1. When Antiochus had taken the kingdom, he was afraid to make war against Judea, because he heard that his brother by the same mother, who was also called Antiochus, was raising an army against him out of Cyzicum; so he staid in his own land, and resolved to prepare himself for the attack he expected from his brother, who was called Cyzicenus, because he had been brought up in that city. He was the son of Antiochus that was called Soter, who died in Parthia. He was the brother of Demetrius, the father of Grypus; for it had so happened, that one and the same Cleopatra was married to two who were brethren, as we have related elsewhere. But Antiochus Cyzicenus coming into Syria, continued many years at war with his brother. Now Hyrcanus lived all this while in peace; for after the death of Antlochus, he revolted from the Macedonians,nor did he any longer pay them the least regard, either as their subject or their friend; but his affairs were in a very improving and flourishing condition in the times of Alexander Zebina, and especially under these brethren, for the war which they had with one another gave Hyrcanus the opportunity of enjoying himself in Judea quietly, insomuch that he got an immense quantity of money. How ever, when Antiochus Cyzicenus distressed his land, he then openly showed what he meant. And when he saw that Antiochus was destitute of Egyptian auxiliaries, and that both he and his brother were in an ill condition in the struggles they had one with another, he despised them both.
2. So he made an expedition against Samaria which was a very strong city; of whose present name Sebaste, and its rebuilding by Herod, we shall speak at a proper time; but he made his attack against it, and besieged it with a great deal of pains; for he was greatly displeased with the Samaritans for the injuries they had done to the people of Merissa, a colony of the Jews, and confederate with them, and this in compliance to the kings of Syria. When he had therefore drawn a ditch, and built a double wall round the city, which was fourscore furlongs long, he set his sons Antigonus and Arisrobulna over the siege; which brought the Samaritans to that great distress by famine, that they were forced to eat what used not to be eaten, and to call for Antiochus Cyzicenus to help them, who came readily to their assistance, but was beaten by Aristobulus; and when he was pursued as far as Scythopolis by the two brethren, he got away. So they returned to Samaria, and shut them again within the wall, till they were forced to send for the same Antiochus a second time to help them, who procured about six thousand men from Ptolemy Lathyrus, which were sent them without his mother's consent, who had then in a manner turned him out of his government. With these Egyptians Antiochus did at first overrun and ravage the country of Hyrcanus after the manner of a robber, for he durst not meet him in the face to fight with him, as not having an army sufficient for that purpose, but only from this supposal, that by thus harassing his land he should force Hyrcanus to raise the siege of Samaria; but because he fell into snares, and lost many of his soldiers therein, he went away to Tripoli, and committed the prosecution of the war against the Jews to Callimander and Epicrates.
3. But as to Callimander, he attacked the enemy too rashly, and was put to flight, and destroyed immediately; and as to Epicrates, he was such a lover of money, that he openly betrayed Scythopolis, and other places near it, to the Jews, but was not able to make them raise the siege of Samaria. And when Hyrcanus had taken that city, which was not done till after a year's siege, he was not contented with doing that only, but he demolished it entirely, and brought rivulets to it to drown it, for he dug such hollows as might let the water run under it; nay, he took away the very marks that there had ever been such a city there. Now a very surprising thing is related of this high priest Hyrcanus, how God came to discourse with him; for they say that on the very same day on which his sons fought with Antiochus Cyzicenus, he was alone in the temple, as high priest, offering incense, and heard a voice, that his sons had just then overcome Antiochus. And this he openly declared before all the multitude upon his coming out of the temple; and it accordingly proved true; and in this posture were the affairs of Hyrcanus.
4. Now it happened at this time, that not only those Jews who were at Jerusalem and in Judea were in prosperity, but also those of them that were at Alexandria, and in Egypt and Cyprus; for Cleopatra the queen was at variance with her son Ptolemy, who was called Lathyrus, and appointed for her generals Chelcias and Ananias, the sons of that Onias who built the temple in the prefecture of Heliopolis, like to that at Jerusalem, as we have elsewhere related. Cleopatra intrusted these men with her army, and did nothing without their advice, as Strabo of Cappadocia attests, when he saith thus, "Now the greater part, both those that came to Cyprus with us, and those that were sent afterward thither, revolted to Ptolemy immediately; only those that were called Onias's party, being Jews, continued faithful, because their countrymen Chelcias and Ananias were in chief favor with the queen." These are the words of Strabo.
