HOW ANTONY MADE HEROD AND PHASAELUS TETRARCHS, AFTER THEY HAD BEEN ACCUSED TO NO PURPOSE; AND HOW THE PARTHIANS WHEN THEY BROUGHT ANTIGONUS INTO JUDEA TOOK HYRCANUS AND PHASAELUS CAPTIVES. HEROD’S FLIGHT; AND WHAT AFFLICTIONS HYRCANUS AND PHASAELUS ENDURED.
1. WHEN after this Antony came into Syria, Cleopatra met him in Cilicia, and brought him to fall in love with her. And there came now also a hundred of the most potent of the Jews to accuse Herod and those about him, and set the men of the greatest eloquence among them to speak. But Messala contradicted them, on behalf of the young men, and all this in the presence of Hyrcanus, who was Herod’s father-in-law (24) already. When Antony had heard both sides at Daphne, he asked Hyrcanus who they were that governed the nation best. He replied, Herod and his friends. Hereupon Antony, by reason of the old hospitable friendship he had made with his father [Antipater], at that time when he was with Gabinius, he made both Herod and Phasaelus tetrarchs, and committed the public affairs of the Jews to them, and wrote letters to that purpose. He also bound fifteen of their adversaries, and was going to kill them, but that Herod obtained their pardon.
2. Yet did not these men continue quiet when they were come back, but a thousand of the Jews came to Tyre to meet him there, whither the report was that he would come. But Antony was corrupted by the money which Herod and his brother had given him; and so he gave order to the governor of the place to punish the Jewish ambassadors, who were for making innovations, and to settle the government upon Herod; but Herod went out hastily to them, and Hyrcanus was with him, (for they stood upon the shore before the city,) and he charged them to go their ways, because great mischief would befall them if they went on with their accusation. But they did not acquiesce; whereupon the Romans ran upon them with their daggers, and slew some, and wounded more of them, and the rest fled away and went home, and lay still in great consternation. And when the people made a clamor against Herod, Antony was so provoked at it, that he slew the prisoners.
3. Now, in the second year, Pacorus, the king of Parthia’s son, and Barzapharnes, a commander of the Parthians, possessed themselves of Syria. Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, also was now dead, and Lysanias his son took his government, and made a league of friendship with Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus; and in order to obtain it, made use of that commander, who had great interest in him. Now Antigonus had promised to give the Parthians a thousand talents, and five hundred women, upon condition they would take the government away from Hyrcanus, and bestow it upon him, and withal kill Herod. And although he did not give them what he had promised, yet did the Parthians make an expedition into Judea on that account, and carried Antigonus with them. Pacorus went along the maritime parts, but the commander Barzapharnes through the midland. Now the Tyrians excluded Pacorus, but the Sidontans and those of Ptolemais received him. However, Pacorus sent a troop of horsemen into Judea, to take a view of the state of the country, and to assist Antigonus; and sent also the king’s butler, of the same name with himself. So when the Jews that dwelt about Mount Carmel came to Antigonus, and were ready to march with him into Judea, Antigonus hoped to get some part of the country by their assistance. The place is called Drymi; and when some others came and met them, the men privately fell upon Jerusalem; and when some more were come to them, they got together in great numbers, and came against the king’s palace, and besieged it. But as Phasaelus’s and Herod’s party came to the other’s assistance, and a battle happened between them in the market-place, the young men beat their enemies, and pursued them into the temple, and sent some armed men into the adjoining houses to keep them in, who yet being destitute of such as should support them, were burnt, and the houses with them, by the people who rose up against them. But Herod was revenged on these seditious adversaries of his a little afterward for this injury they had offered him, when he fought with them, and slew a great number of them.
4. But while there were daily skirmishes, the enemy waited for the coming of the multitude out of the country to Pentecost, a feast of ours so called; and when that day was come, many ten thousands of the people were gathered together about the temple, some in armor, and some without. Now those that came guarded both the temple and the city, excepting what belonged to the palace, which Herod guarded with a few of his soldiers; and Phasaelus had the charge of the wall, while Herod, with a body of his men, sallied out upon the enemy, who lay in the suburbs, and fought courageously, and put many ten thousands to flight, some flying into the city, and some into the temple, and some into the outer fortifications, for some such fortifications there were in that place. Phasaelus came also to his assistance; yet was Pacorus, the general of the Parthians, at the desire of Antigonus, admitted into the city, with a few of his horsemen, under pretence indeed as if he would still the sedition, but in reality to assist Antigonus in obtaining the government. And when Phasaelus met him, and received him kindly, Pacorus persuaded him to go himself as ambassador to Barzapharnes, which was done fraudulently. Accordingly, Phasaelus, suspecting no harm, complied with his proposal, while Herod did not give his consent to what was done, because of the perfidiousness of these barbarians, but desired Phasaelus rather to fight those that were come into the city.
