Category:Herod the Great (subject)

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Herod the Great
Herod the Great

Innocents Matteo.jpg


Herod the Great (73-4 BCE; 1st century BCE) was Governor of Galilee (47-40 BCE) and then King of Judaea (37-4 BCE). He was the head of the House of Herod, the son of Antipater and Cypros, and the brother of Phasael and Salome I. He had numerous wives (Doris, Mariamne, Mariamne II, Malthace, Cleopatra of Jerusalem), and children (Antipater II, Alexandros, Aristobulus IV, Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Olympias, Herod Boethus, Herod Philip).

< Events : Herod & Mariamne -- Adoration of the Magi -- Massacre of the Innocents -- Death of Herod the Great >

< Scholarship : Herod the Great (research) -- Herod the Great (sources) >

< Herod the Great (fiction) : Herod the Great (art) -- Herod the Great (literature) -- Herod the Great (cinema) -- Herod the Great (music) >

Herod the Great -- Overview
Herod the Great -- Overview

Herod the Great was the second son of the Idumean Antipater and the Nabatean Cypros; his siblings were Phasael and Salome I.

In 47 BCE Antipater was made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar and appointed his sons Phasael and Herod as governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively.

In 43 BCE Antipater, who supported Cassius, was poisoned. Herod and Phasael were quick enough to switch allegiance to Mark Antony and retain power.

In 40 BCE Herod faced an even greater challenge. The Hasmonean Antigonus allied himself with the Parthians and by deception captured both Phasael and the High Priest John Hyrcanus II. Hyrcanus was mutilated to make him unfit for the office; Phasael committed suicide.

Herod fled to Rome; the Senate accepted his plea and elected him King of the Jews with the task of restoring the power of Rome in the region against the Parthians. At the same time, Herod bethroned the granddaughter of John Hyrcanus II, Mariamne, to secure the support of the rival portion of the Hasmoneans to his cause against the Hasmonean Antigonus.

Ventidius and Herod were among the generals who most successfully supported Mark Antony's military campaigns which restored and expanded Roman rule in the East. Herod achieved full victory; from 37 BCE to his death in 4 BCE he would be the sole and undisputed ruler of Judea. Herod always remained a loyal ally of the Romans and their leaders.

In 34 BCE Mark Antony granted to Cleopatra the balsam plantations near Jericho, parts of Herod’s kingdom. In 32 BCE a civil war between Mark Antony and Cleopatra on one side and Octavian on the other side. Herod, who sided with Mark Antony begun a war against the Nabataeans and defeats them. After the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, however, Herod was quick in switching his loyalty to Octavian. In 30 BCE Herod met Octavian at Rhodes and he was confirmed as King of Judaea. Moreover, Herod received from Octavian Jericho, given by Mark Antony to Cleopatra, the Decapolis region with the cities of Gadara and Hippos, the Samaria region, and the coastal cities of Gaza, Anthedon, and Straton Tower, made independent by Pompey and Gabinius.

The alliance of Herod with the Hasmoneans did not last long. Herod first killed Mariamne's brother, Aristobulus III, whom he had briefly appointed High Priest in 35 BCE. Then in 30 BCE Herod killed John Hyrcanus II, after treacherously inviting to return to Jerusalem from his confinement in Parthia. Ultimately, Mariamne also was executed in 29 BCE.

Between 27-25 BCE Herod sent 500 soldiers to Aelius Gallus, Prefect of Egypt in his campaign against Arabia. In 25 BCE, as famine and pestilence devastated the country, Herod appeal to Petronius, Prefect of Egypt, for help.

In 23-22 BCE Herod was given by Augustus the Districts of Trachonitis, Batanaea and Auranitis. Herod’s kingdom had by now the same borders of the Hasmonean kingdom at his gratest extension. Later on, in 20 BCE Augustus, when visiting Syria presented Herod with the territory of Zenodorus, which included Ituraea.

In 18-17 BCE Herod travelled to Rome to bring home his sons Alexandros and Aristobulus IV.

In 15 BCE Marcus Agrippa visited Herod in Jerusalem. The following year, in 14 BCE Herod joined Marcus Agrippa in Asia Minor. There, he was received by the local Jewish communities. In 12 BCE, once more Herod travelled to Rome to accuse his sons Alexandros and Aristobulus IV in front of Octavian at Aquileia. Augustus was succesfull in settling the quarrel. In 10 BCE Herod travelled once more to Rome. In 9 BCE as consequence of the Second War against the Nabataeans, Herod is in disfavour with Augustus. However, by 7 BCE, thanks to the good offices of Nicolaus of Damascus, Herod was once more in favour with the Roman ruler.

Herod proved to be a very effective ruler. He completed ambitious construction projects in Jericho, where he edified three palaces in the Wadi Qelt area between 40 and 15 BCE. At Jerusalem, between 20 and 19 BCE he begun the rebuilding of the Temple, which was inaugurated by Herod and Marcus Agrippa in 15 BCE. Herod erected in Jerusalem as well the Antonia Fortress, located in the north western corner of the Temple Mount. In the western part of the city a huge palace, which included three huge towers, named after Mariamne, Phasael and Hyppicos was erected. The city of Samaria was dedicated in 25 BCE as Sebaste in honor of Augustus. In 23 BCE Herod founded the harbor and the city of Caesarea Maritima, dedicated in 10 BCE. New fortresses were erected to defend the kingdom, such as the Herodium and Masada.

The succession to his throne proved to be a very complicated matter. With many wives and children, Herod had many options but was not able to control the intrigues and the competition. In 7 BCE Herod had the two sons of Mariamne, Alexandros and Aristobulus IV, executed, along with their maternal grandmother Alexandra the Hasmonean. In 4 BCE the same fate came to his oldest son, Antipater II. The fame of Herod as a fearful and suspicious child murder, which the Gospel of Matthew has left to the Christian tradition, was not totally undeserved.

At the end, Herod's kingdom was divided into three parts to be given each to one of his surviving children. Herod Archelaus inherited Judaea, Samaria, and Idumaea; Herod Antipas inherited Galilee and Perea; and Herod Philip the Gaulanitis area. Herod's sister Salome I also was given a portion of inheritance, a toparchy including the cities of Yavneh, Ashdod, Phasaelis, plus 5000 drachmae and a royal habitation at Ashkelon.



Josephus is the major and more detailed source for the life of Herod the Great.

Herod (fiction)
Herod (fiction)

In Christian iconography Herod was known as the villain in the Massacre of the Innocents but only rarely represented. The "rediscovery" of Josephus at the beginning of the 16th century made him a more complex dramatic character as a powerful, ruthless and jealous king. At the beginning it was his personal life that drew more attention; in particular, his relation with Mariamne, her killing and the killing of their children, provided a narrative full of strong, contrasting passions that was suitable to be presented in novels and on stage. In the 19th century the emphasis began shifting even in fictional accounts on the political role Herod played and on his relations with both the Jews and the Romans.

Gabriele Boccaccini, University of Michigan




Pages in category "Herod the Great (subject)"

The following 115 pages are in this category, out of 115 total.

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