed, and that by pretending to assist him in his design: how Alexander said that Herod was not contented to reign in a kingdom that belonged to others, and to make dilapidations in their mother's government after he had killed her; but besides all this, that he introduced a spurious successor, and proposed to give the kingdom of their ancestors to that pestilent fellow Antipater: - that he would now appease the ghosts of Hyrcanus and Mariamne, by taking vengeance on him; for that it was not fit for him to take the succession to the government from such a father without bloodshed: that many things happen every day to provoke him so to do, insomuch that he can say nothing at all, but it affords occasion for calumny against him; for that if any mention be made of nobility of birth, even in other cases, he is abused unjustly, while his father would say that nobody, to be sure, is of noble birth but Alexander, and that his father was inglorious for want of such nobility.
If they be at any time hunting, and he says nothing, he gives offense; and if he commends any body, they take it in way of jest. That they always find their father unmercifully severe, and have no natural affection for any of them but for Antipater; on which accounts, if this plot does not take, he is very willing to die; but that in case he kill his father, he hath sufficient opportunities for saving himself. In the first place, he hath Archelaus his father-in-law to whom he can easily fly; and in the next place, he hath Caesar, who had never known Herod's character to this day; for that he shall not appear then before him with that dread he used to do when his father was there to terrify him; and that he will not then produce the accusations that concerned himself alone, but would, in the first place, openly insist on the calamities of their nation, and how they are taxed to death, and in what ways of luxury and wicked practices that wealth is spent which was gotten by bloodshed; what sort of persons they are that get our riches, and to whom those cities belong upon whom he bestows his favors; that he would have inquiry made what became of his grandfather [Hyrcanus], and his mother [Mariamne], and would openly proclaim the gross wickedness that was in the kingdom; on which accounts he should not be deemed a parricide.
3. When Eurycles had made this portentous speech, he greatly commended Antipater, as the only child that had an affection for his father, and on that account was an impediment to the other's plot against him. Hereupon the king, who had hardly repressed his anger upon the former accusations, was exasperated to an incurable degree. At which time Antipater took another occasion to send in other persons to his father to accuse his brethren, and to tell him that they had privately discoursed with Jucundus and Tyrannus, who had once been masters of the horse to the king, but for some offenses had been put out of that honorable employment. Herod was in a very great rage at these informations, and presently ordered those men to be tortured; yet did not they confess any thing of what the king had been informed; but a certain letter was produced, as written by Alexander to the governor of a castle, to desire him to receive him and Aristobulus into the castle when he had killed his father, and to give them weapons, and what other assistance he could, upon that occasion. Alexander said that this letter was a forgery of Diophantus. This Diophantus was the king's secretary, a bold man, and cunning in counterfeiting any one's hand; and after he had counterfeited a great number, he was at last put to death for it. Herod did also order the governor of the castle to be tortured, but got nothing out of him of what the accusations suggested.
4. However, although Herod found the proofs too weak, he gave order to have his sons kept in custody; for till now they had been at liberty. He also called that pest of his family, and forger of all this vile accusation, Eurycles, his savior and benefactor, and gave him a reward of fifty talents. Upon which he prevented any accurate accounts that could come of what he had done, by going immediately into Cappadocia, and there he got money of Archelaus, having the impudence to pretend that he had reconciled Herod to Alexander. He thence passed over into Greece, and used what he had thus wickedly gotten to the like wicked purposes. Accordingly, he was twice accused before Caesar, that he had filled Achaia with sedition, and had plundered its cities; and so he was sent into banishment. And thus was he punished for what wicked actions he had been guilty of about Aristobulus and Alexander.
5. But it will now be worth while to put Euaratus of Cos in opposition to this Spartan; for as he was one of Alexander's most intimate friends, and came to him in his travels at the same time that Eurycles came; so the king put the question to him, whether those things of which Alexander was accused were true? He assured him upon oath that he had never heard any such things from the young men; yet did this testimony avail nothing for the clearing those miserable creatures; for Herod was only disposed and most ready to hearken to what made against them, and every one was most agreeable to him that would believe they were guilty, and showed their indignation at them.
(40) This vile fellow, Eurycles the Lacedemonian, seems to have been the same who is mentioned by Plutarch, as (twenty-live years before) a companion to Mark Antony, and as living with Herod; whence he might easily insinuate himself into the acquaintance of Herod's sons, Antipater and Alexander, as Usher, Hudson, and Spanheim justly suppose. The reason why his being a Spartan rendered him acceptable to the Jews as we here see he was, is visible from the public records of the Jews and Spartans, owning those Spartans to be of kin to the Jews, and derived from their common ancestor Abraham, the first patriarch of the Jewish nation, Antiq. B. XII. ch. 4. sect. 10; B. XIII. ch. 5. sect. 8; and 1 Macc. 12:7.
(41) See the preceding note