Monday, 21 July 2014

The Daughter Of Herodias

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod
on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high
captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and
danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king
said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt,
and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her,
Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee,
unto the half of my kingdom.

Mark 6:14-29 (King James)

Daughter of adultery, there is but one who can save thee, it is He of whom I spake. Go
seek Him. He is in a boat on the sea of Galilee, and He talketh with His disciples. Kneel
down on the shore of the sea, and call unto Him by His name. When He cometh to thee
(and to all who call on Him He cometh), bow thyself at His feet and ask of Him the
remission of thy sins.

~ by Oscar Wilde ("Salomé")

"It is better to be Herod's swine, than his son" ~ Emperor Augustus

Salome with the head of John the Baptist (by Vania Zouravliov)


Machaerus, Transjordan

Machaerus was the easternmost of Herod the Great’s restored palatial fortresses and the last Hellenistic court.

The fortified hilltop palace stood fifteen miles east of the Jordan River and rose impressively some 1,100 metres above the Dead Sea.

It was surrounded by deep ravines on all sides and could be seen from as far north as Alexandrium and as far south as Masada.

The original fortress was destroyed by Pompey's general Gabinius in 57 BC but it was to be resplendently rebuilt by Herod the Great in 30 BCE and used as a military base to safeguard his territories east of the Jordan.

The Herodians were to become one of the most infamous dynasties in the ancient world.

Herod Antipater (known as Antipas derived from Antipatros) was the youngest son of Herod the Great by the Samaritan Malthace.

He was named to power by Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, and ascended the throne in 4 BCE and would govern Galilee and Perea for forty-two years.

Herod Antipas was regarded by many as a puppet ruler of Rome.

In 17 AD, to honour his Roman patron; he constructed his capital Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Tiberius had been built on top of an old Jewish cemetery and no pious Jew would ever enter it, so the tetrarch colonised it with Greeks and Romans, forced migrants, poor people and freed slaves.

Antipas had been bought up in the shadow of his increasingly deranged father in an atmosphere of paranoia.

Herod the Great was of Idumaean origin and legally counted as Jewish but although the Romans proclaimed him "King of the Jews" he was regarded as only a second class Jew by the Judean aristocracy.

His rival the Hasmonean king and high priest Antigonus II Mattathias referred to Herod as a "half-Jew".

Herod the Great was an attractive and sensual man who was an outstanding rider, hunter and soldier.

Yet he suffered from a Paranoid Personality Disorder and experienced intermittent depressive episodes.

He also had a narcissistic character and a deep seated inferiority complex.

One of his sons would later claim that Herod dyed his hair black and standing beside his father he had to stoop as he was taller than him.

Not for nothing would the Emperor Augustus remark; "It is better to be Herod's swine, than his son".

For Herod the Great would dispatch three of his own sons.

His sons by Mariamne, Alexandros and Aristobulus, were both executed on his orders. Another son, Antipas, was executed for treason.

He could not kill a pig because he kept kosher among the Jews; yet he had no reservations about killing his own children.

Herod the Great would also have his conniving mother-in-law Alexandra and his beloved second wife Mariamne 1 (known as Mariamne the Hasmonean) executed.

Forty-six leading members of the Sanhedrin and all the remaining members of the Hasmonean family would be put to death.

In 35BC, he had his brother-in-law, the High Priest Aristobulus, drowned because he suspected him of disaffection. Another brother-in-law, Kostobar, was put to death soon afterwards

And Herod the Great would have no qualms about killing a handful of babies in a small, obscure village south of Jerusalem called Bethlehem in order to keep his throne secure for himself and his sons.

Herod married ten times for political purposes.

He had countless concubines and fifteen recorded children.

Yet Mariamne 1 was his favourite.

Her father was Alexandros of Judaea, son of Aristobulus II and she was renowned for her beauty.

Herod suspected Mariamne of having an affair with his uncle Joseph and so had Joseph killed. Herod killed both his sister's husbands (she married one after he killed the first one).

Yet Mariamne 1 was eventually executed on the false accounts of infidelity spread by his sister Salome.

According to Herod's sister, not only had his wife been unfaithful but she had been plotting to poison him as well.

The paranoid ruler had his beloved wife executed.

Mariamne 1 was garroted to death in 29 BCE at the age of twenty-five.

Her conniving mother followed her to her death.

The loss of Herod's beloved wife completely unhinged the ruler.

According to the Talmud, Herod preserved Mariamne 1 in honey and possibly continued having relations with her corpse (Bava Batra)

His madness found its outlet in obsessive behaviour and outbursts of savagery.

Herod the Great was one of the most profuse builders of the ancient world.

While in power, he built amphitheatres, palaces, fortresses and Gentile temples

But his most famous architectural exploit was the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple in the eighteenth year of his reign from 20 BCE.

"He who has not seen Herod's building, has never in his life seen a truly grand building." 
(Talmud-Bava Basra)

It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount which was built on Mount Moriah and was larger than the Acropolis in Athens.

Viewed from without, the Sanctuary had everything that could amaze either mind or eyes. Overlaid all round with stout plates of gold, the first rays of the sun it reflected so fierce a blaze of fire that those who endeavoured to look at it were forced to turn away as if they had looked straight at the sun. To strangers as they approached it seemed in the distance like a mountain covered with snow; for any part not covered with gold was dazzling white... 
(The Jewish War)

But there was outrage when Herod the Great erected Rome's golden eagle above the entrance to the Temple.

The act was regarded as an abomination in Judaism.

About forty men including Judas, son of Saripheus and Matthias, son of Margolothus, who were well loved by the Jewish people, removed the golden eagle and hacked it to pieces with axes.

Even though the ruler lay dying, he had the men captured and burned alive as punishment.

Herod the Great demonstrated significant skill as a diplomat, fundraiser and military leader yet he ruled with a tyrannical authority and a ruthless suppression of dissent.

He was a servant of the Roman Empire who counted the Emperor Augustus, Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony as personal friends and patrons.

Even the sex crazy Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (known as Cleopatra) attempted to seduce Herod the Great for her own ends.

But he was apparently immune to her considerable charms. 

Herod the Great died in Jericho in 4 BCE of chronic kidney disease which was probably complicated by Fournier’s gangrene and was buried in Herodium.

Like his father, Herod Antipas was egotistical and fond of grandiose statements.

He had a suspicious nature and was weak willed, yet he was also ambitious and consumed with a quest for power.

Neither Herod Antipas nor Herodias had been raised as religious Jews.

But many of Herod's Galilean subjects were and like his father Herod Antipas was fond of posing as a Jewish leader, celebrating Passover and Sukkoth in Jerusalem.

Antipas was called the “Friend of the Emperor” and he was regarded by many in Judea as a puppet ruler of Rome.

Machaerus (
The Herodian dynasty knew how to keep their Roman masters happy.

It was another blisteringly hot day.

Herod Antipas traversed the resplendent halls of his palatial hilltop fortress in southern Peraea, like a man in a fever.

His conscience was greatly troubled.

Herod could see the wizened face of John (known as Johanan) the Baptiser in every face that turned to him.

He could see the desert preachers piercing eyes gazing into his troubled soul.

Johanan knew all his secrets ...

The ascetic desert preacher was imprisoned in a roughly hewn, cavernous cell beneath the palace.

And Antipas secretly admired him and often stole away to listen to him.

He believed that the prophet Elijah had risen again in the Baptiser and he was afraid to have him put to death.

Today John's words burned in Herod's head like a red hot poker.

“It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife”

Beads of sweat had formed at Herod's brow and he was breathing heavily.

He felt suffocated.

Herod Antipas had saturnine good looks.

He was tall and swarthy with coal black eyes, curly black hair and a luxuriant beard.

Antipas was resplendently attired in extravagant princely raiment and a bejewelled hat.

It was stiflingly hot and the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea felt a driving urge to come out into the light.

The conflicted man could still hear the stark words of the Baptiser in his head.

They had taken on a life of their own.

And were like daggers to the heart.

Like rats scurrying through a drain pipe.

Herod had gone early that morning to see the ascetic in his dimly lit cell.

The emaciated preacher could barely be seen in the gloom.

But his words resounded with power and echoed all around him.

The unmistakable authority of a prophet.

Herod Antipas was in awe of John the Baptiser.

And he was very popular with the crowds who had come to hear his message of repentance and to be baptised by him in the shallows of the Jordan River.

Amid the clamour, a new preacher had emerged.

He was said to have been a former follower of the Baptiser.

And nobody had ever seen anyone like him before.

He preached with authority, healed the sick and raised the dead.

But he did not fully reveal his true identity.

He was called Jesus (known as Yeshua) the Nazarene.

