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Aristobulus III

(D. 35 B.C.E.)

ARISTOBULUS III (Hebrew name Jonathan; d. 35 B.C.E.), last Hasmonean high priest. His father was Alexander, son of *Aristobulus II , his mother was Alexandra, daughter of Hyrcanus II, and his sister *Mariamne the Hasmonean, wife of Herod. Aristobulus was due to become high priest, but Herod was afraid of Hasmonean influence on the people, and appointed the Babylonian *Hananel in his place. Mariamne and Alexandra considered this appointment discrimination against the Hasmonean dynasty. According to Josephus, Alexandra asked Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, to intercede with Mark Antony on her son's behalf. Antony ignored her request, but he summoned Aristobulus on the advice of Delius, a Roman who had visited Jerusalem and admired both the lad's good looks and the beauty of Mariamne. Herod feared that this visit might endanger his regime, and wrote to Antony that if Aristobulus left Judea, anti-Roman riots would ensue. Antony consequently canceled Aristobulus' visit. Most of this story about Delius is probably not authentic. It appears in part to have been the invention of Herod's sister, *Salome , who wished to incite Herod against Mariamne, and in part a story that developed as a result of Cleopatra's advice that Alexandra send her son to Antony. In any event, Herod did change his mind, dismissed Hananel, and appointed Aristobulus, hoping thereby to keep him under supervision. However, when Aristobulus appeared before the people for the first time, dressed in the ceremonial garb of the high priest, on the Feast of Tabernacles in 36 B.C.E., he was welcomed with cries of joy and undisguised affection. Herod again saw Aristobulus as a threat to his power and resolved to murder him. Aristobulus was drowned in the baths at Jericho by Herod's soldiers.


Jos., Wars, 1:437; Jos., Ant., 15:21–64; 20:247 ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 4 (19502), 12–14; A.Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (1960), 61–66; A.H.M. Jones, The Herods of Judaea (1938), 37, 51–54.

[Abraham Schalit]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.