• 1. Wife of Herod the Great; the first of this name. She was the daughter of the Hasmonean Alexander, a son of Aristobulus II., who was conquered and put to flight by Herod's father, Antipater. Her mother was Alexandra, daughter of the reigning prince Hyrcanus II. When Herod, at that time tetrarch, entered Jerusalem in triumph in 42 B.C., Alexandra sought to bring about the marriage of her daughter to him, hoping thus to avoid the ruin of her house (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 12, § 1; idem, "B. J." i. 12, § 3). The war, however, left Herod no leisure; and not until five years after his betrothal to Mariamne, and three years after he had become nominal king of Judea, did he leave the siege of Jerusalem, in 37 B.C., and celebrate his marriage in Samaria ("Ant." xiv. 15, § 14; "B. J." i. 17, § 8). Mariamne bore him three sons, Alexander, Aristobulus, and one who died young, and two daughters, Salampsio and Cypros.

The marriage proved an unhappy one. The king, indeed, loved the beautiful woman passionately; but the queen could not forget that Herod had been the murderer of all her family and that he had succeeded to the throne really at the cost of her paternal house. She displayed a natural pride toward this parvenu which was especially felt by Herod's mother and by his sister Salome, who wrought so much evil in the course of her life.

Left in Charge of Joseph.

The queen ruled the king completely. This was made manifest when Alexandra insisted that her son, Mariamne's brother, should be made high priest. On the advice of Dellius, the friend of Antony—who wished to give the latter's passion another direction—she sent pictures of her two beautiful children to the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. Antony had, in fact, designs on the youthful Aristobulus; and since Mariamne also asked the favor of the king, he found himself obliged to make the youth high priest (35 B.C.; "Ant." xv. 2, § 6; "B. J." i. 22, § 3), although, in reality, only to kill him on a suitable occasion. When, later, Herod was obliged to justify before Antony at Laodicea the killing of Aristobulus, he placed Mariamne under the protection of Joseph, his brother-in-law, commanding him to kill her in case he (Herod) should not return alive. As Joseph had occasion to associate a good deal with Mariamne in connection with governmental affairs, he good-naturedly told her of the boundless love the king felt for her and of the secret instructions which Herod had given him. A false report of Herod's death being circulated, Mariamne sought refuge with the Roman legions. Herod, however, was dismissed with the favor of Antony. On his return Salome accused Mariamne of adultery with Joseph. Herod at first would not believe the charge; but it chanced that the queen reproached him for the secret commission he had entrusted to Joseph, and this convinced Herod of the criminality of Joseph and Mariamne. In his anger he caused Joseph to be put to death immediately, and he would have similarly disposed of Mariamne had not his love for her been greater than his anger. He, however, threw Alexandra into prison (34 B.C.) as the instigator of the scandal ("Ant." xv. 3, §§ 5-9; "B. J." i. 22, §§ 4-5).

Falsely Accused by Salome.

In the spring of the year 30, Herod visited Augustus in Rhodes. He left Mariamne and her mother under the protection of a certain Joseph and of the Iturean Sohemus. Again he commanded that his wife should be killed in the event of his death. The king had hoped to find love on his return; instead he found himself hated and avoided. The king's mother and sister found him ready to listen to their slanders. Salome told him that Mariamne sought to poison him. Thereupon the king questioned Mariamne's favorite eunuch, who said he knew nothing of the poison, but that the queen was offended because of what Sohemus had told her in regard to his secret instructions. Sohemus met the same fate as had Herod's brother-in-law,and Herod caused Mariamne to be accused before a tribunal composed of his friends, which pronounced sentence of death. The king and some of the judges did not wish to hasten the execution, desiring merely to put Mariamne in prison; but Salome represented that the people might raise a disturbance and seek to release Mariamne, and the latter was consequently led to death. During the entire route to the place of execution her own mother, Alexandra, desiring to rehabilitate herself in Herod's eyes, reviled her, accusing her of adultery and of ingratitude toward Herod. Mariamne answered not a word, and died calm and composed ("Ant." xv. 6, § 5; 7, § 6), being about twenty-eight years of age (29 B.C.).

Discrepancy in the Sources.

The fact that Mariamne was twice accused under similar circumstances of adultery with the regent, makes it probable that Josephus' account contains some inaccuracies, the more so as the second account is wholly lacking in "B. J." (Destinon, "Di Quellen des Josephus," p. 113). The second account, however, can not be a simple repetition on the part of Josephus of the first, since Josephus himself, in relating the second incident, refers to the first ("Ant." xv. 7, § 1). It is remarkable that Josephus mentions Joseph the second time without any further particulars (ib. 6, § 5), which looks, it is true, as though he had before him two parallel accounts which he tried to combine in this way. According to "B. J.," Mariamne was put to death in the first case—that is, in the year 34. But this is impossible, since she could not have borne five children between the years 37 and 34. Indeed on closer scrutiny the two incidents do not appear at all identical, since in the second case it is not the regent Phreroras with whom Mariamne is associated, but Sohemus, who was of comparatively low rank. Hence the two incidents are probably historical, and the omission of the second account in "B. J." is due to the fact that Josephus, as usual, has condensed his narration in that work. The historian Nicholas of Damascus believed in Mariamne's guilt ("Ant." xvi. 7, § 1).

Talmudic Legends.

There is a Talmudic legend concerning the marriage and death of Mariamne, although her name is not mentioned. It is to the effect that when the whole house of the Hasmoneans had been rooted out, she threw herself from the roof and was killed (B. B. 3b). Out of love for her, Herod is said to have kept her body preserved in honey for seven years (ib.; S. Geiger, in "Oẓar Neḥmad," iii. 1). In the Talmud this sort of mental derangement is called a "deed of Herod" (Sanh. 66b). Josephus relates also that after her death Herod tried in hunting and banqueting to forget his loss, but that even his strong nature succumbed and he fell ill in Samaria, where he had made Mariamne his wife ("Ant." xv. 7, § 7). The Mariamne tower in Jerusalem, built by Herod, was without doubt named after her; it was called also "Queen" (Βασιλίς "B. J." ii. 17, § 8; v. 4, § 3).

Josephus writes the name Μαριάμη, adding the inflectional ending to Μαριάμ (= ), the Septuagint form of the name. In some editions of Josephus Μαριάμμη stood with double "μ"; this was dissimilated to "mn" in the Middle Ages, and the name has so remained (S. Pape-Benseler, "Wörterbuch der Griechischen Eigennamen," 3d ed. 1870, s.v.).

  • Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 187, 200, 216;
  • Derenbourg, Hist. p. 151;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 358-386;
  • Well hausen, I. J. G. 4th ed., pp. 325, 328.
  • 2. Wife of Herod the Great; the second of this name. She was held to be very beautiful; and Herod, on first seeing her, was seized with an ardent passion for her. Since he did not wish to obtain possession of her by force, he thought it best to marry her. He advanced her father, Simon the son of Boethus (a man of humble birth, originally from Alexandria, but at that time living in Jerusalem), to the position of high priest (25 B.C.) a few years after the execution of the first Mariamne (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 5, § 4; comp. ib. xvii. 1, § 2; idem, "B. J." i. 28, § 4).

Mariamne bore Herod one son, also called Herod ("Ant." xvii. 1, § 2), who married Herodias (ib. xviii. 5, § 4), and who was in fact the destined heir to the throne ("B. J." i. 29, § 2; comp. ib. 30, § 3). Mariamne knew of Herod's intention in regard to her son (ib. 30, § 7). Josephus always writes Μαριάμη or Μαριάμμη, as he does also in the case of other persons of the same name.

  • Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 223;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 407.
G. S. Kr.
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