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A book by Rich Van Winkle

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 Jesus and the Chalcis Connection

(Remaining pictures to be re-formatted... see download version)

As has often been the case in pursuit of the real Jesus, the quest takes an unexpected turn with a simple oddity: “And from there Jesus arose and went to the borders of Tyre and Sidon… Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region (or “territory”) of the Decapolis.” (Mark 7:24). Since we have reason to believe that the Tyrians were notoriously bitter enemies of the Jews (Josephus, “Against Apion” 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191) and since the gospel writers specifically mention Sidon, we have clear indication that the group went well beyond northern Galilee. We should wonder why they would go to Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24, 31).

A proper translation (as above) reads that Jesus and his group went to the region bordering Tyre and Sidon – a region that included northern Galilee and the area just north of Galilee properly referred to as Chalcis. If you’ve never heard of Chalcis, you’re definitely not alone. Because it is not mentioned specifically in the NT, it would seem unimportant in the life of Jesus. And, if one limits their historical data to the accounts of Josephus, it would be easy to miss the significance of Chalcis. However, closer examination reveals both greater historical significance than commonly thought and meaningfulness in the story of Jesus.

(The region that was known as Chalcis varied over time, but generally included the areas shown here in red)

“Chalcis” is a name most commonly associated with the city on the Greek island of Euboea but was also used to name an area including the “Anti-Lebanon” between the coastal region of Phoenicia and Syria. The name was also used to reference a city/state within the region and another more northerly area (aka Chalcis ad Belum). In various references at different times it included territories reaching from the Mediterranean Sea to Damascus, from Galilee to Emessa and included the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, the region later known as Abilene, the Anti-Lebanese Mountains, the Litani River, the Orontes River, and the upper Jordan River. In some references, it is synonymous with or confused with Iturea.

The early history of the region is very odd, as is most evident in the remains at Baalbek. The origin of the incredible temples there remains unknown, but it is clear that they pre-date “Chalcis” by thousands of years. It is said that after the collapse of the region under the so called "Peoples of the Sea" (Phoenicians?) that Ramses III (~ 1200 BCE) built a temple to the god Amen in “Pa-Canaan”. This was likely built upon a platform that was already ancient[1]. The pleasant and fertile Beqaa valley was home to a thriving population during the bronze and iron ages and seemed to have an unusually large collection of religious sites. Local tradition holds that Jeroboam, who had built the original Jewish Temple for Solomon, built a “house of high places” at “Aven” (the equivalent of “On” – as in Heliopolis in Egypt). This new temple was built to surpass the temple of Jerusalem and become the gathering place of the Ten Tribes or Northern Kingdom of Israel. It is also local legend that Micah, the oracle/prophet, was still active in the days of Jeremiah and taught at this Temple[2].

The relevant history of Chalcis begins during the time of David and the “Great Divide”. Chalcis was a region occupied by the Hebrews and was part of the “United Kingdom” of Israel: a fertile and prosperous region of Hammath and Zobah separating the great empires of Phoenicia and Aram (then becoming the Neo-Assyrian Empire). But the Hebrews arrived in the region to find astonishing relics of earlier peoples who had built temples and structures that defy modern understanding (as below). Those peoples worshiped the god Baal (a title for Hadad, son of El) and at “first the name Baʿal was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baʿal was given up by the Israelites as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaʿal were changed to Jerubbosheth” (in Hebrew bosheth means "shame").[3]

As told within Part One of Book One, the United Kingdom of Israel was mostly dissolved with the Assyrian invasions in the 8th century BCE. The region was held through five centuries by a succession of major powers until Alexander the Great gained it in 333 BCE. With his death in 323, it became part of the Seleucid Empire. King Antiochus III married Princess Laodice of Pontus and one of their daughters was Cleopatra (I). Antiochus also married Euboea of Chalcis (the Greek city on the island of Euboea)[4] with whom he had a daughter. This is likely the source of the name Chalcis for the region of the Bekaa valley within the Seleucid Empire (perhaps as a wedding gift/dowry).

Chalcis contained several other prominent cities and centers. Among its regions/cities were Abila (Abilene), Baalbek[5], Apamene, Dan, Daphne, Ulatha, Chalcis, Hamath (north)[6], Emessa, and Kadesh. Its well-known regional centers included northern Hulah, northern Galilee, Panias, Hormon, Perea, and others.

Baalbek/Heliopolis was a major religious and cult center within Chalcis and a very wealthy priesthood controlled the area. Two centuries after Antiochas and Laodice, the priesthood of Chalcis yielded the High Priest Ptolemy Mennæus[7], founder of a dynasty which became involved with the family of Jesus. That story is complex and convoluted. It is also obscure. Luckily, we have enough pieces of the puzzle to add significant new images to the region’s history and to the life of Jesus. Here are the key pieces:

  1. P. Mennaeus (ruled from ~95 to 40 BCE)[8]; his stature is indicated by:

a)      His lineage (he had royal blood from both the Davidic and Ptolemaic lines).

b)      His wives: the 1st was Arsinoe (not the IV), the youngest daughter of Ptolemy Soter II; the 2ndwas Alexandra (III), the Hasmonean daughter of Aristobulus II (making her the sister of Antingonus II).

c)       He captured and held Damascus and part of Galilee during his reign. He was said to have 8,000 horsemen which he paid for himself[9] and his archers were highly respected.

d)      At one point, he led an alliance between the Judeans, the Nabateans, and Chalcians against the Seleucids (as below).

e)      When Pompey (then a Roman General) captured Syria for the Romans in 63 BCE, Ptolemy retained his throne by paying a thousand talents to Pompey (which was used to pay the wages of his soldiers. (Ant. 14.38-9).

f)       Later that year, when Aristobulus II (King of Judea) was captured by the Romans, his youngest son, Antigonus II Mattathias, and two daughters, Alexandria II and Selene, were sent to P. Mennaeus for safekeeping. (He married Alexandria and she bore his successor, Lysanias). (Ant. xiv. 7, § 4; B. J. i. 9, § 2).

g)      Coins from his reign indicate that he was both "Tetrarch and High Priest".[10]

h)      His legacy (he founded a short, but influential dynasty).

It seems apparent that the national Jewish party at that time (aka “Zealots” and others) depended on Chalcis in many ways. The following statement supports this: "On the 17th of Adar danger threatened the rest of the 'Soferim' in the city of Chalcis, and it was salvation for Israel" (Meg. Ta'an. xii.). Josephus notes that Chalcians played a notable role in the defense of Jerusalem. (Ant. 13.9.1). And, there are several historical references which prove that Chalcis was much more than Josephus wants us to think[11].

Ptolemy Menneus of Chalcis

                                                               (via Alexandra dau Alexander Janneus)


                                           |                                                                     |

                              Lysichias/Lysanias                                        Mariamne of Chalcis

                                 (via H. Princess[12])                            (via Soemus[13] of Iturea = his 1st wife)    

                                           |                                                                     |

                                    Zenodorus                                                       Mamaea II[14]


                                    Lysanias II





The Relevant Chronology:

During the reign of John Hyrcanus (Judea: 134-104 BCE), the Judeans sought to expand their territory (especially after the death of the Seleucid Antiochus Sidetes). By raiding the tomb of David and stealing 3000 talents, Hyrcanus hired a mercenary army. In 112 BCE Hyrcanus conquered Idumea and forcibly “converted” them to Judaism[15], thereby setting the stage for later domination by the Idumeans (e.g. Herod). Then he moved against Samaria (~110 BCE) destroying the Jewish Temple at Mount Gerizim. He placed many of the Samarians[16] into slavery (violating Jewish law) and created animosity and hatred that have endured since. Finally, Hyrcanus sought to bring certain Hellenized regions of southern Galilee under his control and attempted to “convert them to Judaism”[17], however the Chalcians stopped him.

With the death of Hyrcanus, his son Alexander Jannaeus (aka Yannai or Jannai), continued military expansionism. During this period there emerged a military alliance which brought together the Judeans, Idumaeans, Galileans, and Chalcians as the “loudaioi”. It also seems that this “League of loudaioi” was given an official position associated with the High Priest[18]. This alliance later expanded and mutated to include the Nabateans. During that same period, the civil war in Syria split the Seleucids and opened the door for outside forces to eat away at the Hellenistic kingdom. Antiochus IX Eusebes (aka Cyzicenus), the son of Antiochus VII Sidetes and Cleopatra Thea, sought to reclaim the throne  from his half-brother Antiochus VIII Grypus in 116 BCE. Together, Cyzicenus and Grypus managed to reduce the Syrian kingdom to a few fortified cities and the regional tribes of Chalcis began to unite as independent city-states.

During this period Chalcis was known for its many temples and the Temple of Heliopolis (aka Baalbeck) was the most prosperous and prominent. Because this temple is central to the history of Chalcis, we should take a moment and review its history.

The early history of the Baalbek Temple is best told with a picture…

Look closely to find the two men standing just right of the center and you will get a sense of the scale. The large monoliths below these men are the largest worked stones ever created and moved by humans. But we simply have no idea who put them there. (Others, who we can identify, placed the other massive and smaller stones on top of the monoliths). As one writer aptly suggested: “It is as if some mysterious people brought the mighty blocks and placed them at the feet and in front of the snow-capped Lebanon, and went away unnoticed.”[19] Tradition holds that it wasn’t people who placed the stones and the fact that even today we lack the ability to move such stones might point to a “supernatural” source. What we think matters little – the people of Jesus’ time could only imagine one source for such work – God.

While there were other amazing works or “wonders” of the time, people knew that other people had created them. Such was uniquely not the case with the Temple of Baalbek[20]. Thus, during a time when Herod’s magnificent temple in Jerusalem wouldn’t rank as one of the “seven wonders of the world”, and the Middle East contained five such “wonders”[21], the Temple at Baalbek was the only known structure that seemingly could not have been built by humans[22]. As amazing and mysterious as this temple is to us, consider how the ancients must have viewed it.

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the prosperity of an ancient “temple” was largely dependent upon claims of divine presence or divine influence. The priests at Baalbek had a unique claim (later recognized by the Romans who not only built their largest temple at the site but relied upon the temple oracles). I propose that it was simple jealousy which led Josephus to wholly ignore this site and its significance[23].

 In 96 BCE, Cyzicenus was killed in battle by the son of Grypus and Syria was further weakened. This opened the door for P. Mennaeus who captured Damascus. After Alexander Janneaus (“Yannai”) successfully captured Ptolemais (Acco) along the coast, Ptolemy Lathyrus (from Egypt via Cypros) invaded Judaea and soundly defeated Yannai near the Jordan (95 BCE). Luckily for Yannai, Cleopatra (III) intervened against Lathyrus (her son) and she took again Gaza and Ptolemais, forcing Lathyrus to retreat to Cyprus. Once freed from the threat of Lathyrus, Yannai turned to the Transjordan[24]. Then, along came Aretas III, the new Nabataean king, in 87 BCE (map below).

Josephus says that the people of Damascus didn’t care for the rule of Mennaeus and asked Aretas for help. But, instead of helping them, Aretas attacked Judea (?). This seems silly and ignores the larger picture. Since Alexander Jannaeus had become ruler of Judea in 103 BCE, he was a constant threat to Nabatea. The time was ripe for Aretas to put the Judean in his place and he quickly did so. After a few quick Nabatean victories, Yannai capitulated and accepted a treaty (of surrender) which left him in power but obliged to Aretas. This treaty would eventually form the framework of a larger alliance.

Here again, we have no historical record with the details, but it appears that P. Mennaeus and Aretas reached an accord resulting in the transfer of Damascus to the Nabateans around 76 BCE. I suggest that this was a three-way deal in which Aretas included the safety of Chalcis in his treaty with Yannai in exchange for Damascus. This not only explains the transfer, but subsequent events[25].

After the death of Yannai in 76 BCE, Salome Alexandra (his brother's widow and successor) supposedly sent her son Aristobulus II with an army to Damascus against P. Menneus, who Josephus described as “a troublesome neighbor to the city” (Ant. 13.16.2). But Aristobulus “did nothing considerable there, and returned home” Ibid. (I agree with Jan Retso[26] that there is confusion regarding this sequence of events and discrepancies in the names. But, most are best attributed to the fog of time. Cf. Aryeh Kasher[27]).

Nabataean rule of Damascus continued until 72 BCE when the Armenian king Tigranes II successfully laid siege to the city. Armenian rule of the city continued until 69 BCE when Tigranes was forced to withdraw and deal with a Roman attack on the Armenian capital (Tigranikert). Aretas then re-took Damascus until Pompey arrived in 63 BCE.


The Nabataean Kingdom at its apex. Note the importance of the Gaza.

Rulers of Chalcis

125-120 BCE - Cleopatra Thea

120-109 BCE - Antiochus Grypus

109-95 BCE   - Cleopatra Selene I

95-85 BCE     - Mennaeus

85-40 BCE     - Ptolemy b. Mennaeus

40-36 BCE     - Lysichias/Lysanias I

36-20 BCE     - Zenodorus

19-8 BCE       - Herod/Sohemus

8 BCE-10CE  - Sisines

10-29 CE       - H. Pollio

30-36 CE       - Aristobulus C. I

36-48 CE       - Herod Agrippa I

48-52 CE       - Herod Agrippa II

52-68 CE       - Aristobulus C. II

68-72 CE       - Rome/Verpasian

72-78 CE       - Aristobulus C. III













Salome Alexandra died in 67 BCE and her son John Hyrcanus II succeeded her. But the two brothers, Hyrcanus and Antigonus could not reconcile their differences and “Antigonus, son of Aristobulus, also supported Ptolemy in his effort to establish himself as king in Judea” ("Ant." xiv. 12, § 1). It is quite unclear why P. Menneaus would have claim to the throne of Judea unless he was a legitimate Davidic heir. Salome later sent Aristobulus II to assist the Galileans who were supposedly under the “oppression” of the Chalcians. But that mission left Galilee in the control of Chalcis and resulted in Lysanias, the son of P. Menneaus, and Aristobulus becoming friends (they were “cousins” as Alexandria II was Lysanias’ mother and Antigonus’ sister).

Once Pompey defeated Mithridates in 64 BCE, he turned his attention to the principalities to the south. Josephus confuses us with conflicting passages regarding Pompey and his passage through Chalcis on his way to war in Damascus “to bring order to a vast and troubled land”. In one account, Josephus holds that Pompey, on his way to Damascus in the spring of 63 BCE, "demolished the citadel at Apamea and devastated the territory of Ptolemy bar Mennaeus.” Subsequently, Josephus recalls the passage of Pompey through the land on his way to Damascus and Pompey is described as merely passing by the “cities of Heliopolis and Chalcis” in order to cross the Anti-Lebanon (Ant. 14.38-40). Given the facts that P. Mennaeus paid a large tribute[28] to Pompey and thus remained both in power and minting coins[29], it makes more sense that Chalcis was left unscathed. It is also highly likely that the deal with Pompey involved Mennaeus sending troops to assist in his mission. Pompey then set up offices in Damascus and placed his deputy Marcus Aemilius Scaurus in charge of regional affairs.

