The Antiquities of the Jews, 17.83–17.145

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 17.61–17.82 | J. AJ 17.83–17.145 | J. AJ 17.146–17.181 | About This Work »

831. Now Herod, upon Antipater’s writing to him, that having done all that he was to do, and this in the manner he was to do it, he would suddenly come to him, concealed his anger against him, and wrote back to him, and bid him not delay his journey, lest any harm should befall himself in his absence. At the same time also he made some little complaint about his mother, but promised that he would lay those complaints aside when he should return. 84He withal expressed his entire affection for him, as fearing lest he should have some suspicion of him, and defer his journey to him; and lest, while he lived at Rome, he should lay plots for the kingdom, and, moreover, do somewhat against himself. 85This letter Antipater met with in Cilicia; but had received an account of Pheroras’s death before at Tarentum. This last news affected him deeply; not out of any affection for Pheroras, but because he was dead without having murdered his father, which he had promised him to do. 86And when he was at Celenderis in Cilicia, he began to deliberate with himself about his sailing home, as being much grieved with the ejection of his mother. Now some of his friends advised him that he should tarry a while some where, in expectation of further information. But others advised him to sail home without delay; for that if he were once come thither, he would soon put an end to all accusations, and that nothing afforded any weight to his accusers at present but his absence. 87He was persuaded by these last, and sailed on, and landed at the haven called Sebastus, which Herod had built at vast expenses in honor of Caesar, and called Sebastus. 88And now was Antipater evidently in a miserable condition, while nobody came to him nor saluted him, as they did at his going away, with good wishes of joyful acclamations; nor was there now any thing to hinder them from entertaining him, on the contrary, with bitter curses, while they supposed he was come to receive his punishment for the murder of his brethren.

892. Now Quintilius Varus was at this time at Jerusalem, being sent to succeed Saturninus as president of Syria, and was come as an assessor to Herod, who had desired his advice in his present affairs; 90and as they were sitting together, Antipater came upon them, without knowing any thing of the matter; so he came into the palace clothed in purple. The porters indeed received him in, but excluded his friends. 91And now he was in great disorder, and presently understood the condition he was in, while, upon his going to salute his father, he was repulsed by him, who called him a murderer of his brethren, and a plotter of destruction against himself, and told him that Varus should be his auditor and his judge the very next day; 92so he found that what misfortunes he now heard of were already upon him, with the greatness of which he went away in confusion; upon which his mother and his wife met him, (which wife was the daughter of Antigonus, who was king of the Jews before Herod,) from whom he learned all circumstances which concerned him, and then prepared himself for his trial.

933. On the next day Varus and the king sat together in judgment, and both their friends were also called in, as also the king’s relations, with his sister Salome, and as many as could discover any thing, and such as had been tortured; and besides these, some slaves of Antipater’s mother, who were taken up a little before Antipater’s coming, and brought with them a written letter, the sum of which was this: That he should not come back, because all was come to his father’s knowledge; and that Caesar was the only refuge he had left to prevent both his and her delivery into his father’s hands. 94Then did Antipater fall down at his father’s feet, and besought him not to prejudge his cause, but that he might be first heard by his father, and that his father would keep himself unprejudiced. So Herod ordered him to be brought into the midst, and then lamented himself about his children, from whom he had suffered such great misfortunes; and because Antipater fell upon him in his old age. He also reckoned up what maintenance and what education he had given them; and what seasonable supplies of wealth he had afforded them, according to their own desires; 95none of which favors had hindered them from contriving against him, and from bringing his very life into danger, in order to gain his kingdom, after an impious manner, by taking away his life before the course of nature, their father’s wishes, or justice required that that kingdom should come to them; 96and that he wondered what hopes could elevate Antipater to such a pass as to be hardy enough to attempt such things; that he had by his testament in writing declared him his successor in the government; and while he was alive, he was in no respect inferior to him, either in his illustrious dignity, or in power and authority, he having no less than fifty talents for his yearly income, and had received for his journey to Rome no fewer than thirty talents. 97He also objected to him the case of his brethren whom he had accused; and if they were guilty, he had imitated their example; and if not, he had brought him groundless accusations against his near relations; 98for that he had been acquainted with all those things by him, and by nobody else, and had done what was done by his approbation, and whom he now absolved from all that was criminal, by becoming the inheritor of the guilt of such their parricide.

994. When Herod had thus spoken, he fell aweeping, and was not able to say any more; but at his desire Nicolaus of Damascus, being the king’s friend, and always conversant with him, and acquainted with whatsoever he did, and with the circumstances of his affairs, proceeded to what remained, and explained all that concerned the demonstrations and evidences of the facts. 100Upon which Antipater, in order to make his legal defense, turned himself to his father, and enlarged upon the many indications he had given of his good-will to him; and instanced in the honors that had been done him, which yet had not been done, had he not deserved them by his virtuous concern about him; 101for that he had made provision for every thing that was fit to be foreseen beforehand, as to giving him his wisest advice; and whenever there was occasion for the labor of his own hands, he had not grudged any such pains for him. And that it was almost impossible that he, who had delivered his father from so many treacherous contrivances laid against him, should be himself in a plot against him, and so lose all the reputation he had gained for his virtue, by his wickedness which succeeded it; 102and this while he had nothing to prohibit him, who was already appointed his successor, to enjoy the royal honor with his father also at present; and that there was no likelihood that a person who had the one half of that authority without any danger, and with a good character, should hunt after the whole with infamy and danger, and this when it was doubtful whether he could obtain it or not; and when he saw the sad example of his brethren before him, and was both the informer and the accuser against them, at a time when they might not otherwise have been discovered; nay, was the author of the punishment inflicted upon them, when it appeared evidently that they were guilty of a wicked attempt against their father; 103and that even the contentions there were in the king’s family were indications that he had ever managed affairs out of the sincerest affection to his father. And as to what he had done at Rome, Caesar was a witness thereto, who yet was no more to be imposed upon than God himself; 104of whose opinions his letters sent hither are sufficient evidence; and that it was not reasonable to prefer the calumnies of such as proposed to raise disturbances before those letters; the greatest part of which calumnies had been raised during his absence, which gave scope to his enemies to forge them, which they had not been able to do if he had been there. 105Moreover he showed the weakness of the evidence obtained by torture, which was commonly false, because the distress men are in under such tortures naturally obliges them to say many things in order to please those that govern them. He also offered himself to the torture.

1065. Hereupon there was a change observed in the assembly, while they greatly pitied Antipater, who by weeping and putting on a countenance suitable to his sad case made them commiserate the same, insomuch that his very enemies were moved to compassion; and it appeared plainly that Herod himself was affected in his own mind, although he was not willing it should be taken notice of. Then did Nicolaus begin to prosecute what the king had begun, and that with great bitterness; and summed up all the evidence which arose from the tortures, or from the testimonies. 107He principally and largely cried up the king’s virtues, which he had exhibited in the maintenance and education of his sons; while he never could gain any advantage thereby, but still fell from one misfortune to another. 108Although he owned that he was not so much surprised with that thoughtless behavior of his former sons, who were but young, and were besides corrupted by wicked counselors, who were the occasion of their wiping out of their minds the righteous dictates of nature, and this out of a desire of coming to the government sooner than they ought to do; 109yet that he could not but justly stand amazed at the horrid wickedness of Antipater, who, although he had not only had great benefits bestowed on him by his father, enough to tame his reason, yet could not be more tamed than the most envenomed serpents; whereas even those creatures admit of some mitigation, and will not bite their benefactors, while Antipater hath not let the misfortunes of his brethren be any hinderance to him, but he hath gone on to imitate their barbarity notwithstanding. 110“Yet wast thou, O Antipater! (as thou hast thyself confessed,) the informer as to what wicked actions they had done, and the searcher out of the evidence against them, and the author of the punishment they underwent upon their detection. Nor do we say this as accusing thee for being so zealous in thy anger against them, but are astonished at thy endeavors to imitate their profligate behavior; and we discover thereby that thou didst not act thus for the safety of thy father, but for the destruction of thy brethren, that by such outside hatred of their impiety thou mightest be believed a lover of thy father, and mightest thereby get thee power enough to do mischief with the greatest impunity; which design thy actions indeed demonstrate. 111It is true, thou tookest thy brethren off, because thou didst convict theft of their wicked designs; but thou didst not yield up to justice those who were their partners; and thereby didst make it evident to all men that thou madest a covenant with them against thy father, when thou chosest to be the accuser of thy brethren, 112as desirous to gain to thyself alone this advantage of laying plots to kill thy father, and so to enjoy double pleasure, which is truly worthy of thy evil disposition, which thou has openly showed against thy brethren; on which account thou didst rejoice, as having done a most famous exploit, nor was that behavior unworthy of thee. But if thy intention were otherwise, thou art worse than they: 113while thou didst contrive to hide thy treachery against thy father, thou didst hate them, not as plotters against thy father, for in that case thou hadst not thyself fallen upon the like crime, but as successors of his dominions, and more worthy of that succession than thyself. 114Thou wouldst kill thy father after thy brethren, lest thy lies raised against them might be detected; and lest thou shouldst suffer what punishment thou hadst deserved, thou hadst a mind to exact that punishment of thy unhappy father, and didst devise such a sort of uncommon parricide as the world never yet saw. 115For thou who art his son didst not only lay a treacherous design against thy father, and didst it while he loved thee, and had been thy benefactor, had made thee in reality his partner in the kingdom, and had openly declared thee his successor, while thou wast not forbidden to taste the sweetness of authority already, and hadst the firm hope of what was future by thy father’s determination, and the security of a written testament; 116but, for certain, thou didst not measure these things according to thy father’s various disposition, but according to thy own thoughts and inclinations; and was desirous to take the part that remained away from thy too indulgent father, and soughtest to destroy him with thy deeds, whom thou in words pretendedst to preserve. 117Nor wast thou content to be wicked thyself, but thou filledst thy mother’s head with thy devices, and raised disturbances among thy brethren, and hadst the boldness to call thy father a wild beast; while thou hadst thyself a mind more cruel than any serpent, whence thou sentest out that poison among thy nearest kindred and greatest benefactors, and invitedst them to assist thee and guard thee, and didst hedge thyself in on all sides, by the artifices of both men and women, against an old man, as though that mind of thine was not sufficient of itself to support so great a hatred as thou baredst to him. 118And here thou appearest, after the tortures of free-men, of domestics, of men and women, which have been examined on thy account, and after the informations of thy fellowconspirators, as making haste to contradict the truth; and hast thought on ways not only how to take thy father out of the world, but to disannul that written law which is against thee, and the virtue of Varus, and the nature of justice; 119nay, such is that impudence of thine on which thou confidest, that thou desirest to be put to the torture thyself, while thou allegest that the tortures of those already examined thereby have made them tell lies; that those that have been the deliverers of thy father may not be allowed to have spoken the truth; but that thy tortures may be esteemed the discoverers of truth. Wilt not thou, O Varus! deliver the king from the injuries of his kindred? 120Wilt not thou destroy this wicked wild beast, which hath pretended kindness to his father, in order to destroy his brethren; while yet he is himself alone ready to carry off the kingdom immediately, and appears to be the most bloody butcher to him of them all? for thou art sensible that parricide is a general injury both to nature and to common life, and that the intention of parricide is not inferior to its perpetration; and he who does not punish it is injurious to nature itself.”