5. So both Hyrcanus and Phasaelus went on the embassage; but Pacorus left with Herod two hundred horsemen, and ten men, who were called the freemen, and conducted the others on their journey; and when they were in Galilee, the governors of the cities there met them in their arms. Barzaphanles also received them at the first with cheerfulness, and made them presents, though he afterward conspired against them; and Phasaelus, with his horsemen, were conducted to the sea-side. But when they heard that Antigonus had promised to give the Parthians a thousand talents, and five hundred women, to assist him against them, they soon had a suspicion of the barbarians. Moreover, there was one who informed them that snares were laid for them by night, while a guard came about them secretly; and they had then been seized upon, had not they waited for the seizure of Herod by the Parthians that were about Jerusalem, lest, upon the slaughter of Hyrcanus and Phasaelus, he should have an intimation of it, and escape out of their hands. And these were the circumstances they were now in; and they saw who they were that guarded them. Some persons indeed would have persuaded Phasaelus to fly away immediately on horseback, and not stay any longer; and there was one Ophellius, who, above all the rest, was earnest with him to do so; for he had heard of this treachery from Saramalla, the richest of all the Syrians at that time, who also promised to provide him ships to carry him off; for the sea was just by them. But he had no mind to desert Hyrcanus, nor bring his brother into danger; but he went to Barzapharnes, and told him he did not act justly when he made such a contrivance against them; for that if he wanted money, he would give him more than Antigonus; and besides, that it was a horrible thing to slay those that came to him upon the security of their oaths, and that when they had done them no injury. But the barbarian swore to him that there was no truth in any of his suspicions, but that he was troubled with nothing but false proposals, and then went away to Pacorus.
6. But as soon as he was gone away, some men came and bound Hyrcanus and Phasaelus, while Phasaelus greatly reproached the Parthians for their perjury; However, that butler who was sent against Herod had it in command to get him without the walls of the city, and seize upon him; but messengers had been sent by Phasaelus to inform Herod of the perfidiousness of the Parthians. And when he knew that the enemy had seized upon them, he went to Pacorus, and to the most potent of the Parthians, as to the lord of the rest, who, although they knew the whole matter, dissembled with him in a deceitful way; and said that he ought to go out with them before the walls, and meet those which were bringing him his letters, for that they were not taken by his adversaries, but were coming to give him an account of the good success Phasaelus had had. Herod did not give credit to what they said; for he had heard that his brother was seized upon by others also; and the daughter of Hyrcanus, whose daughter he had espoused, was his monitor also [not to credit them], which made him still more suspicious of the Parthians; for although other people did not give heed to her, yet did he believe her as a woman of very great wisdom.
7. Now while the Parthians were in consultation what was fit to be done; for they did not think it proper to make an open attempt upon a person of his character; and while they put off the determination to the next day, Herod was under great disturbance of mind, and rather inclining to believe the reports he heard about his brother and the Parthians, than to give heed to what was said on the other side, he determined, that when the evening came on, he would make use of it for his flight, and not make any longer delay, as if the dangers from the enemy were not yet certain. He therefore removed with the armed men whom he had with him; and set his wives upon the beasts, as also his mother, and sister, and her whom he was about to marry, [Mariamne,] the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, with her mother, the daughter of Hyrcanus, and his youngest brother, and all their servants, and the rest of the multitude that was with him, and without the enemy’s privity pursued his way to Idumea. Nor could any enemy of his who then saw him in this case be so hardhearted, but would have commiserated his fortune, while the women drew along their infant children and left their own country, and their friends in prison, with tears in their eyes, and sad lamentations, and in expectation of nothing but what was of a melancholy nature.