5. However, this prosperous state of affairs moved the Jews to envy Hyrcanus; but they that were the worst disposed to him were the Pharisees,who were one of the sects of the Jews, as we have informed you already. These have so great a power over the multitude, that when they say any thing against the king, or against the high priest, they are presently believed. Now Hyrcanus was a disciple of theirs, and greatly beloved by them. And when he once invited them to a feast, and entertained them very kindly, when he saw them in a good humor, he began to say to them, that they knew he was desirous to be a righteous man, and to do all things whereby he might please God, which was the profession of the Pharisees also. However, he desired, that if they observed him offending in any point, and going out of the right way, they would call him back and correct him. On which occasion they attested to his being entirely virtuous; with which commendation he was well pleased. But still there was one of his guests there, whose name was Eleazar, a man of an ill temper, and delighting in seditious practices. This man said, "Since thou desirest to know the truth, if thou wilt be righteous in earnest, lay down the high priesthood, and content thyself with the civil government of the people," And when he desired to know for what cause he ought to lay down the high priesthood, the other replied, "We have heard it from old men, that thy mother had been a captive under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. " This story was false, and Hyrcanus was provoked against him; and all the Pharisees had a very great indignation against him.
6. Now there was one Jonathan, a very great friend of Hyrcanus's, but of the sect of the Sadducees, whose notions are quite contrary to those of the Pharisees. He told Hyrcanus that Eleazar had cast such a reproach upon him, according to the common sentiments of all the Pharisees, and that this would be made manifest if he would but ask them the question, What punishment they thought this man deserved? for that he might depend upon it, that the reproach was not laid on him with their approbation, if they were for punishing him as his crime deserved. So the Pharisees made answer, that he deserved stripes and bonds, but that it did not seem right to punish reproaches with death. And indeed the Pharisees, even upon other occasions, are not apt to be severe in punishments. At this gentle sentence, Hyrcanus was very angry, and thought that this man reproached him by their approbation. It was this Jonathan who chiefly irritated him, and influenced him so far, that he made him leave the party of the Pharisees, and abolish the decrees they had imposed on the people, and to punish those that observed them. From this source arose that hatred which he and his sons met with from the multitude: but of these matters we shall speak hereafter. What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side. But about these two sects, and that of the Essens, I have treated accurately in the second book of Jewish affairs.
7. But when Hyrcanus had put an end to this sedition, he after that lived happily, and administered the government in the best manner for thirty-one years, and then died,leaving behind him five sons. He was esteemed by God worthy of three of the greatest privileges,—the government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy; for God was with him, and enabled him to know futurities; and to foretell this in particular, that, as to his two eldest sons, he foretold that they would not long continue in the government of public affairs; whose unhappy catastrophe will be worth our description, that we may thence learn how very much they were inferior to their father's happiness.
1. Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus, intending to change the government into a kingdom, for so he resolved to do, first of all put a diadem on his head, four hundred eighty and one years and three months after the people had been delivered from the Babylonish slavery, and were returned to their own country again. This Aristobulus loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds. He also cast his mother into prison, because she disputed the government with him; for Hyrcanus had left her to be mistress of all. He also proceeded to that degree of barbarity, as to kill her in prison with hunger; nay, he was alienated from his brother Antigonus by calumnies, and added him to the rest whom he slew; yet he seemed to have an affection for him, and made him above the rest a partner with him in the kingdom. Those calumnies he at first did not give credit to, partly because he loved him, and so did not give heed to what was said against him, and partly because he thought the reproaches were derived from the envy of the relaters. But when Antigonus was once returned from the army, and that feast was then at hand when they make tabernacles to [the honor of God,] it happened that Arlstobulus was fallen sick, and that Antigonus went up most splendidly adorned, and with his soldiers about him in their armor, to the temple to celebrate the feast, and to put up many prayers for the recovery of his brother, when some wicked persons, who had a great mind to raise a difference between the brethren, made use of this opportunity of the pompous appearance of Antigonus, and of the great actions which he had done, and went to the king, and spitefully aggravated the pompous show of his at the feast, and pretended that all these circumstances were not like those of a private person; that these actions were indications of an affectation of royal authority; and that his coming with a strong body of men must be with an intention to kill him; and that his way of reasoning was this: That it was a silly thing in him, while it was in his power to reign himself, to look upon it as a great favor that he was honored with a lower dignity by his brother.
2. Aristobulus yielded to these imputations, but took care both that his brother should not suspect him, and that he himself might not run the hazard of his own safety; so he ordered his guards to lie in a certain place that was under ground, and dark; [he himself then lying sick in the tower which was called Antonia;] and he commanded them, that in case Antigonus came in to him unarmed, they should not touch any body, but if armed, they should kill him; yet did he send to Antigonus, and desired that he would come unarmed; but the queen, and those that joined with her in the plot against Antigonus, persuaded the messenger to tell him the direct contrary: how his brother had heard that he had made himself a fine suit of armor for war, and desired him to come to him in that armor, that he might see how fine it was. So Antigonus suspecting no treachery, but depending on the good-will of his brother, came to Aristobulus armed, as he used to be, with his entire armor, in order to show it to him; but when he was come to a place which was called Strato's Tower, where the passage happened to be exceeding dark, the guards slew him; which death of his demonstrates that nothing is stronger than envy and calumny, and that nothing does more certainly divide the good-will and natural affections of men than those passions. But here one may take occasion to wonder at one Judas, who was of the sect of the Essens,and who never missed the truth in his predictions; for this man, when he saw Antigonus passing by the temple, cried out to his companions and friends, who abode with him as his scholars, in order to learn the art of foretelling things to come? "That it was good for him to die now, since he had spoken falsely about Antigonus, who is still alive, and I see him passing by, although he had foretold he should die at the place called Strato's Tower that very day, while yet the place is six hundred furlongs off, where he had foretold he should be slain; and still this day is a great part of it already past, so that he was in danger of proving a false prophet." As he was saying this, and that in a melancholy mood, the news came that Antigonus was slain in a place under ground, which itself was called also Strato's Tower, or of the same name with that Cesarea which is seated at the sea. This event put the prophet into a great disorder.
3. But Aristobulus repented immediately of this slaughter of his brother; on which account his disease increased upon him, and he was disturbed in his mind, upon the guilt of such wickedness, insomuch that his entrails were corrupted by his intolerable pain, and he vomited blood: at which time one of the servants that attended upon him, and was carrying his blood away, did, by Divine Providence, as I cannot but suppose, slip down, and shed part of his blood at the very place where there were spots of Antigonus's blood, there slain, still remaining; and when there was a cry made by the spectators, as if the servant had on purpose shed the blood on that place, Aristobulus heard it, and inquired what the matter was; and as they did not answer him, he was the more earnest to know what it was, it being natural to men to suspect that what is thus concealed is very bad: so upon his threatening, and forcing them by terrors to speak, they at length told him the truth; whereupon he shed many tears, in that disorder of mind which arose from his consciousness of what he had done, and gave a deep groan, and said, "I am not therefore, I perceive, to be concealed from God, in the impious and horrid crimes I have been guilty of; but a sudden punishment is coming upon me for the shedding the blood of my relations. And now, O thou most impudent body of mine, how long wilt thou retain a soul that ought to die, in order to appease the ghosts of my brother and my mother? Why dost thou not give it all up at once? And why do I deliver up my blood drop by drop to those whom I have so wickedly murdered?" In saying which last words he died, having reigned a year. He was called a lover of the Grecians; and had conferred many benefits on his own country, and made war against Iturea, and added a great part of it to Judea, and compelled the inhabitants, if they would continue in that country, to be circumcised, and to live according to the Jewish laws. He was naturally a man of candor, and of great modesty, as Strabo bears witness, in the name of Timagenes; who says thus: "This man was a person of candor, and very serviceable to the Jews; for he added a country to them, and obtained a part of the nation of the Itureans for them, and bound them to them by the bond of the circumcision of their genitals."