1216. Nicolaus added further what belonged to Antipater’s mother, and whatsoever she had prattled like a woman; as also about the predictions and the sacrifices relating to the king; and whatsoever Antipater had done lasciviously in his cups and his amours among Pheroras’s women; the examination upon torture; and whatsoever concerned the testimonies of the witnesses, which were many, and of various kinds; some prepared beforehand, and others were sudden answers, which further declared and confirmed the foregoing evidence. 122For those men who were not acquainted with Antipater’s practices, but had concealed them out of fear, when they saw that he was exposed to the accusations of the former witnesses, and that his great good fortune, which had supported him hitherto, had now evidently betrayed him into the hands of his enemies, who were now insatiable in their hatred to him, told all they knew of him. 123And his ruin was now hastened, not so much by the enmity of those that were his accusers, as by his gross, and impudent, and wicked contrivances, and by his ill-will to his father and his brethren; while he had filled their house with disturbance, and caused them to murder one another; and was neither fair in his hatred, nor kind in his friendship, but just so far as served his own turn. 124Now there were a great number who for a long time beforehand had seen all this, and especially such as were naturally disposed to judge of matters by the rules of virtue, because they were used to determine about affairs without passion, but had been restrained from making any open complaints before; these, upon the leave now given them, produced all that they knew before the public. 125The demonstrations also of these wicked facts could no way be disproved, because the many witnesses there were did neither speak out of favor to Herod, nor were they obliged to keep what they had to say silent, out of suspicion of any danger they were in; but they spake what they knew, because they thought such actions very wicked, and that Antipater deserved the greatest punishment; and indeed not so much for Herod’s safety, as on account of the man’s own wickedness. 126Many things were also said, and those by a great number of persons, who were no way obliged to say them, insomuch that Antipater, who used generally to be very shrewd in his lies and impudence, was not able to say one word to the contrary. 127When Nicolaus had left off speaking, and had produced the evidence, Varus bid Antipater to betake himself to the making his defense, if he had prepared any thing whereby it might appear that he was not guilty of the crimes he was accused of; for that, as he was himself desirous, so did he know that his father was in like manner desirous also, to have him found entirely innocent. 128But Antipater fell down on his face, and appealed to God and to all men for testimonials of his innocency, desiring that God would declare, by some evident signals, that he had not laid any plot against his father. 129This being the usual method of all men destitute of virtue, that when they set about any wicked undertakings, they fall to work according to their own inclinations, as if they believed that God was unconcerned in human affairs; but when once they are found out, and are in danger of undergoing the punishment due to their crimes, they endeavor to overthrow all the evidence against them by appealing to God; 130which was the very thing which Antipater now did; for whereas he had done everything as if there were no God in the world, when he was on all sides distressed by justice, and when he had no other advantage to expect from any legal proofs, by which he might disprove the accusations laid against him, he impudently abused the majesty of God, and ascribed it to his power that he had been preserved hitherto; and produced before them all what difficulties he had ever undergone in his bold acting for his father’s preservation.

1317. So when Varus, upon asking Antipater what he had to say for himself, found that he had nothing to say besides his appeal to God, and saw that there was no end of that, he bid them bring the potion before the court, that he might see what virtue still remained in it; 132and when it was brought, and one that was condemned to die had drank it by Varus’s command, he died presently. Then Varus got up, and departed out of the court, and went away the day following to Antioch, where his usual residence was, because that was the palace of the Syrians; upon which Herod laid his son in bonds. 133But what were Varus’s discourses to Herod was not known to the generality, and upon what words it was that he went away; though it was also generally supposed that whatsoever Herod did afterward about his son was done with his approbation. But when Herod had bound his son, he sent letters to Rome to Caesar about him, and such messengers withal as should, by word of mouth, inform Caesar of Antipater’s wickedness. 134Now at this very time there was seized a letter of Antiphilus, written to Antipater out of Egypt (for he lived there); and when it was opened by the king, it was found to contain what follows: “I have sent thee Acme’s letter, and hazarded my own life; for thou knowest that I am in danger from two families, if I be discovered. 135I wish thee good success in thy affair.” These were the contents of this letter; but the king made inquiry about the other letter also, for it did not appear; and Antiphilus’s slave, who brought that letter which had been read, denied that he had received the other. 136But while the king was in doubt about it, one of Herod’s friends seeing a seam upon the inner coat of the slave, and a doubling of the cloth, (for he had two coats on,) he guessed that the letter might be within that doubling; which accordingly proved to be true. 137So they took out the letter, and its contents were these: “Acme to Antipater. I have written such a letter to thy father as thou desiredst me. I have also taken a copy and sent it, as if it came from Salome, to my lady [Livia]; which, when thou readest, I know that Herod Will punish Salome, as plotting against him?’ 138Now this pretended letter of Salome to her lady was composed by Antipater, in the name of Salome, as to its meaning, but in the words of Acme. 139The letter was this: ‘Acme to king Herod. I have done my endeavor that nothing that is done against thee should be concealed from thee. So, upon my finding a letter of Salome written to my lady against thee, I have written out a copy, and sent it to thee; with hazard to myself, but for thy advantage.’ The reason why she wrote it was this, that she had a mind to be married to Sylleus. Do thou therefore tear this letter in pieces, that I may not come into danger of my life.” 140Now Acme had written to Antipater himself, and informed him, that, in compliance with his command, she had both herself written to Herod, as if Salome had laid a sudden plot entirely against him, and had herself sent a copy of an epistle, as coming from Salome to her lady. 141Now Acme was a Jew by birth, and a servant to Julia, Caesar’s wife; and did this out of her friendship for Antipater, as having been corrupted by him with a large present of money, to assist in his pernicious designs against his father and his aunt.

1428. Hereupon Herod was so amazed at the prodigious wickedness of Antipater, that he was ready to have ordered him to be slain immediately, as a turbulent person in the most important concerns, and as one that had laid a plot not only against himself, but against his sister also, and even corrupted Caesar’s own domestics. Salome also provoked him to it, beating her breast, and bidding him kill her, if he could produce any credible testimony that she had acted in that manner. 143Herod also sent for his son, and asked him about this matter, and bid him contradict it if he could, and not suppress any thing he had to say for himself; and when he had not one word to say, he asked him, since he was every way caught in his villainy, that he would make no further delay, but discover his associates in these his wicked designs. 144So he laid all upon Antiphilus, but discovered nobody else. Hereupon Herod was in such great grief, that he was ready to send his son to Rome to Caesar, there to give an account of these his wicked contrivances. 145But he soon became afraid, lest he might there, by the assistance of his friends, escape the danger he was in; so he kept him bound as before, and sent more ambassadors and letters [to Rome] to accuse his son, and an account of what assistance Acme had given him in his wicked designs, with copies of the epistles before mentioned.

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