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Updated on February 6, 2012

73 B.C. to 4 B.C.

Herod the Great, king of Judea, who founded the Herodian dynasty (55 B.C. to 93 A.D.). He is also called Herod I. He was the son of Antipater, governor of Idumaea.

Herod was appointed governor of Galilee in 47 B.C. Although nominally a Jew (his grandfather Antipas, governor of Idumaea, had converted to Judaism), he soon began to curry favor with the Romans. When his father Antipater was poisoned in 43 B.C., Herod took his place. Siding with Hyrcanus II, the Hasmonean king of Judea, he defeated Hyrcanus' brother Antigonus. Hyrcanus rewarded Herod with the hand of his granddaughter Mariamne.

In 41 B.C., Mark Antony appointed Herod tetrarch of Galilee. The next year, when the Parthians overran Syria, Herod went to Rome, where the Senate nominated him king of Judea. Returning to Palestine, and assisted by Roman forces, Herod captured Jerusalem in 37 B.C. and established himself as king.

In 31 B.C., after the defeat of Antony, the victorious Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) confinned Herod in his kingship and added important territories to his domain.

As king, Herod tried to win favor with the Jews by grandiose building projects. He rebuilt the city of Samaria, renaming it Sebaste, and built a port city, Caesarea, on the Mediterranean.

He also embellished such foreign cities as Beirut, Damascus, Antioch, and Rhodes. In Jerusalem he erected a theater, a hippodrome, a fortress, and a palace, whose remains survive in the Citadel. His crowning achievement in architecture was the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and its expansion into a huge complex embracing the whole area of the present Muslim Haram el-Sherif (Noble Sanctuary) and bounded by the Western Wall (Wailing Wall).

Herod succeeded in giving his country a period of nearly 40 years of safety from external attack, and he augmented the territory of Judea considerably. However, his rule was characterized by ruthless police methods, frequent excesses by his foreign mercenary troops, and consistent Hellenization, along with the systematic destruction of traditional Jewish institutions and utter disregard of Jewish religious sensibilities. He remained a foreigner in his own country, surrounded by Greek counselors and functionaries and hated by the people. Always suspicious of conspiracy, he frequently resorted to individual and group arrests and executions.

According to the account in Matthew 2:3-13, he ordered the massacre of innocent children in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. Because of his fear of intrigue, he had many members of his own family executed, among them his wife Mariamne and three of his sons. Herod died in Palestine in 4 B.C;.


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    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 6 years ago from Birmingham, England

      A really interesting and informative article. I love History, particularly the Classical era. Voted up.