March 30, 2008

Bum Rap | Herod the Great

73 BCE - 4BCE: Age 69

Herod the Great, forever remembered for ordering the massacre of all male children in Bethlehem in order to avoid have to deal with a newborn "King of the Jews", probably didn't. In fact it probably didn't happen. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew and is believed by most modern scholars to be a product of creative mythmaking rather than actual fact.

Not that he wasn't cruel enough to do such a thing. Like most kings, he was looking out for number one and didn't get to where he was in life by being a nice guy. Where he was, was service as King of Judea, through the good offices of Rome, who needed somebody tame and local in there to keep good order. His father was a high-ranking official who was murdered in a power skirmish; Herod managed to get the backing of the Roman army to help him avenge the murder and, eventually, take the throne. Herod was officially a Jew, but most actual Jews didn't take him seriously as such.

He lived to what was a ripe old age for the day: 69. His suffering was intense; the historian Josephus, writing just a few decades later, reports:
His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree.

The modern diagnosis is that he had chronic kidney disease as well as Fournier's gangrene, which is a type of necrotizing fasciitis that attacks the genitals.

He was buried in a tomb whose location was unknown until 2007, when an Israeli team of archaeologists discovered it (after 35 years of painstaking research) about 12 kilometres south of Jerusalem, on the side of the vast hill he had constructed for his palace.

Source: Wikipedia

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