And he had identified the prophet Elijah as the Baptiser.

Antipas was greatly intrigued by Yeshua but he did not dare listen to him preach.

These were troubling times for Herod.

The Baptiser was vastly popular with the people.

And the crowds were in a filthy mood.

Herod Antipas both admired and feared the desert hermit.

And he was too frightened to take any decisive measures against the Baptizer because of the likelihood of an uprising.

Now Antipas was given to futile attempts to bargain with the Baptizer in his dingy cell.

But John was implacable.

In spite of his emaciated frame, the desert preacher exuded an indescribable power that shook the tetrarch to his core.

"This woman Herodias is the wife of your brother Herod Philip!" The Baptiser declared in a resonant voice "Send her back and repent!"

His words echoed around the damp cell.

They hung ominously in the air.

Cutting through Herod's heart like a dagger.

"I have ... been thinking of ...  repentance .." Herod Antipas stammered.

He dearly wanted to believe his own words.

But the desert ascetic stared back at the tetrarch with searing black eyes.

He was looking straight into Herod's soul.

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established on righteousness!" The Baptiser replied firmly.

He was quoting Proverbs and the words struck Antipas as a blow.

"I have a mind to release you ..." Herod declared with as much bravado as he could muster.

His urgent voice reverberated around the dank cell.

But there was only silence for several long moments.

Herod Antipas had no intention of releasing him - even if he wanted to.

"You hear but you do not listen!" The Baptiser answered him sharply.

He was asking Herod Antipas to look into his heart and to amend his ways.

While the tetrarch attempted to mollify him with empty promises.

There was nothing more to say.

The desert ascetic disappeared back into the gloom.

Leaving a conflicted Herod Antipas behind.

Johanan may have been imprisoned in a grim roughly hewn cell.

But the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea was already in hell.

That was over an hour ago and the words of the desert hermit were still thundering around the Herod's head like a lightening storm.  

His heart was racing and he was sweating profusely.

Herod pushed the heavy shutters open and began taking in deep breaths like a dying Galilean fish gulping for air.

He squinted in the blinding light.

Antipas looked out across the elegantly tiled courtyard to an open window where two figures were standing.

His strikingly beautiful wife and her precocious teenage daughter.


The two females at the centre of his world.

Herodias whispered something into her daughter's ear.

Salome glanced at Herod Antipas and smiled knowingly.

And suddenly the tetrarch had almost forgotten to breathe.

Herodias was thirty-five years old.

She was the daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, daughter of Hyrcanus and the sister of King Agrippa 1.

Herodias was formally married to Herod Philip 1, son of Herod I and Mariamne II, to whom she bore a daughter.

He was the half-brother of Herod Antipas and ruler of the region of Ituraea.

Antipas had attended a party in Rome which his half brother’s family hosted, and it was there that he met and fell in love with Herodias.

It was there that he seduced her.

Herod Antipas quickly jettisoned his first wife Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, and Herodias readily divorced Herod Philip 1.

Both Herod Philip 1 and Herod Antipas were uncles of Herodias.

The couple were married to the outrage of the Jewish people; but there was to be another disastrous outcome.

King Aretas IV promptly declared war upon Herod Antipas.

And Antipas was humiliatingly defeated.

Jewish law regarded the marriage of Antipas to his sister-in-law while her former husband was still alive as incest.

Johanan had thus appeared like a fiery beacon in the desert.

He had been living out in the uninhabitable wilderness of Judæa which extended the whole length of the Dead Sea, and a few miles further north.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" The wild Baptiser proclaimed to the crowds who came to hear him.

He imparted his message; preaching "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".

And there in the shallows of the Jordan River, the ascetic camel hair clad prophet baptised every one of his believers.

The Baptiser vociferously condemned the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias.

"It is not lawful," Johanan informed Herod Antipas, "for thee to have thy brother's wife."

Herodias was a strikingly beautiful woman.

She was fine boned with onyx black eyes and abundant black hair.

Herodias dramatically rimmed her eyes with black kohl and painted her lips red and she dressed to impress in lavish queenly attire that accentuated her beauty and reinforced her status.

The elegant woman carried herself majestically but beneath the regal demeanour and exquisite garb lay a cruel and calculated woman.

A proud woman with a decidedly ruthless streak.

Herodias was ambitious for her husband.

Herod Antipas was in thrall to his autocratic wife and she dominated him.

