King Herod: Tyrant and BuilderSome of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel today, such as the Masada fortress, are a result of Herod’s building initiatives. But he is best known for his expansion of the Temple, which was said to be of unrivaled magnificence.
Herod the King
Born in 74 B.C., Herod was appointed king of Judea by Rome, and owed Rome his allegiance. Since his mother was not Jewish, Herod was not considered Jewish either, which made him a controversial choice for the kingship in the eyes of many Judeans. Some historians believe that some of Herod’s actions were motivated by a deep-rooted desire to be fully accepted by his subjects. These efforts were unfortunately sabotaged by Herod’s own acts of tyranny.
With Herod, the Hasmonean Dynasty came to end and the Herodian Dynasty began. To smooth the transition, Herod married the Hasmonean princess Mariamne, who was reportedly of great beauty. Herod’s jealous passion for Mariamne, combined with his paranoia and the court intrigues of his own family, ultimately doomed the marriage. Herod came to believe that Mariamne was plotting against him, and had her executed. In later years, he would accuse the sons he had had with Mariamne of the same charge, and have them executed as well.
Herod the Builder
Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel today, such as the Masada fortress, are a result of Herod’s building initiatives. But he is best known for his expansion of the Temple, which was said to be of unrivaled magnificence.
Herod constructed the platform on Mount Moriah that became known as the Temple Mount. The platform was enclosed on all sides by walls, one of which was to become the Western Wall of the present day. Atop this platform, Herod employed 1,000 priests as carpenters and masons of a new, expanded Temple. It was necessary to employ priests, because only they were permitted to tread on the most sacred areas of the building site.
Herod constructed several fortresses throughout Judea, as safe havens if he ever needed to flee. He also built a water supply system to Jerusalem, the first of its kind.
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