In Judea, John Hyrcanus had reigned only three months when Aristobulus (II) claimed the throne as his own. The brothers met in a battle near Jericho where many of Hycanus’ soldiers deserted to join Aristobulus. Hyrcanus fled back to Jerusalem and took refuge in the citadel (the “Baris” adjacent to the Temple).  But Aristobulus controlled the city and the Temple and Hyrcanus accepted a negotiated surrender. According to its terms, Aristobulus would be King and High Priest but Hyrcanus would continue to receive the revenues of the High Priesthood. Hyrcanus (along with his chief aide Antipater) went into exile in Nabatea[30].

This seemed an amicable and reasonable solution, but Antipater (the Idumean who had married a Nabatean princess) aligned with Aretas III (the Nabatean King) with hopes of putting the weak Hyrcanus back onto the Judean throne. Both of the Jewish brothers sought to gain the favor of Scaurus with lavish gifts and promises and Scaurus accepted the 400 talents offered by Aristobulus to name him as ruler of Judea. Scarus also ordered Aretas to withdraw his army from Judea and during his retreat Aristobulus attacked and crushed the Nabateans.

When Pompey arrived in Syria later in 63 BCE, “both brothers and a third party[31] that desired the removal of the entire dynasty”, sent delegates to again seek Roman favor. Pompey, who delayed his decision for months, eventually held in favor of Hyrcanus deeming the weaker brother a more reliable ally of the Roman Empire. Ptolemy Mennaeus died (~61 BCE) and his son (by Alexandra) Lysanias succeeded to his throne[32]. He made a pact with Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, which would have great influence in subsequent events (Ant. 14.330).

Aristobulus fled but Pompey sent his lieutenant Marc Antony after him. Antony captured Aristobulus and his oldest son, Alexander, with the intent of returning him to Rome for trial. Oddly and inexplicably, both Aristobulus and his son later “escaped” from the Romans (57 BCE) and headed for the fortress of Alexandrium[33] (built by and named for his father). (Ant. xiv. 3, 3 and 4; Wars i. 6, 5). When the Roman army (under Gabinus and with Mark Antony) approached and offered Aristobulus asylum, he surrendered and agreed to assist in turning over Jerusalem to them. That didn’t work when his followers and others were unwilling to open the gates to the Romans. Instead, the Romans laid siege to the city and ended up damaging the Temple[34].

Pompey placed John Hyrcanus (II) back into the office of High Priest but denied him political rule. Instead, he rewarded Antipater the Idumean with a governorship of Judea while he went about subduing Aretas and settling matters in Egypt. Josephus reports that Aristobulus, and his sons Alexander and Antigonus, were sent to Rome (to be marched in the triumphant parade), but Alexander (and Antigonus) escaped along the way and returned to Judea (Ant. xiv. 4, 5). Here, we are lacking in detail but have a few important clues which indicate that it was Lysanias who provided them protection and essential support.

In 49 BCE, on the breaking out of the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar set Aristobulus free and while he was on his way back to Judaea he was poisoned[35]. Pompey ordered Alexander seized and had him beheaded at Antioch. That left Antigonus II as the head of the family and the Hasmonean dynasty. In 48 BCE, Julius Caesar appointed Antipater (then, Pompey’s advisor and Herod’s father) as Procurator of Judaea. Antipater appointed his son Herod as governor of Galilee where he warred with the locals.

Also in 48 BCE, Cleopatra (usually designated as Cleopatra VII – the most famous one and thus, just “Cleopatra” hereafter) was removed from power and she went into exile along with her younger sister Arsinone IV. While generally stated that her exile was in “Syria”, it is more likely that it was in Chalcis (an area settled and controlled by former Egyptian soldiers loyal to her family)[36]. Some believe that Arsinoe married P. Mennaeus, but this is far from likely. Cleopatra’s fate was to change dramatically when she somehow organized an army while in Syria and returned to Egypt to reclaim her throne[37].

Meanwhile, the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey was consuming Rome. Pompey was forced to seek refuge in Egypt, but was killed in Alexandria by Ptolemy as Julius Caesar followed Pompey into Egypt. Then, in the famous “rolled into a blanket episode”, Caesar met and fell in love with Cleopatra. She bore him a son (Caesarion) in 47 BCE and returned with him to Rome. But when Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, she fled/returned to Alexandria with Caesarion. She was likely then pregnant with Caesar’s child – a not so well-kept secret[38].

After the death of Julius Caesar, the Second Triumvirate (Mark Antony and Octavian) ruled Rome. While at Tarsus, Antony sent for Cleopatra to determine her allegiances and plans. Cleopatra arrived and made a lavish entrance into the city of Tarsus, obviously impressing Antony (who badly needed her wealth). Again, Cleopatra was in a position to court a Roman ruler into an extramarital affair that would change history. But first, she had to find “solutions” for Caesar’s daughters.

Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator– “The Cleopatra”

  (daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra V)

                 First “Marriage” – Julius Caesar


                                                         |                                             |                                                        |

                                                Caesarion[39]                      Thermusa[40]                             C. Caesaria (of Jerusalem)

                                                                                         (via Phraates V[41])                     (via Herod I – 3rd husband)

                ______________|_____                                         ____|_____

                                                                |                                              |                                              |                      |

Phraataces[42]                              Julia Urania                            Sisines         Phillipus

                                          ______|______           (via Ptolemaeus of Mauretania[43])

                           |                             |                                    |

                                  Arsaces XVII        Phraates VI                   Drusilla

                                 (via Gaius Julius Sohaemus[44])


   Mamaea of Emesa


  Zenobius  of Palmyra





    Coin showing Phraataces and Theramusa[45]




         Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator

     Second “Marriage” – Mark Antony


                                                                        |                              |                                     |

                                                         Alexander Helios       C. Selene        Ptolemy Philadelphus



Coin with Mark Antony and Cleopatra Thea (VII)


C. Selene (left) and Alexander Helios


The lack of historical data regarding the daughters of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra should not dissuade us from the probability. The reported rumors and writings of Cicero rather clearly spell out the pregnancy and although a son would have been BIG news, a daughter (or two) was anything but such. If we note that J. Caesar returned from Spain in the fall of 45 BCE and Cleopatra was living openly as his mistress/Queen in his trans-Tiber villa until the assassination in the spring of 44 BCE, then there should be little doubt that there was opportunity for such conception. We might also note that Caesarion returned to Alexandria with his mother and this shows that Cleopatra saw “the writing on the wall” for the future of any children of J. Caesar[46].

It was reported (Cicero) that Cleopatra had a miscarriage either during the return trip or after her return to Alexandria. I agree with those who suggest this was falsely reported. Some propose that Cleopatra gave birth to a single daughter (Thermusa) who was raised in Rome with Antony’s children (by Octavia Minor). I suggest that Cleopatra gave birth to twin girls, the “younger” being Caesaria. Cleopatra understood the necessity of keeping her last child a secret- both to protect the child and maximize her opportunities.

She turned to her best non-Egyptian royal friend, Alexandra II, the Hasmonean matriarch who had become Herod’s mother-in-law. The relationship between Alexandra and Herod was clearly antagonistic: he had killed her son Aristobulos soon after naming him High Priest (in 36 BCE) and Alexandra had Herod brought before Antony to answer for his complicity in this royal death (Herod escaped through bribes). Thus, we are certain that there was “back channel” communication between Cleopatra and Alexandra and Alexandra would have been the perfect choice for the task of secretly raising “Cleopatra of Jerusalem”. We don’t know who Alexandra assigned to this task and the next thing we know about Cleopatra Caesaria is that she first married Jacob ben Matthan[47], as below.

After sending her daughter by Caesar to Judea[48], Cleopatra bore Antony three children: Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene (twins in 40 BCE) and Ptolemy Philadelphus (36 BCE). Part of the relevant historical change due to her relationship with Mark Antony was her request that the former Egyptian territories in the East be returned to her control. This included Syria, Lebanon, Chalcis, Auranitis, Trachonitis, Batanaen, and Paneas[49].

Antony had Lysanias, then ruler and High Priest of Chalcis, pay Cleopatra tribute, but retained him in power. That power would profoundly change the politics of Judea. 

“Now [in 40 BCE], when Barzapharnes, a governor among the Parthians, and Pacorus, the king's son, had possessed themselves of Syria, and when Lysanias had already succeeded upon the death of his father Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, in the government [of Chalcis], he prevailed with the governor, by a promise of a thousand talents, and five hundred women, to bring back Antigonus [II] to his kingdom, and to turn Hyrcanus out of it. Pacorus was by these means induced so to do, and marched along the sea-coast, while he ordered Barzapharnes to fall upon the Jews [e.g. Judeans] as he went along the Mediterranean part of the country; but of the maritime people, the Tyrians would not receive Pacorus, although those of Ptolemais and Sidon had received him; so he committed a troop of his horse to a certain cup-bearer belonging to the royal family, of his own name [Pacorus], and gave him orders to march into Judea, in order to learn the state of affairs among their enemies, and to help Antigonus when he should want his assistance.” (Wars I.13.1; 1.248.9)[50].

The political intrigues and confusion of Josephus regarding these events has led to gross misunderstanding regarding the circumstances and results[51]. Antigonus led his rebellion against Rome in 40 BCE but was defeated and killed in 37 BCE[52]. Pompey had sought to stabilize the region by encouraging a loose alliance between the cities of the Decapolis wedged between Damascus, Ituraea/Chalcis, and Judaea. While Rome reserved a right of intervention the cities were heavily influenced by Nabataea[53]. The obvious outcome was the Roman occupation of Judea and the installation of Herod as puppet king, but there were other very significant events going on which have been generally ignored.

Herod’s siege and taking of Jerusalem (with the help of the Roman General Sossius) in 37 BCE was far from an absolute victory. Herod knew that his claim to the Judean throne was weak and might not stand for long so he sought to bolster his position through marriage and negotiation. Thus, after Antigonus surrendered to Sossius, Herod bribed Antony to execute Antigonus instead of taking him to Rome for Senate “hearing” (where Antigonus might have offered the Romans enough to be renamed king). Even with Antigonus captured, his wife Alexandra A. held the citadel (Baris) in Jerusalem and “ruled” for some six months while Herod and his forces secured the rest of the city.

Josephus tells us that Herod intervened upon the final capture of the Temple to prevent its looting and destruction by paying massive bribes to the soldiers and generals. No one seems to ask where Herod got this great wealth – part of the answer would seem to be from the two Hasmonean princesses: Alexandra dau Hyrcanus II and Alexandra dau Antigonus.[54]. In return, they were not only saved, but became matriarchs in two different Courts: Alexandra H. within the Herodian Court and Alexandra A. in Chalcis[55].

With control of Jerusalem and the title of “king”, Herod gathered as many of the Hasmonens as he could (including the disfigured patriarch Hyrcanus II who had been in exile in Syria) and either married them (as with Marianne I), made them powerful “puppets” (as with Hyrcanus), named them as High Priest (as with Aristobulus III), or had them killed. Alexandra H. (II) was so powerful that she acted as “queen” during the early years of Herod’s rule and her close friendship with Cleopatra (VII) had to be among the great thorns nagging Herod. It would also frame the future of Chalcis.

But Alexandra H. wasn’t the only Hasmonean thorn Herod had to deal with. It wasn’t until several years after Herod’s ultimate ascendance that he took “Hyrcania,” a fort held by “Antigonus’ sister.” This sister, whose name we don’t know (“Mariamne” is commonly used), was honored by the Romans for her bravery and skill. With her death, the remaining heirs of the Hasmonean dynasty fell under Herod’s control – except for the other Alexandra - the wife of P. Mennaeus (who died in 36 BCE) and mother of Lysanias.  (For a comprehensive analysis of Herodian intermarriages with the Hasmonenas, see the section below regarding Herod).

What should be clear is that a great many Jews remained loyal to the Hasmonenas and that their best opportunity to support them was in Galilee – a region mostly controlled by Lysanias and the Chalcians. In 36 BCE, Cleopatra VII beseeched her lover Mark Antony to kill Lysanias so that his domains could become hers (Ant. XV. iv. 1; XIV. xiii. 3; I. xiii. 1). Antony obliged her and killed Lysanias making his son Zenodorus the new ruler/landlord. The region of Chalcis became yet another valuable Palestinian holding of the Egyptian[56] (she also held regions that had been taken from Herod). History tells us little about what happened to the families of the Hasmoneans or Davidics that had ruled Chalcis, particularly Alexandria III and the offspring of Antigonus II. However, the subsequent history provides interesting clues.

In Egypt, during 34 BCE, Antony and Cleopatra celebrated their perceived future with the “Donations of Alexandria”.  They were joined by their six-year-old twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene[57] and the two-year-old Ptolemy Philadelphus. Antony granted Cleopatra portions of Herod's kingdom, the balsam plantations near Jericho, the date plantations at Ein Gedi, and parts of the Nabatean (Arab) kingdom. Herod was forced to lease back these concessions from Cleopatra. Cleopatra, in turn, travelled through Jerusalem, and according to a doubtful claim by Josephus she tried to seduce Herod.  He supposedly refused her advances and even contemplated killing her, but this is very unlikely[58].

Here we must recognize that Josephus writes with a clear bias against Cleopatra. He describes her as a seductress[59] who simply pretends to rule.[60] Josephus also states that she "was very covetous and stuck at no wickedness" and that “she destroyed the gods of her country and the sepulchres of her progenitors". Josephus depicts Cleopatra as an evil, avaricious, scheming, sensual, and treacherous woman who would stop at nothing to satisfy her insatiable greed (Ant. 15.88-95) and he asserts that Mark Antony was  dominated by her because he was on drugs (Ant. 15.93).There is simply no evidence to support these claims and they defy compelling evidence to the contrary[61]. As we should always do, Josephus must be read with an eye to his biases.

The Second Triumvirate formally expired on the last day of 33 BCE and Antony’s efforts to supplant Octavian failed during the “Final War of the Roman Republic”. By the end of 31 BCE (following defeat at Actium), the fate of Antony and Cleopatra was sealed and she began unsuccessfully negotiating for her children’s future. Her oldest son (and co-ruler) was Caesarion (son of Julius Caesar) and she tried to send him to India (along with vast riches)[62]. All the male children of Cleopatra met the same fate – an early death. Selene fared better and was sent to the care of Octavia Minor and eventually became Queen of Mauretania (at the side of Juba II).

The actual territory which remained under the control of the Chalcians during this period is uncertain, but clearly included the areas west and north-west of Damascus. With the death of Lysanias in 32 BCE, his son Zenodorus assumed the lease of his father’s territories from Cleopatra (a common arrangement). Coins minted during his reign describe Zenodorus as "Tetrarch and High Priest" (just as the coins of his father and grandfather), thus indicating that he was more than the mere lessee of the property. A severe earthquake struck Palestine in 31 BCE causing widespread destruction.

