HEROD the GREAT
Herod the Great was born in 73 BC and died March/April, 4 BC, at Jericho, Judaea. He was the Roman-appointed king of Judaea (37-4 BC), whom the New Testament portrays as a tyrant, into whose kingdom Jesus of Nazareth was born. Herod was born in southern Palestine. His father, Antipater, was an Edomite (an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba). Antipater was a wealthy and influential man, who married the daughter of a noble from Petra (in south-western Jordan), at that time the capital of the Nabataean kingdom.
When the Roman general,Pompey (106-48 BC) invaded Palestine in 63 BC, Antipater supported him. Six years later Herod met Mark Antony and they struck up a friendship. Julius Caesar also favoured the family and appointed Antipater procurator of Judaea in 47 BC conferring on him Roman citizenship, whereupon his father appointed Herod governor of Galilee. In 40 BC the Parthians invaded Palestine, and Herod was forced to flee to Rome. The senate there appointed him king of Judaea and equipped him with an army to retake it. In the year 37 BC, Herod became unchallenged ruler of Judaea. To further consolidate his power, he divorced his first wife, Doris, and married Mariamne, a Hasmonean princess.
During the wars between the two triumvirs Octavian and Antony, Herod supported his friend Antony, even though Antony's mistress, Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, used her influence with Antony to take much of Herod's lands. After Antony's final defeat at Actium in 31 BC, Herod confessed to the victorious Octavian which side he had taken. Octavian (soon to be known as Augustus) forgave him and confirmed him as king and restored his lands. Herod became the close friend of the architect of Augustus' success, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, after whom one of his grandsons and one of his great-grandsons were named.
Herod built many massive fortresses and cities, including the port of Caesarea, a new temple in Jerusalem (the base of which exists as the Temple Mount or Al-Haram ash-Sharif) and a fortified palace on Masada, the Zealots last stronghold during the First Jewish Revolt.
Towards the end of his reign, Herod became mentally unstable. He murdered his wife, Mariamne, her two sons, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother. He altered his will three times and finally disinherited and killed his firstborn, Antipater. The slaying of the innocents occurred shortly before his death. After an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Herod died. His final testament provided that his realm would be divided among his sons: Archelaus to be king of Judaea and Samaria, with Philip and Antipas sharing the remainder as tetrarchs.
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men."
King James Bible, Matthew 2.16