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"The Wars of the Jews" by
Josephus Flavius

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  Josephus Flavius: The Jewish Wars




Book I: Chapter 30

WHEN HEROD MADE INQUIRY ABOUT PHERORAS’S DEATH A DISCOVERY WAS MADE THAT ANTIPATER HAD PREPARED A POISONOUS DRAUGHT FOR HIM. HEROD CASTS DORIS AND HER ACCOMPLICES, AS ALSO MARIAMNE, OUT OF THE PALACE AND BLOTS HER SON HEROD OUT OF HIS TESTAMENT. 1. BUT now the punishment was transferred unto the original author, Antipater, and took its rise from the death of Pheroras; for certain of his freed-men came with a sad countenance to the king, and told him that his brother had been destroyed by poison, and that his wife had brought him somewhat that was prepared after an unusual manner, and that, upon his eating it, he presently fell into his distemper; that Antipater’s mother and sister, two days before, brought a woman out of Arabia that was skillful in mixing such drugs, that she might prepare a love potion for Pheroras; and that instead of a love potion, she had given him deadly poison; and that this was done by the management of Sylleus, who was acquainted with that woman.

2. The king was deeply affected with so many suspicions, and had themaid-servants and some of the free women also tortured; one of which cried out in her agonies, “May that God that governs the earth and the heaven punish this author of all these our miseries, Antipater’s mother!” The king took a handle from this confession, and proceeded to inquire further into the truth of the matter. So this woman discovered the friendship of Antipater’s mother to Pheroras, and Antipater’s women, as also their secret meetings, and that Pheroras and Antipater had drunk with them for a whole night together as they returned from the king, and would not suffer any body, either man-servant or maidservant, to be there; while one of the free women discovered the matter.

3. Upon this Herod tortured the maid-servants every on by themselvesseparately, who all unanimously agreed in the foregoing discoveries, and that accordingly by agreement they went away, Antipater to Rome, and

Pheroras to Perea; for that they oftentimes talked to one another thus: That after Herod had slain Alexander and Aristobulus, he would fall upon them, and upon their wives, because, after he Mariamne and her children he would spare nobody; and that for this reason it was best to get as far off the wild beast as they were able: — and that Antipater oftentimes lamented his own case before his mother, and said to her, that he had already gray hairs upon his head, and that his father grew younger again every day, and that perhaps death would overtake him before he should begin to be a king in earnest; and that in case Herod should die, which yet nobody knew when it would be, the enjoyment of the succession could certainly be but for a little time; for that these heads of Hydra, the sons of Alexander and Aristobulus, were growing up: that he was deprived by his father of the hopes of being succeeded by his children, for that his successor after his death was not to be any one of his own sons, but Herod the son of Mariamne: that in this point Herod was plainly distracted, to think that his testament should therein take place; for he would take care that not one of his posterity should remain, because he was of all fathers the greatest hater of his children. Yet does he hate his brother still worse; whence it was that he a while ago gave himself a hundred talents, that he should not have any intercourse with Pheroras. And when Pheroras said, Wherein have we done him any harm? Antipater replied, “I wish he would but deprive us of all we have, and leave us naked and alive only; but it is indeed impossible to escape this wild beast, who is thus given to murder, who will not permit us to love any person openly, although we be together privately; yet may we be so openly too, if we have but the courage and the hands of men.”

4. These things were said by the women upon the torture; as also thatPheroras resolved to fly with them to Perea. Now Herod gave credit to all they said, on account of the affair of the hundred talents; for he had no discourse with any body about them, but only with Antipater. So he vented his anger first of all against Antipater’s mother, and took away from her all the ornaments which he had given her, which cost a great many talents, and cast her out of the palace a second time. He also took care of Pheroras’s women after their tortures, as being now reconciled to them; but he was in great consternation himself, and inflamed upon every

suspicion, and had many innocent persons led to the torture, out of his fear lest he should leave any guilty person untortured.

5. And now it was that he betook himself to examine Antipater of Samaria,who was the steward of [his son] Antipater; and upon torturing him, he learned that Antipater had sent for a potion of deadly poison for him out of Egypt, by Antiphilus, a companion of his; that Theudio, the uncle of Antipater, had it from him, and delivered it to Pheroras; for that Antipater had charged him to take his father off while he was at Rome, and so free him from the suspicion of doing it himself: that Pheroras also committed this potion to his wife. Then did the king send for her, and bid her bring to him what she had received immediately. So she came out of her house as if she would bring it with her, but threw herself down from the top of the house, in order to prevent any examination and torture from the king. However, it came to pass, as it seems by the providence of God, when he intended to bring Antipater to punishment, that she fell not upon her head, but upon other parts of her body, and escaped. The king, when she was brought to him, took care of her, (for she was at first quite senseless upon her fall,) and asked her why she had thrown herself down; and gave her his oath, that if she would speak the real truth, he would excuse her from punishment; but that if she concealed any thing, he would have her body torn to pieces by torments, and leave no part. of it to be buried.

6. Upon this the woman paused a little, and then said, “Why do I spare tospeak of these grand secrets, now Pheroras is dead? that would only tend to save Antipater, who is all our destruction. Hear then, O king, and be thou, and God himself, who cannot be deceived, witnesses to the truth of what I am going to say. When thou didst sit weeping by Pheroras as he was dying, then it was that he called me to him, and said, My dear wife, I have been greatly mistaken as to the disposition of my brother towards me, and have hated him that is so affectionate to me, and have contrived to kill him who is in such disorder for me before I am dead. As for myself, I receive the recompence of my impiety; but do thou bring what poison was left with us by Antipater, and which thou keepest in order to destroy him, and consume it immediately in the fire in my sight, that I may not be liable to the avenger in the invisible world.” This I brought as he bid me, and emptied the greatest part of it into the fire, but reserved a little of it for my own use against uncertain futurity, and out of my fear of thee.”

7. When she had said this, she brought the box, which had a small quantityof this potion in it: but the king let her alone, and transferred the tortures to Antiphilus’s mother and brother; who both confessed that Antiphilus brought the box out of Egypt, and that they had received the potion from a brother of his, who was a physician at Alexandria. Then did the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus go round all the palace, and became the inquisitors and discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out and brought such as were the freest from suspicion to be examined; whereby it was discovered that Mariamne, the high priest’s daughter, was conscious of this plot; and her very brothers, when they were tortured, declared it so to be. Whereupon the king avenged this insolent attempt of the mother upon her son, and blotted Herod, whom he had by her, out of his treament, who had been before named therein as successor to Antipater.