Antipater the Idumaean

From Academic Kids

Antipater the Idumaean, also known as Antipas, as was his father and his grandson Herod Antipas, was the founder of the Herodean dynasty and father of Herod the Great. He was a half-Arab, Hellenized client of Pompey and his circle. Antipater came from Idumaea, the then-current name for the land of Edom of the Hebrew Bible, which lay southeast of Palestine between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

Antipater was married to Cypros, a Nabataean noblewoman. His genealogy was more a matter of public relations than confirmed history: although some list Antipater as descending from the Jewish remnant that returned from the Babylonian Captivity, it is more likely he was an Edomite. Idumeans had been forcibly converted to Judaism, so both Antipater and Herod were of the Jewish faith, but the non-Jewish and Arab ancestry, their Hellenized culture and collusion with the kittim, the Roman invaders, were among many reasons why the observant and nationalist Jews of Palestine resented the Herodians.

Antipater laid the foundation for Herod's ascension to the throne of Judea partly through his activities in the court of the Hasmoneans, the heirs of the Maccabees, who were the hereditary leaders of the Jews, and partly by currying favor with the Romans, who made him the first Roman procurator of Judea. Antipater and Cypros had four sons: Phasael, Herod, Joseph, and Pheroras. They also had a daughter, Salome, one of several Salomes among the Herodians.

Antipater was a wealthy man, and was quite favored by his fellow Idumeans. Josephus, from whom are derived the details of Judean politics at this period, described him as active and seditious in his nature. Antipater insinuated himself into the party of Hyrcanus in his contest for power with his brother Aristobulus; both were Hasmonean princes. Their father, Alexander, had made Antipater general of all of Judea, for he had a rapport with the Arabians. Hyrcanus succeeded his mother as ruler, but bowed out in favor of his younger brother, Aristobulus. But Antipater continued to support Hyrcanus, and he advised Hyrcanus to put himself under the protection of the Arabian King Aretas III in Petra. Together they would attack Aristobulus in Jerusalem. Pompey put down the trouble, and made Hyrcanus the ethnarch of Judea. Antipater remained in charge of affairs of the state.

Palestine in the Roman province of Syria (of which Judea was a part) was split and Idumaea was eventually given to Antipater to govern. These divisions would later be seats of power for the Herodean descendants of Antipater. When Caesar defeated Pompey, Antipater aided Caesar in Alexandria, and was made chief minister of Judea, with the right to collect taxes. Antipater eventually made his son, Phasael, governor of Jerusalem, and Herod became governor of Galilee. After the assassination of Caesar, Antipater was forced to side with Cassius against Marc Antony. The pro-Roman politics of Antipater led to his increasing unpopularity among the devout, non-Hellenized Jews, and he was poisoned.

The diplomacy and artful politics of Antipater, as well as his insinuation into the Hasmonean court, paved the way for the rise of his son Herod the Great, who used this position to marry the Hasmonean princess Mariamne, endear himself to Rome, and usurp the Judean throne, to become king of Judea under Roman influence.

Note: The number of Antipaters, Antipases, Herods, Philips, Marys, Josephs, Salomes, etc., at this time in history, makes differentiating among them quite a challenge.


  • Josephus, Flavius. William Whistom, translator. (2003) The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, Updated Edition(17th printing). The Antiquities of the Jews.The Wars of the Jews. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 1-56563-167-6
  • Eisenman, Robert, 1997. James, the Brother of Jesus. Political background of Judea.he: אנטיפטרוס האדומי

de:Antipatros (Galila)


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