Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a Family Affair

I'm a little more than halfway through this wonderful book. This particular passage, that describes the home life of the Judaean king, Herod, sticks in my mind. I keep returning to it, reading it again and again. And each time, a shiver goes up my spine.

Herod had the misfortune to share an address with several implacable enemies, first among them his contemptuous, highborn mother-in-law, Alexandra. She represented but one aggravation in Herod's largely female household. He lived as well with his insinuating mother; a grievance-loving, overly loyal sister; and Mariamme, the cool, exceptionally beautiful wife who had married him as a teenager, and who, to his frustration, somehow could never get past the fact that Herod had murdered half of her family.

This, it seems was common. Murdering family members was an expedient way of disposing with rivals and establishing sole power. Cleopatra herself was responsible for doing away with all of her siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Leaving a clear line of succession to the Egyptian throne for her offspring. She may not have personally brandished the dagger or administered the poison, but she gave the order. In contrast with today's lack of civility and respect in the political arena, the first century BC was indeed a more bloody and dangerous place to be. I guess it's just relative. And back then, it was the relatives.

No comments: