Ten things you did not know about Herod the Great
In 40 BC, things fell apart. The Roman Senate decided to appoint Herod king of the kingdom of Judah. Within three years, Herod would succeed in re-conquering the rebel kingdom.
Ostensibly, Herod's time was a time of abundance and stability. Herod was the greatest builder until modern times. Thanks to him, Jerusalem became "the most famous city among the cities of the East" (to the article by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder). Sages added regarding the temple built at the king's initiative that "he who has not seen the building of Herod, has not seen a handsome building from his days" (Babylonian, Bava Batra 1: 4). The port of Caesarea, built by Herod, was the gateway through which the flow of international trade enriched the coffers of the kingdom. Herod, on the other hand, was a controversial ruler, who was despised by his subjects because of his red background and was described as a tyrant who did not use any means to remain in power. Really? Like any historical question, the answer depends on the sources and even more on the identity of the authors of the sources.
So who was Herod?
Here are some points about the builder king and his contradictory personality.
1. Herod was very attached to his mother. When he was informed that the chariot in which his mother was traveling had overturned during the time of the enemy's escape, Herod was about to reach out in grief. Only at the last minute was suicide prevented.
2. Herod was a devout Jew who kept Torah and mitzvot. Archaeological evidence has been found for Herod's lifestyle: "kosher" mikvahs were discovered in each of the bathhouses in his palaces.
3. Despite this, Herod did not hesitate to offer sacrifices to Jupiter in the Capitoline Temple in Rome in honor of his coronation by Octavian (later Augustus) and Marcus Antonius.
4. Herod did not at all ask the Romans for the monarchy for himself. He demanded that the Senate crown the boy Aristobulus, his wife's brother, a descendant of the Hasmonean family. Fate (and the Senate) wanted otherwise.
5. This detail did not prevent Herod from "clearing the table" when he ascended the throne. Pretty soon young Aristobulus is found dead in a mysterious swimming accident.
6. Herod was the man of the great world. To take out his construction initiatives, he invited engineers and experts from Rome to the country. For the construction of the port of Caesarea, he imports Roman "concrete", which is mixed with volcanic ash that allows construction in the sea. The murals in the Royal Room at Herodium are done by artists from Alexandria, depicting the views of the Nile.
7. Herod returned his crown to Emperor Augustus immediately after the latter became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Augustus refused to take it. He sent Herod back to Judah and gave him more territory.
8. Near the palace in Jerusalem Herod built three huge towers, in the name of his brother Petzal who was killed during the Euphrates siege, in the name of his friend Hippicus, and in the name of his beloved wife, Miriam, whom he murdered in a fit of rage.
9. The murder of his wife Miriam was planned behind the scenes by his sister Shlomit. Herod simply fell into the trap.
10. The New Testament accuses Herod of slaughtering all the babies in Bethlehem after he failed to get his hands on the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:16). This incident has no evidence in other sources.
These are just a few of the "spicy" points about the character of Herod the Great.
If you want to hear more about the affair in Herod's life and the 'Game of Thrones' that took place within the walls of his palaces, I invite you to join an in-depth tour under my guidance at Masada. We will also get to know the new sites in Masada that have only been opened to the public in recent months. Arriving at Masada requires the private Dead Sea and Masada tour or a visit to Caesarea, one of the best private tours in Israel.
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