The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Herod seeing Rome triumphant made peace with Caesar. But in the meantime he found, or thought he found, that Alexandra was plotting against him, that her husband, Hyrcanus, now eighty years old, was to lead a revolt against him, and he promptly put the old man, his father-in-law, to death by beheading him. This was in the spring of the year B. C. 30. When Caesar passed through Palestine, on his way to Egypt to regulate matters in the Nile valley, Herod entertained him with great magnificence, and provided supplies for the army. In the meantime Antony and Cleopatra spent their last days in feasting and debauchery, trying on slaves different poisons to see which would cause the least painful death, and in the fall of the year B. C. 30, Antony stabbed himself to death, and Cleopatra soon after poisoned herself through the bite of an asp. Thus ended these two lives celebrated in history, song and romance. We have given these details to show the condition of the Roman world at the time of Christ.
For the first time in many years Herod could now settle down to the enjoyment of comparative peace. Augustus took him into his favor, for he wanted just such a man on his eastern borders to act as a bulwark against the Parthians, who were always giving trouble to the empire. Jericho was attached to Herod's kingdom, Samaria was given to him, the coast towns were placed under his jurisdiction, his dominions were extended beyond the Jordan valley, and to complete his glories the four hundred fierce Gauls, who had formed Cleopatra's body guard, were sent by Octavia to serve him. But to gain all these favors from the Roman emperor, Herod was obliged to drain his kingdom to send vast treasures to Rome, and when he visited the emperor he brought with him a groveling demeanor and priceless gifts.
Safe from dangers from outside, Herod now turned to the internal affairs of his kingdom. He found that the quarrels of his harem had come to a head. Mariamne and her mother Alexandra, last of the royal race of the valiant Machabees, had gotten into a great fight with members of his family. Mariamne was tall, beautiful, of noble bearing ; she, heiress of the great family of priest-kings, had the pride of the tribe of Juda, and she made Herod's sister, Salome, feel it. In his last journey to see Octavia, he had given orders for the second time to put Mariamne and Alexandra to death if he did not return. They found this out in his absence, and these two women received Herod with open aversion on his return. The enemies of the queen and of her mother fanned the flames by circulating reports that Mariamne was unfaithful in his absence, and the beautiful queen was handed over to the headsman for execution.
When Herod had cooled down he found that the re ports of her unfaithfulness were false, and his remorse was awful, for he loved the beautiful Jewish queen. For a time he lost his reason, and he would wander over his palace on the Baris rock—where later Pilate lived, and where Christ was tried—calling her from room to room. He used to make the servants call her and act as though she still lived. He gave up all business of the government and retired to Samaria, where he fell into a violent sickness brought on by his sorrow and grief. There for a time he lay between life and death.
Alexandra, filled with fury at the violent death of her daughter, conceived that this was the time to place her two grandsons, heirs of the Machabees, on the throne of their fathers, holding that they had a better right than their own father Herod, for they had the blood of Mariamne their mother, the Machabean, in their veins. A violent plague broke out, and the Rabbis preached that it was a punishment for Mariamne's death. When the news of the revolt traveled to Samaria, the sick tyrant was roused from his bed. This was in the year B. C. 28.
He gave orders and Alexandra with many others implicated in the conspiracy were put to death, while suspicions that his two sons were also guilty took procession of Herod's mind.
Octavus, now sole ruler of the vast Roman empire, who had taken the name* of Augustus Caesar, restored peace throughout the world; the era of the great Latin letters began, trade flourished, the Jewish instinct of business revived, public works began, the beautifying of Rome was pushed, and the vassal kings followed the ex ample of the emperor and beautified their capitals. Herod, safe now from both external and internal troubles, followed his patron and encouraged men of letters, such as the two brothers Nicolas and Ptolemy of Damascus. The latter wrote a History of the World in 144 volumes, which closed with the life of Augustus. It was the source from which Josephus drew most of his information regarding Herod's reign. He also composed a Drama on the History of Susanna, which was acted in a theater Herod had built in Jerusalem. He also published geographical books and a Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics. Herod placed Greeks, or half-Greeks, in positions of trust and honor, sent them as ambassadors to other courts, or made them tutors to his sons. But one of these, named Euryeles, the Lacedemonian, a bold crafty man, had become very rich by doubtful means, and in later years he became the evil genius of Herod's court. The biting wit of the Rabbis called the men of the court and the whole government: " The proselytes of the king's table."