Herod the Great
“...Standards of care at the "Herod the Great Kindergarten" do not always live up to promises made in the brochure...”
“Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories!”
“...perhaps not surprisingly, you don't find many Jewish or Christian children named Herod after that...”
“ Christmas? Bah! Humbug!! Send in the legions !!!”
Herod the Great is an easy hate figure in history. He is a good example of victors' justice as written in the chronicles of the time and later. Even now, mention Herod's name and you will be told he was 'a baby killer', 'wife murderer', 'a blood-drenched maniac', 'Well he wasn't really Jewish anyway?' and 'WHO? WHAT??.' Herod has had a bad press but this is his true story, told without that much bias.
Let It Maccabee
The future King of the Jews was born Herod Hussein Obama Kenyatta in 74 BC at private residence somewhere in Judea to parents listed as Antipater and Antimater (a.k.a. the Anti Parents). He had an elder brother called Phaesal Anticlimaxus and a sister listed as Anticyclonia Salome.
Allegations that Herod had really been born in the Land of Sheba and then been smuggled to Judea in the back of a caravan train was a story spread around later by 'Teabag Pharisees' in an attempt to discredit Herod's ethnic qualifications as a Jewish ruler.
In reality, Herod's family fortunes had been improved when his grandfather Pasto Hussein Obama took a bold decision. Having formerly been an idol-worshipping Idumaen who eked out a living along the shores of the Dead Sea by selling cut price souvenirs to Greek tourists, Pasto had decided his merchandising prospects were blocked by the local Jewish establishment. Following the ancient law that "If you can't beat 'em (and can't pay anyone else to beat 'em on your behalf), join 'em", he decided to become a Jew. He changed his name to Antipasto to indicate his rejection of his past and took up accountancy, law and arguing.
Within a few years, Antipasto's legal skills in negotiating performance rights income for Middle Eastern wandering musicians gained him the attention of the Jerusalem government who offered Antipasto a job as tax
dodger advisor for the ruling dynasty of the Maccabees (also known as the 'Hashmoaners' as they always complained about the quality of their weed.). They were a former Jewish Beatles tribute band who had led the revolt against the Seleucid rulers of their country in 167 B.C. The revolt had begun when orthodox Jewish boys had refused to cut their hair short like the Greek speaking Seleucids, run around naked in gymnasiums, or rub olive oil onto their skin before "Sitting on old Uncle Seleucia's knee". So the Jews had rebelled and had received Divine Approval when God commissioned some extra Biblical books celebrating the rebels eventual success with Meet the Maccabees, Maccabees for Sale or Return, Divine Help For the Maccabees and the Whitewash Album. The Seleucids were finally driven out, their lewd-nude statues castrated and other pagan monuments smashed by the victorious, surviving Maccabee leaders. Judea was now declared a 'Pervy Greek Free Country' under the rule of the Hashmoan Dynasty.
Antipasto's son Antipater (who had taken up his father's business), became the new accountant for the Hashmoans. He recommended that instead of stuffing their extra (undeclared) shekels in Alexandria or in Parthia, Rome was the new place to do the haggling. However, this sound piece of financial (and political advice) split the Hashmoan family. One side was led by Ben-Yohannon 'Lenno' Jude and wife YO! Sushi who rejected Antipater's advice whilst others supported Saul 'Macca' Maccabee. It is unknown what George thought as he was the quiet one. No one asked Ringo's opinion. In a brief but bloody struggle, Saul Macca and Antipater were expelled from Jerusalem and stayed on a farm with Saul's wife Linda in a vain attempt to teach her how to sing. Antipater then sent a message to Rome asking for help and was pleased to hear that Pompey the Great was, by chance, in Syria demolishing the remnants of the Seleucid Empire.
Seeing this as a possible way back into power, Antipater sent Pompey a handy A-Z Guide of Jerusalem's defences and declared that Saul Maccabee was Rome's 'Main Man' if they could help with a restoration. Pompey agreed and, as he liked a nice little booty-looty tour to add to his collection of cheap triumphs, arrived with his legions outside Jerusalem. Antipater promised riches to Pompey but asked him not to over loot the Temple in Jerusalem. Pompey agreed but asked for an 'interview with this Jehovah chap'. Antipater agreed and got a nice little bonus for furthering Rome's interests in Judea.
