Queen Mariamne II – The other banished wife of King Herod the Great




Queen Mariamne II
(public domain)

Queen Mariamne II was the third wife of King Herod the Great of Judea. She reminded King Herod of his executed wife, Queen Mariamne I, because of her name and beauty. Therefore, King Herod found her to be a suitable substitute for Queen Mariamne I and wished to marry her. However, her lowly status prevented him from marrying her. To eliminate the obstacle, King Herod appointed her father, Simon, the High Priest of Jerusalem. With Simon as the High Priest, King Herod sent a message to the Jewish people that the monarchy was more important than religion.[1]

Queen Mariamne II was born circa 45 B.C.E. Her father was Simon, the son of Boethus of Alexandria. Her family consisted of Jewish priests and noblemen from Alexandria, Egypt, who settled in Jerusalem.[2] Mariamne II was said to be very beautiful.[3] People began to speak of her beauty throughout Jerusalem, and it quickly reached the ears of King Herod the Great.[4] The fact that her name was Mariamne and was said to be beautiful made King Herod curious about her because she reminded him of Mariamne I.[5] He wanted to catch a glimpse of her.[6] The moment he saw Mariamne, he fell madly in love with her.[7] King Herod thought that Mariamne would be a good substitute for his late wife and hoped that she would help him get over his grief.[8] However, Mariamne’s low status made it an obstacle to marrying her.[9] He raised her status by appointing Mariamne’s father, Simon, the High Priest of Jerusalem.[10]

Simon, the High Priest of Jerusalem, would be the first of the Boethusian priests (who were influential during Herod’s reign and when Israel was ruled by Roman governors).[11] With Simon as the High Priest, King Herod held full authority over the Temple and the Jewish community.[12] Therefore, King Herod had total authority over the priests of Jerusalem and made it hard for the priests to oppose him.[13] King Herod stripped the High Priesthood of its source of power, which was that it was a lifetime position and could be passed down to their sons.[14] Instead, King Herod made the position temporary and no longer inheritable.[15] King Herod also stored the High Priest’s priestly garments in his Antonia Fortress.[16] This meant that King Herod was sending a message to the Jewish people that the monarchy was more important than religion.[17] Thus, the Jewish people were outraged and would later rebel against the Boethusian priests.[18] 

King Herod married Mariamne in 24 B.C.E. Queen Mariamne II bore a son named Herod Philip I. Because her father was the High Priest of Jerusalem, she and her father were solely reliant on her husband’s favour.[19] She stayed out of the political intrigues that involved Queen Mariamne I’s sons in 7 B.C.E.[20] In 4 B.C.E., Queen Mariamne II learned of Queen Doris’s scheme of murdering King Herod and placing her son, Prince Antipater, on the throne.[21] However, Queen Mariamne II did not mention this scheme to her husband.[22] When Prince Antipater was executed, King Herod made Queen Mariamne II’s son, Prince Herod Philip I, the heir apparent.[23] Shortly after King Herod made Prince Herod Philip I the heir apparent, he learned that Queen Mariamne II knew about Queen Doris’s scheme but had kept quiet.[24] King Herod believed that Queen Mariamne II was an active participant in Queen Doris’s conspiracy.[25] Therefore, he removed Simon as the High Priest of Jerusalem.[26] He stripped Prince Herod Philip I as the heir apparent and did not include him in his will.[27] Then, he banished Queen Mariamne II from the palace.[28] 

After the banishment, Queen Mariamne II’s life in exile is unknown.[29] There is no mention of how or when she died.[30] Her son, Prince Herod Philip I, was the first husband of Princess Herodias. He was also the father of Queen Salome of Armenia Minor. However, Princess Herodias would divorce Prince Herod Philip I and marry Prince Herod Antipas. Both Princess Herodias and her daughter, Princess Salome, would become legendary figures because of their involvement in the execution of John the Baptist.

King Herod the Great of Judea saw Queen Mariamne II as a substitute for his executed wife, Queen Mariamne I. He used the appointment of Queen Mariamne’s father as the High Priest of Jerusalem in order to be able to marry her. Therefore, Queen Mariamne II and her father were mere pawns of King Herod and were solely dependent on him. Thus, their downfall was swift and sudden as their rise to power because King Herod believed Queen Mariamne II to be involved in a conspiracy to kill him. The greatest legacy of Queen Mariamne II was that she was the first mother-in-law of Princess Herodias and the grandmother of Queen Salome.[31]

Sources:

Ilan, T. (31 December 1999). “Hasmonean Women.” Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. Jewish Women’s Archive. Retrieved on December 21, 2022 from. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/hasmonean-women.

Kasher, A., Witztum, E. (2008). King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor: A Case Study in Psychohistory and Psychobiography. Germany: Netlibrary.

Macurdy, G. H. (1937). Vassal-queens and Some contemporary Women in the Roman Empire. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.

Smith, M. H. (n.d.). “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE.)”. Virtual Religion Network. Retrieved on 21 December 2022 from https://virtualreligion.net/iho/mariamne_2.html.


[1] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[2] Ilan, 31 December 1999, “Herodian Women”

[3] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[4] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[5] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[6] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[7] Macurdy, 1937

[8] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[9] Ilan, 31 December 1999, “Herodian Women”

[10] Ilan, 31 December 1999, “Herodian Women”

[11] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[12] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[13] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[14] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[15] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[16] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[17] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[18] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[19] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[20] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[21] Macurdy, 1937

[22] Macurdy, 1937

[23] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[24] Macurdy, 1937

[25] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[26] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[27] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[28] Ilan, 31 December 1999, “Herodian Women”

[29] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[30] Smith, n.d., “Mariamne II (died aft. 4 BCE)”

[31] Macurdy, 1937






About Lauralee Jacks 183 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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