Agrippa I [died 44 CE]

Given name: Marcus Julius Agrippa

Last Jewish monarch to rule all of Palestine. Named for Augustus' closest friend, Marcus Agrippa, the oldest of Herod's Hasmonean grandsons was taken to Rome by his widowed mother soon after Herod's death (4 BCE). Impoverished by lavish living, Agrippa returned to Palestine where his brother-in-law, Antipas, made him administrator of the market in the Galilean capitol, Tiberias (29 CE?).

Soon dismissed after a quarrel with his patron, Agrippa spent several years searching for patronage from non-relatives including, Flaccus, the new governor of Syria. Only after he returned to Rome (36 CE) did he find it, as protégé of Augustus' grandson, Gaius (Caligula). So effusive was he in his flattery of his Roman patron that he made the political mistake of publicly wishing that Gaius were emperor instead of his uncle, Tiberius. Tiberius had him imprisoned, but Gaius freed him as soon as he became emperor only months later (37 CE). To reward Agrippa's loyalty, Gaius gave him control of the provinces formerly administered by Agrippa's half-uncle, Philip, as well as other provinces in Syria & awarded him the title of "king" [basileus], which had not been officially bestowed on any member of his family since the death of Herod "the Great" (4 BCE). This sudden rise of a social vagabond to the heights of political glory made Agrippa's sister [Herodias] & brother-in-law [Antipas] so jealous that they dared petition the emperor for royal rank for themselves. Instead, Gaius banished them & added their provinces [Galilee & Perea] to Agrippa's kingdom (39 CE).

The murder of Gaius (41 CE) did not end Agrippa's fortunes, since he quickly became a supporter of his old friend, Claudius, the new emperor. Claudius rewarded him by giving him control of the provinces of Judea & Samaria. Thus, for four years the extent of Agrippa's kingdom rivaled the extent of his grandfather's. His lavish building projects & grants to supporters, however, exceeded his revenues. Though scrupulous in his public observance of Jewish ritual in Jerusalem, his life-style elsewhere was thoroughly Romanized. He died at Caesarea Maritima shortly after being stricken while conducting a celebration of the Roman imperial cult in which the crowds, dazzled by his silver garments, proclaimed him a god.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 18.129-204, 228-255, 289-301;
                                                        19.236-245, 265, 274-279, 292-316, 328-352.
                   _____, War 1.552; 2.178-183, 206-223.
                   Philo, Flaccus 55-56.

Other resources on line:

Agrippa was one of the few Jewish rulers to mint coins bearing his own image.  This silver tetradrachma inscribed in Greek Basileus Megas Agrippas ["King Agrippa the Great"] shows how far his airs of grandeur exceeded those of his grandfather Herod. For high resolution images of this & other coins of the Herodian era see Sandy Brenner's vivid numismatic guide: Jerusalem Through Coins.

Perspective on the World of Jesus

Copyright © 1999-2008 by Mahlon H. Smith
All rights reserved.

an American Theological Library Association Selected Religion Website
OCLC catalog no.: 62046512

Reader  since May 1999 on Web Counter.