With the death of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BCE, their holdings were largely distributed to regional rulers[63]. In the case of Chalcis, we are left in the dark about its fate (although we are given details regarding cities and regions given to Herod). Josephus tells us that Zenodorus  (who Josephus doesn’t say was the son of Lysanias, but we know from other sources[64] that he was)  controlled “Iturea” [Chalcis] (Wars i. 20, § 4). But then a few years later (20 BCE), at the death of Zenodorus,  Josephus reports that Augustus gave Iturea to Herod the Great, who in turn bequeathed it to his son “Herod Philip” (Ant.  15: 10, § 3). Here we encounter considerable confusion (or misrepresentation) by Josephus because of similar names and confused lineage. Here again, it appears clear that Josephus (possibly originating with Nicolas of Damascus, Herod’s historian who Josephus often relied upon) intentionally misleads and that historians have contributed greatly to the confusion by following Josephus in this regard[65]. It seems apparent that Herod was not given the region of Chalcis and that it remained largely independent during Herod’s difficult period from 30-25 BCE[66]. After Octavian affirmed Herod as “Basileus” (essentially “King – the highest of royal rankings allowed by the Romans), Herod was beset by internal struggles.

With Octavian’s victory over Antony came Herod’s near certain demise – he had chosen the wrong side. But at Rhodes, Octavian was persuaded that Herod was both his best choice as Judean ruler and that Herod would become a loyal supporter. Thus, “Augustus” (the new royal name for Octavian) not only proclaimed Herod as “Basileus” (client king), but added the coastal regions of Judaea (aka the “Gaza Strip”) and Samaria to his realm. Soon thereafter, Augustus added Jericho and Gaza (which had been independent) along with those regions which Antony had taken from Herod and given to Cleopatra. Then, he added Gadara, Hippos, Anthedon, Joppa, and Strato's Tower[67]. After the first games at Actium (28 BCE), Augustus added to Herod’s kingdom the regions of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis (which may have previously been held by the “House of Lysanias”).

Herod had his favorite wife (Mariamme I) killed after her mother (Alexandra H.) testified against her for adultery (all part of a pattern of “intrique” led by Salome, Herod’s sister). Then Alexandra declared that Herod was mentally ill and named herself Queen. Herod had her executed. Soon thereafter, he executed his brother-in-law (and close advisor) Kostobar for conspiracy. In 29 BCE an assassination attempt against Herod was foiled, but he warred against his sons. With the death of Cleopatra VII and Alexandra H., it must have become known that an infant daughter of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had been left in the care of Alexandra H.

This news would have to be shared with Augustus and it would have been Augustus who determined her fate. Because Julius Caesar had become a “god” in the eyes of the Romans, his daughter held great potential power. But she was also the daughter of the hated Cleopatra and had been raised as a Jew. In the same manner that Augustus treated her half-sister Selene (daughter of Antony & Cleopatra) with dignity and respect, he found a solution for Caesaria. She was given in marriage to a Jewish prince known well by Augustus and favored by Herod – Jacob bar Matthan. While not well known through history, Jacob was one of the Davidic contenders kept under tight reigns within the Herodian Court (most of the others having been killed or exiled). Jacob had strong and powerful ties to Alexandria[68] and was used by Herod as a Roman liaison. After the death of Antony and Cleopatra he had been serving as Patriarch (“mayor”) of Jerusalem.

Augustus would have given this Caesar-Cleopatra “princess” a dowry and subsequent events show that her marriage gift was the region of Chalcis. It was a region once controlled by her mother, it was mostly Jewish, and it posed little or no threat to Rome. Herod would not have objected since it had been a troublesome region basically under military control from Syria.

Then, in 28 BCE, Herod performed one of the many purges within his Court. It began with his lustful infatuation with Mariamne (II) the daughter of the Simon Boethus, another Alexandrian priest.   As part of his third marriage arrangements[69], Herod took the title of High Priest from Jesus bar Phabet and passed the title to Simon. Herod’s execution of Kostobar (his brother-in-law) for allegedly hiding the sons of Baba (supporters of Antigonus) is another telling event of the time. The sons of Baba were executed as were Herod’s aides Antipater, Lysimachus, and Dositheus for being involved in some presumed plot against Herod. Among the victims of this “shake-out” was Jacob ben Matthan, who was apparently executed as part of the “conspiracy”. Cleopatra Caesaria was then compelled to marry Simon Boethus (the acting High Priest).

Under odd circumstances, Herod then married Malthace the Samarian. This may have been in response to public protests regarding his execution of Mariamne I or merely a political marriage to improve his relations with the Samaritans (who were favored by the Romans).

“Al! of his marriages to date had ended in failure: his first wife, Doris, was banished after ten years of marriage to pave the way for his marriage to Mariamme [I] the Hasmonaean. In roughly the same year (37 BCE), he married his niece (whose name is unknown), and, three years later (in approximately 33/34 CE), his cousin (also unnamed); but it appears that neither of them produced any offspring. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that he wished to "compensate" himself with a new and more fruitful marriage.”[70]

Thus, the marriage of Cleopatra Caesaria to Simon didn’t last long and within a year she was married to Herod as his fifth wife[71]. We have no explanation for the short marriage to Simon (who continued as High Priest) or the quick marriage to Herod, but the change had great impact upon Chalcis. Subsequent events show that C. Caesaria’s marriage to Herod was carefully negotiated (as was typical of most Jewish marriages of the time) to include rights and privileges for any children they might have. They had at least two sons: Sisines[72]  (b. 24 BCE) and Phillipus (b. 23 BCE). Since both were sent to Rome for education[73], it is clear that both Herod and Augustus deemed them as heirs.

It is useful to consider the reasons why Josephus largely ignores these sons of Herod (and “Sissines” is not even named by Josephus). Within Josephus’ writings the younger son is confused and conflagrated with Herod Philip (the son of Herod via Mariamne II). I suggest that it is also revealing that neither of C. Caesaria’s sons used the name Herod (not needing that name to establish their royal status). Indeed, Josephus seems intent upon having both sons of C. Caesaria conflagrated with the sons of Mariamne II, especially in regard to Herodias. For the most part, Josephus was highly successful in writing the sons of C. Caesaria out of history as most historians merely echo Josephus who is either their sole or primary source.

To properly fit Sisines and Phillipus into history, it is useful to understand Herod’s wills, wives, and heirs. Thus, we shall follow a short diversion from the chronology…

According to Kokkinos (“Herodian Dynasty”, pp. 243-4) Herod's first wife was Doris (47 BCE, divorced before 38 BCE and re-called to court in 14 BCE).  His second wife was Mariamme (I) the Hasmonean (38 BCE, executed in 29 BCE). The third and fourth wives (not counted by many historians) were an unknown cousin and an unknown niece who Herod married around 29 BCE and yielded no known children). The fifth wife was Mariamne II, daughter of the High Priest Boethus, who came from Alexandria (after 29 BCE and divorced no later than 6 BCE). The sixth wife was Malthace of Samaria (28 BCE) and the seventh wife was Cleopatra of Jerusalem (28/27 BCE).

A quick examination of Herod’s descendants reveals some of the confusion…

The Herodian Court:

     Herod’s Key Wives                                                    Their  Children

Doris the Idumean (m. 39 BCE)                  son Antipater II, executed 4 BCE[74]

Mariamne I the Hasmonean                       son Alexander, executed 7 BCE

(m. 37 BCE)                                                         son Aristobulus IV, executed 7 BCE

daughter Salampsio

daughter Cypros

Mariamne II the Levite  (m. 29 BCE)         son Herod II[75]

Malthace the Samarian (m. 28 BCE)         son Herod Archelaus – a Tetrarch

son Herod Antipas – a Tetrarch

daughter Olympias

Cleopatra of Jerusalem (m. 24BCE)          son Sisines (“Herod IV”) – a Tetrarch

son Phillipus – a Tetrarch

(at least five other wives…)

To exemplify the confusion, here is what Josephus records[76]

Emperor Claudius on his ascent “confirmed that kingdom to Agrippa [I] which Caius had given him [and] also made an addition to it of all that country over which Herod [the Great], who was his grandfather, had reigned, that is, Judea and Samaria....” Claudius “made league with Agrippa [I]...took away from Antiochus [undesignated] that kingdom which he was possessed of, but gave him a certain part of Cilicia and Commagena; he also set Alexander Lysimachus, the Alabarch, at liberty, who had been his old friend, and steward to his mother, Antonia, but had been imprisoned by Caius, whose son [eds. add Marcus] married Bernice [B], the daughter of Agrippa [I]. But when Marcus, Alexander’s son, was dead, who had married her when she was a virgin, Agrippa gave her in marriage to his brother Herod [A], and begged for him of Claudius the kingdom of Chalcis.” AJ XIX.V.1. Claudius “bestowed on Agrippa [I] his whole paternal kingdom...besides those countries that had been given by Augustus to Herod [the Great]: Trachonitis and Auranitis, and still besides these that kingdom which was called the kingdom of Lysanias. ... He bestowed on his [Agrippa I’s half?-] brother Herod [A], who was also his son-in-law, by marrying Bernice [B], the kingdom of Chalcis.”


Josephus also tells us that “a brother [Aristobulus III] of “one of Herod the Great’s wives [Miriam I] was the grandson of Aristobulus [II] by his father [Alexander II] and grandson of Hyrcanus [II] by his mother [Alexandra III]” (Ant. XIV.XIV.5).  While it is difficult to explain all that is going on, let us remember that the region of Chalcis was held by Cleopatra (VII) before her death. If, as I suggest, Cleopatra of Jerusalem was related to the Egyptian Queen, it would make sense that her sons (by Herod) would receive the territories once held by their grandmother/aunt[77]. But why is her oldest son never named within Josephus and why isn’t he named as one of the four “Tetrarchs”?[78]

Other oddities emerge which provide significant clues to the truth of the matter. First, whereas the sons of Malthace (who was Samarian and not Hasmonean) retained the surname “Herod” (as in “Herod Archelaus” and “Herod Antipas”) to provide the illusion of royal authority, the sons of Cleopatra did not (despite the fact that some historians assign the name for ease of identification). Second, the wives of Phillipus and his brother (who, from logical deduction[79], I will name “Sisines” herein) overlap exactly to suggest levirate marriage.

Due to the misdirection of Josephus, we need to adjust the family tree of Herod. Here is a portion of the “adjusted” relevant genealogy…

Herod I > Herodians of Chalcis

                                                     (5th Wife = Cleopatra of Judea = her 3rd husband)


                                                                          |                                                                    |

                                                                     Sisines[80]                                                  Phillipus

           ______|______                                    ______|___________

                                                          |                               |                  |                                         |

      (via  H. Princess[81])     (via Bernice)     (via Salome II[82])              (via Berenice II[83])

                       ___________|____________                                         |                               ______|_______         

                      |                            |                            |                                           |                               |                                 |

                 Agrippa I        Herod C. (V)      Aristobulus C. I[84]            Herodias[85]            Herod VI               Herod VII

                _____|____________              (Via Salome II)  

                |                                        |                                    \_______________________________________

      (via Cypros III)             (via others ??)                                                                             |               |                   |

   ______|____________________________________________                          Herod   Agrippa   Aristobulus

   |                                             |                                      |                                 |

Agrippa II                 Julia Berenice III[86]       Mariamme[87]              Drusilla                              

   |                                              |                                      |                                   |

Aristobulus C. II                      (via H. Chalcis)          (via J. Alexander[88])     (via Aziz[89])

                                        ____|_______                    |                                  |

                                       |                            |                   ??                                 ??

            Berenicianus       Hyrcanus






                                       (1st Wife = Solome d. Antipater (Herod’s sister) = her 1st husband)


                                                              |                                                                                            |

                                                      Berenice                                                                                            Antipater

    (via Aristobulus b. Herod)___|_________(via Sisines[91])                                       (via Cypros d. Herod)

  |                                                                            |              (via H. Princess)                    (as below)

     _____|_______                                               Herodias[92]           \________________________       

     |                             |                                               (via H. Phillip)                |                                                |           

Miriam          H. Agrippa                                                |                     Herod (of Chalcis)[93]                Miriam

              (via Cypros d. Phaesal)                          Salome        (via Miramne d. Joseph[94])             |              

                       |                                                             __________|________                                       ??

         ____________|____________                                        |                                                |                           

        |                     |               |               |                    Herod III “Pollio”                  Aristobulus (of Chalcis) 

Agrippa II  J. Berenice [95]  Drusus  Drusilla[96]    (via Julia Berenice)    (via Salome d. H. Philip I) (via Iotape I)

                                                      |                               |                                           |                                          |

                                                        Agrippa Felix    Vespasiana Polla             Agrippa C.              Iotape II[97]




Antipater b. Costobar (as above)

                                                                          (via Cypros d. Herod)


|                              |                              |

        Costobar              Saulus                  Cypros

|                              |                (via Helcias Alexis)

              ??                          ??             ______|_______ 

                                                                                                                |                                |

                                                                                                   Julius Archelaus          Antipas


For the genealogists out there, the major change involves Antipater b. Herod (via Doris) who was executed in 4 BCE and his half-brother Aristobulus b. Herod (via Mariamne I who was executed in 7 BCE. While some would have Berenice married to both, this makes no sense. Josephus indicates that Antipater first married his niece Mariamne III (daughter of Aristobulus) and later married an unnamed high-ranking Hasmonean princess (the daughter of Antigonus, the last Hasmonean king). This unnamed second wife of Antipater is also identified as a first cousin of Mariamne I and it was she who joined Doris at the palace during Antipater’s trial before Varus in 5 BCE (Ant. XVII:5:2). This Hasmonean princess is a key link between the Herodian and Chalcian royal families.   

The most difficult links to derive from the family trees are the important in-law relationships. Augustus and other Roman Emperors encouraged intermarriages between the royal families of ally kings. In some cases, existing relationships lead to inter-family marriages (such as where Archelaus of Cappidocia offered his daughter Glaphyra as a bride to Herod’s son Alexander) and in other cases, inter-marriage made friends or allies between royals (especially among the powerful women rulers).  Many odd or unexpected historical events or marriages are likely the result of such “back-channel” friendships and dealings.

This, I propose, was partly (or mostly) responsible for Jesus’ trip to Chalcis during a troubled time in his ministry – he had powerful friendly relatives there and in Batanea (detailed in a separate section) and “the Decapolis” (also covered elsewhere in this work). To figure this out, one needs to fully view the Hasmonean, Herodian, and Chalcian families. 

