Herod the Great

Herod the Great (c 73 BC – 4 BC)
In 48 BC, Herod’s father, Antipater, appointed him governor of Galilee and appointed his older brother, Phaesal, governor of Jerusalem. Herod was only twenty-five at the time.

In 43 BC, the eastern Mediterranean was taken over by the military forces of Cassius Longinus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. When asked, Antipater had no choice but to provide him with financial support for his and Brutus’ upcoming war against Octavian and Mark Antony. However, Antipater was poisoned for doing this. After Cassius and Brutus lost at Philippi, Herod was able to convince his friend Mark Antony that Antipater was under a military threat and that he had no choice but to support Cassius. Antony agreed, and Herod executed Antipater’s murderer.

Herod was not considered a true Jew primarily because of his alleged decadent lifestyle. His brutality was condemned by the Sanhedrin.

In 40 BC, Antigonus the Hasmonean, supported by the Parthians, invaded and gained control of Judea. Herod’s brother, Phaesal, was captured. He committed suicide by beating his head against the prison wall. Herod fled to Rome through Egypt, meeting with Cleopatra on the way. Once in Rome, with the political support of Mark Antony and Octavian, he was elected ‘King of the Jews’ by the Roman Senate. He returned to Judea, and in 37 BC, with the backing of the Roman army, took Judea back, thus ending the Hasmonean dynasty. Herod sent Antigonus to Antony who had him beheaded. Herod ruled as king of Judea for the next 34 years until his death in 4 BC.

A great architect and builder, Herod expanded the Second Temple in Jerusalem and then rebuilt it in 20 BC. It was destroyed by fire in 70 AD. All that remains of it today are its four retaining walls, one of which, is the ‘Wailing Wall’. These walls had supported a platform called the ‘Temple Mount’ upon which the Temple had been built. Another major project of Herod’s was the construction of the city and harbor called ‘Caesarea Maritima’ which he named after Octavian who by that time was known as ‘Caesar Augustus’.