The girl beside her implicitly obeyed her.

Salome was her mother's daughter.

And Herodias had taught her well.

She was a teenager who was just discovering her powers.

An oriental princess with the looks of a Greek goddess.

Salome was already hauntingly beautiful.

She had almond-shaped black eyes, chiseled features and a long swan like neck

Her bountiful raven hair flowed loosely about her bare shoulders and she rimmed her eyes with black kohl and adorned herself with intricate jewellery.

The royal princess attired herself in the Hellenic and oriental fashion and she moved in beauty with effortless grace.

Salome was an exotic flower.

Herod Antipas came away from the window.

His captivating step-daughter had fired a dart straight to his heart with her flashing black eyes.

Salome was an innocent.

She was still but a child.

But she would soon be a woman.

Herod Antipas shook these musings away.

He was in no mood to fixate on the charms of his step-daughter.

The words of the Baptiser had stricken him as a blow.

But gradually the tetrarch was gathering himself together.

The sight of his striking wife and her delectable daughter had restored him.

And as the internal storm subsided, Herod Antipas suddenly realised that he was actually jealous of the eyes that followed his young step-daughter.

The sudden comprehension struck him quite forcibly.

"She is but a child!" He muttered.

But she would soon be counted a woman.

Herod Antipas quickly looked back out of the window.

But Herodias and her captivating daughter had already gone.

Antipas was immediately shaken out of his reverie by the sound of a large black raven which had descended upon a bare tree.

The bird squawked loudly at Herod as if omitting a warning to him.

For several long moments the tetrarch stared at the noisy creature.

Was the raven a dark symbol of things to come?

Herod Antipas pushed the thought out of his mind and quickly closed the shutters again.

He had had enough of cryptic allusions and prophetic signs for one day.

It was late afternoon and the sun was still high in the sky.

Several soldiers had retired to the lush Pompeian garden of the hilltop fortress of Machaerus to fan themselves against the scorching heat of the relentless sun.

In a rare moment of informality - the muscular military men let down their guard to engage in a few bawdy jokes to pass the time.

Suddenly a small figure appeared in the middle distance like a vision or desert mirage.

The exotic young girl was swathed in fine yellow silk which emphasised the curves of her agile body.

She wore a golden coronet upon her head and countless gold bangles jangled at her wrists.

All eyes followed her as she glided gracefully through the fragrant garden.

The men would have looked away as decency bade them but instead they stared at her as if in a trance.

The girl paused briefly to pluck a jasmine flower.

And the soldiers were momentarily silenced as they observed her.

Forgetting how to speak.

Time had suddenly stopped.

Even the sun had been dazed.

The girl glanced briefly at the men with her glittering black eyes.

Paralysing them with one look.


The soldiers were whispering her name like a lover.


Soon she would be a woman.

And they could smell her intoxicating perfume.


Then she was gone.

And the fierce sun returned again.

Johanan the Baptiser (
The soldiers could breathe once more.

Three Weeks Later

Herod's birthday was fast approaching and the festivities were expected to be lavish.

His clever wife knew how egotistical her husband was and he was to be completely indulged in the presence of all the leading men of Galilee.

Now she silently observed the pensive Herod Antipas sitting on his elegant throne with a frown upon his swarthy face.

He had been lost in his own thoughts for most of the day.

Salome was coiled at his feet like a Judean serpent.

She was sitting upon a luxurious red velvet couch and absent mindedly plucking at some dates in a silver platter beside her.

Her long raven hair was loose upon her bare shoulders and her filmy gown clung to her taut body.

Salome was a delectable creature just becoming aware of her feminine powers.

Herodias smiled knowingly as she silently watched her mischievous daughter playfully tugging at the golden sandals of her step-father.

Salome giggled lightly.

And Herod Antipas smiled indulgently at the delightful young girl at his feet.

Then he threw back his head and laughed.

Salome looked up at him with an impish expression on her face.

She took a succulent date from the silver platter beside her and placed it in Herod's mouth.

The tetrarch grinned with satisfaction.

He had been shaken out of his melancholia.

Herodias almost clapped her hands with glee.

Salome looked up and caught her mother observing them from behind a curtain.

She smiled knowingly at her.

Herodias had indeed taught her well.

Unbeknown to them; a fourth person had also been quietly witnessing the scene.

Huza was a steward of Herod's and a great admirer of the Baptiser.

A diligent and principled man who was troubled by the tangled web of intrigue around him.

