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PHERORAS'S WIFE IS ACCUSED BY HIS FREEDMEN, AS GUILTY OF POISONING HIM; AND HOW HEROD, UPON EXAMINING; OF THE MATTER BY TORTURE FOUND THE POISON; BUT SO THAT IT HAD BEEN PREPARED FOR HIMSELF BY HIS SON ANTIPATER; AND UPON AN INQUIRY BY TORTURE HE DISCOVERED THE DANGEROUS DESIGNS OF ANTIPATER.
1. AS soon as Pheroras was dead, and his funeral was over, two of Pheroras's freed-men, who were much esteemed by him, came to Herod, and entreated him not to leave the murder of his brother without avenging it, but to examine into such an unreasonable and unhappy death. When he was moved with these words, for they seemed to him to be true, they said that Pheroras supped with his wife the day before he fell sick, and that a certain potion was brought him in such a sort of food as he was not used to eat; but that when he had eaten, he died of it: that this potion was brought out of Arabia by a woman, under pretense indeed as a love-potion, for that was its name, but in reality to kill Pheroras; for that the Arabian women are skillful in making such poisons: and the woman to whom they ascribe this was confessedly a most intimate friend of one of Sylleus's mistresses; and that both the mother and the sister of Pheroras's wife had been at the places where she lived, and had persuaded her to sell them this potion, and had come back and brought it with them the day before that his supper. Hereupon the king was provoked, and put the women slaves to the torture, and some that were free with them; and as the fact did not yet appear, because none of them would confess it, at length one of them, under the utmost agonies, said no more but this, that she prayed that God would send the like agonies upon Antipater's mother, who had been the occasion of these miseries to all of them. This prayer induced Herod to increase the women's tortures, till thereby all was discovered; their merry meetings, their secret assemblies, and the disclosing of what he had said to his son alone unto Pheroras's (4) women. (Now what Herod had charged Antipater to conceal, was the gift of a hundred talents to him not to have any conversation with Pheroras.) And what hatred he bore to his father; and that he complained to his mother how very long his father lived; and that he was himself almost an old man, insomuch that if the kingdom should come to him, it would not afford him any great pleasure; and that there were a great many of his brothers, or brothers' children, bringing up, that might have hopes of the kingdom as well as himself, all which made his own hopes of it uncertain; for that even now, if he should himself not live, Herod had ordained that the government should be conferred, not on his son, but rather on a brother. He also had accused the king of great barbarity, and of the slaughter of his sons; and that it was out of the fear he was under, lest he should do the like to him, that made him contrive this his journey to Rome, and Pheroras contrive to go to his own tetrarchy. (5)
2. These confessions agreed with what his sister had told him, and tended greatly to corroborate her testimony, and to free her from the suspicion of her unfaithfulness to him. So the king having satisfied himself of the spite which Doris, Antipater's mother, as well as himself, bore to him, took away from her all her fine ornaments, which were worth many talents, and then sent her away, and entered into friendship with Pheroras's women. But he who most of all irritated the king against his son was one Antipater, the procurator of Antipater the king's son, who, when he was tortured, among other things, said that Antipater had prepared a deadly potion, and given it to Pheroras, with his desire that he would give it to his father during his absence, and when he was too remote to have the least suspicion cast upon him thereto relating; that Antiphilus, one of Antipater's friends, brought that potion out of Egypt; and that it was sent to Pheroras by Thendion, the brother of the mother of Antipater, the king's son, and by that means came to Pheroras's wife, her husband having given it her to keep. And when the king asked her about it, she confessed it; and as she was running to fetch it, she threw herself down from the house-top; yet did she not kill herself, because she fell upon her feet; by which means, when the king had comforted her, and had promised her and her domestics pardon, upon condition of their concealing nothing of the truth from him, but had threatened her with the utmost miseries if she proved ungrateful [and concealed any thing]: so she promised, and swore that she would speak out every thing, and tell after what manner every thing was done; and said what many took to be entirely true, that the potion was brought out of Egypt by Antiphilus; and that his brother, who was a physician, had procured it; and that" when Thendion brought it us, she kept it upon Pheroras's committing it to her; and that it was prepared by Antipater for thee. When, therefore, Pheroras was fallen sick, and thou camest to him and tookest care of him, and when he saw the kindness thou hadst for him, his mind was overborne thereby. So he called me to him, and said to me, 'O woman! Antipater hath circumvented me in this affair of his father and my brother, by persuading me to have a murderous intention to him, and procuring a potion to be subservient thereto; do thou, therefore, go and fetch my potion, (since my brother appears to have still the same virtuous disposition towards me which he had formerly, and I do not expect to live long myself, and that I may not defile my forefathers by the murder of a brother,) and burn it before my face:' that accordingly she immediately brought it, and did as her husband bade her; and that she burnt the greatest part of the potion; but that a little of it was left, that if the king, after Pheroras's death, should treat her ill, she might poison herself, and thereby get clear of her miseries." Upon her saying thus, she brought out the potion, and the box in which it was, before them all. Nay, there was another brother of Antiphilus, and his mother also, who, by the extremity of pain and torture, confessed the same things, and owned the box [to be that which had been brought out of Egypt]. The high priest's daughter also, who was the king's wife, was accused to have been conscious of all this, and had resolved to conceal it; for which reason Herod divorced her, and blotted her son out of his testament, wherein he had been mentioned as one that was to reign after him; and he took the high priesthood away from his father-in-law, Simeon the son of Boethus, and appointed Matthias the son of Theophilus, who was born at Jerusalem, to be high priest in his room.
3. While this was doing, Bathyllus also, Antipater's freed-man, came from Rome, and, upon the torture, was found to have brought another potion, to give it into the hands of Antipater's mother, and of Pheroras, that if the former potion did not operate upon the king, this at least might carry him off. There came also letters from Herod's friends at Rome, by the approval and at the suggestion of Antipater, to accuse Archelaus and Philip, as if they calumniated their father on account of the slaughter of Alexander and Aristobulus, and as if they commiserated their deaths, and as if, because they were sent for home, (for their father had already recalled them,) they concluded they were themselves also to be destroyed. These letters had been procured by great rewards by Antipater's friends; but Antipater himself wrote to his father about them, and laid the heaviest things to their charge; yet did he entirely excuse them of any guilt, and said they were but young men, and so imputed their words to their youth. But he said that he had himself been very busy in the affair relating to Sylleus, and in getting interest among the great men; and on that account had bought splendid ornaments to present them with, which cost him two hundred talents. Now one may wonder how it came about, that while so many accusations were laid against him in Judea during seven months before this time, he was not made acquainted with any of them. The causes of which were, that the roads were exactly guarded, and that men hated Antipater; for there was nobody who would run any hazard himself to gain him any advantages.