Friday, May 11, 2007

Herod....the Great??


On Monday night it was announced that Professor Ehud Netzer and his team had discovered the tomb of one King Herod. Not that I know who Herod is, but it sounds like Steve Martin might have another hit song in the making. If you got that joke you're either over 35 or extremely well versed in old SNL skits. Either way I consider you my friend.

Professor Netzer, member of the Institute of Archaeology from Hebrew University of Jerusalem had been excavating the site most people thought held Herod's tomb since 1972. To quote this article, 'the tomb was discovered when a team of researchers found pieces of a limestone sarcophagus believed to belong to the ancient king'. Limestone sarcophagus! Rock on, dudes!!! We just found some limestone sarcophagus! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Turns out, poor Netzer wasn't even at the site when the discovery was made. How much of a bummer must that have been? He spends more than 3o years looking for something and the minute he turns his back....son of a bitch! It should be noted that the King's tomb was found at a site named Herodium (pictured above). Now why they decided to look there is beyond me, but they're the experts.

Anyway, this Herod was a self proclaimed 'King of the Jews' from...oh...sometime before Christ. It was in the BCs, that's all I can tell you. Problem was, technically Herod wasn't Jewish as his mother was actually daughter of an Arabian Sheik, so he riled a few feathers from actual Jews by calling himself King of the Jews. Should consider himself lucky, considering that other 'King of the Jews' wound up nailed to some wood wearing a thorn hat. You can do a quick bio on Herod here, but trust me when I say it's not stimulating reading.

Herod, by all accounts, did some good things for Jerusalem, including building Caesarea Maritima, expanding The Second Temple (which he humbly renamed to 'Herod's Temple'), and creatively resolved the spreading of starvation and disease after a prolonged drought by importing grains from Egypt. He may have been the first outsourcer in history. A role model for cheap CEO's everywhere.

Unfortunately for Herod, he is best known for his role in what is referred to as 'Massacre of the Innocents'. I'm no historian, but being well known for involvement in any massacre, never mind one of innocents, is probably bad. In this case, Herod ordered the execution of all newborn boys in Bethlehem. Apparently a magi had foretold of the new 'King of Jews' being born and Herod didn't feel like losing his self imposed title. Bit of an extreme measure, I'd say.

Thing is, if you look at Herod's pattern of behavior, it shouldn't have been that surprising he ordered the slaughter of hundreds of innocent babies. He seems to have been petty, vindictive and a tad paranoid. When he was 17 he appointed his own brother 'High Priest' so he wouldn't be eligible for ruling. Then the next year that same brother drowned at a party. I probably should put drowned in quotes.

Some other notable events.

- Banished his first wife and 3 year old son, despite the fact he could have more than one wife. How annoying a wife must she have been?

- Executed brother in law under charges of conspiracy to do something. Like the charges even matter. Herod probably lost to him at pool and was a sore loser.

- Had his second wife tried for adultery and forced her own mother to testify against her. He did this after second wife found out Herod was going to kill her, so stopped sleeping with him. She was executed. He did get that he could have more than one wife, right? This was explicitly spelled out to him?

- Suspected his own sons of attempting to kill him and took them to trial, but eventually dropped the charges. Then decided they really were out to get him and executed three of them.

So Herod The Great had serious woman issues, was not much of a family man, was probably paranoid schizophrenic and spent a majority of time building shrines and monuments to himself. Plus he killed a bunch of babies.

When the tomb was uncovered after centuries of being buried and lost, the first thing archaeologists noticed was the tomb had been vandalized. If anything this find just proves that the Jews were getting the last word back then, too.

Gotta love it.

Today's distraction: Browse a photo gallery of the dig site. My one impression - it looks like they need rain.

1 comment:

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