Anilaeus and Asinaeus

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ANILAEUS AND ASINAEUS (first century c.e.), two Babylonian Jewish brothers who founded a robber state in Babylon and ruled it for 15 years (c. 20–35). Natives of Nehardea, Anilaeus and Asinaeus had been apprenticed by their mother to learn the weaving trade. Punished by their master for laziness, the brothers fled and were joined by other young discontented Jews in the area of the Euphrates. These they armed, and, acting as their leaders, the brothers forced the surrounding herdsmen to pay a tribute from their flocks, and threatened violence to all who refused. Eventually they established a robber state and thus came to the attention of the Parthian satrap of Babylonia. The latter, however, was defeated in battle by the two brothers after miscalculating that the Jews would not defend themselves if attacked on the Sabbath. When news of the battle reached the Parthian king, Artabanus iii (c. 12–38 c.e.), he decided "to use the prowess of the Jewish brothers as a curb to ensure the loyalty of his satrapies, for some of them were in rebellion, and some were considering whether to rebel" (Jos., Ant., 18, 9, 330). As a result, they were formally appointed rulers of those regions of Babylonia which they already controlled. On reaching his own territory, Asinaeus fortified the land and in general "held sway from now on over all Mesopotamia, and for 15 years the brothers' prosperity kept on increasing."

Only with the appearance of a certain Parthian general in the area did the situation begin to deteriorate. Anilaeus, having fallen in love with the general's wife, forced him into battle, secured his death, and married his widow. By tolerating her idolatry Anilaeus aroused great dissension among his Jewish followers. When Asinaeus brought their protests before his brother and urged him to send the woman away, he was poisoned by her. Thus began the downfall of the small Jewish kingdom. Anilaeus assumed control of the army and managed to defeat Mithridates, a Parthian governor and sonin-law of Artabanus. Mithridates, captured and humiliated by Anilaeus, was eventually released. He thereupon gathered a greater force, and "the followers of Anilaeus suffered a disgraceful rout" (Jos., Ant., 18:366). Anilaeus himself managed to escape, and for a while succeeded in plundering villages near Nehardea. He was finally discovered and trapped by the Babylonians, who, after killing him, unleashed a violent wave of terror against the Jews of Babylonia.


Jos., Ant., 18:310–79 (on the nature of this source see Schalit, in Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute, 4 (1965), 163–88); Jos., Ant., 20:567–8; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1965), 50–54.

[Isaiah Gafni]