The Reign of Herod the Great

The Reign of Herod the Great, King of the Jews (37 - 4 BCE) - From 37 until 4 BCE, Herod reigned in Jerusalem and gradually, with the approval of the Romans, expanded his kingdom; his kingdom included both Jews and Gentiles, but he did not follow the Hasmonean policy of forcibly converting gentiles to Judaism. Early in his reign, Antonius and Octavian had a falling out, which led to another civil war. In 31 BCE, Octavius, with the support of the Roman senate, fought and defeated Antonius at the battle of Actium in Greece; both Antonius and Cleopatra managed to escape and arrived in Alexandria; but, when they realized that there was no way of escaping Octavius, they committed suicide. Herod convinced the victorious Octavius to confirm him in his former position as King of the Jews. Herod had serious trouble with his family and his court in general; he was not greatly appreciated by the Jews generally, which bothered him. In a desire to aggrandize himself and perpetuate his memory, he undertook many expensive building projects in parts of his kingdom and beyond. In 19 BCE, Herod undertook to rebuild and enlarge the Temple in Jerusalem. (See Testament of Moses [6] for an unflattering description of Herod's reign presented as a prophecy.)

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