Book: Herod, Statesman, Commander & Builder by Roger Penney
|4 stars, 1 review on Amazon|
Roger Penneyabout this book: I Read every secondary source I could get hold of. Then I read all the references in Josephus. Of course there was a biography written by his friend Nicholas of Damascus who was a lawyer and a philosopher. He probably wrote Herod's side of things while Josephus wrote to make the Jews appear better to Roman eyes and the Romans O.K. to Jewish eyes. There is not really sufficient primary material to make a good history. But it becomes a wildly exciting biogrpahical story. More action than Ben Hur. More mystery that Ian Rankin and more pathos than Mills and Boon.
There are plenty of artifacts, large and small, to tell of the man's brilliance and the spectacular ambitions of the King of Judea. He was only surpassed as a builder by Augustus himself the Emperor of Rome and until the very end Herod's friend.
He is the perfect Christmas villain. But then the twentieth century, with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot has provided us with many more villains and more bloodthirsty tyrants too. Given the circumstance at the time and given that his body was already rotting away, he did not have a lot of choice, what were a few infants when a kingdom was at stake?
I have not tried to rehabilitate Herod. Just to show that among first century b.c. rulers he was quite succesful and a very gifted and remarkable man. It is so easy to go along with the popular prejudices that one misses valuable truths and a lot of fascinating detail.
Any visit to Jerusalem will mean a view of the 'Wailing Wall' as it is called. It is really the foundation of the temple Herod built for the Jews. It was to make the place level. Solomon had built on a slope. Read how teams of priests and levites worked flat out to build the holy place in just over a year. Read about the only woman Herod loved and how her death came about. Read how the women in his palace caused him more trouble than the armies of the invading Parthians and how his brother hid out in Masada while Herod travelled to Rome in the middle of Winter when to put to sea usually invited disaster. Read how Cleopatra offered him her top job and a lot more and how he turned her down and got a better top job from the Senate of Rome.
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