Book Proposal

Queen Salome: Jerusalem’s Forgotten Ruler and the Mysterious Women of the Dead Sea Scrolls


Kenneth Atkinson

Associate Professor of Religion

University of Northern Iowa

Department of Philosophy and World Religions

154 Baker Hall

Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0501

Phone: (319) 266-0400

Fax: 319-273-7095


Web Site:

When people hear the name Salome, they immediately think of the infamous dancing girl of the Gospels. Herod Antipas—the man Jesus denounced as a “fox” had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. When John the Baptist denounced this illicit union, Herod Antipas cast him into prison. It was Herodias’s daughter, Salome, who danced before Herod at his drunken birthday gala. Her performance so pleased Herod that he promised her anything she wished: up to half his kingdom! At her mother’s urging, Salome asked for the head of Herod’s most famous prisoner on a platter. Fearful of breaking his word before his guests, Herod granted Salome’s request and ordered John the Baptist beheaded.

In antiquity there was a considerably more famous Salome who was revered for centuries. She was so admired that generations of mothers, Herodias apparently among them, named their daughters Salome in her honor. This Salome was the only woman to govern Judea-a land the Bible also calls Israel and the Romans later named Palestine as its sole ruler. She is even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls: the sole woman, and one of only 18 people, named in the scrolls. She presided over a number of religious reforms that shaped the Judaism of Jesus’ day as well as our own. During a time of chaos, men chose her to lead their nation and fight their battles. Centuries later, the authors of the Talmud regarded her reign as a golden age. Yet, this remarkable woman has been largely erased from history. Her name is Queen Salome Alexandra. This is the first book to document her remarkable life, and an age when women ruled men.

Brief Description: Queen Salome: Jerusalem’s Forgotten Ruler and the Mysterious Women of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the first biography of Queen Salome Alexandra: a woman who brought about Judaism’s golden age in first century B.C.E. Jerusalem. The manuscript is approximately 358 pages in length (plus bibliography).

Biography: Queen Salome is partly based on my experiences and training as a professor of ancient and modern religions, an archaeologist, a full-time traveler, a factory worker, and a soldier in Cold War Berlin. It uncovers a unique period of history when women ruled ancient Israel, Palestine, Syria, and neighboring lands. I spent several years excavating and travelling throughout Europe and the Middle East to unravel many of the secrets about Salome Alexandra’s life and times. Written for a popular audience, my book incorporates insights from my vast life experiences to recreate Salome Alexandra’s world in an engaging narrative. I have presented many of my findings to both scholarly and popular audiences in North America, Europe and the Middle East. My work has been reviewed by many of the leading experts in the field in the scholarly books and journals. I also have a successful record of popular books and article, including several pieces in Biblical Archaeology Review.  

Features: Queen Salome: Jerusalem’s Forgotten Ruler and the Mysterious Women of the Dead Sea Scrolls includes the following unique, and previously unpublished, information:

• Describes Salome Alexandra’s remarkable life and times based on the author’s historical and archaeological discoveries.

• Examines Salome Alexandra’s pagan female contemporaries who ruled ancient Egypt, Syria, and other kingdoms.

• Uncovers the mysterious lives of female Jewish monks mentioned in ancient Egyptian documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

• Explores how Salome Alexandra’s family created religious martyrdom.

• Shows how Salome Alexandra’s religious, political, and economic reforms shaped the Judaism of Jesus’ day as well as our own.

• Uncovers how Salome Alexandra brought about her nation’s golden age.

Market: This book will attract readers interested in historical biography, religion, history, gender studies, and politics. Women of all ages will especially find this an engaging story. Public libraries and book clubs will find this remarkable biography of the only legitimate queen to have ruled ancient Palestine a model of how faith and politics can effectively work together to improve society. Schools, seminaries, and religious study groups will also find this book interesting for the light it sheds on women in ancient Judaism and early Christianity.  

Sample: A selection of material from this book has been published as: Kenneth Atkinson, “The Salome No One Knows: Long-time Ruler of a Prosperous and Peaceful Judea Mentioned in Dead Sea Scrolls.” Biblical Archaeology Review 34 (2008) 60-65, 72. [Subscription required for electronic version.]

Table of Contents:

Preface i-xiii


Introduction: A Forgotten Queen, A Forgotten World: The Untold Story of Salome Alexandra 1-14

Chapter One: By Another Name: Recovering Salome Alexandra’s Lost Name 15-26

Chapter Two: A World of Divided Loyalties: Hellenism, Judaism, Or Both? 27-48


Chapter Three: A Family of Warrior Priests: The Hasmoneans 49-65

Chapter Four: Seeking Judea’s Missing Women: Queen Salome Alexandra’s Lost Years 66-93

Chapter Five: John Hyrcanus: The Prophet 95-124


Chapter Six: A Judean Women Who Did Not Know Her Place: Salina Alexandra 125-49

Chapter Seven: Women Queens To The North: Cleopatra Thea and Her Descendants 150-72

Chapter Eight: Warriors Queens of Egypt: Cleopatra II & III 173-93


Chapter Nine: A Man Who Knew His Place: Alexander Jannaeus 194-212

Chapter Ten: Queen Triumphant: The Improbable Rise of Salome Alexandra 213-43

Chapter Eleven: Judea’s Golden Age: The Blessings of Salome Alexandra 244-64


Chapter Twelve: The Fornications of the Prostitute: Salome Alexandra and the Mysterious Women of the Dead Sea Scrolls 265-83

Chapter Thirteen: The Dancing Women of the Egyptian Desert: The Mysterious Therapeutae 284-301


Chapter Fourteen: “A Wonderful Administrator”: Salome Alexandra’s Pacification of the Middle East 302-25

Chapter Fifteen: Contention and Conflict: Salome Alexandra’s Final Struggle 326-36


Chapter Sixteen: The Last Hasmoneans: The Other Alexandras 337-46

Chapter Seventeen: Conclusion: Salome Alexandra’s Legacy 347-58