Herod I (40 - 4 BC). AE 4 prutah (19.9 mm, 5.14 gm, 12h). Macedonian-style shield, decorated rim / ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ; crested helmet flanked by date LΓ (year 3 = 37 BC) and TP monogram. Hendin 1170. TJC 45. AJC 235,2. RPC 4901. Earthen highlights. Very Fine.

    Herod I is sometimes called "The Great" because of his grand ambition, his mammoth building projects, including an immense expansion of the Second Temple, and his iron-handed rule over his subjects. To the Jews, he is an ambivalent figure whose numerous murders (including many in his own family) and toadying to Rome created an unstable, volatile atmosphere within his realm. Born in Idumea, south of Judaea proper, Herod was the son of a high-ranking official under the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus II. Like many Idumaeans, Herod was a convert to Judaism. Drawn into the Roman civil wars, Herod gained the trust of Mark Antony and Octavian, who appointed him Tetrarch of Galilee in 42 BC. Driven from power by the Hasmonean prince Mattatayah Antigonus two years later, Herod traveled to Rome and, after spreading bribes around liberally, won approval as "King of the Jews" by the Senate. He returned to Judaea backed by a Roman army and took Jerusalem after a long and bitter siege, putting Antigonus to death. Although theoretically autonomous, Herod always did Rome's bidding, earning the hatred of many observant Jews and much of the priestly caste. Fearing palace conspiracies, he executed his wife, his mother in law, two of his sons, and several more distant relations, along with dozens of rabbis who had the temerity to speak out against his regime. His most famous alleged crime is the so-called "massacre of the innocents" -- the murder of all first-born in Bethlehem around the time of Christ's birth. However, other than the New Testament accounts there is no evidence this event ever took place, though the bloody character of his rule makes the Gospel accounts seem plausible. Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer recently identified Herod's immense mausoleum at Herodium, about 12 miles south of Jerusalem.

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