Herod I > Herodians of Chalcis

                                                            (2nd Wife = Mariamne I = her 1st husband)


                                                                          |                                                    |                         |                   |

                                                                   Alexander                           Aristobulus IV   Salampsio   Cypros

 ____________(via Glaphyra[98])_______                           (not followed here)

                                 |                                        |                                |

       Tigranes V[99]                    Alexander          Mariamne VII{?}


                                                                                   G.J. Tigranes VI[100]

                                                                                (via Opgalli of Phrygia)


                                                                  |                                                        | 

Gaius Julius Alexander                    Julia Tigranes



By tradition, we follow the genealogy of the male members of the family, but in this case, it is much more useful to follow some of the female lineages. I would deem this approach: “Follow the Daughters”.  One of the best ways to determine the “pecking order” in ancient kingdoms was to see who got to marry which daughter – foreign or domestic. Daughters held titles and carried royal bloodlines. They also held great wealth (Cleopatra was the richest person in the world during her life and the Hasmonean princesses held vast wealth). So, having looked at Herod’s male heirs, we should also examine his daughters and nieces as offering a strong indication of who Herod wished to have power. Here is a summarized list (names assigned in quotes are for convenience only)…

     Herod’s Key Relatives                                              Their  Children

Antipater (father) & Cypros (mother)     Salome I, Phasael, Herod I, Joseph, Pherorus


Phallion (Uncle) & ?? (aunt)                        Achiab, NN daughter (“Phallas”), Antiochas


Salome I (sister = Josephus – 1st)                              (1st married to her uncle; offspring unknown)

Salome I (sister = Kostobarus – 2nd        dau Berenice I

Salome I (sister = Alexas – 3rd)                   Alexas II

Phaseal (brother = Salampsio[101])                              Phaseal II, Cypros II                        

Pheroras[102] (brother = ?(Cypros II)[103])    His two sons each married a daughter of Herod (JE)[104]

? bar Pheroras (= Roxanna? )                                     

? bar Pheroras (= Salome IV )    

? bat Pheroras (“Berenice II”)     (See below)                      

Joseph (brother  = Olympias)                     dau Mariamne III

      Mariamne III (= Antipater II)                 ?


Doris (Idumean wife)                                     Antipater II e. 4 BCE

          Antipater II (= Mariamne III)             ?

       (= d. Aristobulus IV)                                ?


“Cypros II” (Wife/Niece)                                               (none?)(“Berenice II”)

Phallas (Wife/Niece/Cousin)                       (none?)



Mariamne I, Hasmonean (e. 27)                                J. Alexander, e. 7 BCE

                                                                                Aristobulus IV, e. 7 BCE

dau Salampsio

dau Cypros II

Julius Alexander (=Glaphyra[105])                 Joseph Alexander II

Aristobulus IV (= Berenice I)                       Herod of Chalcis

Herod Agrippa I

Aristobulus V

d. Herodias.


Salampsio (= Phaseal I – 1st)                        ?

                                   (= Phaseal II – 2nd)                        Antipater, Herod, Alexander, Alexandra, and Cypros III


Cypros II (= Antipater II)                                               ?                             


Mariamne II, (d. Boethus)                            Herod II


Malthace (Samarian)                                      Herod Archelaus – a tetrarch

Herod Antipas – a tetrarch

daughter Olympias

H. Archelaus I (= Mariamme III)                

                           (= Glaphyra)


Cleopatra of Jerusalem (m. 24BCE)          “Herod IV” (“Sisines”) – a tetrarch?

Phillipus – a tetrarch


Phaseal II (= Salampsio)                                                Antipater, Herod (V), Alexander, Alexandra, Cypros III[106].

I realize that this remains confusing, but these puzzle pieces allow us to form a new picture of the Herodian descendancy which includes the region of Chalcis. If we examine the key players with some additional detail, we can affirm our new image…

The Relevant “Queens” and “Princesses”:

The “Royal” Wives of Herod: One of the key sources of disruption within Herod’s royal court was the divergent royal status of his wives. So, while all were “royal” within the Court, some were royal before marriage to Herod. Those wives held themselves above the others and undoubtedly flaunted their heritage and status. We can see how this occurred when we review the basis of the first five marriages…

  • Doris was Herod’s Idumean wife before he became “king”. She had no known royal lineage and was essentially discarded by Herod once he found a royal wife.


  • Mariamne I was a Hasmonean princess who brought royal blood to Herod’s Court. Herod’s first attempt to improve his status was disastrous for him as it also brought Alexandra (II) into the Court. Before long, he would have both executed.


  • Mariamne II was the non-royal daughter of the Levite Simon Boethus. This was a marriage that offered little to Herod except ties to the High Priesthood based upon Herod’s appointment of her father to that office.


  • Malthace was Samarian and had no known royal blood. It is unclear why she was chosen, but she ranked highly in the end as two of her sons became the “Southern Tetrarchs”.


  • Cleopatra of Jerusalem is the most important wife of Herod – and the most mysterious. She was clearly chosen because of her royal blood and that blood served her two sons well (they each became a “Northern Tetrarch”).  What is most weird is how Herod’s historians (Nicholas and Josephus) ignore her and her sons.  Much of the history of Chalcis builds upon this woman’s heritage.

The Other Key Women in the Herodian Court:

Salome I: (57 BCE - 10 CE) Herod's older sister held sway over Herod throughout his life as he trusted her and tolerated  her schemes all the way to his death. She acted as Queen until Herod’s first marriage (to Doris). She was scorned as the daughter of a commoner and she resented Herod’s relations with the Hasmoneans. Salome I was married three times:

  1. Joseph, her paternal uncle, Idumean governor of Idumea.
  2. Kostobaros I, an Idumean who served as chief aide to Herod and was executed by him in 26 BCE. ("His ancestors had been priests of Kôzé ... a god" (Ant.  XV. 253)).
  3. Alexas I was from a family which carried the name Helkiah and was thus related to the Oniads.

Salome I was known to have three children :

  • a unknown daughter with Joseph who married Alexas II bar Alexas,
  • a son with Kostobar named Antipatros III, and
  • a daughter with Kostobar named Berenice who first married Aristobulos I and later married  Theudion (unknown). The major Herodian princes stemmed from Berenice’s first marriage.

Salome II: Daughter of Herod and Mariamme I. Married to Phasael II.


Salome III: The only daughter of Herodias & Herod II (the grand-daughter of Herod through her father and his great-granddaughter through her mother).  She married at a young age her half-uncle Philip (as arranged by Herod). Perhaps because this uncle/niece marriage paralleled that of her mother, the gospel writers  confused her with Herodias when they state that Salome's father was Philip, the first husband of Herodias, instead of Philip's half-brother  Herod II (Matt14:3; Mark 6:1; note Ant. 18.136). While Salome was still an infant, her mother deserted her father to marry Antipas.  By later marrying Philip, Salome became her mother's sister-in-law. She had no children with Philip and upon his death she married her cousin, Aristobulus, the only son of Herod of Chalcis. They had three sons who were confusingly given the same names as her mother's brothers (“Herod”, Agrippa, and Aristobulos).

Salome IV: The daughter of Herod and his wife Elpis.


Mariamne I: The daughter of Alexander I (bar Aristobulus II) and his cousin Alexandra (dau. John Hyrcanus II). Thus, she was a Hasmonean princess from both parents. Her mother arranged (negotiated?) for her betrothal to Herod[107] (41 BCE), but because her brother Aristobulus (and his son Antigonus were revolting against Herod, they were not wed until four years later in Samaria.  Mariamne rightfully saw herself as the legitimate heir to the Judean throne and she gave Herod good cause to be suspicious of her[108]. Herod had her brother Aristobulus III executed in 36 BCE, her father Hyrcanus II in 30 BCE, and executed her in 29 BCE (and her mother Alexandra in 26 BCE). Finally, Herod executed her sons Alexander and Aristobulus (IV) in 7 BCE.  

Mariamne II:  The daughter of Shimon bar Boethus of Egypt.  According to Josephus, Herod became infatuated with her beauty and so lusted after he that he made her father High Priest just so that she would have sufficient “status” to justify his marriage to her. This silly misdirection has been largely accepted by historians. Shimon was identified as a high ranking priest from Alexandria and the lack of strong objection to his being named High Priest shows that he probably held both lineage and credentials to serve the office (see other remarks regarding Hananiel, his predecessor). That the office of High Priest was held within his family for several successive generations speaks to his wealth and power.

Her son was known as Herod II, a name which clearly indicates his high status and we know that he was considered the heir to the throne for much of his life (until his mother was implicated in a plot against Herod). 

Mariamne III: Daughter of Aristobulus IV and his wife Berenice.  She was the wife of Crown Prince Antipater and, after his execution by Herod, she became the first wife of Herod Archelaus, principal heir of Herod and Ethnarch of Judea.

Mariamne Alexandra/Miriam dau Antigonus:  Jospehus unquestionably intends to be vague regarding this remarkable woman. He tells us, incorrectly, that Antipater had two wives: his niece Mariamne III, daughter of Aristobulus IV and then the daughter of Antigonus the Hasmonean[109] (the last Hasmonean king who also served as High Priest and who was killed by Herod in 37 BCE). This wife of Antipater was noted as being at the palace with Doris (Antipater's mother), in support of her husband during his trial before Varus in 5 BCE. This would seem to make her the principal wife. She is the focus of detailed analysis below.

Berenice I: The daughter of Salome I (Herod’s powerful sister) and Herod’s Chief Aide Kostobarus[110]. Berenice was neither Queen nor Princess and yet was given as wife to Herod’s first heir – Antipater III. When Antipater was removed from Herod’s will, she was taken from him and married to Aristobulus IV. With him, was born their daughter Herodias, the woman who would be the downfall of John the Baptist. Her siblings included Herod V (King of Chalcis), Herod Agrippa (King of Judea), Aristobulus V, and Mariamne III.

Berenice II:  Often confused with Berenice I, she was likely the oldest daughter of Herod (via his niece Cypros II, daughter of Pheroras). She became daughter-in-law of Herod twice:  by marriage to Herod II and again by marriage to Herod Antipas.

Berenice III: Daughter of Antipater III and Berenice I, wife of Herod V.

Salampsio I : Herod's oldest daughter  married Phasael II (son of Herod's older brother, Phasael I). They had 3 sons & 2 daughters: Antipater, Alexander, Herod, Alexandra and Cypros.


Cypros III: The youngest daughter of Salampsio and Paheael II married her cousin Agrippa I, the son of her mother's brother, Aristobulus IV. She was the mother of Agrippa II.

The Herodian Heirs (Successors of Herod):

Of course, the best indication of royal power was who was named as heir or successor. Herod’s wills (as many as seven) record the complexity of his family life and a high degree of intrigue.

Antipater: Herod’s first heir was Antipater, his oldest son (by Doris). But when Herod decided to marry into Jewish royal blood (Mariamne I, the Hasmonean princess), he sent Doris and Antipater into exile. Later, Herod sought their return and made Antipater his heir again. But Antipater got caught up in the investigation of the poisoning death of Herod’s brother (Pheroras) and Herod removed him from his will (~7 BCE). Antipater’s first wife was given as “Mariamne”, and she has generally been presumed to be Herod’s niece (the daughter of Joseph and Olympias who was named Cypros). Closer study indicates that the first wife of the principle heir and successor of Herod was actually the daughter of Antigonus Mattathias (the last Hasmonean king)[111]. This is a remarkable circumstance which is a cornerstone of the detailed assessment below. Antipater’s second wife was Cypros, Herod’s niece (the daughter of Phaseal and Salampsio)[112].

Alexander and Aristobulus:  When Doris and Antipater were in exile, Herod named the sons of Mariamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus, as heirs. They were sent to Rome to be trained as royalty, but were antagonistic towards their father (as he was not Hasmonean and had killed their mother). Herod was forced to go to Rome and bring his sons home (17 BCE).

Herod II: Mariamne II, the Levite daughter of the High Priest Boethus, had a son known as Herod II. But he died young while in Rome.

Archelaus and Antipas:  In his third will, Herod named his sons by Malthace (the Samarian) as co-successors (H. Archelaus and H. Antipas) with Antipater. This was the first time Herod indicated that his kingdom might be divided upon his death (and followed Augustus’ acknowledgment that Herod would be allowed to name his own successors). 

Sisinies and Phillipus: Next in the line of succession were the sons of C. Caesaria:  Sisines and Phillipus. They are discussed in detail below as Sisines is the only son of Herod to receive his rule before Herod’s death (and Phillipus became heir to Herod’s territories including Iturea, Trachonitis, Gaulonitis and Paneas).

The Herodian Era in Chalcis:

Now let us try to tie all this together as it relates to Chalcis and the family of Jesus…

The year 23 BCE was eventful for Herod. His newest son (Phillipus via C. Caesaria) was born and Herod gained the territories of Batanea, Trachonitis and Auranitis. Those regions were taken from Zenodorus by Augustus (supposedly for supporting brigands near Damascus) and given to Herod. Augustus also made Herod one of the procurators of Syria giving him additional income and greater status in the region. Meanwhile, Zenodorus went to Rome to protest but was denied remedy. He then sold (for 50 talents) his personal property in Auranitis[113] to local “Arabs” who opposed Herod. They also appealed to Augustus to avoid Herod’s takeover, but were unsuccessful. Herod then moved thousands of Idumeans to the region (see Appendix III).

In the year 22 BCE, Herod received the right to name his own successor from Augustus and sent his sons by Mariamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus, to Rome for preparation as royal heirs. There, it is likely that they went to the “academy” of Pollio[114] and were taught on occasion by the Emperor himself. But these sons, having Hasmonean blood and the haughty attitude of their grand-mother (Alexandra), publicly disparaged Herod (especially after the execution of their mother) and so Herod travelled to Rome to bring his sons back to Judea (17 BCE). At that time, he probably brought other sons to Rome so that they could begin their education – Herod II (by Mariamne II) and Archelaus and Antipater (by Malthace). Herod II then disappeared from the historical record and probably died while in Rome. Archelaus and Antipater were next in the line of succession but suffered from a lack of royal lineage. Herod’s succession was in trouble[115].

After Zenodorus’ sudden death in 20 BCE, Augustus annexed part of his territory (the areas between Trachonitis and Galilee including Ulatha and Paneas) to Herod's kingdom. Herod became the third most influential man in the Roman Empire (after Augustus and Marcus Agrippa) and was thereby able to procure the rule of Perea for his brother Pheroras. But this left a significant part of Chalcis to be ruled by the son of Zenodorus – Lysanias II (the one mentioned in Luke at 3:1 as “tetrarch of Abilene”)[116]. This younger Lysanias is only mentioned obtusely by Josephus and the historical record regarding him is very sparse.

Our best guess is that Lysanias II is intentionally ignored or minimized by Josephus. We know from inscriptions[117], coins[118], and other historical references[119] that Lysanias held the same formal rank as Herod’s sons (“Tetrarch”) and was also titled “High Priest” (presumably of a Chalcian Temple). As the likely grandson (or great grandson) of P. Mennaeus and Alexandra (the sister of King Antigonus the Hasmonean), Lysanias II would have had significant stature with the Roman Empire and Judean royalties. Since Luke uses his reign to establish a timeframe and places him as Tetrarch during the 15th year of Tiberias (29-30 CE), we know he was a contemporary of Jesus. There should be little doubt that he was also associated with the Herodian ruler of “Chalcis”. We shall return to this tie later.

