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Oxford Bible Atlas Contextualizes the stories and lands of the Bible through user-friendly maps and illustrations.

The Kingdom of Herod and his Successors

Adrian Curtis

Herod the Great

In 63 BCE, the Roman general Pompey entered Jerusalem as conqueror and brought to an end the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty. An Idumean named Antipater was made ruler of Galilee in return for his services to the Romans, and his sons Herod and Phasael shared in the exercise of power. After a period of conflict and the deaths of Antipater (by poisoning) and Phasael (by suicide), Herod achieved power, gaining control first of Galilee, Samaria and Idumea in 39 BCE, and ultimately of the whole of the area in 37 BCE when he captured Jerusalem. In c.30 BCE he was confirmed as king of the Jews by Octavian. His rule extended over the whole of Jewish territory including Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, as well as the district of Perea to the east of the Jordan and regions to the north‐east of Galilee including Auranitis, Trachonitis, and Batanaea. His kingdom was bounded in the north by the province of Syria (which was under the rule of a Roman governor) and in the south‐east by the Nabataean kingdom with its capital at Petra. To the east lay the Decapolis, a league of self‐governing cities, most of which (for example, Scythopolis, Pella, and Philadelphia) were outside Herod's kingdom. Ascalon was a free city, and not included in his kingdom, as was the case for a certain period with Gaza and Joppa.

Although not of Jewish descent, Herod was a Jew by religion. Nevertheless, he went as far as a Jew could in aligning himself with the power of Rome and the ways of the pagan world. His reign was noted for the construction of many large public building works, including the development of the former Strato's Tower into the harbour at Caesarea Maritima, and a number of fortresses including Masada, where he also had a palace constructed, and Herodium, where tradition says that he was buried. Building work was also undertaken at other places including Samaria, which he renamed Sebaste after Caesar Augustus (Greek Sebastos), and most notably in Jerusalem with the construction of a huge temple platform and the Temple itself.

Sonia Halliday Photographs (Jane Taylor)

It was before the death of Herod in 4 BCE that Jesus was born. According to Matthew 2: 1 and Luke 2: 4 his birth took place in Bethlehem.

Sonia Halliday Photographs (Jane Taylor)

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