Herod and Rome

The Roman Empire relied on client kingdoms, which protected the borders of the empire and were an important source of tax revenue. These kingdoms were ruled by Roman appointees – high-ranking local figures who had demonstrated talent and a willingness to serve the empire.

In 40 BCE, when Rome was governed by a Triumvirate consisting of Octavian (Augustus), Mark Antony, and Lepidus, Herod was appointed King of Judea thanks to the support of Antony, who controlled the eastern areas of Syria, Egypt, and Judea. In 31 BCE, with the demise of Antony and his lover Cleopatra, Herod quickly transferr ed his loyalty to the victorious Octavian. Octavian recognized in Herod the right man to rule Judea, reconfirmed his kingship, and even extended the borders of his kingdom.

The relationship between Herod and Augustus, his wife Livia, and his right-hand man Marcus Agrippa was exceptional. The king's loyalty toward Augustus is notable in virtually every area: two of his sons were educated in Rome; he built temples to Augustus and inaugurated the imperial cult within his kingdom; he founded cities and named them after the emperor; and he aimed to please his patron in every way, emulating Rome's cultural traditions and political outlook.