He would have much to share with his wife Johanna that night.

Herod Antipas had always been in awe of his wife.

He had been bought up amid the fetid atmosphere of his father's court and had never known true affection.

He may have been egotistical like his father and given over to boastful promises and grandiose statements but he had a conscience.

John the Baptiser stridently condemned the marriage of Herod to his half-brother's wife.

Not only had the marriage been conducted during the lifetime of his wife's husband, but Herod Philip 1 and Herod Antipas were also her uncles.

He regarded the marriage as unnatural and unlawful.

The Baptiser publicly humiliated the royal couple by vociferously decrying their union and for commanding Herod to cast Herodias out.

Herodias would dearly have loved to put John to death.

She had little love for the emaciated ascetic who was said to have lived out in the desert wilderness and had preached to large captive audiences.

Herodias had little use for his strange message of repentance or for the ritual of baptism that characterised it.

The Baptiser had publicly insulted her and her marriage and he was an affront to her pride and dignity.

He was a dangerous insurgent who deserved to die.

But Herod Antipas prevaricated over taking any decisive action against John.

He both admired and feared the desert preacher.

And Herodias took advantage of Herod's weakness to prey on his insecurities.

She goaded him; warning him that the popular preacher could easily stir up an insurrection.

Eventually Antipas capitulated and had the Baptiser arrested.

The anchorite was shackled and bought to the hill top fortress of Machaerus where he was put  in a roughly hewn cell beneath the palace.

But much to the chagrin of his wife; Herod Antipas did not have Johanan put to death.

The desert preacher was left alone while Herodias seethed.

The crowds were in a riotous mood at the arrest of the Baptiser and they clamorously protested outside the fortress.

They heartily abused Antipas and Herodias whenever they ventured out of the palace in their fine litter.

They decried Herodias  as the "disgrace of Israel" and Herod as an "adulterer"and they called for the release of the Baptiser.

Only a swift battalion of armed guards were able to disperse them.

All of this merely served to fan the bitter resentment of Herodias.

She was determined to be avenged upon the desert ascetic.

And she was utterly mortified at the powerful effect of the Baptiser upon her husband.

The desert preacher could have met with an unfortunate accident or been killed outright but she knew she would have to be much more subtle than that.

Herodias was afraid that Antipas would bow to popular sentiment and have the Baptiser released as an act of clemency.

She knew how easily swayed Herod could be.

And she could not allow this.

As Herod's birthday festivities loomed large, the cunning woman imagined an opportunity that would settle the matter.

Herod Antipas had a huge ego like his father.

And Herodias knew all his weaknesses.

Now she was bringing the devil into the situation. 

As Herodias silently observed her husband delight in the coquettish Salome, a devilish seed began to grow in her mind.

Three Days Before The Festivities

Salome stole away to observe the Baptiser in his cavernous cell beneath the palace.

He both fascinated and repelled her.

John was dirty and dishevelled with a straggly beard and long matted black hair.

He had a withered face, piercing black eyes and swarthy skin.

His body was skeletal from rigorous fasting and months of privation in his cell and Salome quickly surmised that he had the look of the deranged.

Yet even in the half light, the Baptiser still had a penetrating gaze.

Herodias would have been mortified to know that her daughter had visited the desert preacher.

But a morbid curiosity had taken hold of Salome.

There was a wildness about the Baptiser that both intrigued and repulsed her.

His strange words were an enigma to her.

Now she looked down upon him in the gloom.

The desert ascetic was naked and shackled like a wild animal.

His voice echoed commandingly around the cell as he recounted scripture verses.

Even alone and in the darkness - he preached.

The Baptiser always referred to Salome as the "daughter of inequity".

She didn't understand his words and yet she was fascinated by the bedraggled preacher who had caused so much trouble.

The man her mother despised.

"Daughter of inequity!" The Baptiser addressed her "Leave this place of sin!"

There was an intense look in his black eyes.

His words had unsettled her.

"Are you mad?" Salome asked him simply.

"Depart from this place of sin!" John the Baptiser urged her "People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy!"

The preacher was speaking in riddles.

Yet his fiery black eyes were burning into Salome.

There was an undeniable power about him.

And the daughter of Herodias felt naked before him.

As if he had uncovered her sinfulness.

As if he knew all about her.

How dare he speak to her like that?

Salome quickly scampered away leaving the Baptiser in the darkness.

