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The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession

The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession

by Bruce Chilton
The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession

The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession

by Bruce Chilton


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Until his death in 4 BCE, Herod the Great's monarchy included territories that once made up the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Although he ruled over a rich, strategically crucial land, his royal title did not derive from heredity. His family came from the people of Idumea, ancient antagonists of the Israelites.

Yet Herod did not rule as an outsider, but from a family committed to Judaism going back to his grandfather and father. They had served the priestly dynasty of the Maccabees that had subjected Idumea to their rule, including the Maccabean version of what loyalty to the Torah required. Herod's father, Antipater, rose not only to manage affairs on behalf of his priestly masters, but to become a pivotal military leader. He inaugurated a new alignment of power: an alliance with Rome negotiated with Pompey and Julius Caesar. In the crucible of civil war among Romans as the Triumvirate broke up, and of war between Rome and Parthia, Antipater managed to leave his sons with the prospect of a dynasty.

Herod inherited the twin pillars of loyalty to Judaism and loyalty to Rome that became the basis of Herodian rule. He elevated Antipater's opportunism to a political art. During Herod's time, Roman power took its imperial form, and Octavian was responsible for making Herod king of Judea. As Octavian ruled, he took the title Augustus, in keeping with his devotion to his adoptive father's cult of "the divine Julius." Imperial power was a theocratic assertion as well as a dominant military, economic, and political force.

Herod framed a version of theocratic ambition all his own, deliberately crafting a dynastic claim grounded in Roman might and Israelite theocracy. That unlikely hybrid was the key to the Herodians' surprising longevity in power during the most chaotic century in the political history of Judaism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781506474281
Publisher: 1517 Media
Publication date: 08/03/2021
Pages: 365
Sales rank: 385,078
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Bruce D. Chilton is the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College, where he has taught since 1987. In addition to his many celebrated publications on the texts, practices, and beliefs of ancient Judaism and Christianity, he is also the author of popular historical biographies of Jesus, Paul, Mary, and James.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction ix

1 Antipater 1

Setting 2

The Maccabees 5

The Essenes 12

Antipater in the Maccabean Hegemony 16

2 Herod's Debut 29

Caesar and Antipater in the Conquest of Egypt 30

Caesar's Man in Judea 32

Jerusalem, Religious Politics, and the Sanhedrin 35

Herod's Campaign in Galilee 43

Hybris 50

3 King Herod 57

Death, Revenge, and the Parthian Threat 58

Theoretical Monarch 69

King of the Jews 77

4 Mariamme 85

Marital and Priestly Strategies 86

Cleopatra 87

Octavian and the Imperial Transition 99

A Time to Build and a Time to Tear Down 103

5 Archelaus 117

Introduction 118

Archelaus's Play for Power 119

Imperial Intervention 131

The End of Archelaus and the Sadducees' Opportunity 140

6 Antipas, Herodias, and Philip 147

Salvaging the Dynasty: Antipas and Philip 148

Antipas's Tiberian Breakout 152

Executing John the Baptist 156

Pontius Pilate, Jesus, and Antipas's Ambitions 160

7 Agrippa I 175

Agrippa's Revenge 176

The Edict of Caligula 183

The Claudian Settlement and Agrippa's Glory 189

After Agrippa 200

8 Bereniké and Agrippa II 205

The Queen 206

The Neronian Opportunity, Confrontations in Jerusalem 210

Open War 219

Defeat and the Last Herodian Meteorite 230

Epilogue 235

Chronology 253

Dramatis personae 259

Notes 267

Bibliography of Sources 347

Index of Historical Figures 353

Index of Scholars 361

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