Herodias

The grand-daughter of Herod & Mariamne I became the center of one the most well-known family scandals in history. While still young she had become the wife of Herod's fourth son, one of two children whose birth-name was that of the king.* After the execution of the sons of Mariamne I (7 BCE), the king had named Herod II second to Antipater III in succession to the kingship. His marriage to Herodias was probably intended to strengthen the ties of Herod's heirs to the line of Jerusalem's high-priests. Herod II's maternal grandfather [Simon ben Boethus], had been elevated to the high-priesthood simply to give the family social status, so that King Herod could marry his beautiful daughter [Mariamne II]. 

Herodias, on the other hand, was of more venerable Hasmonean lineage on her father's mother's side. Herodias' ambitions were frustrated, however, when King Herod disinherited her husband & divorced Mariamne II for being implicated in Antipater's treachery (4 BCE). So later, when Herod II's half-brother, Antipas, who ruled a quarter of their father's realm, persuaded Herodias to divorce her husband & marry him, she agreed, on the condition that he divorce his own wife, a Jordanian princess. While such mate-swapping was not uncommon in Roman society, under Jewish law a woman was not permitted to leave a living husband to marry another [Josephus, Antiquities  18.136]. 

Neither Antipas nor Herodias had been raised as religious Jews, but many of their Galilean subjects were. When Antipas---who was as ruthless as his father in stifling dissent---executed the popular folk prophet, Johanan (John) the Baptizer, some Jews blamed Herodias. [That gossipy interpretation of these events was preserved for posterity in the gospels of Mark & Matthew; but it is not supported by the Jewish historian Josephus, who does not draw a causal connection between the Antipas' marriage & his decision to execute John.].

When the new emperor, Gaius (Caligula) made Herodias' brother, Agrippa I, "king" of the provinces that Antipas' deceased half-brother, Philip, had ruled, her jealousies & ambitions made her push her husband to demand royal rank (39 CE). Instead of promoting Antipas, however, the emperor sent both him & Herodias into exile & added their former territory to Agrippa's realm.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 18.110-111, 136, 148, 240, 246, 253-255; 
                   _____, War
1.552, 2.182.
                   Mark 6:17-28 // Matt 14:3-11.

Other resources on line:

  • John the Baptist & Josephus - G. J. Goldberg's balanced analysis of the historical implications of differences between the reports of events associated with Antipas' marriage to Herodias in Josephus & the gospels [Flavius Josephus Home Page].

  • Herodias - article by J. Jacobs & I Broydé  in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

  • Herodias - article  in Wikipedia's web tries to reconcile Josephus & the gospels by claiming (without citing any ancient source) that Herodias married her half-uncle Philip after her first husband [Herod II] was assassinated [reference?].

[* Note: See Salome II]

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