The history of King Herod



Herod became known to Sextus Caesar, a relation of the great Caesar, who was now president of Syria. Now, the growing reputation of Antipater and his sons excited the envy of the principal men among the Jews, especially as they saw that Herod was violent and bold, and was capable of acting tyrannically. So they accused him before Hyrcanus of encroaching on the government, and of transgressing the laws by putting men to death without their condemnation by the sanhedrin. Protecting Herod, whom he loved as his own son, from the sanhedrin when they would have sentenced him to death, Hyrcanus aided him to flee to Damascus, where he took refuge with Sextus Caesar. When Herod received the kingdom, he slew all the members of that sanhedrin excepting Sameas, whom he respected because he persuaded the people to admit Herod into the city, and he even slew Hyrcanus also.

Now, when Caesar was come to Rome, and was ready to sail into Africa to fight against Scipio and Cato, Hyrcanus sent ambassadors to him, desiring the ratification of the league of friendship between them. Not only Caesar but the senate heaped honours on the ambassadors, and confirmed the understanding that subsisted. But during the disorders that arose after the death of Caesar, Cassius came into Syria and disturbed Judea by exacting great sums of money. Antipater sought to gather the great tax demanded from Judea, and was foully slain by a collector named Malichus, on whom Herod quickly took vengeance for the murder of his father. By his energy in obtaining the required tax, Herod gained new favour with Cassius.

In order to secure his position, Herod made an obscure priest from Babylon, named Ananelus, high-priest in place of Hyrcanus. This offended Alexandra, daughter of Hyrcanus and wife of Alexander, son of Aristobulus the king. She had ten children, among whom were Mariamne, the beautiful wife of Heros, and Aristobulus. She sent an appeal to Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, in order by her intercession to gain from Antony the high-priesthood for this son. At the instance of Antony, Herod took the office from Ananelus, and gave it to Aristobulus, but took care that the youth should soon be murdered. Then, from causeless jealousy, he put to death his uncle Joseph and threw Mariamne into prison. Victory in a war with Arabia enhanced his power. Cruelly slaying Hyrcanus, he hasted away to Octavian, who had beaten Antony at Actium, and obtained also from him, the new Caesar Augustus, the kingdom, thus being confirmed in his position.

Women of the palace who hated Mariamne for her beauty, her high birth and her pride, falsely accused her to Herod of gross unfaithfulness. He loved her passionately, but, giving ear to these traducers, ordered her to be tried. She was condemned to death, and showed great fortitude as she went to the place of execution, even though her own mother, Alexandra, in order to make herself safe from the wrath of the king, basely and publicly and violently upbraided her, while the people, pitying her, mourned at her fate. Herod was also attacked, by a tormenting distemper. He ordered the execution of Alexandra and of several of his most intimate friends.

By his persistent introduction of foreign customs, which corrupted the constitution of the country, Herod incurred the deep hatred of very many eminent citizens. He erected servile trophies to Caesar, and prepared costly games in which men were condemned to fight with wild beasts. Ten men who conspired against him were betrayed, and were tortured horribly and then slain. But the people seized the spy who had informed against them, tore him limb from limb and flung the body in pieces to the dogs. By constant and relentless severity Herod still strengthened his rule.

But now fearful disturbances arose in his family. His sister Salome and his brother Pheroras displayed virulent hatred against Alexander and Aristobulus, sons of the murdered Mariamne, and, on their part, the two young men were incensed at the partiality shown by Herod to his eldest son, Antipater. This prince was continually using cunning strategy against his brethren, while feigning affection for them. He so worked on the mind of the king by false accusations against Alexander that many of the friends of this youth were tortured to death in the attempts made to force disclosures from them.

A traitor named Eurycles fanned the flame by additional accusations, all utterly groundless, so that Herod wrote letters to Rome concerning the treacherous designs of his sons against him, and asking permission of Caesar to bring them to trial. This was granted, and they were condemned by an assembly of judges at Berytus. By their father's command they were starved to death.

Herod by this time had nine wives and many children and grandchildren. The latter he brought up with much care. Antipater was sent on a mission to Rome, and during his absence his plots were discovered, and on his return, Herod, amazed at his wickedness, condemned him to death. The king now altered his testament, dividing the territory among several of his sons. He died on the fifth day after the execution of Antipater, having reigned thirty-four years after procuring the death of Antigonus.

Archelaus, his son, was appointed by Caesar, in confirmation of Herod's will, governor of one-half of the country; but accusation of enemies led to his banishment to Lyons, in Gaul. Cyrenaicus, a Roman senator and magistrate, was sent by Caesar to make taxation in Syria and Judea, and Caponius was made procurator of Judea. Philip, a son of Herod, built cities in honour of Tiberius Caesar. When Pontius Pilate became procurator he removed the army from Caesarea to Jerusalem, abolished Jewish laws, and (in the night) introduced Caesar's effigies on the ensigns.

About this time Jesus, a wise man, a doer of wonderful works, drew over to him many Jews and Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him did not forsake him, for he appeared to them again alive at the third day, as the prophets had foretold; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. John, who was called the Baptist, was slain by Herod the tetrarch at his castle at Machaerus, by the Dead Sea. The destruction of his army by Aretas, king of Arabia, was ascribed by the Jews to God's anger for this crime.

Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, became the most famous of his descendants. On him Claudius Caesar bestowed all the dominions of his grandfather with the title of king. But pride overcame him. Seated on a throne at a great festival at Caesarea, arrayed in a magnificent robe, he was stricken by a disease, and died.

HE was succeeded by his son Agrippa, during whose time Felix and Festus were procurators in Judea, while Nero was Roman emperor. This Agrippa finished the Temple by the work of 18,000 men. The war of the Jews and Romans began through the oppression by Gessius Florus, who secured the procuratorship by the friendship of his wife Cleopatra with Poppea, wife of Nero. Florus filled Judea with intolerable cruelties, and the war began in the second year of his rule and the twelfth of the reign of Nero.





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