|Story of Herod the Great
'Herod' is a dynastic name, and there are four different men in the New Testament called Herod. They are all from the same family, descendents of the founder of the dynasty, Herod Antipater.
HEROD THE GREAT
Herod was born in Palestine at a time of political turmoil. His father Antipater, an ambitious man, had risen rapidly in the service of the king, whom he eventually ousted from the throne. Antipater appointed his son Herod as governor of Galilee, and six years later Mark Antony made him tetrarch. Six years after this the Senate in Rome named him king of Judea and gave him an army to make good his claim. By the age of 36, Herod was unchallenged ruler of Judea.
To strengthen his hold on power he divorced his first wife Doris and married the beautiful Mariamme, a princess of the Hasmonean royal family. Herod may or may not have been deeply in love with her - the Jewish historian Josephus says he was, but then Josephus was dependent on Herod's favor and always gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Herod supported his patron Mark Antony until he lost the Battle of Actium, when he adroitly switched sides and became an ally and friend of the victor of this battle, Octavian/Augustus.
As well as being a clever politician, Herod the Great was one of the most prolific builders of the ancient world. Among other things, he built the port of Caesarea on the coast between Joppa and Haifa, and Sebaste on the site of ancient Samaria. His most grandiose achievement was the Temple in Jerusalem, which he completely rebuilt. The platform for this construction is the Temple Mount. Herod was also the president of the Olympic Games during his reign.
Much of what he did was an attempt to make up for his birth - he was of Arab origin on both sides, a fact his Jewish subjects never forgave. He resented and envied the love his subjects had for the former royal family, the Hasmoneans, and ended up murdering most of the members of that family, including his wife Mariamme, their two sons, his young brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, and Mariamme's aged grandfather. When Herod had his two sons strangled, Augustus commented that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son - Jews do not eat pork.
During his last years - the years in which the Massacre of the Innocents took place - Herod descended into madness and paranoia. He was in great physical and mental pain, and soon after a failed suicide attempt this complex, demented, brilliant man died.
'He resented and envied the love his subjects had for the former royal family, the Hasmoneans, and ended up murdering most of them, including his wife Mariamme, their two sons, his young brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, and Mariamme's aged grandfather. When Herod had his two sons strangled, Augustus, knowing that Jews do not eat pork, commented that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son.'
Though Antipas was cautious in political matters, he was unsuccessful in controlling his family, and had a particularly bad relationship with Herodias' brother Agrippa.
Unfortunately for Antipas, Agrippa had lived in Rome and become a close friend of a young member of the imperial family, Caligula. When Caligula became emperor Agrippa laid charges, partially true, against Antipas. Caligula, now given a pretext, banished Antipas to Gaul but gave Herodias a dispensation. Since she was the sister of his friend Agrippa, she might continue to live in Judea and retain some of her possessions.
Herodias proudly refused the pardon and accompanied Antipas into exile - though it was perhaps not too bad a punishment, since tradition has it that they lived hereafter in a magnificent villa in Gaul, near Lyon in the south of France.
He was the grandson of the beautiful Mariamme and through her inherited the prized Hasmonean blood. He had been sent to Rome as a small boy to escape the bloodbath that engulfed his family, and also to receive a Roman education. There he grew up in company with the emperor Tiberius' son Drusus.
After his mother's death he quickly ran through his inheritance, keeping up with the lifestyle of the young blades of the imperial family. Then he went into serious debt, which meant that when his patron Drusus died, he was forced to leave Rome and go back to Judea. Herod Antipas, now his brother-in-law, gave him a small income and a minor official post, both of which Agrippa despised.
Desperately unhappy in the back blocks of Judea, Agrippa secured a sizeable loan and returned to Rome, where he secured a post as tutor to Tiberius' grandson. He also became a friend of Caligula, Tiberius' heir. He was foolish enough to made a rash remark about how good it would be when Tiberius died, and his words were reported by a servant. Agrippa landed in gaol.
However Tiberius died one year later and Agrippa, now close friends with the new emperor Caligula, came into his own. Caligula made him king of the former realm of his uncle Philip, and when Antipas was banished to Gaul Agrippa got his territories as well. When Caligula was assassinated Agrippa supported Claudius, who in gratitude granted him the entire kingdom of Judea.
In Judea, Agrippa carefully supported conservative Jewish policies and repressed the Jewish Christians. He imprisoned Peter the Apostle and executed James, son of Zebedee. Luke, writing in the Acts of the Apostles, believed that Agrippa's early death in 44AD was the result of his pride.
HEROD AGRIPPA II
In 60AD, when Paul had been in prison for two years, the procurator in Judea consulted Agrippa concerning his case. This happened during a visit that Agrippa and his sister were making to Caesarea (Agrippa and his sister were said to be having an affair, though the writer of Acts does not mention this). Paul defended himself vigorously, and those who listened to him commented that he might have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor - which entailed a further trial in Rome.
Agrippa assisted the Romans when the Jewish Revolt broke out. In 70AD he helped Titus' son in the final conquest of Jerusalem and after the rebellion had been put down, Agrippa II apparently lived on until 93AD.
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