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Herod and Augustus

  • Author: David M. Jacobson, Nikos Kokkinos
  • Series: Papers Presented at the IJS Conference, 21st-23rd June 2005
  • ISBN 10: 9004165460
  • Publisher:  Brill Academic Publishers
  • Published: 2009-01-30
  • Pages: 502
  • Language: English
  • Format:  PDF
  • Price: $284.00

This volume brings together nineteen studies by foremost experts in the period of Herod and Augustus, and highlights recent progress in elucidating the phenomenon of Herod the Great in the context of the Roman imperial order inaugurated by Augustus. They illuminate Herod’s pre-eminent role in the Augustan client network and his remarkable energies, expressed in an extensive building programme which has left substantial remains. The literary records of Herod’s life and times, primarily by Josephus, are critically examined here in relation to the documentary and archaeological evidence.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Jacobson (Ph.D. London University) is both a scholar of classical archaeology and a materials technologist, holding a Chair in Manufacturing Technology at Buckinghamshire New University. He has served on the Executive of the Palestine Exploration Fund for over a decade and chairs its Publications Committee. He has published widely on Herodian history, architecture and numismatics, most recently a monograph on The Hellenistic Paintings of Marisa (2007). Nikos Kokkinos (D.Phil. Oxford University) is a Wingate Scholar and Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London. He has written numerous articles on literary, documentary and archaeological material, and his books include The Enigma of Jesus the Galilean (Greek, 1980/2007), Antonia Augusta (1992/2002), The Herodian Dynasty (1998), and The World of the Herods (editor 2007).

Review of this book:

Jacobson, David M., and Nikos Kokkinos, eds.

Herod and Augustus: Papers Presented at the IJS

Conference, 21st–23rd June 2005

IJS Studies in Judaica 6

Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp. xiv + 502. Hardcover. $304.00.

ISBN 9004165460.

Joshua Schwartz

Bar-Ilan University

Ramat-Gan, Israel

This volume, which contains nineteen contributions based on papers presented at a conference entitled “Herod and Augustus,” held at University College London in June 2005, highlights recent progress in the study of Herod the Great in light of the Roman imperial order inaugurated by Augustus. They deal with Herod’s role in the Augustan client network as well as with his extensive building projects and their remains. The literary evidence in relation to Herod’s life and times, primarily found in Josephus, is examined in relation to other documentary and archaeological evidence.

The studies (as was the conference) are arranged around seven themes. The first, “Augustan and Herodian Ideology,” contains three articles. Erich Gruen discusses Herod, Rome, and the Diaspora; Karl Galinsky deals with the Augustan program of cultural renewal and Herod; and Achim Lichtenberger studies Romanization and Herodian building policy.

The second section is devoted to “Literary and Documentary Evidence.” Four papers appear in this section: Mark Toher deals with Herod, Augustus, and Nicolaus of Damascus. The second paper, by Joseph Sievers, is a study in historiography dealing with historian Richard Laqueur’s groundbreaking views on Josephus published some ninety years ago in his classic Der jüdische Historiker Flavius Jospehus: Ein biographischer Versuch auf neuer quellenkrtischer Grundlage. Donald T. Ariel discusses Herodian coins in the context of the Augustan empire, and David Goodblatt deals with the dating of documents in Herodian Judea.

The third section of the book, devoted to “Augustan and Herodian Building Programmes,” includes three studies. Joseph Geiger deals with public building and economy, Ehud Netzer with palace complexes, and Joseph Patrich with entertainment structures. The fourth section of the book is on “Individual Herodian Sites” and contains only two articles. Barbara Burrell discusses the Herodian harbor at Caesarea, and Dan Bahat deals with the architectural origins of Herod’s Temple Mount. The following section, “Applied Arts in the Herodian Kingdom,” likewise contains only two papers. The first, by Silvia Rozenberg, is a study of wall paintings of the Hellenistic and Herodian periods in the Land of Israel, and the second, by Malka Hershkovitz, deals with Herodian pottery.

