Queen of Egypt 52-30
After Herod became king by the help of the Romans, Cleopatra tried in every way to injure him. Alexandra, Herod's mother-in-law, complained to Cleopatra that the office of high priest was denied to her son Aristobulus, and she sent the pictures of her beautiful children, Mariamne and Aristobulus, to Antony, at that time held captive by Cleopatra's charms. Antony desired the handsome youth as a companion, and to prevent this Herod was forced to appoint Aristobulus as high priest (35
Cleopatra's ambitious spirit seriously injured Herod. She not only induced Antony to give to her in fief the entire coast-line, except Tyre and Sidon, but appropriated Jericho, a region of Judea rich in palms and the far-famed balsam. She traveled to Judea by way of Apamæa and Damascus; and Herod was forced not only to appease her animosity with presents, but also to rent Jericho from her for a yearly sum of two hundred talents, and to send her at his own expense as far as Pelusium (ib. xv. 4, §§ 1-2; "B. J." i. 18, § 5). Through her machinations he was drawn into a war with the Nabatæan king Malich; and when he was victorious, Cleopatra sent her general Athenion to help the Nabatæans; whereupon the Jews were defeated and retired across the Jordan (31
The anti-Jewish Apion not incorrectly looked upon Cleopatra as a ruler hostile to the Jews; for she seems indeed to have been inimical to them. Still Josephus says ("Contra Ap." ii., § 5) that Apion should rather have denounced the vices of this devilish woman, and thinks it redounds to the honor of the Jews that they received no wheat from her during a famine in Alexandria. Cleopatra's hatred went so far that when her capital, Alexandria, had been taken by Cæsar Augustus and she had lost everything, she conceived the idea that all could yet be saved if she should murder the Jews of her city with her own hands (ib.). Her death immediately afterward saved the Jews from this fate (30
Rabbinical literature also reports one of her cruel deeds. The bodies of some of her female slaves, who had been condemned to death, were torn open and the contents examined (Tosef., Niddah, iv. 17; Talmud, Niddah, 30b). A question that she is said to have addressed to R. Meïr (Sanh. 90b) can scarcely be historical, owing to the anachronism involved in making them contemporaries, and it is probable that the reading ("Queen Cleopatra") in this passage is a corruption of ("patriarch of the Samaritans"; see Bacher, in "Rev. Et. Juives," v. 185, vi. 159; idem, "Ag. Tan." ii. 68).