The tomb was discovered by Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University, who is considered one of the leading experts on King Herod. Netzer has conducted archeological digs at Herodium since 1972 in an attempt to locate the grave and tomb. Herodium, a fortified palace built by Herod some 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE.

Herod the great

Herodium, a fortress palace in the Judean desert built by Herod the Great

Hordes, also known as Herod I or Herod the Great, was a Roman client-king of Judaea (ca. 74 BC - ca. 4 BC in Jerusalem). The details of his biography can best be gleaned from the works of the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus. To many people, Herod is best known for his alleged role in the events known as the Massacre of the Innocents, an account of which is given in Chapter 2 of the Gospel According to Matthew.

Herod is particularly known for his dramatic expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem which is sometimes referred to as Herod's Temple.

Herod the Great arose from a wealthy, influential Idumaean family. The Idumaeans, successors to the Edomites of the Hebrew Bible, settled in Idumea, formerly known as Edom, in southern Judea. When the Maccabean John Hyrcanus conquered Idumea in 140-130 BC, he required all Idumaeans to obey Jewish law or to leave; most Idumaeans thus converted to Judaism.

King Herod identified himself as a Jew and was considered as such by his contemporaries, This religious self-identification notwithstanding, the Herodians were to a large extent Hellenistic in culture, which would have earned them the antipathy of observant Jews. He was the second son of Antipater the Idumaean, the Idumeans having been just converted to Judaism by John Hyrcanus, and was founder of the Herodian Dynasty. Herod's mother was Cypros, a princess from Petra in Nabatea (now part of Jordan). The family rubbed shoulders with the greats in Rome, such as Pompey and Cassius, and in 47 BC his father was appointed Procurator over Judea, who then appointed his son governor of Galilee at the age of 25.

The taking of Jerusalem by Herod the Great, 36 BC, by Jean Fouquet

After his father was poisoned in 43 BC, allegedly by a tax collector, Herod had the murderer executed. After returning from a campaign, he was offered the betrothal to the teenage princess Mariamne (sometimes spelled Mariamme) from the former Hasmonean dynasty who were the titular rulers of Judaea. Although he was legally permitted to have more than one wife, he banished his first wife Doris and her 3-year-old son, also named Antipater, and married Mariamne (known as Mariamne I). In 40 BC Antigonos and the Parthians invaded Judea, and Herod fled Jerusalem to Rome for the first time. There he was elected "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate however, Herod did not fully conquer Judea until 37 BC. He ruled for 34 years.

4 BC The scholarly consensus, based on Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews is that Herod died at the end of March, or early April of 4 BC. Josephus tells us that Herod died 37 years after being named as King by the Romans, and 34 years after the death of Antigonus. This would imply that he died in 4 BC. This is confirmed by the fact that his three sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BC. For instance, he states that Herod Philip I's death took place, after a thirty-seven year reign, in the twentieth year of Tiberius, which would imply that he took over on Herod's death in 4 BC. In addition, Josephus says that Herod died after a lunar eclipse, and a partial eclipse took place in 4 BC.

Because of apparent inconsistencies in the method Josephus counts years, it has sometimes been suggested that this date is slightly out, and that 5 BC might be preferable - there were two total eclipses in that year. Sometimes a later date has been suggested, but the next lunar eclipse did not take place until 1 BC, and Herod's sons had already been ruling for three years by then.

Josephus records that Herod's final illness was excruciating (Ant. 17.6.5). From Josephus' descriptions, some medical experts propose that Herod had chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier's gangrene.

Herod the Great plays a minor role in The Gospel according to Matthew (ch. 2), which describes an event known as the Massacre of the Innocents.

Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Magi from the East visit Herod to inquire the whereabouts of "the one having been born king of the Jews", because they had seen his star in the east and therefore wanted to pay him homage. Herod, who is himself King of Judea, is alarmed at the prospect of the new-born king usurping his rule.

Herod is advised by the assembled chief priests and scribes of the people that the Prophet had written that the "Anointed One" (Grk. ho christos) is to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Herod therefore sends the Magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to search for the child, and that, when they find him, they should "report to me, so that I too may go and worship him". However, after they find Jesus, the Magi are warned in a dream not to report back to Herod. Similarly, Joseph is warned in a dream that Herod intends to kill Jesus, so Joseph and his family flee to Egypt in order to escape Herod. When Herod realizes he has been outwitted by the Magi, he gives orders to kill all boys of the age of two years and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Joseph and his family stay in Egypt until Herod's death, then move to Nazareth in Galilee in order to avoid living under Herod's son Archelaus. (From Wikipedia)

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