Daughter of Herod Agrippa I. and of Cypros, the daughter of Phasael; born in 28. She was first married to Marcus, son of the alabarch Alexander of Alexandria. Her husband dying within a short time, her father married her to his brother Herod of Chalcis (Josephus, "Ant." xix. 5, § 1). Berenicianus and Hyrcanus were the children of this union ("Ant." xx. 5, § 2; "B. J." ii. 11, § 6). Again a widow in the year 48, Berenice went to herbrother Agrippa II., with whom it was whispered she lived in incestuous relations ("Ant." xx. 7, § 3; Juvenal, "Satires," 6). These rumors may not have been unfounded, since Agrippa tried to stop them by betrothing Berenice to Polemo, king of Cilicia. The latter, won by her wealth as much as by her beauty, embraced the Jewish faith and was circumcised.Pleads for Jerusalem.
Berenice, however, soon left her third husband to return to her brother, resuming apparently their old relations. In 60 she went to Cæsarea with Agrippa II. to welcome the new governor, Festus, and took part in the proceedings against Paul (Acts xxv. 13 et seq., xxvi.). When, in 66, the governor Florus had by his measures provoked a riot in Jerusalem, Berenice, who was then in the city to fulfil a Nazarite vow, implored him on her knees to stop the bloodshed and to spare the town. But Florus was deaf to her prayers, and, being in danger of maltreatment, she had to seek refuge in her palace ("B. J." ii. 14, §§ 6-9; 15, §§ 1, 2). Berenice appeared with Agrippa before the proconsul Cestius Gallus to complain of Florus. Later, when Agrippa in a speech tried to dissuade the people from going to war with the Romans, Berenice stood near him to protect him by her popularity ("B. J." l.c.). Agrippa's attempts to maintain peace were unsuccessful. In the ensuing conflict at Jerusalem between the war party and that advocating peace the latter succumbed; and the palaces of Agrippa and Berenice were demolished by the infuriated populace ("B. J." ii. 17, § 6).
Berenice and Agrippa now openly went over to the Romans. After Vespasian had been made emperor by the Egyptian and Syrian legions, Berenice, who was a strong supporter of the Flavian party, summoned her brother Agrippa to Palestine to take the oath of allegiance (Tacitus, "Historiæ," ii. 81). Vespasian seems to have held her in high esteem; for only her intercession saved Justus of Tiberias from being beheaded.Beloved by Titus.
About this time Berenice entered into relations with Titus that lasted for many years, although she was much older than he—according to Wilcken, no less than thirteen years. Her beauty, however, was still irresistible, and, perhaps in the eyes of Titus, her vast wealth was even more attractive (compare Tacitus, "Historiæ," ii. 2). These relations continued at Rome, whither Berenice had gone with Agrippa in 75. Titus and Berenice lived on the Palatine Hill; and it was generally supposed that he would soon marry her (Suetonius, "Titus," vii.). So jealous of her was Titus that he caused the Roman general Cæcina, whom he suspected of a secret intrigue with Berenice, to be assassinated (Aurelius Victor, "Epitome," x. 7). Fully expecting Titus to marry her, Berenice tried to hasten the event (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 15, § 4); but when she publicly appeared as the wife of Titus he was compelled, much against his will, to separate from her, the hatred of the Jews by the Romans being too intense to tolerate such a union (Suetonius, l.c.; Dio Cassius, l.c.). Still Berenice did not give up the hope of sharing with Titus the throne of the Roman empire. At the news of Vespasian's death (June 23, 79) she hastened to Rome; but Titus sent her back (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 18).
Nothing is known of the later life of Berenice. It may be remarked that Berenice on her journeys between Palestine and Rome seems to have formed connections at Athens, as may be gathered from the inscription published in "C. I. A." iii. 1, No. 556.
- Wilcken, in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyklopäder Classischen Alterthumswissenschaft, iii. col. 287;
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, iii. passim;
- Schürer, Gesch. i. 470, 493, 503, 606.