Herod the King 25-14 B.C.
This period is marked with splendor and enjoyment but there were also moments
of great disturbance.
The first thing mentioned about this period by Josephus is when Herod violated
the Jewish law by introducing the quinquennial games in honor of Caesar and in
so doing he built great theaters, amphitheaters, and race courses for both men
Some time later, around 24 B.C., Herod built for himself a royal palace and also
built or rebuilt many fortresses and Gentile temples, including the rebuilding
of Straton's Tower which was renamed Caesarea (Jos. Antiq. xv. 8. 5-9. 6;
292-341). Of course, his greatest building was the Temple in Jerusalem which was
begun in 20 or 19 B.C. Josephus considers it the most noble of all his
achievements (Jos. Antiq. xv. 11. 1 ; 3 80). Rabbinic literature states:
"He_who has not ,seen the Temple of Herod clever seen a beautiful building"
-T BT: Baba Bathraa`-Tlso,
It is suggested that it was his "atonement for having slain so many sages
of Israel" -Midrash : Num 14:8
Also, during this period, he took great interest in culture and surrounded
himself with a circle of men accomplished in Greek literature and art. The
highest offices of state were entrusted to Greek rhetoricians, one of whom,
Nicolas of Damascus, was Herod's instructor. He was Herod's advisor and was
always included in Herod's dealings both before and after his death. Herod
received instructions from him in philosophy, rhetoric, and history.
As for his domestic affairs he married another Mariamne (who we will call
Mariamne II), who was the daughter of Simon, a well-known priest in Jerusalem
around late 24 B.C. In 22 B.C. Herod sent his two sons of Mariamne I, Alexander
and Aristobulus, to Rome for their education. Augustus himself took these sons
gladly and they stayed at the house of Asinius Pollio who professed to be one of
Herod's most devoted friends.
During this time Augustus gave Herod the territories of Trachonitis, Batanea,
and Auranitis which had been occupied by nomad robber tribes with whom the
neighboring tetrarch Zenodorus had made common cause (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 1-2 ;
342-349; War i. 20. 4 ; 398, 399 ). It is seen that there was a friendly
relationship between Augustus Caesar and Herod. Herod, undoubtedly, was
considered an important king to Rome for he kept that section of the Roman
empire well in control.
When Augustus came to Syria in 20 B.C. he bestowed upon Herod the territory of
Zenodorus or that which laid between Trachonitis and Galilee (containing Ulatha
and Paneas) and made it so the procurators of Syria had to get Herod's consent
for all of their action. He also asked Augustus for a territory for his brother
Pheroras and apparently Augustus granted the request and he was given Perea.
Because of these gracious bestowments of Augustus, Herod erected a beautiful
temple for Augustus in the territory of Zenodorus, near the place called Paneion.
Also, at this same time Herod remitted a third of the taxes under the pretext of
crop failure but actually it was to bring goodwill among those who were
displeased with his emphasis of Graeco-Roman culture and religion. The
remittance of taxes was effective for the most part. There seemingly was a great
dissatisfaction because Herod would not allow the people to gather together for
fear of a revolt. He demanded a loyalty oath by the people, but excluded Pollion
the Pharisee and his disciple Samaias, as well as most of their disciples. The
Essenes did not have to submit to this oath because Josephus states that Herod
had a high regard for them. (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 4 ; 365-372).
Herod then made a trip to Rome to meet Augustus and bring his two sons home, who
had completed their education (in 17 or 16 B.C.). Upon their return to Judea
with Herod, Aristobulus was married to Salome's daughter Berenice and Alexander
married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia.
There can be no doubt that this period from 25-14 B.C. was the most brilliant in
Herodís entire reign. His building program was of great splendor. His domestic
affairs were fairly good, but at the end of this period there would be great
troubles that would arise in this area. Although he had some trouble within his
political sphere, he had good control of his people and twice he favored them by
lowering taxes (in 14 B.C. he reduced taxes by one-fourth, Jos. Antiq. xvi. 2. 5
; 64, 65 ).