Herod’s first son by Cleopatra Caesaria (“of Jerusalem”) was Sisines (b. 24 BCE). We don’t have his name recorded in the record or any specific historical reference to him, but some son of Herod assumed control of Chalcis before Herod’s death (as below). By the “process of elimination”, we know this was the oldest son of Caesaria. With both sons of Herod by C. Caesaria having been sent to Rome for education[120], we have strong indication of Herod’s intention to name them as heirs. We also find later that Herod’s children[121] were kept at the home of Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Antony, a Roman princess, and mother of Emperor Claudius. Among their companions at the estate of Antonia were the later emperors Caligula and Claudius.

Because of the continuing dissent of Alexander and Aristobulus, Herod offered to bring Antipater, his son by Doris, back to his Court[122]. Antipater, emboldened by this, negotiated to also have his mother returned to Herod’s Court and together they worked (successfully) to further alienate Herod from Alexander and Aristobulus. According to Josephus, by 14 BCE, Antipater was declared to be Herod’s heir (in his second will) and was sent to Rome (travelling there with Marcus Agrippa) as a way of commending him to Augustus (and to have the new will accepted). Herod then took Alexander and Aristobulus before Augustus and accused them of attempting to poison him (in 13 BCE).

Augustus ordered reconciliation (that the sons obey their father) and they all returned to Jerusalem (via Athens and Cappadocia[123]) where Herod made a proclamation[124] of his intent to divide his kingdom among Antipater, Alexander, and Aristobulus. In a very unusual circumstance, it appears that Augustus would allow Herod to divide his own kingdom. But the matter was certainly unresolved. It is also important to note that Josephus makes no mention of Sisines or Phillipus who are clearly heirs of Herod. So, the intrigue continued and it is well summarized as follows…

“Dissension at Herod's court worsens. Antipater continues to conspire against Alexander and Aristobolus, having outside sources make false reports of their disloyalty to Herod. This has the effect of increasing his regard for Antipater, at the expense of his half-brothers. Herod's sister Salome detests the sons of the first Mariamme and Glaphyra, the wife of Alexander, who looks down on Salome's daughter, Berenice, wife of Aristobolus, and Salome herself as lowborn. Pheroras falls in love with a slave-girl and dishonors his wife (and niece), Herod's daughter Salampsio, and in so doing dishonors Herod. Herod gives his daughter to his nephew Phasael, son of his brother Phasael, and eventually convinces Pheroras to leave the slave-girl and marry his other daughter Cypros, which  he agrees to do, but reneges on his promise thereby further dishonoring Herod. Salome convinces her daughter Berenice to turn against her husband, Aristobolus, and to report to her anything incriminating about him, which she then forwards to Herod. Herod begins to believe everything that he hears about everyone. Pheroras tells Alexander that Herod desires his wife Glaphyra, which causes Alexander to confront his father, who then takes his brother to task for spreading such a report about him and attempting to incite Alexander to kill him. Pheroras blames Salome for the plot, who denies it. Pheroras is also accused of earlier having plotted to kill Herod, while he accuses his sister Salome of plotting to marry Syllaeus, the procurator of Obadas, king of Arabia, Herod's enemy.  Both Salome and Pheroras are acquitted of charges…. and soon everyone is betraying everyone else.”[125]


Amidst the chaos, the sons of C. Caesaria remained in Rome until Herod was persuaded to bring them “home”. Archelaus of Cappadocia (father-in-law of Alexander) travelled to Jerusalem and managed to reconcile Herod and Alexander (and also Herod with his brother Pheroras). Then Herod headed for Rome (travelling with Archelaus to Antioch) and seemingly prepared for his demise (as he was quite ill). It would seem that his wife Cleopatra died about this time and while in Rome Herod apparently gained the approval of (or was instructed by) Augustus to appoint Sisines as governor of Chalcis.

With Herod’s return to Jerusalem it should be no surprise that things worsened again. Both Alexander and Aristobulus were accused of planning Herod’s murder[126]. In 9/8 BCE Herod sent a delegation to Augustus and brought charges against his two sons. Augustus suggested that Herod convene a court in Berytus (Beirut-Lebanon/Chalcis) to hear the case and impose judgment (including the tacit permission to execute his sons). The choice of location probably coincided with the installation of Sisines as Governor of Chalcis.

Whether Herod was inclined to “reward” his oldest and least troublesome son (Sisines) or he was merely honoring an old debt or obligation (Cleopatra’s dowry), the Upper Galilee and major portion of Chalcis became the first part of Herod’s kingdom to be set apart. It makes even more sense for this to have happened during the period when Augustus had removed Herod’s right to name his own successor(s)[127].

Alexander and Aristobulus were found guilty (along with some supporting members of the Judean military) and were executed in 7 BCE at Sabaste (Samaria) (apparently to avoid potential disruption in Jerusalem). We don’t know what happened with Phillipus until Herod’s death, but it would seem that Phillipus returned to Rome (avoiding the craziness of the Herodian Court). With the deaths of his latest heirs (from Herod’s third will), Herod named Antipater as primary successor and gave him supremacy in the Herodian Court.  Herod sent Antipater to Rome with the new will to have Augustus endorse it. Antipater worked with Pheroras to remove the other sons of Herod and the children of Alexander and Aristobolus as contending heirs by arranging marriages for political advantage[128]:

Antipater married “Mariamne (III)” (Herod’s niece - the daughter of Joseph and Olympias).

H. Agrippa (I) was married to Cypros, Phasael’s daughter.  

Aristobulus (IV) bar Alexander married Iotapa, princess of Emessa.

H. Pollio (later “Herod of Chalcis”) married Mariamne (IV)[129].

“Julius” Alexander bar Aristobulus married Mariamne (V).

Tigranes bar Alexander (by Glaphyra of Cappadocia) married an unknown Armenian princess.

The marriages beyond Antipater’s influence were Sisines’ marriage to Mariamne (d. Antigonus) and Philipus’ marriage to Salome (his niece, the daughter of Herodias and Herod Philip[130]). Josephus says nothing about Sisines and therefore says nothing about his marriage, but there should be little doubt that the most favored son would get the prize princess and that Mariamne Antigonus was at the top of the list. Again, we should look carefully at the reasons for Josephus to ignore this noblewoman.

What we know about her is pieced together by hints, supposition, and logical “filling of the gaps”. We are told about the family and children of Antigonus when he sends them into the care of P. Mennaeus (his brother-in-law) before starting his war against Herod (~43 BCE). We know that a sister of Antigonus named Alexandra married P. Mennaeus (after his son Phillipion went to get her from Askelon). And we know that a sister of Antigonus held Hyrcania (the fortress where the bulk of the Hasmonean treasure was kept) for years (37-32 BCE) after the death of Antigonus[131]. There is no reason to think that it was not Alexandra who was the “remarkable woman, whose extraordinary courage, skill, and ingenuity enabled her to resist Herod for several years”[132]. It seems apparent that Hyrcania was never actually “taken” but that some settlement was negotiated between Alexandra A., Herod, and the Romans. Part of that agreement involved her daughter (name uncertain, but generally deemed “Mariamne”) who first became the wife of H. Antipater and then married Sisines.  The other part of the agreement appears to have made portions of Chalcis part of her dowry.

Antipater’s machinations didn’t pay off – mostly because of Syllaeus, the chief minister of Nabatean Kings Obodas II and Aretas IV (after 9 BCE). Herod and the Nabateans had gotten along pretty well until the revolt of Trachonitis (starting in 12 BCE). There was also an issue of Syllaeus offering to marry one of Herod’s daughters and then refusing to convert to Judaism. With rebels from Trachonitis gaining refuge in Nabatea and other factors, Herod decided to invade Nabatea (while Syllaeus was in Rome). Protests to Augustus were fruitful and the Emperor scolded Herod, renounced their friendship, and took away his right to name his successor. This obviously irritated Antipater and subsequently, Antipater accused Syllaeus of bribing one of Herod's bodyguards and two Arab accomplices to kill the ailing Herod.  Herod sent those accused of the plot to Rome for trial and then he banished Pheroras (and his wife)[133].

Pheroras soon thereafter died and Herod found (by torture) evidence that Pheroras was poisoned at the instigation of Syllaeus. In the process, Herod also discovered the depth of Antipater's animosity towards him. Herod then banished Doris from his court as she is a major cause of the dissension and disruption. Herod continued torturing servants and members of his court until he found out that Antipater and Pheroras had conspired to poison him. Even Mariamme (II), Herod’s favorite wife was implicated and he divorced her, removed her son (“Herod II”) from his will[134], and removed Simon (Mariamne’s father) as High Priest (5 BCE).

While still in Rome, Antipater arranged for forged letters to be sent to Herod hoping to incriminate Herod’s other sons who were then studying in Rome: Archaleus (son of Malthrace) and “Philip” (son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem)[135]. Finally, by the time Antipater returned to Jerusalem, Herod had figured out his shenanigans and met him with chains. In proceedings before Varus (the Governor of Syria), Josephus cryptically reports that Antipater's wife, the daughter of Antigonus, appeared with him and Doris at his trial before Varus. It is this single reference that throws much of Josephus’ history askew.

Antipater was found guilty, but due to his royal position and having been previously approved as successor to Herod, Augustus needed to approve the death sentence recommended by Varus. Augustus removed Antipater's position as successor, granted that position to Herod Antipas (son of Malthace), and approved the execution. Herod wrote a new will (or codicil) naming Archelaus (Antipas’ older brother) as successor while designating other regions to be under the rule of Antipas and Phillipus. Herod executed Antipater five days before his own death (4 BCE).

Antipater’s actions, as described by Jospehus, are irrational[136] and Herod’s execution of Antipater under the circumstances given is improbable[137]. Also odd is that Josephus made it clear earlier in his history that all the Hasmoneans had been executed by Herod, but surprisingly a prominent Hasmonean princess (the daughter of King Antigonus) mysteriously appears as the primary wife[138] of Herod's primary heir. As suggested by JJ Raymond, “it must have been a kick in the ball for old and dying king Herod to find out his heir was married to the daughter of the man who beheaded his brother Joseph, imprisoned his brother Phasaelus … and had a hand in the poisoning of his father Antipater”[139]. All the indications are that Josephus is deceiving us.

In his telling of the events following Herod’s death, Josephus never mentions Chalcis or its surrounding regions.  We are told that after long debate with the involved parties and a substantial delay, Augustus decided on a compromise solution: Archelaus was named Ethnarch over Idumea, Judea, and Samaria (with the promise to be made king if he proved worthy – he didn’t); Antipas was named Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea; and Phillipus was named Tetrarch over Gaulanitis, Tranchonitis, Batanea, and Paneas. So we wonder again, who was the fourth Tetrarch and what happened in Chalcis. At the same time we might wonder what happened to the elder son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem. And finally, we should wonder what happened to the last Hasmonean princess after the death of Antipas.

The chaos that followed Herod’s death was extensive and involved personages largely ignored by historians[140]. We will also ignore many of the details. Having now said (and shown) how unreliable Josephus’ history can be, I will point again to the confusion his information has created. To exemplify this, here is a short section from one detailed effort to piece together the Herodian family puzzle…

Based on a comparison process of elimination it appears that Miriam IV [at E] was betrothed to Antipater III, apparently (?) when a child; she subsequently is not identifiable. Before the Great died he betrothed Antipater III’s unnamed daughter to Herod A and an unnamed son of Antipater III to one of Bernice A’s and Aristobulus IV’s daughters (at E). Antipater III also had contrived to change the betrothal of a daughter of Pheroras from “[Tigranes] the elder of Alexander’s s [III’s and Glaphyra’s] sons,” so that “Antipater’s son should marry Pheroras’ daughter.”[141]


There are five related events or historical references which are generally ignored or overlooked by historians:

1. Even in the midst of rebellion and revolt,  H. Archelaus and H. Antipas left for Rome to dispute the wills of Herod. They left Phillipus in charge while they were gone!  Roman intervention was required (first by Varus and then by Sabinus, the new Judaean procurator sent by Augustus). Phillipus then joined his step-brothers in Rome (Schürer, ibid).

2. Josephus reports that a Jewish delegation also went to Rome to argue for Roman rule. (Ant. xvii XI, I (299-303); B. J. ii 6, I (83)), but he says nothing about a Jewish delegation seeking independent rule.

3.  One Jewish rebel, Athronges, proclaimed himself the Mashiach/Messiah and “retained his power a great while [two years?]; he was also called king, wore the Jewish crown, and had nothing to hinder him from doing what he pleased”. Ant. xvii 10, 7 (278-84); B. J. ii 4, 3 (60-5).

4. After the death of Herod a portion of the tetrarchy of Zenodorus went to Herod's son Philip [Phillipus]( Ant. ,XVII, xi, 4).

5. The NT Gospels refer to “Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene” as ruling during “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” [28 or 29 CE] while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea [26-36 CE] (Luke 3:1). Josephus makes reference to this same Lysanias, but such is generally confused with his mention of the earlier Lysanias. (Wars 2:12:8).

With these elements and what we’ve already discussed, we may begin to fill some significant historical gaps. After the death of Zenodorus (23 BCE) and before the death of Herod (4 BCE), the region of Chalcis (Iturea/Abilene) is largely unmentioned. Upon the death of Herod, his kingdom is divided into halves (northern and southern) and each half is divided into halves – a “tetrarchy”. Because of Josephus’ misguidance, most historians have accepted that the tetrarchy (a rulership by four) was only ruled by three of Herod’s heirs with H. Archelaus ruling two fourths. But this makes no sense by definition, geography, or history.

Josephus makes it clear that Augustus rewarded Herod with portions of the territories of Zenodorus (aka, portions of Chalcis). Josephus carefully ignores Chalcis and its history in his writings and then intentionally misleads regarding Herod’s succession. It is only through the unavoidable later history that Josephus acknowledges the Herodian rule over Chalcis (when Josephus conflagrates the regional names). Thus, “Herod of Chalcis” emerges mysteriously into history as the ruler of Chalcis after the death of his brother. We will come back to him shortly.

With Lysanias II a descendant of P. Mennaeus still ruling part of Chalcis (perhaps the key portion of the patriarch’s kingdom in the Beqaa Valley) until at least 26 CE and the note that Jesus chose to go to the region bordering Tyre and Sidon (the Beqaa Valley) to escape Herod Antipas (“that fox”), it seems likely that Chalcis was his choice. It also seems likely that the region was ruled by a Herodian senior to Phillipus. What we do “know” is that a Herodian was given control of those territories upon his death (Ant. 17.11) and that he was a “brother” of Phillipus.  Unfortunately, history has left us without information regarding this person – our “Sisines”.

So let us piece together some of the puzzle and see if a cogent picture emerges.  Here are the key pieces:

  1. Chalcis was one of the most prosperous and influential kingdoms in the Levant, but it was ignored by Josephus except where it couldn’t be avoided. Thus, our knowledge of it is both incomplete and misleading[142].
  2. For most of the century before Jesus was born Chalcis was ruled by Hellenized Semitic leaders who were actively involved in the politics and affairs of Judea. Those rulers were related to the Hasmoneans and so were the family of Jesus.
  3. The most important Jewish princess and heiress of the Hasmonean dynasty, the daughter of Antigonus, married the most likely heir to the Herodian kingdom (Antipater), but he was executed just before Herod’s death. She had an ancestral claim and probably also had a dowry claim to the Chalcis region. There is no doubt that she would have remarried (or have been forced to re-marry) upon the death of Antipater. However, this marriage is not mentioned by Josephus (who offers great detail regarding other less significant marriages)[143].
  4. Josephus provides us with great detail regarding territories assigned to, given to, or captured by Herod and three of his sons, and his key grandsons. Augustus divided Herod’s kingdom into fourths between Herod’s sons by Malthace (Archelaus and Antipater) and Cleopatra (Sisines and Phillipus). Of course, Josephus never gives us the name of the senior son by Cleopatra, never offers any details regarding Chalcis (by any name), and intentionally disregards relevant people and places related to Chalcis. In some cases, he is either mistaken or intentionally misleading regarding Chalcis and the people who ruled it[144].
  5. We know little about Cleopatra of Jerusalem and even if we accept that the name Cleopatra has little meaning in determining her ancestry, we have several strong indications that she was of royal descent. And, there is the distinct possibility that she was the secret daughter of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra VII hidden by Alexandra bat Hyrcanus II (Herod’s mother-in-law and good friend of Cleopatra VII). She would thus also have had dowry rights in Chalcis.
  6.  Archelaus failed as ruler of Judea (being deemed incompetent and exiled by Augustus) and was replaced with a Prefect (Coponius) in 6 CE. Antipas governed Lower Galilee and Perea for forty-two years. The center of Herod’s kingdom moved from Jerusalem to Chalcis where the grandsons and great-grandsons of Herod ruled for a century after his death[145].
  7. That the primary lineage of Herod were those who ended up in Chalcis is best indicated by the fact that H. Agrippa I (the “King Herod” in Acts 12:1-23) was empowered to name the Jerusalem High Priest until his death when the power was given to Herod of Chalcis (who named Ananias, who presided during the trial of Paul at Jerusalem and Caesarea, as High Priest). Finally, it was H. Agrippa II (ruling Chalcis until 53 CE) who selected the High Priest until the Jewish revolt began in 66 CE (and the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE).

The picture that emerges from the facts, the evidence, and the most logical presumptions looks like this…

When Herod married Cleopatra Caesaria (“Cleopatra of Jerusalem”) he also accepted her ancestral rights, dowry, and marriage contract. This gave her a favored position within his court and independent income from one of the most prosperous regions in the Levant. That region was divided into Roman controlled areas (“Syria” and the independent cities[146]), Herodian controlled areas (Lower Galilee and the Golan regions), and Chalcis. As the dynasty established by Ptolemy Mennaeus faded, more and more areas that had previously been part of Chalcis became territories ruled by Herod. By the time Jesus was born (7 BCE), Herod’s fate (demise) was clear and his succession was in doubt. As others struggled to become the primary heir of Herod, Cleopatra focused on gaining an advantage for her sons by having her oldest son appointed to rule Upper Galilee (and adjacent regions of the former Chalcis).

The “historian” Josephus detested Cleopatra VII and that dislike carried over to Cleopatra Caesaria. Thus, her sons are largely ignored by Josephus and her oldest and most influential son was ignored entirely within the histories of Josephus. Nevertheless, it is pretty clear that Caesaria’s oldest son was given control over her properties in Chalcis (perhaps upon her death) and that his rule of the region was arranged or approved at least two years before Herod’s death. He was also the person likely to have gained Mariamne dau Antigonus as a wife after the execution of Antipater.

This royal couple – the united grandson of the Caesar (Julius) and the Cleopatra (VII) with the senior Hasmonean princess – could have constituted a serious threat to both Augustus and Herod. It should not be a surprise that they were kept “hidden away” in Anti-Lebanon. Perhaps they chose “the quiet life” or they were compelled to remain obscure. It may even be the case that it was dangerous to mention them in a “historical work”. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain why neither of them has notoriety. Even their only child, Pollio, is obscure.

It is difficult to ascertain the boundaries of the region they ruled. Map makers rely upon historians, archeologists, and good guessing to depict uncertain regions and draw their boundaries. The areas known as Coele-Syria, Upper Galilee, Gaulanitis, and Batanea are not well established and when we look at modern maps of the ancient Levant we should note the large area which might have been encompassed by these regions. We should also note the inexplicable void in the area of Chalcis and the failure of most to identify it. The strategic, political, and economic importance of the region is readily apparent and our lack of historical detail regarding it is striking[147].

Thus, it is during the most relevant period that we have the least amount of information and here again we confront the misdirection of Josephus who incorrectly records that in 37 CE, Caligula (Emperor Gaius) appointed H. Agrippa I[148] as ruler of “the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias.” Combining this reference with one in Luke (3:1) to “Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene”, we have important clues to the historical progression. Somewhere between 7 BCE and 37 CE, Chalcis was divided into a Tetrarchy in much the same manner as the territories of Herod.

Unlike the Tetrarchy of Herod, which was divided among his four favored sons, the Tetrarchy of Chalcis was divided among those who had ancestral claims to regions of Chalcidene (including Herodians and descendants of P. Mennaeus)…

·         Lysanias II, a grandson of P. Mennaeus, gained control over the eastern region (Abilene).

·         Pollio, the son of Sisines and grandson of Herod and C. Caesaria, retained the core region in the Bekka valley (Chalcis)[149].

·         Philipus, the son of Herod by Cleopatra, took over the southern region (Iturea).

·         Azizus (father of Sohemus, Sohaemus, or Soaimos), the good friend of Herod[150], ruled the northern part from Heliopolis to Laodicea (Emesa)[151].

As noted above, Lysanias II was a direct descendant of P. Mennaeus, the founder of the Chalcian dynasty. His link to Pollio and Phillipus was multifaceted and complex. Instead of trying to detail the full extent of their relationship and overcome the confusing conflagration of names, we will consider the example of “Drusilla”:

Drusilla of Mauretania was the great granddaughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony (she was the daughter of Julia Urania of the Royal family of Emesa and Ptolemy of Mauretania, son of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene). Thus, she was a great niece of Cleopatra of Jerusalem, mother of Sisines and Phillipus via Herod. Her namesake was her Aunt Drusilla, first cousin of Emperor Claudius (and thus a second cousin of Caligula). It was Claudius who arranged for her to marry Marcus Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judaea. Herod Agrippa I also had a daughter (via Cypros) named Drusilla of Judea who was betrothed to Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, first son of King Antiochus IV of Commagene. But that marriage didn’t get consummated when he refused to convert to Judaism (by circumcision). Instead, she married Gaius Julius Azizus, King of Emesa – only to later divorce him and marry Marcus Antonius Felix – the same man as above! Thus, Felix’s first wife was Drusilla of Mauretania and his second was Drusilla of Emesa/Judea. But wait… Drusilla of Mauretania married her second husband Sohaemus[152], the Emesene Priest King, in 56 CE (also making her a Drusilla of Emesa).  Drusilla and Sohaemus had a son named Gaius Julius Alexio (aka Alexio II), who later succeeded his father as Emesene King (after 73 CE). Drusilla’s sister Berenice married her uncle Herod of Chalcis and later lived (incestuously) with her brother Agrippa II. Hoping to reduce the scandal, she married Polamo, king of Cilicia, but that didn’t work so she returned to Agrippa until his death whereupon she began a “common-law” marriage with Emperor Titus.

Honestly, if I tried to write a more complex or convoluted fictional account, I probably couldn’t. The Chalcian Tetrarchs Lysanias II, Pollio, Phillipus, and Azizus were all related to Drusilla and to each other in a complex web of descendent intermarriages. Thus, they were also related to the Herodian Tetrarchs, especially H. Philip (the son of Herod by Mariamne) who was Tetrarch of the neighboring areas that had once been part of Chalcis (Panias and the Golan heights). These rulers were also related to Yeshua ben Yosef ben Yakob ben Matthan – “Jesus” whose grand-father had first married Cleopatra of Jerusalem.

While others have speculated that Jesus was related more closely to the Herodians and the Hasmoneans (usually via his mother), I propose that his closest tie was through this marriage of his grandfather. Furthermore, it seems obvious to me that Josephus attempted to disguise the fact that the Herodians split into factions and that his Jerusalem/Judean faction became the lesser one. (Both Josephus and his primary source, Nicholas of Damascus, had clear Judean biases. So did Paul of Tarsus.)[153]  Thus, both Christian and secular historians have followed the track which over emphasizes the role of Jerusalem in the life of Jesus. In a multi-year ministry, Jesus spent a small portion of his time there (perhaps a few months total).

Where did Jesus spend his time? We don’t really know. His “home base” seemed to be along the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Magdala, but the gospels report frequent activities in the surrounding regions and along the Jordan River…

  • To the Decapolis (the region of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes - Mk 5:1;  Lk 8:26; Mt 8:28).
  • To the region of Tyre and Sidon (Syria-Phoenicia -Mt 15:21; Mk 7:24). 
  • To Caesarea Philippi (Iturea and Trachonitis - Mt 16:13; Mk 8:27).
  • Further north towards Mount Hermon (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2; Lk 9:28).
  • Through Samaria (to or from Jerusalem - Lk 17:11; Jn 4:4).
  • To Bethany (to visit Martha and Mary - Lk 10:38).
  • To Bethany-across-the-Jordan (or Bethabara) and into Perea (Jn 10:40; Mt 19:1; Mk 10:1).


It is noteworthy that the Gospel of John repeatedly states that Jesus avoided Jerusalem/Judea because of dangers or threats there (e.g. Jn 7:1; 11:54). It is noteworthy that Jesus travelled freely through Samaria during a time when Judean Jews were generally afraid to do so. And it is especially relevant for this work that every trip mentioned for Jesus other than to and from Jerusalem involves a Tetrarchy associated with Chalcis[154].

Here we confront one of the difficult questions regarding the life of Jesus – the year of his death. This topic is fully discussed in a different work, but my conclusion holds that Jesus lived until 36 CE. Christian writers work diligently in reaching a different date based upon the last days and crucifixion story of the NT gospels but generally ignore conflicting evidence. The cornerstone fact we should build from is that Jesus lived beyond John the Baptist and John’s execution by H. Antipas occurred no earlier than 30 CE and most likely occurred between 34-36 CE.

This matters here because things changed greatly in the Chalcis region between 34 and 36 CE. Phillipus the Tetrarch died in 34 CE (perhaps the reason for Jesus’ trip to Caesarea Philippi, his capital) and Tiberius ordered his realms to be added to the Province of Syria. It is likely that the death of Phillipus was the cause of H. Philip’s trip to Rome where his wife, Herodias, fell for H. Antipas. Her subsequent move to live with her half-uncle was unlawful for a Jew for three reasons:

  1. Her former husband was still alive (Ant. xviii. 5, 4),
  2. H. Antipas' wife was still alive, and
  3. Through her first marriage with H. Philip she became the sister-in-law of H. Antipas and he was consequently forbidden to marry his brother's wife (Lev. xviii. 16, IX. 21).

In accordance with the NT gospels, this unlawfulness brought on John the Baptist’s wrath and public criticism and that led H. Antipas to arrest John and detain him at Macherus (the Herodian fortress nearest Nabatea)[155].  Aretas IV then invaded Perea and soundly defeated the army of H. Antipas partly because soldiers from the army of Phillipus supposedly joined the Nabateans (Ant. 18.109-118). It was during this period (and soon after the execution of John) that Jesus travelled to Perea (“across the Jordan”) - probably because the area was then under the control of the Nabateans[156] (Jesus also had reason to fear H. Antipas and many of his movements are best understood as an effort to avoid regions under his control).  

From this information we should see more of the connection between Jesus and Chalcis:

  1. The “Galilee” we associate with Jesus encompassed a larger area than commonly supposed – an area which included southern Chalcis. Upper Galilee was largely under the control of former Chalcians, including relatives of Jesus. Jews in Chalcis practiced a form of Judaism similar that that advocated by Jesus (more inclusive and less focused upon Temple service).
  2. The rulers of Chalcis – both pre-Herodian, Herodian, and extra-Herodian had family ties to Jesus. These ties involved both parents and spread to several of the regional royal families.
  3. The longest non-pilgrimage trip Jesus is said to have made was to the region bordering Tyre and Sidon (Chalcis). The purpose of the trip is not explained except for general references to aid a Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite) woman.
  4. Jesus travelled to Caesaria Phillippi near the time of Phillipus’ death. There may have been any of several reasons related to the death or this or it may have been merely coincidental, but it is specifically mentioned within the gospels.
  5. Jesus travelled to Perea (the trans-Jordan) only after the region was no longer under the control of H. Antipas. It seems likely that this was due to the presence of Jews loyal to Phillipus.
  6. After the death of Jesus and after the Jewish revolt, the key groups of Jesus’ followers and family ended up in Perea and former Chalcian territories (especially Batanea)..


The year after the death of Jesus (37 CE), Caligula (aka Emperor Gaius) appointed another grandson of Herod as ruler of Chalcis. We hear of him as “Herod of Chalcis” and he is said to be the son of Aristobulus (IV). He was given the same title as his grandfather (“Basileus”)[157] and Josephus seems intent to conflate him with others. Indeed, Josephus offers little but confusing misdirection regarding him. But even Josephus couldn’t avoid or ignore a simple fact: from the period immediately after the death of Jesus until the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE), Judea and Jerusalem were controlled by a Herodian in Chalcis. Subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, Chalcis, Batanea, and the surrounding regions were far more prosperous and significant than Judea. We should wonder if perhaps they weren’t so before the destruction of Jerusalem.



Coin showing “Herod of Chalcis” and his brother H. Agrippa I crowning Claudius I[158].


[1] See “Egyptianization and Elite Emulation in Ramesside Palestine: Governance and Accommodation on the Imperial Periphery” by Carolyn Higginbotham, Brill Academic Pub. (2000). p. 57. There is also a record showing that Rib-Hadda, of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) note, resided in Sidon during the period of great Egyptian temple building (14th C. BCE). See The Kingdom of the Hittites” by Trevor Bryce, Clarendon Press (1998), p. 186.

[3] Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Dictionary (1976): For the early Hebrews, “Baal” referred to the Lord of Israel, just as “Baal” farther north designated the Lord of Ugarit. Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions p.121. We should note that our knowledge of these designations comes mostly from opponents – the Judeans.

[4] Antiochus and Euboea gave birth to one unnamed daughter who is mentioned at Livy (“The History of Rome”) 37.44.6 and in the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries in 187 (“The Roman War of Antiochos the Great, Volume 239

by John D. Grainger, Brill (2002), p. 329; “A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer” by John D. Grainger, Brill, Leiden - New York – Köln (1997), p.71; and “Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: the Hellenistic Dynasties” by Daniel Ogden, Duckworth with the Classical Press of Wales (1999), p. 137. She was possibly betrothed to Demetrios I, King of Baktria. See Polybios, Histories 11.39.8-9.

[5] The city of Baalbek was re-named Heliopolis ((Greek: Ἡλιούπολις - with direct Egyptian influences) during the Seleucid period. During the Roman period it was one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire and still has some of the best preserved Roman ruins.

[6] There were several cities named “Hamoth” or Hammath” in Palestine. Hamath (north) was the capital of the Canaanite kingdom mentioned in Genesis 10:18 and 2 Kings 23:33; 24:21.

[7] Son of Eudamus bar Jeshua (Anti-Exilarch of Judea) and Tacallippis (Princess of Egypt); married to Arsinoe IV, Princess/Queen of Egypt. Aka Mennius/Menni.

[8] Other sources typically list his period from 85-40 BCE, but such does not fit the evidence.

[9] By comparison, the Syrian Consular army of 2 legions would have included about 4,000 horsemen.

[10] We have no indication of this High Priesthood, but he was allowed to marry a Jew without objection and he generally led a Jewish nation (which came to the defense of Jerusalem. As was typical of Josephus, any priesthood which competed with that of Jerusalem was discounted (as with the Egyptian Oniads and the Samarians) or ignored (as here)).

[11] It is not clear why Jospehus sought to diminish, downplay, and misrepresent the history and significance of Chalcis, but my guess is that they strongly opposed the Jerusalem Temple (as a competitor) and Judean “corruption” of Judaism (as remnant people of the Northern Tribes/Israeilites).

[12] This Hasmonena princess, daughter of Antigonas (the last Hasmonean king – 40-37 BCE), is mentioned favorably in the historical records, but she is not named. She was previously married to H. Antipater (d. 4 BCE) and would have been a high-ranking princess.

[13] Aka Sohaemus. In 56 CE he married the Princess Drusilla of Mauretania (a cousin).

[14] The cousin of Mamaea, wife of Polemon II of Pontus.

[15] This probably means that the Hebrew Idumeans were compelled to circumcision and thereby became “Jews” to those who believed that only the circumcised were actually Jewish.

[16] Contrary to some historical references that seek to mislead (e.g. the current Wikipedia article), these captives were clearly Jews and not “Macedonians”. Note “History of the Jews”, Vol. II by Heinrich Graetz, Project Gutenberg (2013 Ed.)

[17] This meant that they would either accept either circumcision or be put to death.

[18] See “The Early Roman Period”, Vol.  2 by William Horbury, Cambridge University Press (1999), pp. 210-11.

[20] Note that the temple base was used for later temples and their archaeology tells us nothing about the original temple which we may date

[21] Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and Lighthouse of Alexandria.

[22] “Archaeologists, unable to resolve the mysteries of the transportation and lifting of the great blocks, rarely have the intellectual honesty to admit their ignorance of the matter and therefore focus their attention solely on redundant measurements and discussions regarding the verifiable Roman-era temples at the site. Architects and construction engineers, however, not having any preconceived ideas of ancient history to uphold, will frankly state that there are no known lifting technologies even in current times that could raise and position the Baalbek stones given the amount of working space. The massive stones of the Grand Terrace of Baalbek are simply beyond the engineering abilities of any recognized ancient or contemporary builders.” From http://sacredsites.com/ middle_east/lebanon/baalbek.html. As if to prove “cognitive dissonance”, theories have been proffered from aliens to secret Roman societies to explain the stones.

[23] Josephus followed the anti-Northern/anti-Samaritan biases of the Deuteronomistic history. For interesting analysis, see “The Samaritans in Josephus’ Jewish ‘History’” by Ingrid Hjelm, The Fifth International Congress of Samaritan Studies, Helsinki, 2000.

[24] See “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State” by Ḥanan Eshel, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (2008), Ch. 4.

[25] See Wars, XIII, 358-60. Note “Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land” edited by Avraham Negev, Shimon Gibson, Continuum, 2005, p. 356.

[26] “The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads” by Jan Retso, Routledge (2013)

[27] “Jews, Idumaeans, and Ancient Arabs: Relations of the Jews in Eretz-Israel with the Nations of the Frontier and the Desert During the Hellenistic and Roman Era (332 BCE-70 CE)”, Aryeh Kasher, Mohr Siebeck (1988), pp. 86-125.

[28] Given as 1000 talents – 2 ½ times the amount later offered by Aristobulus to Scaurus which led to his being named as ruler of Judea (as below).

[29] The privilege of minting coins was reserved for those principalities which held higher esteem from the Romans. Thus, coinage is not only a critical part of the historical record, it is highly indicative of regional power. When new rulers came to power, one of their first acts usually included the minting of coins.

[30] Antipater had married a high ranking Nabatean.

[31] This may very well have been Lysanias – a Davidic heir not of the Hasmonean line. It also fits with Josephus not explaining this remarkable note.as he repeatedly downplays the Chalcis connection.

[32] Lysanias was called “King of the Itureans” by Dio Cassius (xlix. 32).

[33] At the border of Samaria on a mountain near the Jordan Valley between Scythopolis and Jerusalem.

[34] This is where Josephus notes that Pompey entered the Holy of Holies, but removed nothing Ant. xiv. 4, 4; Wars i. 7,6. Indeed, he allowed the resumption of services within the Temple.

[35] Aristobulus was killed by poison given him by someone in Pompey's party.  Alexander was beheaded by Pompey’s father-in-law, Q. Metellus Scipio, at Antioch.

[36] Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra (VI) "entrusted their whole kingdom to Jews, and the generals-in-chief of the army were the two Jews Onias and Dositheus” ("Contra Ap." ii. 5). Cleopatra VII (their daughter) appointed two Jews as generals in her army, Helkias and Ananias sons of the high priest Onias who built the temple at Leontopolis ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 4; 13, § 1). JE. It is likely that Helkias was the general sent to wage war against her son Ptolemy Lathyrus,

[37] The most logical source for this army was the former Egyptian soldiers that had settled in Chalcis with the Jewish-Egyptian general  Halkias (see note above). It is also likely that she was related to P. Mennaeus both as blood relative and possible as a sister-in-law.

[38] There was a rumor that Cleopatra was pregnant when she left Rome after Caesar’s assassination. See “Cleopatra: A Biography” by Duane W. Roller, Oxford University Press (2010), pp. 74-75. For convenience, we shall give the daughter the name Cleopatra Caesaria (a name not recorded in history). The subsequent story that led to her becoming Herod’s fifth wife is a “best guess” which fits the available evidence.

[39] Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar. Never officially acknowledged as the son of Julius Caesar.

[40] Thea Urania (Astarte or Thea Musa).

[41] Poisoned by Thermusa in 2 CE. Phraates other sons by other wives (Saraspades [Vonones I], Cerospades, Phraanas, and Boones - per Strabo) are sent to Rome and are otherwise unknown although some say that Boones was also called Phraataces.

[42] According to Josephus. The oriental writers on Persian history offer different names and accounts so that he was also known as Arsaces XVI. He ruled but a short time before being convicted and expelled.

[43] Son of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene II Roman appointed monarchs of Mauretania.

[44] King Sampsiceramus II of Emesa Iotapa (born around 20 BC-unknown date of death) was a princess of Commagene, daughter of King Mithridates III of Commagene, Queen consort of Syrian.

[46] As Julius Caesar was declared a deity after his death and although his named heir was an adopted son (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, his great-nephew), any true son would have also been viewed as deity by the Romans. This is why the older male descendants of J. Caesar and Mark Antony were promptly killed by Octavian while the daughters were used as prized brides.

[47] Jacob ben Matthan a Davidic prince who acted as Herod’s envoy/ambassador to Egypt, was also likely to have been Joseph’s father (thus, the grand-father of Jesus).

[48] Oddly, although Caesarion could not retain property of his mother, a daughter may have be able to hold certain property through the law of Parapherna (the property of a woman that on her marriage that is beyond her dowry but remains her own to dispose of as she pleases entirely free from the control of the husband (although he may be given administration of the property during the marriage). Upon the end of the marriage, the parapherna was restored to the woman or her heirs. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parapherna; "’Pherne’ and ‘parapherna’ in the documents of Augustus' reign: on the subject of P.Ryl. II 125 once again.” By Carlos Sánchez-Moreno Ellart in Aegyptus, Anno 86, (2006), pp. 177-193; “Handbook of the Roman Law”,  Vols 1-2”  By Ferdinand Mackeldey, T. & J. W. Johnson, 1883, III:C:573 at page 432; “Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law, Vol.43” by Adolf Berger American Philosophical Society, 1968, p. 617.

[49] See “Fasti Sacri: A Key to the Chronology of the New Testament” by Thomas Lewin, Longmans, Green and Company (1865) and cites therein. Also note Porphyry's comment in “Eusebus Chronicle” per Alfred Schoene, Vol. I, Berlin (1875), Col. 170.

[50] While here it is Lysanias who is said to induce the Parthians to depose Hyrcanus in favor of Antigonus Mattathias, in Ant. 14.330-331 Josephus states that it was Antigonus who made the offer to the Parthians. The later is unlikely.

[51] See “The Ituraeans and the Roman Near East: Reassessing the Sources” by E. A. Myers, Cambridge University Press (2010), pp.

[52] “In the end, it was Ptolemy who brought Antigonus back to Judea with an army, "because of their kinship" (BJ I. 239; A XIV, 297, Emph. Added).” “Josephus, the Bible, and History” edited by Louis H. Feldman & Gåohei Hata, BRILL (1989), PP. 140-41.

[53] See “Damascus: A History” by Ross Burns, Routledge (2005), pp. 47-48.

[54] See "Herod the Great, Sosius, and the Siege of Jerusalem (37 B.C.E.) in Psalm of Solomon 17" by Kenneth Atkinson, Kenneth,  Novum Testamentum (October 1996) (Brill), 38: 312–322. Her cousin Alexandra dau Hyrcanus was also wealthy and part of Herod’s Court.

[55] The daughter of John Hyrcanus II is commonly and elsewhere herein deemed Alexandra II. Also as noted elsewhere herein, the daughter of Antigonas (“Alexandra A” / Mariamne?) held up for several years at the Hyrcania fortress (where the Hasmoneans kept much of their treasure).

[56] For an informative analysis of relevant dowry and property laws regarding women, see “Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria Between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes” by Jan Dušek, BRILL, (2012), p. 119, et seq. (I know the title seems incorrect, but it’s the right one). Also see note below.

[57] Born on 25 December 40 BCE.

[58] I would guess that one major purpose of Cleopatra’s visit to Jerusalem was to see her daughter.

[59] A common method of denigrating one’s enemies during this era (and afterwards) was to suggest what couldn’t be easily disproven – that they lacked sexual scruples.

[62] Octavian persuaded Caesarian to return to Egypt with false promises, then killed him and stole his riches.

[63] Octavian celebrated his military triumph in Rome, by parading the children of Antony and Cleopatra in chains through the streets of Rome. They were then taken by Octavian and placed under the care of Octavia Minor, Octavian’s sister and Mark Antony's former wife.

[64] A funerary inscription found at Heliopolis (Baalbek) was dedicated to "Zenodorus the son of Lysanias the tetrarch" (of Iturea).

[65] Octavian was so impressed with Herod’s composure and resolution that he not only confirmed him in his kingdom, but added to it the territories of Chalcis and Perea to the north and east of the Jordan. (“Josephus” Ch. I, "The Jews and the Romans" by  Norman Bentwich, , Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America (1914)).

[66] Historical references would indicate that Zenodorus led a regional band of “robbers” and “brigands”, but we should not take this literally. Instead, they probably attempted to remain as independent from Rome as possible and such made them seem criminal. They were hunted out by the forces of the Syrian Legate and their lands seized.

[67] Augustus also gave Herod four hundred Galls [Galatians] who had served Cleopatra as personal bodyguards and took Herod’s two sons (Alexander and Aristobulus IV) as “hostages” to Rome.

[68] Among the duties Jacob had performed for Herod were “ambassadorship” to the Court of Antony and Cleopatra (38-30 BCE), the arrangement to bring the Alexandrian Ananelus to Jerusalem as High Priest (36 BCE), and back-channel negotiations with Antony regarding his “trial” (35 BCE at Laodicea). 

[69] The sequence of Herod’s marriages is unclear (see “Herod's Judaea: A Mediterranean State in the Classical World” by Samuel Rocca, Mohr Siebeck, 2008), p.75) and some historians would make Mariamne II his fourth wife. Whether he married Malthace before Mariamne makes little difference and it remains unclear why he married Malthace at all. What is clear is that they met while he was recovering from some nasty illness in Samaria.

[70] “King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor : a Case Study in Psychohistory and Psychobiography” by Aryeh Kasher, Eliezer Witztum, Walter de Gruyter (2007), p. 175.

[71] The order of Herod’s marriages is less than clear, but the sequence of the major wives is better known or assumed.

[72] Sometimes labeled as “Herod II”, this prominent son and heir is unnamed by Josephus or historical record. I have assigned this name based upon Herod’s naming “logic”. Archelaus Sisines Archelaid IV, King of Cappadocia, was one of Herod’s best and most trusted friends while Archelaus’s father was Cleopatra’s brother-in-law and thus Caesaria’s uncle.

[73] See “The True Herod” By Geza Vermes, Bloomsbury Publishing (2014), p. 89.

[74] Herod made his first-born son Antipater (his son by Doris) first heir in his will (of which he made several).

[75] Written out of Herod’s will in 4 BCE because his mother knew of the plot to poison Herod and didn’t act. Aka Herod Philip, Herod Boethus, and “Rus”.

[77] I think that we can discount the idea that Mariamne II was also Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Pope: http://www.domainofman.com/book/sup2.html) since their given descendants are distinguishable.

[78] Some historians quickly ignore the meaning of “tetrarchy” (from the Greek τετραρχία "leadership by four [people]" http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Tetrarchy.html and “ruler of a quarter” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/589118/tetrarch assuming that Herod’s kingdom was divided into fourths and the two-fourths were given to Archelaus (making the term meaningless).

[79] Herod’s good friend was Archelaus Sisines Philopatris of Pontic Comana who was made King of Cappadocia by Octavian in 36 BCE. He was the father of Glaphyra, the wife of H. Alexandra (brother of H. Archelaus). See “Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt” by Margaret Bunson, Infobase Publishing (2009), p. 45; “The Annals of Tacitus: Volume 2, Annals 1.55-81 and Annals 2” by Cornelius Tacitus, Cambridge University Press (2004), p. 319 (2.4.2); and Josephus (War I:499-512  and Ant. 16:188). 

[80] Aka Herod II (conflated), Herod of Chalcis (erroneously) or Aristobulus IV (confused/conflated).