Herod's Birthday Banquet

In the grand banqueting hall at Machaerus, Herod Antipas was entertaining a large company of men.

The party was being held two weeks before Passover and the tetrarch had already thrown a similar party on the second night of Purim, which was the Feast of Esther.

Antipas had thrown the second party with many of the same guests, with some of the preparations being the same and some different.

The lavish feasts had been been attended by his high officials and military commanders - his magnates and chiliarchs - and the leading men of Galilee.

At the first party, the night's entertainment included a professional oration on the dramatic tale of Esther in Persia but the entertainment at the second party promised to be special.

Herod had been drinking heavily all night and had fallen into a sentimental reverie.

He had been completely indulged at the sumptuous banquet fit for a man who wanted to be "King of the Jews" like his father.

The lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee were grandly entertained with oriental music and the choicest foods and wine.

Herod Antipas and his illustrious guests had been in a fine mood all evening.

And the night was still young.

Beneath the splendid palace something stirred in the darkness.

John the Baptiser had been imprisoned in his cavernous cell for eighteen months now.

But he knew that his captivity would soon be over.

Above the rough hewn cave that served as his prison, John could hear the muffled sounds of merrymaking.

"They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous" He declared "and condemn the innocent blood."

Both parties had been meticulously planned.

Herodias knew how weak her husband was and she knew how to flatter his ego.

And now the time for entertainment had arrived.

There was a frisson of excitement as all eyes were suddenly drawn to the slender figure that had entered the banqueting hall and was standing in the centre of the floor.

Tongues were instantly hushed.

The daughter of Herodias had arrived.

Salome was dressed in a filmy golden gown which clung to her taught body and her long raven hair was loose about her shoulders.

She was no longer a teenager.

She was a ripe and sultry creature.

"Behold the princess Salome!" A voice cried.

The esteemed revellers duly broke out into delighted clapping.

A bright eyed Herod Antipas sat bolt upright on his sumptuous couch.

This was going to be an unforgettable night.

Torch light's were quickly snuffed out as the ambiance changed.

Only a shaft of light illuminated the agile young girl crouching in the centre of the floor.

The musicians struck up again, but this time the evocative oriental music had a Persian influence and was moodier and more intense.

Salome rose gracefully and began to move to the hypnotic rhythm.

Her whole body moved in undulating waves as she rolled, circled and dropped.

She moved like a Judean serpent to the throbbing oriental music.

All eyes were fixed upon her.

The dancing girl had become the music.

She was dancing to the beat of Herod's heart.

He devoured her with his hungry eyes.

Outside the banqueting hall, Herodias lurked in the shadows as if she had been expelled from Paradise.

She was dressed in a dramatic beaded black gown and she looked like a black Judean scorpion.

Upon her head she wore a jewel encrusted high hat and she had painted her striking face and adorned herself with gems and precious stones.

She was Jezebel.

Herodias was waiting impatiently in the shadows for the culmination of all her scheming.

Back in the banqueting hall, Herod Antipas had fallen into a trance.

Salome had mesmerised him with her magnificent performance.

The vivid music was becoming more urgent.

The tension continued to mount as the princess began to spin in circles to the resounding rhythm of the evocative oriental music.

Salome was dancing as if she were possessed by a spirit.

Her black eyes were flashing brightly and her long raven hair was swirling around her.

Round and round she span to the spellbinding music.

Few could rival Salome for her excellence in dance.

She had perfect form.

Outside the banqueting hall, Herodias could barely contain her jittery excitement.

Salome was her daughter.

And she had taught her well.

Jerusalem Temple (
The music was reaching its crescendo and the passionate dance was reaching its climax.

Herod Antipas was sweating profusely now as the princess danced with wild abandonment.

Finally it was over.

And Salome tumbled dramatically to the floor amid rapturous applause and terms of endearment.

She was breathing heavily when at last she looked up at her step-father, her compelling face was framed by heavy matted black hair like a moon surrounded by dark clouds.

Herod Antipas slumped back on his sumptuous couch.

He was in a state of bliss as he looked proudly around him at all the awe struck faces of his upper class guests.

Evidently they had been transported by Salome's transcendent performance.

A magnificent performance such as this deserved an equally prestigious reward.

Full of boastful pride before all his esteemed guests - Herod threw all caution to the wind.

"Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it," Antipas told Salome "Whatever you ask for I will give you, even half of my kingdom."