The supporters of Ben-Yohannon Lenno Jude had no chance against the battle- bloodied Romans and were quickly debagged from Jerusalem. Saul Macca was reinstalled as leader of Judea and changed his name to Paul Macca as a sign of his Romanising ways. The surviving Lennoites fled to Parthia and Antipater received another secret bonus payment and membership to the exclusive, Roman run 'Client King Club'. It was a grand business deal for Antipater and impressed the young Herod.
No Ears For Music
For the next nearly 10 years Judea was in relative peace as Antipater ran Judea behind the scenes, allowing Paul Macca out now and again to warble his songs on the steps of the Temple. However the relative peace was broken with the death of the Roman Triumvir Crassus in battle against the Parthians. The subsequent Roman civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar was to cause a setback in Herod's family fortunes. Antipater tried to stay with whichever side was winning but was removed from the political scene when his chicken soup was poisoned by enemies in 43 BC. Herod's elder brother Phasael got the job of governor of Jerusalem whilst Herod was given the task of tax squeezing in Galilee. In addition, Paul Macca promised his grand daughter Mariamme to Herod. This which was a much better marital alliance than offered by Herod's then current wife, 'Dull' Doris, so Herod 'retired' her to the bottom of a local lake and took custody of their son Antipater 'Antipantsy'. This was the start of Herod's future family problems.
Whilst the Herod family were working out their troubled internal affairs, the Roman civil war again affected the situation in Judea. Brutus's co-stabbing mate Cassius had been put in charge of Syria. He was raising an army to take on Octavian and Mark Antony and needed money. Herod and Phasael wrote out a cheque and waited to see what happen. Herod meanwhile returned to Galilee to and ordered a Jewish Princess Upgrade to his current abode in the expectation of marrying Mariamme very soon.
However, with most of the local Roman armies now away and fighting each other, the Parthians were able to intervene. They had supported the Lennoites in exile and liked the marching song Imagine...There Are No Romans. The new Lennoite leader 'Sean' Antagonisticus Lenno (son of Ben-Yohannon Lenno Jude) was smoothly installed as King in Jerusalem and quickly indicated he was out for some big number revenge against the 'Maccaites' and the Herod family.
Sean Antagonisticus smashed all the solo recordings released by the Maccaites and to prevent their man Paul Macca appearing on stage again, cut off his ears (so he could never properly hear a sound check again) and bundled the hapless Hashmoan prince off to exile in Babylon. Herod's brother Phaesal Anticlimaxus was given the option of which death to choose from and elected to head bang himself to eternity to the Maccaite anthem The Frog Throat Chorus (a literal no brainer) on a sharp rock.
I Am, The One and Only
Once Herod heard the news of his brother's death, he fled Galilee and took an express galley ship to Rome to secure their support against Antagonisticus. Herod knew he had friends there as his father had help set up the influential Roman Republic-Israel Public Affairs Committee (RIPAC) to help stop the Canaanites returning to the Promised Land.
When he arrived, Herod was given an official welcome by the senate (they asked Herod when they could expect their next donations for election expenses) and the Freedom of Rome. He was also given an O.R.R. (Order of the Roman Republic), First Pick Of Any Retired Vestal Virgins and a picnic hamper for a family outing on the Field of Mars. Herod was also allowed to call himself 'King of The Jews', a job that came with a box of hand written stationery embossed with his new title. Herod was allowed to rent a few legions to regain Judea for the Roman Republic.
Sean Antagonisticus piously hoped Armageddon would come before Herod got back and so wasn't prepared to take on the Romans. He was captured and sent off to Mark Antony for a crucifixion spectacular. Herod was now King in name as well as coinage and celebrated his success by finally marrying Mariamme. He even brought her disfigured old grandpa, Paul Macca, back from Babylon to officiate  at the nuptials.
The conservative Sadducees, who had been enthusiastic supporters of Sean Antagonisticus, were forced to provide Herod with lavish wedding presents. To skimp on the food bill, Herod had them massacred before they could turn up and fed the surviving guests on their corses. It was sign for everyone else that the old Hashmoan anthem All You Need Is Shalom no longer held sway and that the future would be ruled by the policy of Sabbat Night's Alright For Smiting. Herod was happy, he knew that it was better to be feared than loved. Huggy Herod? Nah!!
