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friend of her father Hiram, the favourite of Cassius, the protected of Antuny, was the idol of the people of Jerusalem ; for he had won their gratitude by his destruction of a powerful band of robbers, who had long preyed on their property, and devastated their lands.
The death of Antipater (poisoned by a Jew, the suspected partisan of Hiram's house,) only served to raise Herod to the government of Jerusalem, at the moment when Antigone, the son of Aristobulus, and nephew of Hiram, had assembled a powerful army before its walls. Herod defended the city, pursued and defeated Antigone, and returned victorious to Jerusalem, to be honoured with a triumphal entry, and to be crowned by the people. The sovereign-pontiff, too, surrounded by his family, received him with open arms, and demanded “what recompense the victor would accept, for saving the holy city, and its august temple." Herod, in the flush of his triumph, turned his eyes on the daughter of Alexandra, who was present, and pronounced the name of “ Mariamne.” Hiram, weak and impotent, plighted his young and beautiful descendant to the protector of his rights, and the future extirpator of
A second siege of Jerusalem by Antigone and the Par. thian army, and the capture of Hiram, by Bazapharnes, followed. Herod, by a timely retreat, saved himself, with the principal forces of Jerusalem, only to re-enter her gates, again triumphant. He had been received at Rome as a friend and ally; and, joined by a Roman force, he fought his way back to Judea, step by step, took Antigone prisoner, sent him to Mark Antony, besieged and took Jeru. salem by storm, and ransomed the « Holy City” from pillage by the Roman soldiers, with all he possessed, or could command. Protecting the family of the grand pontiff, Hiram, he wooed, won, and, during the siege, wedded the betrothed Mariamne. *
Cassius and Mark Antony had promised Herod that they would establish him “ king of Judea.” The Roman senate had proclaimed him “ king of the Jews ;" but it was his own valour and fortunes that accomplished these golden
promises, and won for him the epithet of “Great," so often lavished on the wickedest and the worst. His union with Mariamne, (the daughter of Alexandra, and the sister of the young Aristobulus, the lineal chief of his royal house, and nephew of the Antigone, who had been put to death at Rome, on Herod's suggestion,) seemed to confirm his own title to the throne, and to consummate his happiness and his glory: but this unnatural union became the bane of both ;—and the outraged affections of two helpless and oppressed women eventually avenged the wrongs of their race and nation, with their own.
The venerable Hiram was released from his captivity in Babylon, and brought to Jerusalem, by Herod, “ who called him father," and accorded him all honours, save those of his rights as a king, and of his holy office as a pontiff. Mariamne sat on the throne, where her family had reigned during one hundred and fifty years, and became the ruling destiny of its usurper, his idol, and his victim. The young Aristobulus, the hereditary grand sacrificer, was already a consecrated minister of the tabernacle, the hope of his nation, the dread of his tyrant brother-in-law. Alexandra, the mother ! she too, was grandly and gorgeously lodged, favoured, and caressed,—but not deceived. She held her sleepless watch between the royal palace of Jerusalem and its august temple ; and hovered over her children, like the mother eagle, who beholds her young brood, the destined prey of some ferocious power, greater than her own. To the physical force of man, this devoted mother had only to oppose the moral subtlety of
From the moment when Mariamne had established her infatuating influence over the heart and actions of Herod, the palace of Jerusalem had become a theatre, on whose blood-stained stage the direst and most stirring tragedy was enacted, that the life of woman ever furnished. Herod the Great, whom Rome respected, and the world feared, with all his fierce passions and unlimited power over the happiness and lives of thousands, was still under the spell of woman's spirit. Distracted by his love for Mariamne, by his distrust of her mother, and by a blind confidence in his bold, bad, but able minister, the Princess
Salome, his sister, his heart was rent by the fiercest passions, and his court stained by the foulest crimes.
Sharing his genius and his fortunes, Salome envied and hated the Jewish princess, whom she resolved to ruin. Alexandra, indomitable in pride and passion, despised, rather than feared, the upstart Salome ; and Mariamne (the sublime and beautiful Mariamne), energized by the loftiest spirit, which never for a moment quailed, neither sought to win the sister, nor affected to return the brother's passion.
Mariamne, placed by her beauty and her virtue in that singular and awful position, which, (while it exposed her to the passionate love of the master of her destiny, inspired her with an uncontrollable aversion for his deeds and person) has surnished the historian of her nation with some of his most interesting pages ; while, to the dramatic incidents of her innocent and awful life, one of the greatest and most versatile geniuses of the last century stands indebted for the most beautiful and affecting of his tragedies.* But the true Protagonist of this great historical drama, to which all the passions lent their force, and in which every variety of human suffering was enacted, was Alexandrathe representative of Esther, and of Athaliah--the dethroned queen—the devoted daughter—the bereaved mother—the martyred patriot—and the last of those Hebrew women, who, in the land of their fathers, were called on to display the spirit, the faith, the genius, and the virtues, of their female ancestors, for the admiration of posterity.
