July 28, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee - 3

The "Queen"'s only connections, that we know of, are her husband, Antipas, her brother, Agrippa, and her patron, Antonia.  We don't even know if she met her uncle Philip, the Tetrarch, but in any event he'd owe nothing to her that he wouldn't already have given to his half-brother.  Finally, we can trust there was nothing left to be gained from Herodias' other uncle, the ex-husband.  Therefore, unless there's someone else we know nothing about, that means we have to look hard at Antonia.

Whatever motivated Herod Antipas, in the first moment he seriously considered switching into a new marriage - whatever mysterious assets the cagey Tetrarch was angling for, Herod Antipas was angling for, as he weighed that decision - those potential benefits must have been due to Herodias' relationship with Antonia.

We don't know how they got along in years past, but we don't know how Agrippa got along with Antonia, either, until the moment (in 32 AD) when she loaned him a king's ransom to pay off several bad debts.

It was worse than that, actually.  In pure desperation, at age 44, and having been gone from Italy for nine years, Agrippa asked his childhood matron for a boatload of money, and he got it.  He had no prospects, other than riding her social coattails around Rome.  He had creditors hounding him, albeit outside Italy.  He had a wife and two very small children who were waiting for word and paid voyage to Italy.  On top of all that, Tiberius had refused to lay eyes on Agrippa! And yet, despite all that, Josephus tells us:
he entreated Antonia [for 300,000 drachmas] and she lent him the money
That's some patron! Understandably, Josephus chooses this point to explain that Antonia was motivated by "regard to the memory of Berenice his mother, (for those two women were very familiar with one another,) [and] out of regard of his and Claudius' education together". Still, that's some patron.

Since Herodias had grown up with that same patron, and presumably had some education with Antonia's daughter Livilla, we might expect Antonia to have held at least almost as much regard for Herodias as she had for Agrippa.  Since Agrippa expected Antonia to be good for the money, Herodias must have grown up with that same expectation.  And since we are looking for reasons why Antipas married Herodias, we absolutely must make Antonia's money our primary consideration.

The political aspects are more complex, however.  When Agrippa returned to Rome asking for money, in 32, the terrible years of the Emperor's prefect Sejanus had just ended.  When Herodias ran off with Antipas, in 27/28, the right hand man of Tiberius had not yet begun to ascend the full heights of his power, in Rome.

Who was this Sejanus?  What was Antonia's relationship to him?  And what does the timing of Roman politics have to do with the marriage between Herodias and Antipas?  As it turns out, probably quite a bit.

To be continued...

Read the Whole Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Conclusion

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