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Princess of Peace II

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Judah was indeed a kind husband, attentive at all times to his new wife. Although the Lord did not give Salome a child, never once did Judah look on her with disfavor, neither did he seek the company of another woman. Much of the day he served in the temple, for his father's wishes were clear that he should be high priest after him. For two years, maybe three, Salome thought that her husband's words to her father had indeed been no more than a young man's boasting to make his appeal for her hand seem more pleasing. Then one evening she found his younger brother Antigonus in the rooms assigned to Judah and her, murmuring to her husband.

"Bring wine," she said to the Ituraean slave girl by her side. "My lord husband's brother's cup is empty."

"My thanks, Alexandra," Antigonus said, seeming to savour the Greek name her husband had given her at her marriage. "Let not the complex and dry talk of men detain you – there must be something more entertaining for you to do elsewhere."

"No doubt," she said, noting how Judah looked down silently, a blush upon his cheek, and did not gainsay his brother. "Let me serve you, and I will withdraw."

She directed the girl in the pouring of the wine, and the laying out of saffron-cakes, and calmly walked away with a serene smile. Outside she whirled about, almost treading upon the startled girl behind her.

"Madam, your pardon –"

"That snake," Salome hissed. "To dismiss me from my own rooms and in front of my own husband? Hush now, let us listen."

Inside she heard Antigonus laughingly say that it was good that some women in the family knew to obey men, that it was a rare thing. Judah, it seemed to her, tried to speak more than once, but could not break into his brother's flow as Antigonus spoke of how unnatural it was that some women did not obey, that such women even thought themselves counselors. Surely, Salome thought, my husband will say that he opens his heart to me and that he listens to my counsel, as my father listens to my mother? Her husband's silence stretched on, filled only by his brother's musing on the need for men to impose good order on society, and the absolute right of the first-born son to have his legal inheritance.

Salome withdrew, quickly. Antigonus was speaking against their father's plans to leave the government to their mother; he was planning a coup. If he has involved Judah, she thought, he will fan all those stupid ambitions again. Then Simeon and the other Pharisees will start speaking out in public once more about the kingship belonging only to David's family. She closed her eyes, seeing Antigonus murmuring to Judah the best way to deal with men who spread sedition.

What she had to do, she decided, was to live and to keep her family alive. She would have to take whatever steps were needed. The girl beside her was young, barely into womanhood, her eyes wide with the unwelcome knowledge that she was a foreign slave who had heard too much of her masters' business. Salome regarded her with no pity.

She could not afford to be weak in what was coming.

 

A Byzantine era mosaic map (from Madaba) of Jericho, where many of the Hasmonean family, including Salome Alexandra, built palaces. source