Herod Agrippa I / הורדוס אגריפה הראשון Marcus Julius of Judaea, King of Judaea (c.-10 - 44) MP

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Birthdate:
Death: Died in Ceasaria, Judea
Cause of death: possibly Fournier's gangrene
Managed by: Trine Ervik Ellefsen
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About Herod Agrippa I / הורדוס אגריפה הראשון Marcus Julius of Judaea, King of Judaea

Agrippa I also known as Herod Agrippa or simply Herod (10 BC - 44 AD), King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, "Herod (Agrippa)" (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as "Agrippa the Great".

Agrippa's territory comprised most of Israel, including Iudaea, Galilee, Batanaea and Perea. From Galilee his territory extended east to Trachonitis.

Life

Rome

Josephus informs us that, after the murder of his father, young Agrippa was sent by Herod the Great to the imperial court in Rome. There, Tiberius conceived a great affection for him, and had him educated alongside his son Drusus, who also befriended him, and future emperor Claudius. On the death of Drusus, Agrippa, who had been recklessly extravagant and was deeply in debt, was obliged to leave Rome, fleeing to the fortress of Malatha in Idumaea. There, it was said, he contemplated suicide.

After a brief seclusion, through the mediation of his wife Cypros and his sister Herodias, Agrippa was given a sum of money by his uncle, Herodias' husband, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and was allowed to take up residence in Tiberias, and received the rank of aedile in that city, with a small yearly income. But having quarrelled with his brother-in-law, he fled to Flaccus, proconsul of Syria. Soon afterwards he was convicted, through the information of his brother Aristobulus, of having received a bribe from the Damascenes, who wished to purchase his influence with the proconsul, and was again compelled to flee. He was arrested as he was about to sail for Italy, for a sum of money which he owed to the treasury of Caesar, but made his escape, and reached Alexandria, where his wife succeeded in procuring a supply of money from Alexander the Alabarch. He then set sail, and landed at Puteoli. He was favorably received by Tiberius, who entrusted him with the education of his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. He also formed an intimacy with Caligula, then a popular favorite. Agrippa was one day overheard by his freedman Eutyches expressing a wish for Tiberius' death and the advancement of Caligula, and for this he was cast into prison.

Caligula and Claudius

Following Tiberius' death and the ascension of Agrippa's friend Caligula, Agrippa was set free and made governor first of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis that his cousin Herod II had held, then of the tetrarchy of Lysanias, with the title of "king". Caligula also presented him with a golden chain of a weight equal to the iron one he had worn in prison. In 39 AD, Agrippa returned to Rome, and brought about the banishment of his uncle, Herod Antipas, whose tetrarchy over Galilee and Peraea he then was granted.

On the assassination of Caligula in 41, Agrippa's advice helped to secure Claudius' accession as emperor, while he made a show of being in the interest of the senate. As a reward for his assistance, Claudius gave Agrippa dominion over Judea and Samaria, while the kingdom of Chalcis in Lebanon was at his request given to his brother Herod. Thus Agrippa became one of the most powerful princes of the east; the territory he possessed exceeded that which was held by his grandfather Herod the Great.

In the city of Berytus he built a theatre and amphitheatre, baths, and porticoes. He expressed similar magnanimity in Sebaste, Heliopolis and Caesarea. The suspicions of Claudius prevented him from finishing the fortifications with which he had begun to surround Jerusalem. His friendship was courted by many of the neighboring kings and rulers, some of whom he housed in Tiberias, which also caused Claudius some displeasure.

Reign and death

Account in Josephus

He returned to Judea and governed it to the satisfaction of the Jews. His zeal, private and public, for Judaism is recorded by Josephus and the rabbis. Perhaps because of this, his passage through Alexandria around 40 instigated anti-Jewish riots At the risk of his own life, or at least of his liberty, he interceded with Caligula on behalf of the Jews, when that emperor was attempting to set up his statue in the temple at Jerusalem shortly before his death in 41.

After Passover in 44, Agrippa went to Caesarea, where he had games performed in honor of Claudius. In the midst of his elation Agrippa saw an owl perched over his head. During his imprisonment by Tiberius a similar omen had been interpreted as portending his speedy release, with the warning that should he behold the same sight again, he would die within five days. He was immediately smitten with violent pains, and scolded his friends for flattering him and accepting his imminent death. He experienced heart pains and a pain in his abdomen, and died after five days. Acts 12 relates that he was eaten by worms, (possibly Fournier's gangrene, the same disease that may have killed his grandfather Herod the Great) after God struck him for accepting the praise of sycophants, comparing him to a god.

Josephus then relates how Agrippa's brother, Herod of Chalcis, and Helcias sent Aristo to kill Silas.

