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At this point, Pompey was assassinated, and Caesar was fighting in Egypt. This proved a good time for Antipater to ingratiate himself with Caesar. With Hyrcanus (who was really Antipater’s puppet) supposedly giving the orders, Antipater took three thousand men and went to help Mithridates of Pergamum, who was on his way to join Caesar and was delayed in Ascalon. Antipater not only delivered these three thousand heavy-armed Jewish soldiers, but also persuaded several influential Arab chiefs to help Caesar. Antipater and Mithridates proceeded to the city of Pelusium, and as the inhabitants would not admit them, they put the city under siege. Antipater showed his bravery by pulling down a part of the wall, and Mithridates got in and conquered Pelusium. They continued toward Egypt.
As they marched through the district of Onias, the Jews who were the inhabitants there tried to prevent them from advancing. Antipater persuaded Mithridates to avoid fighting them. Instead, he used subtle diplomacy. He appealed to the Jews to side with him because of their shared nationality, and he showed them a letter from Hyrcanus, who was most influential with any Jew because of his position as High Priest. Hyrcanus’ letter asked them to help Caesar and show him hospitality. Naturally, the Jews complied. The same happened in Memphis. Even better, many men joined Mithridates’ army.
When they arrived in the Delta, Mithridates and Antipater separated into two camps. Mithridates commanded the right wing, Antipater the left. During the battle, Mithridates’ wing was in trouble, and almost lost, but Antipater rushed over, engaged the enemy with his own wing, and defeated the Egyptians. He only lost about fifty men, while Mithridates lost about eight hundred.
Mithridates was an honest man. He wrote to Caesar and told him that Antipater had been responsible for the victory, and for saving Mithridates himself from certain death. Caesar was impressed. He started using Antipater’s services in several dangerous tasks throughout the entire war; it was great honor, but it also resulted in Antipater being wounded in some of the battles. But Antipater knew that this was a small price to pay for what came next. When Caesar finally concluded his affairs in Egypt, he reconfirmed Hyrcanus as the High Priest – but reserved the real job for Antipater. He gave him Roman citizenship, exemption from all taxes, and appointed him Procurator of Judea.
The two appointments did not go unchallenged. Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, came to Caesar and made a scene, or one can safely say, had a tantrum. He bewailed the sad fate of his father, who was poisoned, and his brother, who was beheaded, and blamed their devotion to Caesar for their fate. He begged Caesar to take pity on him for being driven from his own realm, and accused Hyrcanus and Antipater of governing the people by violence and lawlessness. This display might have worked better if Antipater was not present at the scene. With his usual style and elegant rhetoric, Antipater retorted that Aristobulus and his family were nothing but revolutionaries and rabble-rousers who deserved their fate, and that it was he, Antipater, who had proven his loyalty to the Romans. Then, with a bit of calculated drama, he stood up, stripped off his clothes, and showed the scars he had received in the battles he fought for Caesar and the Romans.
The results were pretty much to be expected. Caesar, like the rest of the Romans, was rather tired of the Hasmoneans and the trouble they caused. He was willing to keep Hyrcanus, since he was docile and under Antipater’s control, but Antigonus was distasteful to him. There and then, he officially reaffirmed Antipater’s position as Procurator of Judea. Hyrcanus’ was reassured again of his position as a High Priest, and he received gracious permission to rebuilt the walls of his city. To end this matter once and for all, Caesar sent Letters to this effect to the Capitol, and everything was settled to the satisfaction of Caesar, Antipater, and Hyrcanus.
Caesar was now ready to return to Rome, and after escorting him to his ship, Antipater returned home and at once started to raise the walls for Hyrcanus, who was not up for the hard task. To further his own plans, he went about the country, advising people to remain quiet. He promised that those who sided with Hyrcanus and himself would be left in peace, and Antipater would be their protector and friend. But if they were to revolt, they would provoke both Hyrcanus and Antipater to become tyrants, and would turn Caesar and the Romans into enemies instead of allies, because the Romans would be offended if they saw the men they had chosen themselves antagonized. The campaign worked perfectly, and for the moment, order was restored in Judea.
But Antipater knew only too well that Hyrcanus was dull, sluggish, and without the energy necessary for his position. Something had to be done about it… and done diplomatically, peacefully, and successfully, because Antipater needed assistance in the difficult work of governing a nation that could never be entirely controlled by any ruler. Antipater, of course, knew what to do... Stay tuned!