1. Daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus II., and Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus II., was betrothed to Herod the Great, by her grandfather Hyrcanus, in B. C. 41. Their actual union, however, did not take place till B. C. 38.
At this period Herod was besieging Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II., in Jerusalem, and, leaving the operations there to be conducted for a time by trust-worthy officers, he went to Samaria for the purpose of consummating his marriage,--a step to which he would be urged, not by passion only, but by policy and a sense of the importance to his cause of connecting his blood with that of the Asmonean princes. In B. C. 36, Herod, moved partly by the entreaties of Mariamne, deposed Ananel from the priesthood and conferred it on her brother, the young Aristobulus.
The murder of the latter, however, in B. C. 35, would naturally alienate from Herod any affection which Mariamne may have felt for him; and this alienation was increased when she discovered that, on being summoned to meet Antony at Laodiceia (B. C. 34) to answer for his share in the fate of Aristobulus, he had left orders with his uncle Josephus, that, if he were condemned, his wife should not be permitted to survive him.
The object of so atrocious a command was to prevent her falling into the hands of Antony, who had conceived a passion for her from the mere sight of her picture, which her mother Alexandra, by the advice of DELLIUS, had sent to him two years before, in the hope of gaining his favour. On Herod's return in safety, his mother Cypros and his sister Salome, whom Mariamne, proud of her descent from the Maccabees, had taunted overbearingly with their inferiority of birth, excited his jealousy by accusing her of improper familiarity with Josephus; and his suspicions were further roused when he found that she was aware of the savage order he had given on his departure, for he thought that such a secret could never have been betrayed by Josephus had she not admitted him to too close an intimacy.
He was on the point of killing her in his fury, but was withheld by his fierce and selfish passion for her, --love we cannot call it,--and vented his revenge on Josephus, whom he put to death, and on Alexandra, whom he imprisoned. In B. C. 30, the year after the battle of Actium, Herod, aware of the danger in which he stood in consequence of his attachment to the cause of Antony, took the bold step of going in person to Octavian at Rhodes, and proffering him the same friendship and fidelity which he had shown to his rival.
But, before his departure, he resolved to secure the royal succession in his own family, and he therefore put to death the aged Hyrcanus, and, having shut up Alexandra and Mariamne in the fortress of Alexandreium, gave orders to Josephus and Soemus, two of his dependants, to slay them if he did not come back in safety. During Herod's absence, this secret command was revealed by Soemus to Mariamne, who accordingly exhibited towards him, on his return, the most marked aversion, and on one occasion went so far as to upbraid him with the murder of her brother and father, or (as perhaps we should rather read) her grandfather. So matters continued for a year, the anger which Herod felt at her conduct being further increased by the instigations of his mother and sister.
At length Salome suborned the royal cup-bearer to state to his master that he had been requested by Mariamne to administer to him in his wine a certain drug, represented by her as a love-potion.
The king, in anger and alarm, caused Mariamne's favourite chamberlain to be examined by torture, under which the man declared that the ground of her aversion to Herod was the information she had received front Soemus of his order for her death. Herod thereupon had Soemus immediately executed and brought Mariamne to trial, entertaining the same suspicion as in the former case of his uncle Josephus of an adulterous connection between them.
He appeared in person as her accuser, and the judges, thinking from his vehemence that nothing short of her death would satisfy him, passed sentence of condemnation against her. Herod, however, was still disposed to spare her life, and to punish her by imprisonment; but his mother and sister, by urging the great probability of an insurrection of the people in flivour of an Asmonean princess, if known to be living in confinement, prevailed on him to order her execution, B. C. 29. (Jos. Ant.
14.12.1, 15.14, 15.2, 3, 6.5, 7, Bell. Jud.
1.12.3, 17.8, 22.) His grief and remorse for her death were excessive, and threw him into a violent and dangerous fever. [HERODES, p. 426.] According to the ordinary reading in Bell. Jud.
1.22.5, we should be led to suppose that Mariamne was put to death on the former suspicion of adultery with Josephus; but there can be no doubt as to the text in that place having been mutilated. For the tower which Herod built at .Jerusalem and called by her name, see Jos. Bell. Jud.
Mariamne's overbearing temper has been noticed above.
That she should have deported herself, however, otherwise than she did towards such a monster as Herod, was not to be expected, and would have been inconsistent with the magnanimity for which Josephus commends her.
She was distinguished by a peculiar grace and dignity of demeanour, and her beauty was of the most fascinating kind.
The praise given her by Josephus for chastity was doubtless well merited in general, and entirely so as far as regards any overt act of sin.
But some deduction, at least, must be made from it, if she countenanced her mother's conduct in sending her portrait to Antony.