[81] Hasmonean daughter of King Antigonas. Probably the ranking princess of her time. Previously married to heir-apparent H. Antipas. This was likely an “arranged” levirate marriage. Some suggest “Salome II”.

[82] Philip first married his niece Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Herod II (the son of Herod and Mariamne II, and the grandson of the High Priest Simon Boethus). This Salome followed her mother when she left Philip to marry H. Antipas (the marriage which John the Baptist opposed and for which opposition he was killed following Salome’s famous “dance”). Upon H. Antipas’ (childless) death, she married Aristobulus of Chalcis and they had three sons, Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus.

[83] The daughter of Salome I (sister of Herod the Great) and thus Herod’s niece. Later married to her third husband, Theudion, brother of Herod I's first wife Doris and therefore uncle of Herod Antipater.

[84] “Aristobulus of Chalcis” - the first of two. Aka “Herod of Chalcis” (erroneously), Herod III (misleading), and “Pollio”.

[85] But, see below for alternative.

[86]Berenice first married Marcus Julius Alexander (brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander) (41-44 CE), then she married her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis (45-48 CE). Finally, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years, married Polemon II of Pontus (king of Cilicia in an effort to dispel rumors of an incestuous relationship with her brother) and then left the King to return to her brother. Upon his death, she became consort to Titus (who was eleven years her junior) and one of the most powerful women in Rome. She has been described as a “miniature Cleopatra” (“The History of Rome”, Book V: “The Establishment of the Military Monarchy” by Theodor Mommsen (1885)).

[87] His cousin.

[88] The nephew of Philo and grandson of Alexander the Alabarch

[89] King of Emesa

[90] His father’s name is unknown, but he is identified as a noble and priestly Idumean.

[91] Also married the former wife of H. Antipater, an unnamed high-ranking princess (the daughter of Antigonus).

[92] 1st married Antipas b. Herod I and had no children, then married H. Philip I (levirate).

[93] His second wife was Berenice d. Agrippa and they had two sons, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus.

[94] Son of Josephus (brother of Herod) and Olympias (daughter of Herod).

[95] Aka Julia Berenice. 1st married Marcus Julius Lysimachus Alexander of Alexandria. 2nd married Herod III Pollio, King of Chalcis. 3rd married Julius Polemon (aka Polemo II of Pontus), King of Cilicia and subsequently became the partner/consort of Titus, the Roman Emperor. What a woman?

[96] First married Gaius Julius Azizus of Emesa with no children then married Antonius Felix and had one son: Agrippa Felix. Her two sisters were Iotapa who married the Herodian Prince Aristobulus Minor and Mamaea.

[97]She married  Alexander I (son of Tigranes V), King of Cilicia,  and bore him Princess Julia de Cilici.

[98] The daughter of King Archelaus of Cappadocia (Herod’s good friend). She was of Greek, Armenian and Persian descent as her mother was an unnamed Princess from Armenia (likely  Artavasdes II of the Artaxiad Dynasty). After the death of Herod, Glaphyra's children renounced Judaism and came to live in Cappadocia with her. Later (~3 CE), she married king Juba II of Mauretania and then (~5 CE) married her former brother-in-law, H. Archelaus.

[99] King of Armenia from 6 to 12 CE (d. 36 CE). See Res Gestae Divi Augusti, V. xxvi. pp.390-91. Upon Herod’s death, his mother returned to the Court of her father, Archelaus, who sent Tigranes to live and be educated in Rome. Tigranes may have married Erato (daughter of Tigranes III and wife of Tigranes IV) as she served as either Queen or Queen consort during his reign. See “The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio’s Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 B.C.-A.D. 14)” by Peter Michael Swan, Clarendon Press (2004), pp.119-120 & 128-30.

[100] King of Armenia during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE).

[101] According to B. J. i. 28, § 6, Phasael was married to Salampsio. But in Ant. XVIII 5:4 she is married to his son. Perhaps both are correct.

[102] Pheroras was an odd character. He initially refused the offer of Herod to marry his oldest unmarried daughter (Cypros) as he was in love with a slave girl whose name is unknown (and who became his wife). The Pharisees persuaded him that he was the Messiah ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4).

[103] Because Jospehus didn’t like her, she is denigrated in his writings and her name was not given. We are told that she aided the Pharisees by paying a fine imposed on them after they had refused to take an oath of allegiance to Herod (Ant. 17:42–43). This may partly explain Josephus’ position as he was pro-Sadducee. We should probably ignore his claims that she was notoriously promiscuous as this was a favored way to denigrate women.

[104] Both sons were dowered by Emperor Augustus ("Ant." xvii. 11, § 5; "B. J." ii. 6, § 3).

[105] Princess of Cappadocia, daughter of King Archelaus Sisines (son of Archelaus III and Berenice IV, princess of Egypt).

[106] Cypros married Agrippa I, the son of Aristobulus and Alexandra married Timius of Cyprus.

[107] Alexandra had significant negotiating leverage since Herod desperately wanted and needed royal validation.

[108] Note Ant. 15:71–73; 205–206 where she tries to gain control of the army while Herod is away.

[109] Thus, she was also first cousin of Mariamne I (above), the powerful and renowned 2nd wife of Herod.

[110] Whom Herod had earlier made Governor of Idumea.

[111] Clearly not “Cypros” (per Knoblet – “Herod the Great, p. 171) and possibly “Mary” per J.J. Raymond (http://www.jjraymond.com/religion/marymotherofjesus2.html), as the reasoning is sound. I picked the name “Miriam” because it is logical and distinguishes her.

[112] See “Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts” by Kenneth C. Hanson & Douglas E. Oakman, Fortress Press (1998), p. 35…

[113] Josephus says “a part of his eparchy – Auranitis” which some have mistakenly read as having sold the entire region (for a mere 50 talents and without a legitimate claim?).

[114] I agree with Peter Richardson (and other) that this was Asinius Pollio. See “Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans” by Peter Richardson,  Fortress Press (1999), p. 231, fn 49.

[115] Since Aristobolus married Berenice, the daughter of Salome (Herod's sister) and Alexander married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archaelus (Herod’s good friend and the king of Cappadocia), those arrangements must have been made before the “falling out” between Herod and sons.

[116] “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea, Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene…” Luke 3:1.

[117] “Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum -” Vol. III Pts. 17-32, compiled by August Bockh and edited by Johannes Franz, Patrologia Latina Graeca et Orientalis, (1853), Ch. 26, p.240 (#s 4521 and 4523).

[118] See Appendix XXXVII – Coins and Statues

[119] E.g. the inscription at Suk noted in “The History of the Jewish People”, Vol.1 by Emil Schurer (Appendix 2). Note  http://www.josephus.org/FlJosephus2/MailAndFAQ.htm#Lysanias.

[120] Together with their half-brothers Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas “a kind of honorable detention to guarantee his father's loyalty”. http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodians/philip.htm.

[121] From the historical records related to H. Agrippa, Herod’s grandson by Aristobulus. H. Agrippa was sent to Rome when only 3 years old (8 BCE). See http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodians/herod_agrippa_i.html.

[122] When Herod married Mariamne I, he sent his first wife Doris and her son Antipater into exile.

[123] Where Herod’s good friend and in-law Archelaus ruled.

[124] In War (1.23.5 457-66), Josephus includes a speech given by Herod to the people expressing his resolution about his sons.

[125] Professor Barry D. Smith, Crandall University, Religious Studies 2033 – “The New Testament and Its Context” at http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/ntintro/intest/hist7.htm.

[126] At this point in his telling, Josephus relates the story of Eurycles the Spartan (a “vile fellow” indeed) who ingratiates himself with Herod and then begins the “calumniation of the sons of Mariamne” (see Wars, I.23) leading to the deaths of Alexander and Aristobulus.

[127] Note Ant. 16:335–55.

[128] See “History of the Daughters”, 68b.

[129] See “Josephus and Judaean Politics” by Seth Schwartz BRILL (1990), p. 148.

[130] In the Gospel of Mark (6.17) Phillipus is mistakenly mentioned as the first husband of Herodias. The Phillip intended was his step-brother H. Phillip.

[131] See “Queen Salome: Jerusalem's Warrior Monarch of the First Century B.C.E.” by Kenneth Atkinson, McFarland (2012), p. 232.

[132] “Josephus, the Bible, and History” by Louis H. Feldman, Gåohei Hata (BRILL) (1989), p. 141. Note that she was the mother of Lysanias, the King of Chalcis (d. 36 BCE), whose son Zenodorus probably assisted her.

[133] For a well written overview of these events, see “The Jewish people in the first century: historical geography, political history, social, cultural and religious life and institutions”, Vol 1 by Shemuel Safrai, Van Gorcum (1974), pp. 244-248.

[134] Mariamne’s son seemed to be well positioned to succeed his father, but is ignored by Josephus. Perhaps this is a result of his loss of status or more likely it results from Josephus’ biases.

[135] It becomes clear later that these half-brothers and competing heirs became trusting friends while in Rome together.

[136] He was named as successor and his father was deathly ill… why plot to kill him?

[137] Herod had already troubled Augustus with changes in his will and requests for successors to be executed. Augustus had recently informed Herod that the privilege of naming his own successor has been revoked and it had only been restored through the oratory skill of Nicholas od Damascus. Why would he risk losing that right again?

[138] Antipater was also betrothed to the “second” daughter of Aristobulus IV (and Bernice), but that marriage was probably prevented by Antipater’s trial and execution.

[140] Two Jerusalem rabbis, Judas and Matthias, sought punishment for Herod's counselors and started a revolt which forced Archelaus to call out his entire force such that amid great bloodshed the rebellion was only temporarily suppressed. Judas bar Hezekiah overtook Sepphoris, its garrison and its armory. Athronges, a remote Davidic prince, and his four brothers began a successful revolt and Athronges even managed to wear the royal diadem (crown) and for a “long time” made the country insecure. See “Disturbances after Herod's Death” (Ch. 16) in “A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ”, Vol. 2 by Emil Schürer,  Scribner (1891)

[141] “History of the Daughters, A Compendium of the Epoch c. 1935 b.c./b.c.e. to 44 a.d./c.e.”, L P Publishing (2012), Book Four, Part 59 available at  http://www.historyofthedaughters.com/.

[142] Pliny (v. 23. § 19) speaks of a city named Chalcis in the district Chalcidene, which he describes as the most fertile of all Syria. Strabo and Ptolemy (of Alexandria) also note Chalcis. Historians have over-relied upon Josephus here.

[143] While I disagree with the basic conclusion, it is worthy to note that at least two well-researched and considered works suggest that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the same person as Mariamne, the daughter of Antigonus: “King Jesus” by Robert Graves (1946) inCollected Works of Robert Graves” edited by Robert A. Davis (Carcanet Press); “King Jesus” by Robert Graves, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st paperback edition (1981) and Herodian Messiah: Case for Jesus As Grandson of Herod by Joseph Raymond (Tower Grove Publishing, 2010). Also note http://www.jjraymond.com/religion/marymotherofjesus2.html.

[144] To reiterate that Chalcis was both well known and significant, in the preeminent geographical work, “Geogrphica” by Ptolemy of Alexandria, he lists the 13 major provinces of “Syria”: Commagene, Pieria, Cyrrhestica, Seleucia, Casiotis, Chalibonitis, Chalcis, Apamene, Laodicea, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, Palmyrene, and Batanea.

[145] Herod Agrippa I became Tetrarch of Chalcis in 37 CE. Phillipus ruled Ituraea and Trachonitis until his death in 34 CE where he was succeeded as Tetrarch by Herod Agrippa I. Agrippa then surrendered Chalcis to his brother Herod and ruled in Paneas. In 39 CE, with the death of H. Antipas, H.Agrippa became ruler of Galilee and then in 41 CE was made ruler of Judea by his friend Claudius. Chalcis was then ruled by Aritobulos (V) until 92 CE.

[146] Although these are commonly deemed the “Decapolis”, there were more than ten and they changed over time. There were probably ten within the area controlled by Herod and thus the term was widely used by Judeans.

[147] As Rev. James Martin described Baalbek (northern Chalcis) in “Histoire de Liban”: “…its advantageous position of the northern entrance of Bekaa, on the road the caravans travelled, a position commanding a tract of land, sixty leagues square, which this beautiful and fertile valley embraces; which enabled it to extend Its power, to arrive at great prosperity, to have most active intercourse with all the great nations of antiquity…” (Arabic Translation, Vol I Ch. III, p. 381).

[148] Caligula was probably twenty or more years younger than Agrippa when Caligula became emperor. In Ant. 18:6, we hear that Agrippa’s freedman Eutychus is the one who reported to Piso and then to Tiberius that Agrippa foresaw the day when “this old fellow” [Tiberius] would pass away and Caligula would replace him. The sequence places the event before 37 CE. Note Ant. XVIII:6:495 and Wars II:183.

[149] Viewing the confusing references in Josephus more openly and logically and knowing that popular names were often reused for royals, we should not conflate the Phillip references of Josephus with Luke’s “Philip, tetrarch of Ituraea” or Phillipi, the son of Sisiines. (I am using somewhat arbitrary variations of the name to help avoid confusion).

[150] See Ant. xv. 6. 5, 7. 1-4 referring to Soemus as a friend of Herod.

[151] By the end of the second decade of the “common era” the descendants of P. Mennaeus (including Lysanias and Zenodorus) had royal blood from other regional “kings” mixed with theirs and the prominent successors arose from marriages of daughters and grand-daughters. Thus, Lysanias II and Azizus were close cousins. They were also related to the Commagene royalty through marriage.

[152] AKA Soaimos (king of Emesa) who was the father of Varus/Noarus by a different wife.

[153] Nicholas of Damascus was a chief aid to Herod and his “Historia Universalis” provided the basis of Josephus' history of the Herodian kingdom. See https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ ejud_0002_0015_0_14822.html. Paul’s Jerusalem/Judean bias has early roots and is discussed in other sections.

[154] Southern Perea was never a Chalcian region, but during the time of Jesus’ ministry it was largely controlled by Chalcian fugitives from the former Tetrarchy of Phillipus who had sided with the Nabateans in the war between H. Antipas and Aretas IV. (Phillipus had died in 34 CE and his territories came under the rule of the Syrian Governor).

[155] It is interesting that Phasaelis, the first wife of H. Antipas and daughter of the Nabatean king Aretas IV “escaped” to return home through Macherus after hearing of her husband’s plan to marry Herodias.

[157] The title was “King” and was the favored designation of the Roman client kings. Some sources state that he gained his title from Claudius in 41 CE, but the earlier date seems more likely. He was a personal friend of Claudius and even went to Rome to participate in his crowning. Sources also report his date of birth as late as 10 CE, but since Aristobulus IV was killed by Herod in 7 BCE, he was obviously born earlier. See “The Middle East Under Rome” by Maurice Sartre, Harvard University Press (2005), p. 408, et seq.

[158] See http://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?vpar=1349&pos=0&sold=1.


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