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Second husband of Salome I
The basics
Date of death 28
The details

Costobarus was an associate of Herod the Great: who made Costobarus governor of Idumea, and second husband of Herod's sister Salome I. He is known also as Costobar. There is another also named Costobar, who is the brother of Saul.

Costobar(us), husband of Salome

Costobarus was an associate of Herod b. Antipater during the latter’s rise to power. Following the capitulation of Jerusalem - in the campaign by Mark Antony and Herod against the Hasmonean king Antigonus - Costobar controlled the exits from the city. At about this time, in c.37 BC, Antony appointed Herod as Tetrarch of Judæa: and Herod appointed Costobarus as Governor of Idumæa and Gaza. Soon afterwards, c.34 BC, Herod gave his sister Salome in marriage to Costobarus.

While Costobarus “gladly accepted these favours, which were more than he had expected”, he was never “Herods’ man”: his focus was always towards Idumæa and his own ambitions in that direction. Costobarus was from a noble and priestly family in Idumæa; and he resented that the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus had made the Idumæans adopt the customs and laws of the Jews. He “did not think ... it ... proper for him to carry out the orders of Herod , or for the Idumæans to ... be subject to them.” He also had ambitions to rule Idumæa himself, and “to achieve greater things”. These attitudes led him to three acts which aroused Herod against him, and eventually led to his execution.

His first transgression to become known (but the second to be initiated) was to approach Cleopatra to ask Antony for Idumæa to be transferred to her (instead of to Herod), as it “had always belonged to her ancestors”. Costobarus was “ready to transfer his loyalty to her”, and hoped that he himself would eventually become its ruler. Cleopatra did ask: but Antony refused. Herod sought to kill Costobarus as soon as he found out, but his mother and sister prevented him: Herod even pardoned Costobarus on this occasion. But, from then, Herod no longer trusted Costobarus.

The next revelation (the third event in sequence) came as part of the divorce proceedings which Salome initiated against Costobarus. In c.27-25 BC, she issued him a writ of annulment (which the woman was not permitted to do under Jewish Law: but Salome was Salome!), and declared to Herod that she did this “out of loyalty to ... [Herod] himself”. She then informed Herod that Costobarus was intending to flee the country in the company of Herod’s brother Pheroras, who was out of favour at this time because of his infatuation with a slave girl, and his consequent rejection of a family match which Herod had arranged.

Then Salome added the third revelation (but the first and longest running transgression): Costobarus had been protecting, for twelve (or ten) years past, Herod’s enemies from the early days - the sons of Baba. When Costobarus had been guarding the exits to Jerusalem in c.37 BC, these were some of the people Herod had wished to contain: but Costobarus hid them on his own estate (because of their popularity with the people), and later denied all knowledge of them. “And when the king [Herod] was informed of these things ... he sent to the place where they were reported to be staying, and had them kill these men and those who were accused with them ...” And so, Costobarus was executed, at last, in c.27-25 BC. [Some have found the reference [18] to be ambiguous concerning Costobarus’ death, but the other two references in [19] affirm it clearly.]

Despite all this intrigue, descendants of Costobarus and Salome are among the most notable in the history of the Herodian dynasty, and some were involved with the Jesus Movement as well. The next sub-section deals with the grandchildren Costobar and Saul; and the last sub-section gives an overview of all their immediate descendants.

Costobar, brother of Saul

Close family of Costobar b. Antipater

Costobar and Saul were royal [Herodian] brothers, and kinsmen of Antipas [b. Alexas], and of Agrippa [II] While Josephus - as we now have it - does not specify the parents of Costobar and Saul, the name “Costobar” provides a clue: their grandfather was very likely Costobar(us), the second husband of Salome, the sister of Herod “the Great”. [“Costobar” is an uncommon name, there being only two individuals so named in all of Josephus: and these are they.] Given that this is correct, Antipas b. Alexas is a nephew of Costobar and Saul through their sister Cypros b. Antipater; and Agrippa [II] is first cousin once removed to them through their aunt Bernice (Berenice), who married Aristobulus b. Herod (and are the parents of Agrippa I). The references in Josephus to two such “marker” individuals - one via a more senior generation, and one via a more junior generation - supports that this identification is correct. The chart of the putative close family of Costobar and Saul is to the right. (The chart may be wrong at least in that Cypros bat Herod seems to have been the daughter of Mariamne I Hasmonian, not Mariamne II Boethus, the latter had only a son, Herod Philip)

When the Jewish insurrection was gaining momentum, Costobar, Saul and Antipas requested Agrippa [II] to send assistance to prevent the imminent uprising. The two brothers also were active themselves against the insurgents.

Following the Battle of Beth-horon (25 November 66 CE) - in which the Jewish insurgents defeated the Roman general Cestius - Costobar, Saul and Antipas were besieged in the royal palace. Subsequently, Costobar, with his brother Saul, escaped from Jerusalem to re-join Cestius: who dispatched them to Emperor Nero in Archaia [Greece].

Antipas, who had remained in Jerusalem, was arrested by the insurgents, and slain in prison by John b.Dorcus, (i.e. John b.Tabitha), who was under commission from the “brigands” [zealots].

It is debatable whether Saul of Josephus is the same person as Saul of the New Testament. It is noteworthy, however, that the latter does appear to have royal connections. (1). Saul was “brought up with Herod the Tetrarch”. (2). Herodian kin of Saul are suggested in the Epistle to the Romans (3). As a member of the Herodian family, Saul would indeed be a Roman citizen. His behaviour, in which he “made havoc for the church” is reminiscent of that in which Costobar and Saul “were lawless and quick to plunder ... those weaker than themselves”. Nevertheless, there does not appear to be any extant direct evidence which links the two.

The Costobarian Herods

Costobarus and Salome [the elder] had two children: Bernice and Antipater By her marriage to Aristobulus b. Herod, Bernice united the Costobarian and Hasmonean scions of the Herodians. The descendants of the two principals included two kings of Judæa - Herod Agrippa [Agrippa I], and his son Agrippa II, the Tetrarch Herod of Chalcis, Herodias and Salome [the younger] of the New Testament, a line of Treasurers of the Temple, and the brothers Costobar and Saul [see previous sub-section]. The younger Salome was the matriarch of the Christian Aristobulus of Britannia. The family tree of this very noteworthy group is shown below.

The Costobarus scion of the Herodians.
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