Son of Herod I.; king of Judea; born about 21 B.C., his mother being the Samaritan Malthace. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Rome for education, and, after a stay of two or three years, returned home with his brothers Antipas and Philip, who likewise had attended the schools of the Imperial City. His return was possibly hastened by the intrigues of Antipater, who by means of forged letters and similar devices calumniated him to his father, in the hope of insuring for him the same sanguinary fate he had prepared for his brothers Aristobulus and Alexander. As a result of these slanders, Herod designated Antipas, his youngest son, as his successor, changing his will to that effect. On his death-bed, however, four days before his demise, the king relinquished his determination and appointed Archelaus to the throne, while Antipas and Philip were made tetrarchs merely. Nothing is known definitely of the occasion for this change, though there may be some foundation for the statement of Archelaus' opponents, that the dying king, in his enfeebled condition, had yielded to some palace intrigue in the latter's favor.

Copper Coin of Herod Archelaus. Obverse: ΗΡΩΔΟϒ. A bunch of grapes and leaf. Reverse: ΕΘΝΑΡΧΟΥ. A helmet with tuft of feathers: in field to left a caduceus.(After Madden, "History of Jewish Coinage.")

Archelaus thus attained the crown with little difficulty at the early age of eighteen. That aged plotter Salome found it convenient to abet Archelaus, and secured for him the adherence of the army; hence there was no opposition when he figured as the new ruler at the interment of Herod. The people, glad of the death of the tyrant, were well disposed toward Archelaus, and in the public assembly in the Temple the new king promised to have regard to the wishes of his subjects. It very soon became manifest, however, how little he intended to keep his word. Popular sentiment, molded by the Pharisees, demanded the removal of the Sadducean high priest Joezer (of the Boethus family), and the punishment of those former councilors of Herod who had brought about the martyrdom of the Pharisees Mattathias and Judas. Archelaus, professing always profound respect for the popular demand, pointed out that he could not well take any such extreme measures before he had been confirmed by the Roman emperor, Augustus, in his sovereignty: just as soon as this confirmation should be received, he declared himself willing to grant the people's desire. His subjects, however, seem not to have had confidence in his assurances; and when, on the day before Passover—a day when all Palestine, so to speak, was in Jerusalem—they became so insistent in their demand for immediate action, that theking felt himself compelled to send a detachment of the Herodian soldiery against them into the Temple courts; and when this detachment proved unable to master the enraged populace, he ordered out the whole available garrison. In the massacre that ensued, three thousand were left dead upon the Temple pavements.

Division of the Kingdom by Rome.

As soon as the tumult had been somewhat allayed, Archelaus hastened to Rome to secure the required confirmation of his succession from Augustus. He found that he had to encounter opposition from two sides. His brother Antipas, supported by many members of the Herodian house resident in Rome, claimed formal acknowledgment for Herod's second will, that nominated him king. Besides, the Jews of Palestine sent a deputation of fifty persons—who were supported by about 8,000 Jewish residents of Rome—and petitioned for the exclusion of the Herodians from any share whatever in the government of the land, and for the incorporation of Judea in the province of Syria. Such was the disloyalty among the Herodians, that many members of the family secretly favored this latter popular demand. But Augustus, with statesman-like insight, concluded that it was better for Roman interests to make of Judea a monarchy, governed by its own kings tributary to Rome, than to leave it a Roman province administered by Romans, in which latter case there would certainly be repeated insurrections against the foreign administration. As it would be more prudent to make such a monarchy as small and powerless as possible, he decided to divide Herod's somewhat extensive empire into three portions. Archelaus was accordingly appointed ethnarch—not king—of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, with the exception of the important cities of Gaza, Gadara, and Hippus, which latter were joined to the province of Syria. Antipas and Philip were made tetrarchs of the remaining provinces, the former receiving Galilee and Perea, and the latter the other lands east of the Jordan.

Insurrectionary Outbreaks.

While these negotiations were pending in Rome, new troubles broke out in Palestine. The people, worked up almost into a state of frenzy by the massacres brought about by Herod and Archelaus, broke into open revolt in the absence of their ruler. The actual outbreak was without doubt directly caused by Sabinus—the procurator appointed by Augustus to assume charge pending the settlement of the succession—owing to his merciless oppression of the people. On the day of Pentecost in the year 4 B.C., a collision took place in the Temple precincts between the troops of Sabinus and the populace. Sabinus utilized his initial success in dispersing the people by proceeding to rob the Temple treasury. But disorders broke out all over the province, and his forces were not sufficient to repress them. Judas, son of the revolutionary Hezekiah in Galilee, a certain Simon in Perea, Athronges and his four brothers in other parts of the land, headed more or less serious uprisings. It was only when charge was assumed by Varus, the Roman legate in Syria, with his numerous legions, assisted, moreover, by Aretas, king of the Arabs, and his auxiliaries, that any measure of peace was restored to the land, and this not without the loss of several thousand Roman troops. What the loss on the Jewish side must have been may perhaps be surmised from the rabbinical tradition that the outbreak under Varus was one of the most terrible in Jewish history.

Banishment and Death.

Archelaus returned to Jerusalem shortly after Varus suppressed the insurrection. Very little is known of the further events of his reign, which lasted ten years; but so much is clear, that instead of seeking to heal the wounds brought upon the country by himself and his house, he did much to accelerate the ultimate overthrow of Judean independence. In the year 6 of the common era, a deputation of the Jewish and Samaritan aristocracy waited upon Augustus in Rome, to prefer charges against Archelaus, with the result that he was immediately summoned to Rome, deprived of his crown, and banished to Vienne in Gaul, where—according to Dion Cassius Cocceianus, "Hist. Roma," lv. 27—he lived for the remainder of his days.

Archelaus was a veritable Herodian, but without the statesman-like ability of his father. He was cruel and tyrannical, sensual in the extreme, a hypocrite and a plotter. He observed the customary seven days of mourning for his father, but in the midst of them gave to his boon companions a congratulatory banquet upon his accession. He carefully avoided placing his image upon his coinage in deference to pharisaic susceptibilities; but he nevertheless allowed his passion for his widowed sister-in-law, Glaphyra, to master him, and married her in defiance of the sentiment of the people and the Pharisees, who regarded the union as incestuous (Lev. xviii. 16, xx. 21). He deposed the high priest Joezer on his return from Rome, not in obedience to popular complaint, but for a money consideration. Joezer's brother was his successor, although the latter was of exactly the same type. Indeed, Archelaus, in his short reign, deposed three high priests for purposes of profit. Against this serious list of evils there is hardly anything good to set in contrast, beyond perhaps the fact that he inherited from his father a certain love of splendor and a taste for building. He restored the royal palace at Jericho in magnificent style, surrounding it with groves of palms; and also founded a city, that he called in his own honor Archelais.

  • Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, iii. passim;
  • Ewald, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, iv. passim;
  • Hitzig, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, ii. passim;
  • Schuuml;rer, Gesch. i. passim, and the literature therein indicated. On coinage, see Schürer, ib. p. 375, note 4; and Madden, Coins of the Jews, pp. 114-118.
G. L. G.
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