PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Herod the Great (King of Judea) 

HEROD I, or Herod the Great (c. 75 – 4 BCE), was the king of Judea who ruled as a client of Rome. He has gained lasting infamy as the ‘slaughterer of the innocents’ as recounted in the New Testament’s book of Mathew. 

Herod was, though, a gifted administrator, and in his 33-year reign, he was responsible for many major building works which included a rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem, several aqueducts, and the massive fortress known as the Herodium. Historians have re-assessed his long-held negative reputation and now credit his reign as having had at least some positive effects on Jews and Judaism in his kingdom.

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Article by Mark Cartwright on AHE


The Murthly Hours

f. 12r: Magi, or Kings, Before Herod Scotland, France, England (c. 1280s) From the National Library of Scotland:

The Murthly Hours is one of Scotland’s great medieval treasures. Written and illuminated in Paris in the 1280s, it also contains full-page miniatures by English artists of the same period, and was one of the most richly decorated manuscripts in medieval Scotland. Medieval additions include probably the second oldest example of Gaelic written in Scotland.

The entire manuscript has been reproduced here. In the Folios section, you can browse page by page or select a folio from the complete list of titles.

Laurel submitted to medievalpoc:

Herod in the Murthly Hoursdigital.nls.uk

Thought you might be interested in this miniature from the Murthly Hours, which was produced in England in the 13th century.

Love this blog so much and I think you’re doing really important work. Thank you!

Wow, what a great submission!

I’m noticing more and more that it seems like Herod is one of those figures that was commonly depicted with dark or black skin in European Medieval manuscripts, and that at some unknown point, he became just another white figure. There is probably a rather good paper to be written and research to be done on whys and hows of that. ;)

Also interesting is how this is a more pan-European document than a lot of the manuscripts I’ve posted. It was produced partially in Paris, which was a hub of manuscript Illuminators (including many women, FYI), but was used in Scotland (with some of the oldest Gaelic text, as mentioned above) and had English miniatures included as well!

If it wasn’t clear, you can read the book and examine the miniatures here, although their viewer’s not the best.

The art of Gustave Moreau—born on this day in 1826—stands apart from that of his realist and impressionist contemporaries in nineteenth-century France, particularly in the mystical and enigmatic quality of his paintings of biblical and mythological subjects. He is considered an important precursor to the symbolist and surrealist movements, and his students included Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault.

Now on view: http://bit.ly/1VxifK8


Today is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents. The Gospel of Matthew recounts how King Herod ordered the execution of all male babies in Bethlehem out of his desire to protect his throne. Unbeknownst to the king, Joseph and Mary had fled the city, sparing Jesus the same fate. Medieval theologians claimed that 144,000 were killed, adopting the number mentioned in Revelation 14:3, though the number would have been much smaller. Honored as martyrs, the Holy Innocents were typically included in narrative cycles recounting the life of Jesus. The horror of the event provided artists the opportunity to show great emotion.

Giotto, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1310s, fresco, North transept, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Fra Angelico, Massacre of the Innocents, 1451-52, tempera on panel, Museo di San Marco, Florence

Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents, 1482, panel, Sant'Agostino, Siena

Daniele da Volterra, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1557, oil on wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Guido Reni, Massacre of the Innocents, 1611, oil on canvas, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna

Old coins force re-think on Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Israeli archaeologists on Wednesday said they had found ancient coins that overturned widely-held beliefs about the origins of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

For centuries, many thought the wall was built by King Herod - also infamous, in the Christian tradition, for his efforts to hunt down the baby Jesus in the original Christmas story.

But archaeologists said they had found coins buried under the wall’s foundations minted 20 years after King Herod’s death in 4 B.C., showing the structure was completed by his successors.

King Herod's Tomb a Mystery Yet Again

Herod the Great, the king of Judea who ruled not long before the time of Jesus, seems to have eluded historians once again.

In 2007 archaeologists announced they had found the great king’s tomb, a surprisingly modest mausoleum that was part of the Herodium, a massive complex built by Herod on a cone-shaped hill in the desert outside Jerusalem.

But what everyone thought was his final resting place may not be. The modest structure is too small and modest for the ostentatious king; its mediocre construction and design are at odds with Herod’s reputation as a master planner and builder, archaeologists now say. Read more.