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ALEXANDER, THE FALSE:

A pretender to the throne of Judea. About 4 B.C., a Jewish youth living in Sidon and reared by a Roman freedman claimed the throne. He asserted that he was Alexander, the son of Herod and Mariamne, pretending that the assassins who had been instructed by Herod to slay both his sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, had taken pity on them, allowed them to escape, and substituted two corpses in their place. The striking resemblance borne by the pretender to the real Alexander deceived even those who had known the latter closely. It seems, however, that the youth was in reality the tool of a man intimately acquainted with the Herodian court, who hoped by placing his creature upon the throne, though for only a short interval, to secure enough plunder and then to disappear. The deceivers appeared first in circles in which Alexander had not been personally very well known. Thus he was welcomed in Crete and in Melos by the Jews, who willingly furnished him with ample funds and a royal equipment to undertake the journey to Rome, necessary to substantiate his claims with the emperor. The Jews in Rome likewise received him with open arms, and offered public thanks to God for the wonderful preservation of a scion of the beloved Hasmonean house. Augustus himself, however, was not so credulous. He knew Herod too well to believe that he would have allowed one he had condemned to death to escape; he was also closely acquainted with Alexander's features. On seeing the young man's robust form and toil-marked hands he was convinced of the fraud, and sought to move the pretender to confession by solemnly pledging him his life. The youth acknowledged the deception and told how his accomplice had led him to it. The emperor kept the promise to spare his life, but sent him to the galleys. The instigator of the plot was executed (see Josephus, "Ant." xvii. 12, and "B. J." ii. 7, §§ 1-3).

L. G.
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