Hiram was but a prisoner at large. Mariamne, alternately the object of the love, the hate, the confidence, and the jealousy of Herod, was at once his wife and slave, his idol and victim. The young Aristobulus had already assumed the azure ephod, and bound his youthful brow with the consecrated diadem ; and Alexandra awaited only the arrival of the great annual festival, to present the last royal and pontifical scion of the tribe of Levi to the sons of Israel.
When, therefore, an obscure sacrificer, brought from Babylon by Herod, named Ananel, and the most unworthy of the priesthood, appeared before the tabernacle, in the pontifical robes, the people turned away, humbled and disgusted by this act of lawless and sacrilegious power. Alexandra, too, turned away ; but not humbled : she was infuriated! She saw her last hope quenched—and yet she did not despair. From man, his justice or compassion, she had now, indeed, nothing to expect; but in this her direst exigency, she turned her eyes to Egypt, where woman was still powerful—10 that land where the divine truth was still, as of old, imaged in a female form--where still stood the mystic Isis, with her sublime epigraph, “I am what has been! what is—what will be and no mortal haih listed my veil !”
* The tragedy of Mariamne, by Voltaire. It would seem that woman is the natural subject of tragedy, in all ages.
To this divine dogma, the apostle of a pure theism now turned with sanguine confidence, and invoked the aid of the votarist of Isis, on behalf of the worshippers of Jehovah. The Jewish princess addressed herself to the Egyptian queen.
Cleopatra, “ that rare Egyptian, the serpent of old Nile,” was in the zenith of her power, of her genius, and her charms, at the moment when Alexandra thus appealed to her womanly sympathies and queenly sisterhood, by secretly forwarding to her a letter by a musician, a confi. dential domestic of her own household. At the same time, her deviceful mind won over to her interests Gellius (then in Jerusalem), who was so struck with the extraordinary beauty of Mariamne, and of the young pontiff, Aristobulus, that he took charge of their portraits, and carried them to Mark Antony-assailing the passions as well as the pity of his master, by observing that the chil. dren of Alexandra resembled deities, rather than any 6 mortal mixture of earth's mould.”
It is thought that Gellius hoped to inspire the voluptuous slave of Cleopatra with a passion for the wife of Herod. But either Cleopatra was still too powerful, or Antony had still too much respect for public opinion, to carry off the wise of his friend and ally, even under the pretext of humanity or justice. Listening, therefore, to the suggestions of Cleopatra alone, Antony limited his interference with Herod, on behalf of the family of Alexandra, to request.
ing him to remove so dangerous a rival to his power as Aristobulus, and to send him to Egypt. Every honest assurance, on the part of Cleopatra and himself, was at the same time given, that the young prince should be protected and honourably provided for.
Herod saw the danger of placing the legitimate king of the Jews, (the last of his line), under the protection of Cleopatra, whose views on Judea had been long suspected. To prevent the son of Alexandra from ever leaving Jerusalem, he, therefore, removed his own high priest, Ananel, and installed Aristobulus into the holy office of sovereign pontiff. He even affected to restore him to the altars of his fathers with an unusual solemnity, and pomp of circumstance. But, ere he had done so, he assembled the chiefs of the people, and his own friends; and, citing Alexandra to appear before this high tribunal, charged her with disturbing the public peace, by intrigues with the wily queen of Egypt. The intention of this conspiracy, he said, was to wrest the crown from his own head, and to place it on that of her son ; " although he added) he had won that crown, by toils and dangers, which had saved Judea and the Jews from destruction ;-had won it only to share its grandeur with Alexandra's own daughter, Mariamne, For Mariamne's sake, however, he declared that he forgave the treason; and he again took the fair traitress, her mother, to his affections, while he restored to her son the high office of grand pontiff.
Alexandra listened and wept, or seemed to weep, and gratitude, while she denied the treason ascribed to her with indignation. With eloquent sincerity, she confessed, indeed, that her religion and her duty to her family had urged her to attempt every means to rescue the pontificate from unworthy hands, and to restore the holy office of grand sacrificer to her son, the rightful inheritor of its sacred duties.
Herod embraced his mother-in-law, and affected to be. lieve her defence; but a specious reconciliation, based on a mutual distrust, was the only consequence. Alexandra was restored to her palace in royal state ; but she soon discovered that that palace was merely a splendid prison. She was surrounded by spies, forbade ever again to meddle