Herod the Great

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Herod the Great


Born circa 73 B.C.; died 4 B.C. King of Judea from 40 (actually 37) B.C.

In 47 B.C., Herod became ruler of Galilee, where he made himself notorious by cruel suppression of popular movements. Proclaimed king of Judea and “friend of Rome” by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C., he took Jerusalem in 37 with the help of Roman troops after a five-month siege and overthrew the last ruler of the Hasmonean dynasty. By the year 23, as a result of Herod’s successful military campaigns and diplomatic activity, the territory of that part of Judea subservient to Rome had been enlarged almost to the boundaries of the ancient kingdom of David. Voicing obedience to Rome and backing it in his foreign policy, Herod skillfully averted direct Roman intervention in the internal affairs of Judea. Under his rule plenary power was concentrated in the hands of the king and his private council, on which an important place was held by Greeks. The hereditary high priesthood was abolished and the role of high priest relegated to a formality; the Sanhedrin performed merely religious functions. Any discontent in the country was cruelly suppressed by an army of mercenaries.

Herod won renown for his extensive building efforts. Mistrustful and power-loving, he mercilessly annihilated all in whom he saw rivals, including members of his own family. Christian mythology ascribes to him the command, when he learned of the birth of Christ, to destroy all infants (“slaughter of the innocents”). This has made the name of Herod a common expression for a villain.


Livshits, G. M. Klassovaia bor’ba v ludee i vosstaniia protiv Rima. Chapter 7. Minsk, 1957.
Jones, A. H. M. The Herods of Judaea. Oxford, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Having pointed out Wilde's sympathetic treatment of Salome, Gilbert concedes that Herod is "Wilde's alter ego" who eventually recognizes the danger of unleashed female sexuality and rejects it.
Herod is reluctant to grant Salome's wish, as he believes that Jokanaan "comes perchance from God" (602): "He is a holy man.
The technique of invective with negative characterisation of Herod is continued in strophe 13 directed at Herod in the form of exclamatio.
Having failed to kill the Christ child, Herod is pictured as one who could find only an unripe bunch of grapes on the vine, because it was out of season.
Des Esseintes maintains that the head is visible "to Salome alone," and that Herod is "bending forward .
(ll.35-38) If not precisely the ranting figure described by early modern theater historians, Herod is nevertheless a tyrant who doles out brutal punishment without respect to rank, age, or evidence.
(12) One illuminating recent account of Herod is Theresa Colettfs "Re-Reading the Story of Herod," in Retelling Tales: Essays in Honor of Russell Peck, ed.
"King" Herod is portrayed as serving up the head of John the Baptist like a bizarre offering of meat on a silver platter (Mark 6:8).
As early as Chaucer's Miller's Tale, Herod had become synonymous with a thunderous mode of delivery; hence the obvious irony in the Miller's well-known description of Absolon's theatrical pastimes: "Sumtyme to shew his lightnesse and maistrye/He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye" (25) The decibel level required of the actor who played the Shearmen and Taylor's Herod is hinted at by the line "I stampe!
It is evident that Herod is perplexed because his evil plan was not as foolproof as he had intended it to be.
King Herod is stricken bya guilty conscience and thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead.