July 27, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee - 2

Ancient historians too often, too easily, blame wives for the worst of their husbands' misfortunes.  Although it is definitely true that even powerful men can easily lose their heads over a woman, careful readers really must stop and reflect on what's being said and what's most likely true, about Royal women in antiquity - especially about such a forceful, aggressive princess such as this infamous wife of Herod Antipas.

In all fairness, Herodias was not the sole reason Antipas arrested the Baptist.  Also, Herodias and her daughter were probably not the determiners of John's final fate, either, but they probably sped it up.  Herodias did, however, cause scandal.  Instead of letting the Baptist starve or die of pneumonia, so he could blame natural causes, Antipas was tricked into making a very public promise to murder.  Tragically, Herod's powerful guests at that banquet could not have been allowed to smell weakness.

Another point for Herodias - she probably did not brow beat her husband into demanding a crown.  Antipas had governed tolerably for nearly forty-three years.  He was a big boy, he had played for Imperial favor before (most notably against Vitellius in 36/37 AD), and he knew the risks.  It may as well be true that her jealousy sparked him to thinking, but that decision was always Antipas' to make.

Finally, she was not picked up by Antipas as some lusty boy-toy.  In the late 20's AD, Herod Antipas was pushing 50.  So while it's reasonable to think that a new flame could definitely have ignited his (undoubtedly flagging) passions, the trip to Italy could have let that novelty run its course.  In other words, we can believe Josephus' claim that Antipas "fell in love", but that alone doesn't explain why a man of so many resources would have gone so far as to make his niece into his new wife.

Herodias would surely have proven more capable as a would-be-Queen than the nameless Arabian princess, who was probably a child when betrothed to Herodias, around 2/1 BC.  But the Tetrarch of Galilee didn't need a ruling partner.  That's pure anachronism.

There must have been some political and/or financial benefit to this marriage.  And it must have been big.

Please return to the questions we asked at the end of part 1, and then come back tomorrow.  As promised, this remains to be continued...

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


Geoff Hudson said...

Its all very well regurgitating Josephus. You obviously know the record. But Josephus is full of Flavian lies.

Geoff Hudson said...

I will give you an example. You know the fanciful story about Caius wanting to erect his statue in the temple. Well this was typical Roman propaganda written by Flavian historians. It was just a cover-up story. Agrippa had actually sent troops to stop sacrifices in the temple by erecting a wall probably around the altar. Thus it had nothing to do with Caius wanting to erect a statue.

Bill said...

We'll have no Flavian lies around here, Geoff.

Or any other such balderdash.

Have a nice day.

Geoff Hudson said...

Oh well! You stick to the make- believe, Bill.

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