July 26, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee - 1

In 7 BC, Herodias' father, Aristobulus, a son of Herod the Great, was convicted of treason and executed by strangling. It would later turn out he'd been innocent. But, having orphaned his own grandchildren, King Herod then sent them to be raised in Rome. This was probably to please Augustus, and not for the children's welfare. Augustus liked to indoctrinate foreign royalty into the Roman ways while very young, and several princes from other kingdoms were being raised in Rome also. But the children's mother, Berenice, Herod's niece, the King gave to a brother-in-law.

Herodias' big brother was about six years old. She might have been nearly an infant.

In Rome, Herodias and Agrippa were placed under the patronage of a woman who was at that time the third most powerful woman in Rome - Antonia, niece of Augustus, daughter of Mark Antony, widow of Drusus (the son of the Empress Livia), and mother of 2 of the Empress' 3 grandsons (Germanicus & Claudius). Little Herod Agrippa was smack between those two boys in age, but Herodias was the same age as Claudius. Antonia had one daughter, Livilla, a few years older than Herodias.

Over forty years later, Claudius would prove that he trusted Agrippa. Both children received many benefits of an upbringing within the Imperial house.  However, we don't know what kind of loyalties Herodias may or may not have engendered while growing up under Antonia.

What we do know is this. By her mid-thirties, Herodias had moved back to Judea and married an uncle, an obscure disinherited son of Herod the Great (named Herod, or 'Herod-Philip'). Herodias & her Herod lived quietly with some means in Caesarea-by-the-sea, until another one of her uncles came for a visit. Falling in love and stealing her away, Herod Antipas took Herodias on ship, straight to Rome. (This was about one year before John the Baptist began preaching, which puts it most likely in AD 27.)

What happened during that year in Rome is a mystery.  We'll leave that for part two.

Returning from Rome, probably in AD 28, Antipas let his first wife slip away. Evidently he no longer cared about that marriage treaty with the North Arabians in Nabatea, because his Arabian princess ran home and complained to her dad, King Aretas, who was angry, but prudent enough to wait several more years until taking revenge.  Meanwhile, John the Baptist embarrassed Herodias, who demanded his arrest (29).  Two years later (31), her daughter secured the man's head on a plate.

Herodias ends her somewhat spoiled career with a showing almost as fine.  In 38/39 AD, having heard that her brother, Agrippa, was named "King" (over Philip's NE territories) by Caligula, the granddaughter of Great Herod demanded of her husband Antipas that he become "King" also.  So the couple left Galilee, sailed to Rome again, and stood before the mad Emperor.  Unfortunately, they'd long since made an enemy of their nephew/brother the new King.  So Agrippa sent a letter by the Imperial Post, and Caligula read weighty accusations against Herod Antipas just before he and Herodias came in to ask for their crowns.

'Queen Herodias', instead of a crown, received banishment.  Actually, she chose to be banished along with her husband, instead of remaining in Rome or returning alone to the land of the Jews.

That's the basic synopsis of what ancient history tells us, about Herodias.  As always, that's if you can believe it.  What we don't know, of course, is what's most intriguing.  Why would Herod Antipas risk regional instability for this woman?  What happened in Rome when they went there together?  Did they ever go back, in between AD 28 and 39?  And what, if anything, does all this bring to bear on the years in which Jesus was walking around in Herodias' Queendom?

Come back in two days, and I'll share a few clues that might help us to answer these questions.

Before that, however, we ought to shake some of these claims a bit harder.  Tomorrow.

To be continued...


Read the Whole Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Conclusion

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