The Jewish Encyclopedia has a different account of Agrippa's reign:

   Claudius, showed himself grateful to Agrippa for important services rendered him, and upon his accession, placed under his rule the remainder of Palestine, the territories of Samaria, Judea, and Idumæa, formerly governed by Archelaus. Loaded with honors and titles, Agrippa returned home, and the few remaining years of his benevolent sway afforded the people a brief period of peace and prosperity. The evil consequences of a ruler's unbridled passions and tyranny had been sufficiently evident to him in Rome, and they had taught him moderation and strict self-control. His people regarded him with love and devotion, because he healed with tender hand the deep wounds inflicted upon the national susceptibilities by brutal Roman governors. He ruled his subjects with compassion and friendliness. Like the ancestral Asmoneans from whom he sprang through his noble grandmother Mariamne, he honored the Law. Like the merest commoner, he carried his basket of first-fruits to the Temple; with the people he celebrated appropriately the Feast of Tabernacles, and he devoted to the sanctuary a golden chain with which Caligula had honored him. On one occasion, while in the street, he met a bridal procession which drew up to let him pass, but he halted and bade it take precedence. He sought to lighten taxation, remitting the impost on houses in Jerusalem. On the coins minted by him he carefully avoided placing any symbols which could offend the people's religious sentiment. Thus, prosperity and comfort seemed to be dawning anew for the Jews. The Romans, however, became jealous of this rising prosperity, and—sometimes covertly, sometimes openly—laid all manner of obstacles in his way. When he began to repair the fortifications of the capital, he was abruptly bidden to cease. His attempts to fraternize with neighboring peoples—vassals of Rome—were construed as portending rebellion. His sudden death at the games in Cæsarea, 44, must be considered as a stroke of Roman politics. His death, while in the full vigor of his years, was deeply lamented by his people, notwithstanding the fact that he had made many considerable concessions to heathen manners and customs. The Christians looked upon his death as a judgment for his undisguised hostility to their young community (Acts, xii.)." 

The Talmud also has a positive view of his reign: The Mishnah explained how the Jews of the Second Temple era interpreted the requirement of Deuteronomy 31:10–13 that the king read the Torah to the people. At the conclusion of the first day of Sukkot immediately after the conclusion of the seventh year in the cycle, they erected a wooden dais in the Temple court, upon which the king sat. The synagogue attendant took a Torah scroll and handed it to the synagogue president, who handed it to the High Priest's deputy, who handed it to the High Priest, who handed it to the king. The king stood and received it, and then read sitting. King Agrippa stood and received it and read standing, and the sages praised him for doing so. When Agrippa reached the commandment of Deuteronomy 17:15 that “you may not put a foreigner over you” as king, his eyes ran with tears, but they said to him, “Don’t fear, Agrippa, you are our brother, you are our brother!” The king would read from Deuteronomy 1:1 up through the shema (Deuteronomy 6:4–9), and then Deuteronomy 11:13–21, the portion regarding tithes (Deuteronomy 14:22–29), the portion of the king (Deuteronomy 17:14–20), and the blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 27–28). The king would recite the same blessings as the High Priest, except that the king would substitute a blessing for the festivals instead of one for the forgiveness of sin. (Mishnah Sotah 7:8; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 41a.)

Account in the New Testament

"King Herod", mentioned in the Bible's Acts of the Apostles, is often identified as the same person as King Agrippa I. The identification is based on the description of his death, which is sufficiently reminiscent to Agrippa's death in Josephus' work, although Josephus does not verify the Bible's claims that "an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." The fact that the Bible knows the king by a different name led apologetic Bible historians to rename him as "Herod Agrippa". However, it must be noted that "Herod" was the name of Agrippa's brother, King of Chalcis and High Priest of Jerusalem, so the king described in the Bible may as well be an amalgam of several different royals.

Description of Herod Agrippa I as a cruel, heartless king who persecuted the Jerusalem church, having James son of Zebedee killed and imprisoning Peter, sounds at first to be in stark contrast with Josephus' account of a kindly man. It makes sense, however, if one recalls that Agrippa had been born and raised to revere his Jewishness. Agrippa would resent a movement begun during his absence from Judæa when explained to him by the religious leaders of Israel as a sacriligeous mission trying to equate a mere man, Jesus of Nazareth, with the One God of Judaism.

Blastus is mentioned in the New Testament as Herod's chamberlain.

Herod Antipas, uncle and predecessor of Agrippa I as ruler of Galilee and Peræa, is the Herod mentioned in the Gospels who authorized the execution of John the Baptist and played a role in the trial of Jesus (Matthew 14:3-12, Mark 6:17-29 and Luke 23:5-12).

Progeny

By his wife Cypros he had a son, Agrippa II [b.28 A.D.?-d.93 AD?], and three daughters, including:

   * Berenice, [b.28-after 81 AD] who first married her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis, and afterwards lived with her brother Agrippa, reputedly in an incestuous relationship, and subsequently married Polamo, king of Cilicia; she is alluded to by Juvenal; Bernice also had a common-law relationship with the Roman emperor Titus.
   * Mariamne, [b.34-?] who married Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes; they had a daughter Berenice (daughter of Mariamne) [b.50 AD] who lived with her mother in Alexandria, Egypt after her parents divorce
   * Drusilla, [38-79 AD] who married first to Gaius Julius Azizus, King of Emesa and then to Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judaea. Drusilla and her son Marcus Antonius Agrippa died in the eruption of Pompeii. A daughter Antonia Clementiana became a grandmother to a Lucius Anneius Domitius Proculus. Two possible descendants from this marriage are Marcus Antonius Fronto Salvianus (a quaestor) and his son Marcus Antonius Felix Magnus a high priest in 225.

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Wagner, Sir Anthony Richard; ‘Pedigree and Progress: Essays in the Genealogical Interpretation of History’ has his dates as c 10BCE - 48

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