Like his father, Herod was keen to stay on both sides if possible but the growing rift between Octavian and Mark Antony made him nervous. He enjoyed good relations with both men, they liked his peculiar sense of humour but Herod had a problem with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. His attempts to flatter her back fired and she made it pretty clear that if she had her way, Herod would be providing dining treats for vultures.
Cheerily, Herod carried on hoping perhaps Antony would get rid of his Egyptian 'hotbod'. He also had a more immediate problem when his wife's brother Aristobulus got the job of High Priest at the Temple. This displeased Herod, as he smelt a plot to have him removed, so he had the young lad drowned at the local swimming pool when a wild party got out of hand. Mariamne guessed the true fate of her brother but carried on sleeping in the marital bed with Herod, producing two sons Aristobolus and Alexander over the next couple of years. However, she also kept up a writing correspondence with Cleopatra and compiled reports on Herod's activities in the hope of Egyptian help in case of a future marital bust up.
Herod doesn't seemed to have noticed this treasonous activity but his sister, Anticyclonia Salome, was alert to her sister-in-law's scheming and wrote down her version of the story. It was all cooking to make a juicy scandal and the feuding Herodians were provisionally booked to go on Roman Edition of The Jeremiah Springer Show when Antony and Octavian declared war on each other.
A nervous Herod decided to take himself off for a minor skirmish on the Judean border to stay out of the way of the fighting. Hedging his bets as usual, Herod sent messages (and some loose change) in of support to both sides. When Herod heard Octavian had won and was heading to Egypt to finish off Antony and Cleopatra, he celebrated by having his earless grandfather-in-law, Paul Macca, unplugged and disconnected from life on Earth. The official reports said Paul Macca had died of natural causes but, even though some regarded him as a turncoat, crowds turned out to sing some of their old favourite Maccabee classic songs in mournful celebration.
A Tasty Wife
Herod quickly hurried off to meet Octavian in Egypt and got the message that Rome was still his friend. He willingly gave Octavian (soon to be Augustus) his sons Aristobolus and Alexander as hostages and also supplied the victorious general expensive presents and a request that Rome ship over the latest War Chariots with retractable, clean wipe blades for internal security. Thanks to the activities of RIPAC, these were delivered within a few months.
At home, Herod was still having trouble with Mariamne. She wasn't keen to see her sons go off to Rome and get a fancy Roman education. Mariamne complained that her ancestors hadn't driven out the Greeks to let the Romans have their filthy pagan ways with her boys. If only Herod had left them to her and she would have quickly found them some nice Jewish girls to marry by the age of 12.
But Herod was adamant and this made Mariamne furious. Herod's sinister sister, Anticyclonia Salome, whispered to her brother that his wife was secretly slipping away at night to spend her pleasures with another man. Knowing this would upset the excitable brother, Herod immediately ordered the execution of Mariamne. She was allowed to choose her manner of murder and elected to jump off the palace roof to her death. But even there she wasn't left in peace.
In a shocking move, Herod didn't bury her and instead stuffed Mariamne in a huge honey jar with a glass front panel. This allowed Herod to gaze at his dead wife every day and then dip a knife in the jar and spread honey on his toast. He was heard to remark that My Wife Has Never Tasted Better.. and would offer a dollop of honey to his courtiers to see if they agreed. Herod even toyed with marketing the honey to the wider Roman world with the advertising line Herod's Authentic Royal Honey: Ex-Wife Flavour but was put off when it suggested that it wouldn't sell very well. In any case, it is yet another black story to add to the growing canon of Herod knocking stories.
New Temple and Shopping Complex Announced
One thing that bugged Herod ever since he had come back from Rome was the poor state of Jerusalem's architecture - and in particular, the Temple Complex. He compared it to a 'Philistine's Out Door Toilet' and suggested a complete rebuild, with added facilities including space for money changers, a bathing complex and a live animal enclosure for the necessary sacrifices.
This announcement was greeted by outrage by many Conservative Jews who branded the move as a Pagan Romanisation of their way of life. In retaliation, the hardliners, zealots, Palinites and fans of the Frothing Prophet Glenn Beck demanded Herod show proof he really was a natural born Jew. When Herod declined to reply, they went further and accused his mother, Antimater, of adultery. they also claimed that his real father was the Greek philosopher Malcolmus Xenophon of Antioch. This Hellenic know it all was said to be an educator in the Liberal Arts', and was a 'bearded, sandal wearing, abortion supporting Proto Marxist'.
