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Herod Antipas
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Herod Antipas

Herod Antipas (born 20 BC) was an ancient leader (Tetrarch) of Galilee and Peraea. A son of Herod the Great and Malthace, who was from Samaria, Herod Antipas became Tetrarch in 4 BC upon the death of his father. His first task was to restore order caused by the rebellion of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) in that year.

Herod Antipas followed in his father's footsteps as a builder. He rebuilt Sepphoris in Galilee and Livia in Perea, but his most noted accomplishment was the construction of Tiberias as his capital on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The city was named to honor his patron, Emperor Tiberius. The city gave its name to the sea, and was for a long time a great school and center of Jewish learning.

He married Phasaelis, who was the daughter of Aretas IV, king in Arabia. He divorced her and married Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod Philip; for which he and Herodias were condemned by John the Baptist and blamed by Flavius Josephus (Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, v). The union with Herodias brought him to ruin, for it involved him in war with his original father-in-law, in which he lost an army. A later Christian interpolation inserted in Josephus' Antiquities moralizes the calamity

'as a punishment for what he did against John that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism' (Antiquities, XVIII, v, 2).

Both Matthew and Mark give the reason why Herodias sought the Baptist's head (Matthew xiv, 3-12; Mark vi, 17-29), out of which much legend has been spun, culminating in Richard Strauss' opera Salome, to a libretto of Oscar Wilde. (Josephus simply attributes John's execution to Herod's uneasy jealousy over John's influence.)

Herod Antipas is also famous as Tetrarch at the time of the ministry and trial of Jesus Christ, who appeared before him and was mocked ((Luke, xxiii, 7-13).

Herod Antipas was exiled by the Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Caligula to Lyons, in Gaul in 39 A.D. according to Josephus (Antiquities) who says, however, in the Jewish Wars (II, ix, 6) "So Herod died in Spain whither his wife had followed him".

A much later spurious 'letter of Herod Antipas' is sometimes naively cited as being in 'records of the Roman senate.' The reference itself is equally spurious; there are no such records of the Roman Senate.