Under the patronage of Mark Antony, then in control in Rome, Herod was appointed king of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 40 BCE, and set out to claim his kingdom from his rival, the usurper Antigonus. Until his dizzying elevation, Herod had been a provincial governor in Galilee, but with Roman support eventually cornered and captured Antigonus in the Temple in Jerusalem. Antigonus was duly executed; Herod, a shrewd politician, switched his allegiance from Mark Anthony to Octavian. When Octavian became Emperor Augustus, Herod was rewarded with a welcome pack of territorial baubles Anthony had previously lavished on his lover, Cleopatra: Gaza, Joppa, Caesarea, Jericho and Gadara. Further territories would be awarded to him in the northeast in 22 BCE. Herod was a great builder, and not all of it was self-glorifying (Jerusalem’s water supply system, for instance). He was an exacting ruler, but perhaps not the monster portrayed in the Bible.
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