An audible gasp arose among his esteemed guests.

Herod was quoting the words of Xerxes in the story of Esther.

It was more than Salome could have wished for.

But it was exactly what her mother had wanted.

Herod's upper class guests were astonished by his grandiose gesture and they avidly watched as the princess sprang out of the banqueting hall.

Herodias was waiting expectantly for her daughter in the shadows outside.

A smile slowly crept across her striking face.

Back in the banquet hall, the musicians had struck up again and an inebriated Herod Antipas finished another goblet of wine and motioned for some more.

There was excited murmuring among the illustrious guests as the merrymaking resumed.

Quickly the daughter of Herodias returned and the music was silenced.

Everyone stared in wonder at the beautiful teenager.

Herod Antipas cast away his goblet.

"What sayist thou?" He cried.

"I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist" Salome hissed.

Her black almond shaped eyes were glittering brightly and there was a half smile on her face.

An audible gasp had arisen among his upper class guests.

Herod Antipas was crestfallen.

He had suddenly been struck with sobriety.

Antipas shook his head feebly.

But the oath had been made in the presence of all his guests.

Herod could not risk being made to look a fool before them.

Reluctantly he motioned for several guards to do the deed.

Below in the darkness, Johanan closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, his cavernous cell was already filling with guards.

"Into thy hands I commend my spirit!" He cried.

It was all over in a matter of moments.

Herod Antipas attempted to keep up his bravado for the sake of his guests.

But a mounting sense of regret was growing deep within him.

Presently a servant entered the grand banqueting hall carrying a platter.

A low murmur had arisen among the esteemed guests observing the scene.

The decapitated head of the Baptiser had been covered with a cloth.

Bowing low, the servant presented the platter to the daughter of Herodias.

Salome slowly pulled away the cloth and stared with muted horror and awe at the severed head of the desert preacher.

He still looked alive.

As if he would open his eyes at any moment.

His withered face was smeared with blood and his mouth was slightly open.

The upper class guests had been stunned into a shocked silence.

But now they muttered excitedly among themselves.

Herod Antipas looked on.

The Baptiser was gone.

He was no longer among them.

And a growing sense of guilt had descended upon the tetrarch.

A guilt that would linger over him for the rest of his days.

Precipitously the daughter of Herodias carried the platter out of the banqueting hall.

Herod Antipas watched the girl depart.

He had done it all for her.

It was amazing what a man would do for a woman.

Then he motioned to the musicians to strike up again.

"Wine!" He exclaimed loudly "Wine! Wine! Wine"

Herodias was eagerly waiting for her daughter outside the banqueting hall.

She was holding her head high and there was a look of triumph upon her face.

Salome handed the platter with the severed head of the Baptiser upon it to her mother.

And the woman received it with a devilish glee.

Mother and daughter gazed with morbid fascination at the decapitated

At last his lips were silent.



Herodias took the severed head of the Johanan the Baptiser and buried it in a dung heap.

Later, Johanna, who was married to Herod's steward Huza, secretly took the head and buried it on the Mount of Olives.

After the execution of the Baptiser, his disciples retrieved his body and buried it at Sebaste beside the prophets Elisha and Obadiah's tombs.

Yeshua the Nazarene continued to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God, to exorcise and to heal the sick.

Following an incident in the Jerusalem Temple, he was arrested and executed on the orders of Pontius Pilate.

His followers including his immediate family claimed to have seen Yeshua again after his death.

Herod Antipas attempted to attain the title of king from his brother-in-law.

Agrippa 1 concurrently presented the emperor Caligula with a list of charges against the tetrarch: alleging that he had conspired against Tiberius with Sejanus (executed in 31 AD) and was now plotting against Caligula with Artabanus.

In 39 AD Herod Antipas was exiled to Lugdunum in Gaul and his money and territory was turned over to Agrippa.

He died shortly after.

Herodias had been jealous of her brother Agrippa 1's success, and it was she who persuaded her husband to denounce him before the Emperor.

But her plans backfired and she later joined Herod in exile.

It was her own scheming that eventually ruined her husband.

Salome married twice.

She was first married to Philip the Tetrarch of Ituraea and Trakonitis.

After Philip's death in 34 AD she married Aristobulus of Chalcis and became queen of Chalcis and Armenia Minor.

She had three sons; Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus.

The daughter of Herodias lived to a good age.

Salome (by Vania Zouravliov)