Outraged by these accusations, Herod stormed into a meeting of the Sanhedrin and invited everyone there to have a look inside his loincloth. Knowing Herod's ferocious temper, the Sadducees and Pharisees who were present agreed Herod was indeed Jewish but the stories persisted, even after Herod rather ungraciously killed his mother-in-law, Alexandra (Mariamme's mother), for siding with his opponents.
Herod then changed political tack and showed the Sadducees his ambitious new temple plans and the nice houses where the priests would live. This brought them on side and left the Pharisees out on their own. The Sadducees were happy and insisted that the money changers would have to do their business out in the open rather than in a building on the temple site. The Romans and other non-Jews were barred from the inner courtyards on the penalty of a thorough stoning if they got through. The gymnasium and all the other Classical civilization mod-cons were to be built on the other side of Jerusalem.
Work then promptly started on the massive building project. Constructed in the Neo-Brutalist style favoured by all monarchs through the ages, the chunky temple began to take shape. Some of the locals were very happy about the new addition to the Jerusalem tourist map and others said that God would destroy it before it was ever finished. For the rest, they just shrugged their shoulders and wondered if Herod would live to see it completed.
Everyone Hates Me..Even My Own Sons...
Whilst Herod was getting his own way as regards the temple rebuild, he took time out to fill up the nursery with some more sturdy sons and marriageable daughters to maintain the dynasty. This time he called all the boys Herod (and girls Herodias) as it made calling them for meals quicker., So within short order, Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip and Herod Herod (the Name Doubler) were fathered and promised various bits of Judea if they kept their noses clean and their hands out of the till. But they were very young and, if Herod was removed from the political stage by an assassin, his eldest son Antipater Antipantsy expected to become the next King. He had very different ideas for his unwanted siblings.
However, just as Antipater was about to book a couple of cut throats for some family job assignments, his half brothers Alexander and Aristobolus returned from Rome. They had spent the last 20 years growing up the capital city of the Roman Empire and had scrolls full of useful contacts. Neither were that happy with their father for killing their mother Mariamne but decided to 'forgive their old dad' for now if he stepped down as King and moved to a retirement home for the Bloodily Deranged.
Herod wasn't sure what to do and feared upsetting the Romans. Compared to Alexander and Aristobolus, Herod looked distinctly provincial and a bumpkin. However the young men were also arrogant after their years in Rome. They preferred to dress 'Latin' (i.e. white hats, black shirts, stripey waistcoats, large lapels etc.) rather than in traditional Jewish clothes. The brothers also admitted they were happy to mix and drink with the Romans in Jerusalem and then proposed to open a Salva Veritate Groove'n'Schmooze nightclub next door to The Temple.
Once Antipater heard about the proposed club, he got the Jewish Religious Right to close it down and accused his brothers of Latinised Liberalism. Herod who was still keen to have his temple finished, had Alexander and Aristobolus imprisoned in a dungeon to prevent further family bitterness. Then the news emerged that the two golden boys of Judea had died of 'shame' - and a bit more physically - by having pillows pressed on their faces until they turned a brighter shade of imperial purple.
Christmas Has Come Early This Year
By now Herod was showing signs of wanting to leave a legacy behind for the Jewish people. He published the Herod Health Care Reform Programme which promised everyone a full and happy life if they subscribed to the temple fund. The Sadducees were all for it but extreme Pharisees campaigned against Herod and demonstrated outside his Jerusalem palace. When Herod read the placards that said Death to the Romaniser, Hands off Our Grannies and Come to Ben Gurion's Authentic Kosher Bagel Table, he lost his sense of Jewish humour. When some of the more fired up members of the crowd tried to rip down the eagle standards and blue flags of Roman Imperialism, Herod ordered a spot of targeted bloodshedding. After the carnage, Herod announced he wanted a wipe the slate clean and suggested that as King of the Jews, God had been talking to him as well and wanted a fresh start religion. It was to be called Herodianism
But Herod before could get his own cult going (i.e. receiving celebrity endorsements, tax exemption status, tambourines) he received news from Bethlehem that there was a new holy show in town and they were celebrating a spectacular opening night.
Herod asked for a news update and was told the sky above Bethlehem had been filled with with flashing lights, fat naked children fluttering around on wings and that everyone had been kept up all night by an orchestra of 'angels' blowing their trumpets and singing 'It's A Holy Holiday'.
