Cassius governed Syria for two years, from 53 to 51, and during that time, he was greatly involved, naturally enough, in the affairs of the entire region. At one point he marched to Tyre, then moved on the Galilee, and attacked the city of Tarichaeae, which is a place of interest because its other name was Magdala, and it is reputed to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. The city served as the stronghold of a man called Peitholaus, who had continued the revolt originally led by Aristobulus. Cassius conquered the city and enslaved about 30,000 men.
This would seem to be one more hopeless revolt and its expected dreadful aftermath, with little interest for just about everyone who was sick and tired of the Hasmoneans’ endless war mongering and inability to accept reality. However, the importance of this occurrence is that what Cassius did was based on advice from Antipater.
As mentioned before, Antipater was highly regarded by the Idumeans, his countrymen. They were
particularly pleased by Antipater’s choice of a wife, since instead of marrying a Judean noblewoman or a wealthy Roman, as he certainly could have done had he wanted to, he instead gratified his people by asking for the hand of Cypros, the daughter of a distinguished Nabatean-Arab family. He developed excellent relationships with many Arab princes, and these relationships would be beneficial for his advance –not only the friendship with Cassius, but with Rome in general.
When Julius Caesar became master of Rome, he released Aristobulus from prison, gave him two
legions, and sent him to Syria to gain support there. However, Pompey’s partisans found an opportunity and poisoned him. Pompey’s father-in-law, who was a proconsul in Syria, arranged a mock trial of Alexander, Aristobulus’ son, after charging him with crimes against Rome. The youth was quickly executed by beheading. One brother and two sisters were left, living with Aristobulus’
widow, and they were in grave danger. They were about to be saved from the wrath of Pompey in a story resembling our reality shows or soap operas. I never cease marveling at Josephus’ capacity for incredible gossip, and the story he tells about the family would have been unbelievable had it not been for other historians corroborating it.
A man named Ptolemy, son of Mennaeus, was the ruler of an area just under today’s Lebanon, comprised of Iturea and Calchis. Even though he had off and on clashes with the Jews, he decided to help Aristobulus’ remaining children. He sent his son, Philppion, to Aristobulus’widow in Ascalon, and instructed him to tell the widow to allow her son Antigonus and his two sisters to go back with him to Calchis. Ptolemy promised the widow that he would protect her children from any further attempts upon their lives. Naturally, the widow who knew that Antigonus (who had met
Ptolemy before) was on very good terms with him, agreed to the plan. She was further encouraged by Philippion falling in love very quickly with Alexandra, one of her daughters. The couple married, and all the young people set off to Calchis.
One more time, here is a proof that these Hasmonean women must have been extremely attractive. As soon as Ptolemy met his son’s new wife, he fell in love with her, and lost his head to such an extent that he had his own son murdered, and immediately married Alexandra himself. Words fail me…
Antipater did not interfere with this drama. He took care to show that Aristobulus and his family were none of his business, and remained connected, if superficially and for his own ends, to Hyrcanus, who was supported by Rome, which was Antipater’s main interest. With his usual political cunning, he knew who he was going to attach himself to; only one man deserved his loyalty. This was the man who would eventually take control of the known world – and thus be an invaluable alley to Antipater – the unstoppable general and politician, the rising star, Julius Caesar. And depend on it, he was right. The plot is about to thicken... stay tuned!