Evan Tucker

Tales of Classical Perversion: The First Aristobulus and Antigonus

Fall 129 BC, 625 Ab Urbe Conditia, 3633

1. The death of Antiochus VII Sidetes was followed by precisely what Antiochus the Pious predicted to Hyrcanus. Antiochus’s two sons, also named Antiochus, plunged Sellucid Greece into civil war, which quickly became civil massacre, as two rival brothers claimed the throne in quick succession, each alleging the other a Pretender.
129-109 BC, 625-645 Ab Urbe Conditia, 3433-3453
2. Upon reaching the throne, each son encountered further insurrection from their supporters. Many of the Greek Court, having supported Antiochus’s older son, Antiochus VIII Grypus, rebelled quickly against him after installation so they might support a claim of Grypus’s own son, Sellucus VI Epiphanes. Grypus’s younger brother, Antiochus IX Cyzicenus, encountered insurrection from his mother and lover, Cleopatra Thea, previously wife to both Antiochus VII Sidetes and his predecessor, Dmitrius II Nicator. During ten years that followed, each would overthrow the other multiple times every year and occasionally two would attempt to lead as co-rulers, only for collaboration to collapse immediately.
3. Hyrcanus, seeing the Greek territory that formerly belonged to Israel, set about reconquering parts of Syria, including the entire Madaba region across the Jordan River, the city of Shechem – sometimes referred to as Nablus, and the Mountain of Gerizim. He made war further against the Idumeans, Samaritans, and Cuthians – a tribe of Babylonian colonists settled upon the Jordan River’s West Bank. His greatest achievement is widely regarded as the ‘Sack of Sebastia’, the Idumean capital, which Hyrcanus’s army laid to cinder.
108 BC, 646 Ab Urbe Conditia, 3454
4. The true achievement at Sebastia belongs however to the generalship of Hyrcanus’s two eldest sons: Judas, nom-de-guerre Aristobulus, and Matthias, nom-de-guerre Antigonus – hereafter known by their war names, who so incinerated the city that starving survivors were said to feast upon deceased flesh for twenty years thereafter. Without consultation of Hyrcanus, the sons insisted upon forcing the conversion of all Idumeans with all consequent circumcisions. When Hyrcanus heard of their action, he admonished them to ‘beware the leaven of conversion.’
5. We must pause to mention a story, possibly apocryphal, of an Idumean boy who came upon the desert convoy of Aristobulus and Antigonus to beg. The boy explained that for three weeks he’d lived only upon his own leavings. Aristobulus and Antigonus explained they would give food if he pledged himself to the Jewish faith and seal his covenant with a circumcision. The boy replied ‘I will do first, understand later.’ This boy’s name was Antipater, who later became Antipater the Idumean, founder of the Herodian Dynasty, Governor of Idumea, valued advisor and minister to a pendulum of Hasmonean Liberators, all the while positioning his issue to inherit a Judean client state controlled by Rome rather than Greece.
104-103 BC, 650-651 Ab Urbe Conditia, 3458
6. Aristobulus, elder of Hyrcanus’s two favored sons, became Fifth Liberator upon his father’s death. Immediately he ordered imprisonment of his mother and three other brothers in the darkest cells of Kishle, the still infamous prison of Jerusalem. Two of the other brothers were never seen again and within a fortnight his mother, Alexandra Jannea, died of starvation. The historian Eusebius Polymocretes of Aleppo writes that Aristobulus burned his father’s will because Hyrcanus left the office of Liberator to his wife, their mother.  According to Eusebius Polymocrates, Hyrcanus was greatly distressed with Idumea’s forced conversion, for it brought into Judea an enemy swearing revenge from within; and fearing the ruthless stupidity of his sons he secretly machinated to pass them over.
7. Both Flavius Josephus and the Book of Maccabees refer to the ‘tender passion’ of Aristobulus for Antigonus, and tell also of Antigonus’s cerebral hemorrhages, after which Aristobulus required Antigonus to be conquering general in his stead; from which Antigonus’s wife planted the seed of a labyrinthine plot to assassinate Antigonus. However, Eusebius Polymocrates states that Aristobulus was not married, and that such tender passion was not only consummated, but that Aristobulus was no general at all but rather a poet/musician in the manner of Nero, and divided the Liberator’s job between that of civil governance and High Priest so that Antigonus might be named High Priest and the Liberator’s consort, and therefore the Pharisees were scandalized by his Hellene licentiousness. According to Eusebius Polymocrates’s Chronicle of Antique Infamies, Antigonus returned to Jerusalem to a parade of triumph, and immediately afterward was stabbed by Pharisee conspirators in the Temple. When Antigonus saw what became of his brother and consort, he stabbed himself next to Antigonus’s body so that their blood might mingle in death.
About the Author
Evan Tucker, alias A C Charlap, is a writer and musician residing in Baltimore. He is currently composing music for all 150 Biblical Tehillim. A Jewish Music Apollo Project - because "They have Messiah, we have I Have a Little Dreidel." He is currently on #17. Evan also has a podcast called 'It's Not Even Past - A History of the Distant Present' which is a way of relating current events to history and history to current events. Most importantly, he is also currently working on a podcast called Tales from the Old New Land, fictional stories from the whole of Jewish History. The podcast is currently being retooled, but it will return.