The next section is devoted to “Administrative and Client Network” and includes four articles. Anthony A. Barret discusses the significance of the procuratorship in terms of the special relationship between Herod and Augustus. Denis B. Saddington deals with the place occupied by Herod in the military situation in the Near East, Stephan G. Schmid examines Nabatean royal propaganda as a response to Herod and Augustus, and John Creighton deals with Herod’s contemporaries in Britain and the West. The final section of the book, “Religion under Augustus and Herod,” includes only one article, that of Daniel R. Schwartz, who deals with religion and state in Herodian Judea and Augustan Rome. The articles of the volume theoretically revolve around an axis of fresh insights on developments in the cultural sphere that were fostered by the Principate of Augustus and its reciprocal relationship with client monarchies, among which was Herod’s Judea.

Herod’s kingship was conspicuous due to both the industriousness of Herod himself, which left its mark in the material remains of his impressive building program, and also on account of the substantial written record of his reign left to us by Josephus. While academic conferences seek to provide hospitable venues for fruitful scholarly encounters and discussions as well as to serve as catalyzers for future research, the publication of conference proceedings often suffers from an uneven or choppy nature. Rarely will a scholar publish his or her best scholarship in such a volume, and often the contributions are somewhat peripheral to a scholar’s main body of research. Moreover, while every attempt is usually made by the editors to remain within the established thematic parameters, it is not always possible to maintain a unifying thread. It is also obviously impossible to present a “complete” picture of anything in such a volume. A topic such as “Herod and Augustus” might fill up many volumes of scholarly research. The present volume, while suffering from some “structural” oddities, which should have been corrected,1 is generally of a high level and makes an important contribution to scholarly research on Herod and Augustus.2 Obviously, it is impossible to relate to all the articles in the book, and I shall make do with reference to only a few.

The first section on “Augustan and Herodian Ideology” contains three articles, each of which attempts to be groundbreaking. Erich Gruen (“Herod, Rome, and the Diaspora”) questions the accepted depiction of Herod as benefactor of Diaspora Jews. Indeed, Herod came to the defense of the Jews of Ionia in Asia Minor, but it is not clear, according to Gruen, whether this represents the ideological position of Herod or just the image he wished to project. Did Herod’s general policy of building and beneficence regarding many sites in the Mediterranean Basin have any particular connection to the Jews? Did he actively use Roman connections to protect them, and is there a connection between the Jewish communities, or their size, and the choice of sites in which Herod showered his benefactions? Without coming to clear-cut answers on all of these issues, Gruen states that the posture that Herod first and foremost presented was that of a Hellenistic monarch and all that that implied. Karl Galinsky (“The Augustan Programme of Cultural Renewal and Herod”) seeks to understand Herod’s policies and activities within the context of the Augustan “revolution” or “program.” Today the “Roman revolution” is seen not only in terms of politics, and revolving around Rome and Italy, but from a wider perspective with a shift from political to cultural phenomena. Herod emerged as a major culture force. His building activities beyond Judea were second only to those of the Augustan family in the eastern Mediterranean, and this was all part of a multilayered phenomenon of “Romanization” in the east. The last article in this section, that of Achim Lichtenberger (“Herod and Rome: Was Romanisation a Goal of the Building Policy of Herod?”), ties in nicely with the study of Gruen. The reason for the adoption of Roman material culture by Herod is not so much the material’s “Roman” character but rather its high quality and expense. His ability to acquire such luxuries should be interpreted as an expression of Herod’s royalty, and Romanization in Herod’s kingdom was not a goal of Herodian policy but rather the result of Herod’s claim to be a Hellenistic king. It should be pointed out, though, that being a Hellenistic king does not actually preclude a policy of Romanization.