Not only that but the local price of knitted jumpers had gone up as the price of wool had quadrupled when the shepherds had abandoned their sheep for a good time out at the local nightclub known as 'The Cavern' to listen to Joseph and The Wannabee Maccabees on stage. Finally Herod was given a report that Judean immigration authorities had failed to detain a band of strange men in fancy dress, bearing expensive gifts for someone called Joshua 'Jez' Ben-Yahweh. The bearded tourists had also said this boy would save all souls, even arse holes as well - a reference Herod thought, that was aimed at him.
Alarmed with this news and further reports that Bethlehem was putting up Christmas lights and keeping the shops open for late night shopping, Herod ordered the suppression of this unofficial festival. In an attempt to nip this religious rival in the bud, Herod ordered the Bethlehem police to kill every child born in the previous week on the grounds of suspected messianism.
Then convinced this was all a set up by his eldest son Antipater, Herod had his son sword shafted and sent Antipater's family to Rome as hostages to placate the Romans who were becoming anxious about the Jewish King's antics. The rest of Herod's family wondered if the 'old man' was about to purge his family Hanukkah card sending list again until they received news Herod had suddenly dropped dead whilst watching Judean False Idol at the local (Roman) Amphitheatre. For the religious establishment, this was a sign of Divine Wrath for the incorrigible Romaniser.
Denigration and Degradation
Herod's death was treated as a national holiday and there was much celebrating of his death. Various hitherto prophets, holy men, Schlock-Jocks and self promoters confidently predicted the end of the world. However nothing happened and instead Herod's surviving sons - the Brothers Herod - split up their father's domains and then went to bloody work on the naive party goers.
Herod in History
Herod's death was only officially regretted by the Romans. To the Jews he had always been an unwelcome interloper who had barged his way to the top and killed a lot of people along the way. The Christians only remembered Herod's attempts to kill their messiah and his general baby bashing behavior. So how did he get the title Herod the Great? It seems a partial mistranslation of Josephus's original manuscript which had called him Herod the Shit but was changed by later Christian, keen to remove some of lavatorial jokes from the New Testament.
Herod's best known legacy, the new Jewish Temple, took years to finish after he was gone. Indeed, it was only receiving its last coat of paint and the installation of a satellite dish (to get a better up link with Yahweh) when the Romans under Titus destroyed it as punishment for the Jewish Revolt. Perhaps even Herod would have seen the irony of that fate for his building, which had been for him, an attempted religious bribe built in stone.
- Alas, a book said to have been written by Herod titled Funny Stories My Dad Made Up was later proved to be a Third Century forgery.
- Judaism is a religion of rancour, though normally without either a crusader or jihadist as exhibited by Christianity or Islam.
- i.e. A Self Hating Non-Kosher Jew
- See the article on Pompey the Great to see what happened when a Roman know-all met the Big Chap.
- Ben-Yohannon Lenno Jude retired to a mountain cave to write out his memoirs on scrolls and smoke better quality weed.
- Membership fees would normally bankrupt you or your descendants within a few generations. The Romans always remained greedy.
- Antipater grew up, spurning the lioncloth for natural ventilation.
- Turned into earrings by YO! Sushi.
- Paul Macca was chained up next to Boney M
- Cleopatra liked her 'red meat' entertainment.
- He sang Mariamme Had A Little Lamb, a well known Jewish ballad to celebrate a maiden's move from virginity to a full on, horny bedroom tricks.
- Especially Antony but he was a cruel bastard so recognised a kindred spirit.
- Like the Romans, Greeks and other civilizations, the Jews were equally unoriginal with naming their kids. Herod was worse - see below.
- Girls' Religious School, Rabbi of Kintyre and a surprising extra, Give Israel Back to the Canaanites but that might have been a Paul Macca joke.. etc..
- Herod presumably had ways of telling them apart but this information hasn't reached later historians.
- Herod received an angry letter from Emperor Augustus asking the settling of Aristobolus and Alexander's unpaid education fees and bad checks. Herod paid up.
- It seems Herod hoped to come up with a Rome-friendly version of 'Social Judaism' but details remain hazy.
- Josephus (Again)
- Josephus (Yet Again)
- Josephus (Now, this is getting ridiculous)
- Josephus's Best Friend..Ah...no. He didn't have any. It's him again