Herod the Great: Statesman, Visionary, Tyrant

Norman Gelb. Rowman & Littlefield, $34 (200p) ISBN 978-1-4422-1065-3
In 2010, historian Gelb (Dunkirk: The Complete Story in the First Step in the Defeat of Hitler) switched subjects, moving from World War II to the line of Jewish kings, examining the 52 monarchs who ruled until 70 CE. He offers an in-depth analysis of one of those kings, Herod the Great, appointed king of Judea by the Romans in 37 BCE, holding the office for more than 30 years until he died. Most of what we know about Herod is from the historian Josephus, who was born forty years after Herod died. Josephus and other ancient chroniclers depicted Herod as cold, calculating, cruel, and brutal. He mistrusted most of his ten wives and sons, executing at least one of the wives and a number of the sons, fearing that they were trying to replace him. Despite Herod's dark streak and mental instability, Gelb tries to revamp the monarch's image, stressing the cities and structures he built, including his reconstruction of the Temple, and asserting that "his positive achievements may be considered to have outweighed his brutality and tyrannical rule." This is an exemplary illustration of revisionist history. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
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