The sections on “Augustan and Herodian Building Programmes” and “Applied Arts in the Herodian Kingdom” study Herod and Romanization from a different perspective. While the three articles cited above present Herod over and over as a Hellenistic monarch, Joseph Patrich (“Herodian Entertainment Structures”) shows that in the entertainment structures built by Herod, there was an amalgamation of Greek and Roman functions and styles, as was evident in all domains of his activity and characteristic of a Hellenized monarch at the service of the Romans. Romanization did not preclude Hellenization and vice versa. Silvia Rozenberg (“Wall Paintings of the Hellenistic and Herodian Period in the Land of Israel”) shows that the Herodian style of decoration, and particularly of wall paintings, was not necessarily Hellenistic, as was the case in Hellenistic sites in Palestine that drew heavily on Greek styles or on those current in Hellenistic centers. Rather, decoration in Herodian sites such as Jericho, Masada, Herodion, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Sebaste, to cite a few, were closest to styles that originated in Italy, and thus the most important influences in the case of these cities came from Rome. Malka Hershkowitz (“Herodian Pottery”) shows that the ordinary household repertoire in Jerusalem during Herodian times was not all that ordinary. Jerusalemite painted pottery, especially bowls, represent a unique kind of tableware that was in use in daily life and reflect a period when the material culture atmosphere was open to changes and innovations. The ordinary household ware, alongside local wares, included types of newly imported pottery such as thin-walled ware, eastern Sigillta A imported from northern Syrian centers, western Terra Sigillta, Pompeian red ware, and wine amphorae from Italy. Foods and beverages were also imported from Italy.

The only article that this reviewer found to be problematic was that of Dan Bahat, “The Architectural Origins of Herod’s Temple Mount.” This is also the only article that does not fit within the chronological framework of the volume. Bahat does not study the Temple Mount during the Herodian period, but rather what he perceives to be the origins of the Herodian Temple Mount, that is, the Hasmonean Temple Mount (and earlier). Bahat correctly understands Josephus as providing the best information for the Herodian period but claims that the major source for the understanding of Hasmonean times is Mishnah Tractate Middot and particularly m. Mid. 2:1, which gives the dimensions of the Temple Mount as “five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits.” Bahat claims that this and most of the tractate reflects Hasmonean times.

While this view might have been common in the past, and has been accepted even relatively recently,3 there are few scholars today who would agree that any tractate of the Mishnah, in whole or in part, is so early as to reflect Hasmonean times. This is simply not accepted any more in terms of the study Mishnah and Temple.4 Moreover, it has been shown that the halakic Temple Mount (i.e., the Temple Mount that is 500 cubits x 500 cubits) is equal in measurement to the Outer Court of the Herodian Temple as described by Josephus.5 The measurement in Middot is consistent, then, with the measurements of the Herodian period Temple Mount. The origins of the Herodian Temple Mount are, thus, not to be found in the Mishnah, and the same is true of Bahat’s reconstructions from the rest of the Mishnah regarding the pre-Herodian period.

All in all, though, the volume represents a significant contribution to the study of the interrelationships between the world of Augustus and that of Herod.


1 The structure of the book generally follows that of the conference


Dan Bahat’s article on the archaeological origins of Herod’s Temple Mount originally was not given in the framework of “Individual Herodian Sites” but rather as a separate public lecture. It does not really deal with a Herodian site but rather with a “pre-Herodian” site and is, therefore, somewhat extraneous to this volume. The article was included in this section apparently because Gideon Foerster’s lecture on Masada was not published. The editors might have simply combined “Individual Herodian Sites” with “Augustan and Herodian Building Programmes.” The section on “Religion under Augustus and Herod” rather oddly includes only one study, that of Daniel R.Schwartz. At the conference, Ittai Gradel presented a paper on the imperial cult under Augustus. When this paper was not published, the editors should have moved the one remaining one to another section. The awkwardness of the present structure is perhaps reflected in the fact that the editors, in their introduction, present the articles in a different order than that of the published volume. The logic of the order in their introduction is bewildering.

2 While this reviewer generally refrains from commenting on the price of volumes under review, the price of this volume $304 (or €203) is unforgivable. For a detailed discussion of the price of this book and implications for academic libraries and scholarship, see the review of Seth Schwartz of this volume that has recently appeared in Jewish History 24 (2010): 205–8.

  1. September 1, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Pulitzer prize material here.

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