8. But for Herod himself, he raised his mind above the miserable state he was in, and was of good courage in the midst of his misfortunes; and as he passed along, he bid them every one to be of good cheer, and not to give themselves up to sorrow, because that would hinder them in their flight, which was now the only hope of safety that they had. Accordingly, they tried to bear with patience the calamity they were under, as he exhorted them to do; yet was he once almost going to kill himself, upon the overthrow of a waggon, and the danger his mother was then in of being killed; and this on two accounts, because of his great concern for her, and because he was afraid lest, by this delay, the enemy should overtake him in the pursuit: but as he was drawing his sword, and going to kill himself therewith, those that were present restrained him, and being so many in number, were too hard for him; and told him that he ought not to desert them, and leave them a prey to their enemies, for that it was not the part of a brave man to free himself from the distresses he was in, and to overlook his friends that were in the same distresses also. So he was compelled to let that horrid attempt alone, partly out of shame at what they said to him, and partly out of regard to the great number of those that would not permit him to do what he intended. So he encouraged his mother, and took all the care of her the time would allow, and proceeded on the way he proposed to go with the utmost haste, and that was to the fortress of Masada. And as he had many skirmishes with such of the Parthians as attacked him and pursued him, he was conqueror in them all.
9. Nor indeed was he free from the Jews all along as he was in his flight; for by that time he was gotten sixty furlongs out of the city, and was upon the road, they fell upon him, and fought hand to hand with him, whom he also put to flight, and overcame, not like one that was in distress and in necessity, but like one that was excellently prepared for war, and had what he wanted in great plenty. And in this very place where he overcame the Jews it was that he some time afterward build a most excellent palace, and a city round about it, and called it Herodium. And when he was come to Idumea, at a place called Thressa, his brother Joseph met him, and he then held a council to take advice about all his affairs, and what was fit to be done in his circumstances, since he had a great multitude that followed him, besides his mercenary soldiers, and the place Masada, whither he proposed to fly, was too small to contain so great a multitude; so he sent away the greater part of his company, being above nine thousand, and bid them go, some one way, and some another, and so save themselves in Idumea, and gave them what would buy them provisions in their journey. But he took with him those that were the least encumbered, and were most intimate with him, and came to the fortress, and placed there his wives and his followers, being eight hundred in number, there being in the place a sufficient quantity of corn and water, and other necessaries, and went directly for Petra, in Arabia. But when it was day, the Parthians plundered all Jerusalem, and the palace, and abstained from nothing but Hyrcanus’s money, which was three hundred talents. A great deal of Herod’s money escaped, and principally all that the man had been so provident as to send into Idumea beforehand; nor indeed did what was in the city suffice the Parthians, but they went out into the country, and plundered it, and demolished the city Marissa.
10. And thus was Antigonus brought back into Judea by the king of the Parthians, and received Hyrcanus and Phasaelus for his prisoners; but he was greatly cast down because the women had escaped, whom he intended to have given the enemy, as having promised they should have them, with the money, for their reward: but being afraid that Hyrcanus, who was under the guard of the Parthians, might have his kingdom restored to him by the multitude, he cut off his ears, and thereby took care that the high priesthood should never come to him any more, because he was maimed, while the law required that this dignity should belong to none but such as had all their members entire (25) But now one cannot but here admire the fortitude of Phasaelus, who, perceiving that he was to be put to death, did not think death any terrible thing at all; but to die thus by the means of his enemy, this he thought a most pitiable and dishonorable thing; and therefore, since he had not his hands at liberty, but the bonds he was in prevented him from killing himself thereby, he dashed his head against a great stone, and thereby took away his own life, which he thought to be the best thing he could do in such a distress as he was in, and thereby put it out of the power of the enemy to bring him to any death he pleased. It is also reported, that when he had made a great wound in his head, Antigonus sent physicians to cure it, and, by ordering them to infuse poison into the wound, killed him. However, Phasaelus hearing, before he was quite dead, by a certain woman, that his brother Herod had escaped the enemy, underwent his death cheerfully, since he now left behind him one who would revenge his death, and who was able to inflict punishment on his enemies.
(24) We may here take notice that espousals alone were of old esteemed a sufficient foundation for affinity, Hyrcanus being here called father-in-law to Herod because his granddaughter Mariarune was betrothed to him, although the marriage was not completed till four years afterwards. See Mat_1:16.
(25) This law of Moses, that the priests were to be “without blemish,” as to all the parts of their bodies, is in Lev_21:17-24.