The Antiquities of the Jews, 17.324–17.338

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 17.299–17.323 | J. AJ 17.324–17.338 | J. AJ 17.339–18.0 | About This Work »

3241. When these affairs had been thus settled by Caesar, a certain young man, by birth a Jew, but brought up by a Roman freed-man in the city Sidon, ingrafted himself into the kindred of Herod, by the resemblance of his countenance, which those that saw him attested to be that of Alexander, the son of Herod, whom he had slain; 325and this was an incitement to him to endeavor to obtain the government; so he took to him as an assistant a man of his own country, (one that was well acquainted with the affairs of the palace, but, on other accounts, an ill man, and one whose nature made him capable of causing great disturbances to the public, and one that became a teacher of such a mischievous contrivance to the other,) 326and declared himself to be Alexander, and the son of Herod, but stolen away by one of those that were sent to slay him, who, in reality, slew other men, in order to deceive the spectators, but saved both him and his brother Aristobulus. 327Thus was this man elated, and able to impose on those that came to him; and when he was come to Crete, he made all the Jews that came to discourse with him believe him [to be Alexander]. And when he had gotten much money which had been presented to him there, he passed over to Melos, where he got much more money than he had before, out of the belief they had that he was of the royal family, and their hopes that he would recover his father’s principality, and reward his benefactors; 328so he made haste to Rome, and was conducted thither by those strangers who entertained him. He was also so fortunate, as, upon his landing at Dicearchia, to bring the Jews that were there into the same delusion; and not only other people, but also all those that had been great with Herod, or had a kindness for him, joined themselves to this man as to their king. 329The cause of it was this, that men were glad of his pretenses, which were seconded by the likeness of his countenance, which made those that had been acquainted with Alexander strongly to believe that he was no other but the very same person, which they also confirmed to others by oath; 330insomuch that when the report went about him that he was coming to Rome, the whole multitude of the Jews that were there went out to meet him, ascribing it to Divine Providence that he had so unexpectedly escaped, and being very joyful on account of his mother’s family. And when he was come, he was carried in a royal litter through the streets; 331and all the ornaments about him were such as kings are adorned withal; and this was at the expense of those that entertained him. The multitude also flocked about him greatly, and made mighty acclamations to him, and nothing was omitted which could be thought suitable to such as had been so unexpectedly preserved.

3322. When this thing was told Caesar, he did not believe it, because Herod was not easily to be imposed upon in such affairs as were of great concern to him; yet, having some suspicion it might be so, he sent one Celadus, a freed-man of his, and one that had conversed with the young men themselves, and bade him bring Alexander into his presence; so he brought him, being no more accurate in judging about him than the rest of the multitude. 333Yet did not he deceive Caesar; for although there was a resemblance between him and Alexander, yet was it not so exact as to impose on such as were prudent in discerning; for this spurious Alexander had his hands rough, by the labors he had been put to and instead of that softness of body which the other had, and this as derived from his delicate and generous education, this man, for the contrary reason, had a rugged body. 334When, therefore, Caesar saw how the master and the scholar agreed in this lying story, and in a bold way of talking, he inquired about Aristobulus, and asked what became of him who [it seems] was stolen away together with him, and for what reason it was that he did not come along with him, and endeavor to recover that dominion which was due to his high birth also. 335And when he said that he had been left in the isle of Crete, for fear of the dangers of the sea, that, in case any accident should come to himself, the posterity of Mariamne might not utterly perish, but that Aristobulus might survive, and punish those that laid such treacherous designs against them; 336and when he persevered in his affirmations, and the author of the imposture agreed in supporting it, Caesar took the young man by himself, and said to him, “If thou wilt not impose upon me, thou shalt have this for thy reward, that thou shalt escape with thy life; tell me, then, who thou art, and who it was that had boldness enough to contrive such a cheat as this. For this contrivance is too considerable a piece of villainy to be undertaken by one of thy age.” 337Accordingly, because he had no other way to take, he told Caesar the contrivance, and after what manner and by whom it was laid together. So Caesar, upon observing the spurious Alexander to be a strong active man, and fit to work with his hands, that he might not break his promise to him, put him among those that were to row among the mariners, but slew him that induced him to do what he had done; 338for as for the people of Melos, he thought them sufficiently punished, in having thrown away so much of their money upon this spurious Alexander. And such was the ignominious conclusion of this bold contrivance about the spurious Alexander.

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