Herod the Great Term Paper

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King Herod, The Great

Quite a variety of members belonging to the royal dynasty had their names Herod being originated in Edom or Idumea after John Hyrcanus in 125 B.C was obligated to adopt the Jewish religion (1). The Herod family ruled in Palestine as vassals of the Romans. Followed by Maccabees, the history of this dynasty mainly relates to the political history of Palestine during this whole era (1).

Romans in 40 B.C made Herod I the Great, son of Antipater the king who managed to keep hold of his throne even during the times of changes in the government at Rome (1). Herod's kingdom includes Idumea, Galilee, Judea, Batanea, Samaria and Peraea, which was more or less the same size as the kingdom of David and Solomon (1).

Though Herod had outstanding leadership skills, yet he was greatly detested by the Jews. One of the reasons for disliking him was his attitude toward the Maccabean dynasty to which he was linked in terms of marriage, while his impudence and brutality, infuriated Jews more (1).

One of the examples of his brutality is the execution of his brother-in-law and some of his wives and sons (1). In addition, he obligated heavy taxes and cruelly reserved all rebellions. But the main reason for detesting him was the policy of Hellenistic culture that deeply wounded the Jews (1).

However, he was supported for the construction of a theater, a racecourse and an amphitheater in Jerusalem (1). While the construction of the emperor cult in the East and in foreign cities the formation of pagan temples at his own expense could not be excused, although he reinstated and renovated the Temple of Jerusalem and repeatedly pleaded the cause of the Jews of the Diaspora to the emperor for his own benefits (1).

No close tie existed between the king and his people as he stayed an Edomite and a friend of Rome, and held on to his regime by means of a pitiless military force. He is the same ruler who butchered the children of Bethlehem (1).

Herod's death was sudden in the year 4 B.C. however, the Emperor Augustus after his death, made Herod's three sons the rulers of various parts of their father's kingdom (1).

Herod Regime from 37-25 B.C

This first period covers the time from Herod's succession as king in 37 B.C. To the execution of his wife Mariamne, and the loss Babas's sons in 25 B.C., at the time when the last successor of the Hasmonean family was executed (1). During this era of Herod's regime he had many strong foes, specifically the Pharisees, the ruling class, the Hasmonean family, and Cleopatra (1).

The Pharisees

The Pharisees had many reasons for disliking Herod one of which was the fact that he was the king of Judea, and then chiefly because he was an Idumaean, a half Jew, and an ally of the Romans (1, 2). Herod faced many problems while dealing with the Pharisees one of which was there incredible popularity with the people since they were respected a lot and were considered to be very religious. However, King Herod had his own ways of dealing with the population (1, 2). Therefore, whoever opposed him he gives punishment, while reward with favors and great honors to those who were his friends (1, 2).

The Ruling Class

This other group with strong rival to King Herod was the followers the aristocratic Antigonus. King Herod cruelly dealt them all to the extent that once he executed forty-five of the most well-off, renowned and important members of the ruling class (1, 2). He even detained their possessions and filled up his treasury, which had been tired due to all of his bribes (1, 2).

The Hasmonean Family

This third group of his powerful opponent was the family of the Hasmoneans. Here the actual of most of his problems was his mother-in-law, Alexandra. During this period Hyrcanus came back from Parthian exile, still he was mutilated due to which he was not able to serve as high priest (1, 2). Herod wanted replacement of Hyrcanus as high priest and since Hyrcanus was a half Jew, he therefore, was not permitted to serve as high priest. Thus, Herod preferred to choose a member of the Zadokite family, who were non-threatening and also thought to have descended from Aaron. Thus, he chose Ananel, a priest of the Babylonian exile (1, 2).

Herod's mother-in-law, Alexandra, felt insult and thought it to be an imposition on the Hasmonean line. According to her the only rightful heir could serve as high priest, and therefore, her sixteen-year-old son Aristobulus, the brother of Mariamne should be made priest (1, 2).

She even wrote to Cleopatra in order to convince Marc Antony to force Herod to select her son Aristobulus as high priest (1, 2). Thus, Herod removed Ananel immediately, although it was not lawful, as the high priest had to stay in office for his lifetime. But eventually Aristobulus was made high priest at the age of 17 years old in 35 B.C (1, 2).

Alexandra was happy but not for long as King Herod did not have her trust and was closely watched by him. As Alexandra knew the fact that King Herod was watching her, she accepted an invitation by Cleopatra to escape with her son and escape to Egypt. King Herod came to know about her escape with her son and allowed them to carry it out their plan so that he may catch them in the act. However, at this moment he decided to ignore the offense (2).

Aristobulus received great affection from the people of Tabernacles, for officiating high priest (2). Considering this as a threat, Herod wanted to get rid of this probable and promising rival. As was invited by Alexandra to a feast at Jericho, Herod made a plan after the feast ended (2).

As per his plan he acted friendly to her and Aristobulus and gave an invitation for a swim and then bribing few men to play sports together in the water, he made Aristobulus drowned by accident (2). King Herod made extreme expression of grief upon this and arranged the most outstanding funeral so he could not be suspected in the least by anyone. However, Aristobulus mother knew and decided to dedicate her life to take revenge from Herod (2).

After Cleopatra was informed of the murder she persuaded Marc Antony to call Herod to give an account for his actions. King Herod asked his uncle Joseph to keep watch over Mariamne during the time when he was at Marc Antony (2).

When Herod came before Marc Antony he bribed him and gave an expressive defense for his actions. When Herod returned, his sister Salome accused her husband, Joseph for having unlawful intercourse with Mariamne, which upon questioning Mariamne denied all, which he believed (3).

But later Herod came to know that she learned about the secret command that Herod had given Joseph, which made him annoyed and executed Joseph without a trial in 34 B.C. He also had Alexandra bound in chains and put in prison (3).


The last powerful enemy of King Herod was Cleopatra. Due to her strong relationship with Marc Antony her territory was increased greatly (3). Thus, after Marc Antony's mission against Armenia in 34 B.C. she convinced him to give her all of the coast of Philistia south of the river named Phoenicia, along with some parts of the Arabia, as well as the district of Jericho with its balsam plantations and many palm trees (3).

Herod's most fertile area of land in his whole kingdom was Jericho. However, each time Cleopatra visited her territories King Herod welcomed her with celebration, despite the fact he despised her. And so whenever she tried to offer to trap him he would never give in (3).

The civil war between Marc Antony and Octavius Herod wanted to take the cause of Marc Antony to support him in any way that he could. Upon Cleopatra's persuasion, Marc Antony ordered King Herod to fight against Malchus, the Arabian king (3).

Herod did as ordered by Marc Antony and so he fought against Malchus. But when Herod had won the initial victory over the Arabs, Cleopatra came and gave all her help to the Arabians, resulting in Herod's defeat (3).

A great earthquake in 31 B.C. came in Herod's territory that killed over 30,000 people. At this difficult and crucial time, Herod tried to settle with the Arabs for which he sent a representative to Arabia to make peace. However, upon his arrival, the Arabs killed them (3). Upon this news Herod immediately gathered his army and attacked the Arabs and defeated them (3).

Herod and Octavius

At the Battle of Actium, on September 2nd, 31 B.C. Octavius defeated Marc Antony. As this devastated Herod because he knew that he would have to be answerable to Octavius for everything. Herod made an astute move by murdering Hyrcanus…[continue]

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