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ARISTOBULUS (c. 35 b.c.e.–7 b.c.e.), son of *Herod and *Mariamne. Of Hasmonean lineage, both Aristobulus and his elder brother *Alexander were regarded as eventual heirs to the throne. The two were sent to Rome for their education. After his return to Judea, Aristobulus married Berenice, daughter of Herod's sister, Salome. Life at the court began with a long succession of slander against Aristobulus and his brother, who, though apparently more prudent, was still not beyond suspicion. Herod, although reluctant at first to believe all the stories about his sons, was eventually convinced of their treachery. This resulted in the reinstatement of Antipater, Herod's son by Doris, as heir to the throne (13 b.c.e.). Antipater and Salome went to great lengths to arouse the king's hatred toward his Hasmonean offspring, finally producing a forged letter as evidence of their plot to kill Herod. The youths fled to the fortress of Alexandrium, but they were seized and imprisoned despite their protestations of innocence. In a last desperate attempt, Aristobulus threatened to denounce Salome to the king as having communicated state secrets to his enemy, the Arab Syllaeus, if she did not come to the princes' aid. Salome, however, reported the incident to Herod, who thereupon ordered the youths to be confined separately in chains. Permission was obtained from Augustus to try the brothers, but before a joint council of the king's relatives and the provincial governors. At the trial, held at Berytus (Beirut), the princes were given no opportunity to defend themselves and were condemned. A dispute then ensued among the Roman officials as to the penalty to be administered, Saturninus, the presiding officer, recommending clemency, and the majority demanding the death sentence. The majority view finally prevailed and the brothers were executed by strangulation in Sebaste (Samaria). The bodies were sent to Alexandrium for burial near the grave of Alexander, the princes' maternal grandfather. Augustus, on learning of the execution, was reported as exclaiming "he would sooner be Herod's pig than Herod's son" (Macrobius, Saturnalia 2:4, no. 11).

By his marriage with Berenice, Aristobulus had three sons: Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus; and two daughters: Herodias and Mariamne. The children were cared for with great devotion by their grandfather, King Herod.


Jos., Ant., 15:342; 16:11, 133, 193 ff.; 17:12 ff., 133 ff.; Jos., Wars, 1:445 ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 369–73, 407–11; Schuerer, Hist, 149–56; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (1964), index.

[Isaiah Gafni]