Philorhomaioi: The Herods between Rome and Jerusalem

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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This paper offers a reconstruction and analysis of the Herodian family as a presence in the city of Rome over more than three generations. The scholarly tendency to view the Herods as an aspect of a broader governmental system overlooks the workings of the particular relationships that elevated the Herods in their own land as well as at the centre of Roman power. Beginning with the foundation of a lasting connection between the Herods and the Julio-Claudians laid by Herod the Great and Augustus, this paper traces the legacy of that connection and its impact on affairs in both Judaea and Rome. The peculiar challenges of retaining status in both Roman and Jewish contexts are assessed and their importance as a vital aspect of our understanding of first-century Judaean politics is established. Examination, finally, of the development of their aspirations and their negotiation of dynastic change shows vividly the processes of ‘Romanisation’ in the context of an elite family.

Journal for the Study of Judaism

In the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period




Suetonius, Aug. 48. See classically G. W. Bowersock, Augustus and the Greek World (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), 42, who emphasises the fact that Augustus inherited important arrangements made by both Pompey and Marc Antony.


For the Herods, see now Julia Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem: die herodianische Dynastie im 1. Jahrhundert n. Chr. (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Antike, 2007); N. Kokkinos, The Herodian Dynasty: Origins, Role in Society and Eclipse (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998). For Commagene, see R. D. Sullivan, “The Dynasty of Commagene,” anrw 2.8:763-75.


D. C. Braund, “Royal Wills and Rome,” Papers of the British School at Rome 51 (1983): 16-57, at 38.


Mireille Hadas-Lebel, “L’éducation des princes hérodiens à Rome et l’évolution du cliéntelisme romain,” in Jews and Gentiles in the Holy Land in the Days of the Second Temple, the Mishnah and the Talmud (ed. M. Mor et al.; Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2003): 44-62 at 54. She draws attention to Tacitus, Ann. 3.34 where the travels of Livia east and west with Augustus are recalled. The empress is likely to have met Herodians on these journeys.


Well summarized in Richardson, Herod, 33-36. For legacies to the emperor generally, see Fergus Millar, The Emperor in the Roman World (London: Duckworth, 1977), 153-58, 297 and Braund, “Royal Wills.”


See, e.g., Shaw, “Tyrants, Bandits and Kings,” 186.


See Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 131-43; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 87-88 on Agrippa’s “firm and unselfish resolve”; Schürer, History of the Jewish People, 1:394-98 on Gaius’ “childish demand”; Schwartz, Agrippa i, 77-88; Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule, 174-80.


Stewart Perowne, The Later Herods: the Political Background of the New Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1958), 72 one of the few who attempted formally to reconcile them: Agrippa’s letter (Philo) preceded the lavish meal (Josephus).


Y. Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins from the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2001), 94-95 no. 117. The portrait of Caesonia has no parallel in the city of Rome.


Julia Wilker, “Das persönliche Nahverhältnis zwischen Princeps und Klientelherrschern und seine Auswirkungen im frühen Prinzipat,” in Freundschaft und Gefolgschaft in der auswärtigen Beziehungen der Römer 2. Jahrhundert v. Chr.-1. Jahrhundert n. Chr. (ed. A. Coşkun; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2008), 165-85 at 170-71 is unusual in acknowledging the plausibility of the role of Agrippa despite the conflicting testimony of Josephus; ignored by Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule and Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem. See Schwartz, Agrippa i, 90-91, with the suggestion that a pro-Agrippan biography has contaminated Josephus’ account. Agrippa’s role however was some way short of leading a “squad of Praetorians” to the imperial palace as in Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 89. Osgood, Claudius Caesar, 76 states only that “in keeping with his perspective, Josephus probably inflates the episode.”


Braund, Friendly King, 25. Agrippa commemorated the ceremony on his coinage: Burnett, “The Coinage of King Agrippa,” 32-35 no. 8; Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage, 2:123 nos. 10-10a; C. M. Kraay. “Jewish Friends and Allies of Rome,” The American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 25 (1980): 53-56.


A. Momigliano, Claudius: The Emperor and His Achievement (Cambridge: Heffer, 1961), 62-63; 112-13 with n. 44. Schwartz, Agrippa i, 66 for Judaea in “cold storage” until Agrippa could succeed.


Andrew Harker, Loyalty and Dissidence in Roman Egypt: The Case of the Acta Alexandrinorum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 45.


Braund, Friendly King, 55-56.


Y. Meshorer, Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period (Tel Aviv: Am Hasefer, 1967), nos. 87, 89-93b. See Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 164.


Maurice Sartre, The Middle East under Rome (trans. Catherine Porter and Elizabeth Rawlings; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 98.


See especially Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 82-83; Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 152.


Jacob Neusner, “Paradigmatic versus Historical Thinking: The Case of Rabbinic Judaism,” History and Theory 36 (1997): 353-57. On the challenges of rabbinic literature for historical enquiry, see also the measured discussion of Schwartz, Agrippa i, 158-59; Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 153 n. 358, 464-68.


See Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 156-57.


Contra Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 82.


See Wilker, Für Rom und Jerusalem, 227, 312-16.


Tacitus, Hist. 2.81 (Moore, lcl).


Suetonius, Tit. 2. See Beryl Rawson, Children and Childhood in Roman Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 246.


See Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 91. Tessa Rajak, “The Herodian Narratives of Josephus,” in The World of the Herods (ed. N. Kokkinos; Oriens et Occidens 14; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2007), 23-34, at 30 on Herod: “Paradoxically, Herod, a king who purported to be Jewish, and was seen as such by the Roman elite, brought the empire to Judaea, and Judaea to the Emperor’s attention, with far greater assiduity than ever direct rule under prefects or procurators did.”


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