Monday, March 25, 2013

A Traitor: Berenice, Judean Princess and the Destruction of Jerusalem; Worthy of Her Own Soap Opera

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        
A play by Jean Racine called "Shameless" was written about Queen Berenice, once the princess of Judea and Titus, the man that destroyed Jerusalem.    Her life had the makings of a tragic soap opera.

Let's start with Antipater, an Idumean or land of Edom., father of Herod and ruler of Judea from 63 BCE to 43 BCE.  The Edomites were of Semitic origin, traditionally descendants of Esau, and lived by hunting.  They were traditional enemies of the Israelites.  They fought against Saul and were defeated by David who partly annexed their land.  During the reign of Jehoran they regained their independence. At the time of the destruction of the 1st Temple, they plundered and looted along with the Babylonians.  Later they occupied southern Judah during or after the period of the Jews' exile.

Antipater was a man who helped the Romans by joining Julius Caesar after his victory over Pompey, and had recruited Jewish and Nabatean troops for his army.  For this Caesar made him financial administrator of Judea and he became an effective ruler of the country.  He appointed his sons, Phasael and Herod, to the chief administrative posts. "These “almost Jews” were—to the Roman mind—more comfortable than the true Jews."    Antipater did of poisoning.  

Beautiful Berenice I was a Judean princess in the late 1st century BCE to 1st century CE.  She was the daughter of Herod's sister, Salome.   Herod I (73 BCE-4 BCE) son of Antipater.came from Edom, a mountain country including Mt. Seir which was given to Esau of the history of the twin sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau.  The land lay between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  The people had been under pressure from the nomadic Nabateans in Arabia and moved around 587 BCE.

 "The Edomites were gradually pushed into the southern half of Judea, including the region around Hebron, an  area that the Greeks later called Idumea.  Judas Maccabaeus warred against them and a half century later John Hyrcanus completely subdued them, imposed the rite of circumcision, and invoked the old Jewish law of assembly (Deut 23:7-8).. Herod. was the Roman appointed  king of Judaea.

One good thing he did was to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  Outsiders saw him as a protector of the Jews.  Salome is identified for being responsible for the death of John the Baptist in the New Testament.  Josephus gives a different account of John's death.

Herod Agrippa, also called Marcus Julius b: 10 BCE-44 CE)  (became king of Judea in 36 CE) had a daughter and named her Berenice II as well. He was also king of part of Transjordan, then also king of Galilee, and after 41 CE Judea and Samaria.    She was a Judean princess, probably  born in Rome  from 28 CE to after 79 CE.  Her mother was Cypros/Cyrus, daughter of Phasael and granddaughter of the first Berenice.  She was Herod the Great's great-granddaughter.  Agrippa I died suddenly while attending the games in Caesarea.  After his death, his kingdom was again converted into an annex of the province of Syria.

Berenice II was betrothed at age 13 to Marcus, son of the Alexandrian alabarch, Greek title of the customs official at the harbour of Alexandria during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  Alexander. Marcus was head of the Jewish community in Alexandria.   After he died in 44 CE she married her uncle d she had a close association with her brother, Agrippa I  (10 BCE-44 CE) King of Judaea,  which drew a lot of Herod of Chalcis, which was a tiny principality in the Lebanon Mountains. She was then queen of Chalcis.   He died in 48 CE ancondemnation from the surrounding people.  Agrippa I was liked by the Jewish people because of his respect for the Jewish religions.  They charged her with incest and she was induced to marry another, Polemon II of Cilicia.  So Berenice chose Polemo, King of Cilicia for her next spouse.  Polemo went through circumcision and learned of the Jewish lifestyle, but this didn't make the marriage successful.  Sometime later Berenice left Polemo and returned to her kingdom.  She was present in Palestine when the 66-70 CE revolt against Rome broke out.

In 60 CE she rejoined her brother, Agrippa I and supported his efforts to prevent the outbreak of the great Revolt of 66 CE.  They later fled to the Romans.

Berenice  became the mistress of Titus, the Roman Emperor from 79-81 CE, son of Vespasian  and followed him to Rome, but was forced by Roman popular opinion to leave him.  She was older than he was as well.

On Vespasian's death she tried to reconciliate with Titus but was unsuccessful.  .  He had taken command of the Roman army in Judaea from his father in 70 CE and had destroyed Jerusalem after a 5 month siege.  According to Josephus, he tried unsuccessfully to preserve the Temple.  Other sources say it was deliberate with the object of eliminating the national religious center of the Jews.  Jews had the tradition of referring to him as the "wicked" Titus.  Perhaps/ due to his mistress, Berenice, he didn't interfere with Jewish rights in other places and refused to accede to the demand of the people in Antioch to abolish Jewish privileges there.

However, during Titus' siege of Jerusalem, the Idumeans marched in to reinforce the extreme elements, and killed all they suspected of peace tendencies.  After this they never were mentioned in Jewish history again.  Idumeans in the Talmud means: an oppressive government.  In the Middle Ages it referred to: Christian Europe.

While all this was happening when  Jerusalem was taken by the Romans in 70 CE.,  the royalty didn't seem to have any feeling for Jerusalem..  After all, they were Roman appointed people, not selected by the Jews themselves.  "It is from Tacitus that we learn that with the outbreak of war Berenice chose to side with the Romans and supplied General Vespasian’s offensive with local forces."  Jerusalem burned but Berenice was more interested in the next man in her life.

 The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia.


  1. Truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels. See the link below for more info.


  2. Lee Woo, Your comment doesn't make sense. Are you saying that I am a traitor? I, the one who wrote the article? Why do you say that? Are you saying that the present is a time of scoundrels? Well, there are many scoundrels around, even in our government today. That seems to happen to many countries of many generations. Bernice was of a false Royalty. I guess you didn't catch that part. She wasn't of the royal family of King David or King Solomon. The Romans had put in their own chosen king over Judah. She was of that family. They were traitorous to the Judeans by siding with the Romans.