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PHASAEL (d. 40 b.c.e.), older brother of *Herod the Great. He appears to have been more moderate than Herod. Having received from his father, *Antipater, the governorship of Jerusalem when Herod was appointed governor of Galilee, Phasael exercised firm rule coupled with discretion. Notwithstanding Josephus' generous appraisal of his character, Phasael, together with Herod, was twice accused before Mark Antony by Jewish deputations. The latter were singularly unsuccessful and on the second of these attempts Herod and Phasael were, in fact, appointed tetrarchs. Both he and Herod strove from the outset to remove the vestiges of Hasmonean domination in Judea. *Antigonus, who succeeded in gaining Parthian assistance in his efforts to reestablish his family's rule over Judea, laid siege to Phasael and Herod in Jerusalem. Phasael, accompanied by the high priest Hyrcanus ii, allowed himself to be inveigled into the Parthian camp in 40 b.c.e., and both were imprisoned by the Parthians. Hyrcanus was physically disfigured to prevent his serving in the priesthood, and Phasael took his own life by dashing out his brains – this is the official Herodian account but it is more probable that he was killed in battle while trying to escape. The present-day Tower of David in Jerusalem's Old City is probably the site of the Phasael tower of Herod's palace.


Jos., Ant., index; Schuerer, Hist, 109, 113–5; A.H.M. Jones, Herods of Judaea (1938), 28, 35–36, 38–42; A. Schalit, Hordes ha-Melekh (1964), index.

[David Solomon]