At the time of the birth of Jesus Judaea and Galilee were separate political entities. In 37 BCE the Roman client king, Herod the Great (74/73–4 BCE), was proclaimed by the Romans to be the ‘King of the Jews’ with authority over Judaea, Galilee and Samaria. During this period Herod ruthlessly suppressed popular revolts, courted Roman patronage, and embarked on an ambitious programme of public works in Jerusalem. But the general population was deeply resistant to his romanizing and hellenizing tendencies. The Galileans refused to accept his authority, and formed a resistance group, called the Zealots. On Herod’s death in 4 BCE his kingdom was divided between his three sons. Jerusalem and Judaea were under the authority of Archelaeus, who proved himself incapable of dealing with his Jewish subjects. In 6 CE the Romans brought the province of Judaea under direct rule. Jesus came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, which was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Antipas, who also ruled Peraea. In this prosperous region, where the population was predominantly Jewish, the economy was based on agriculture and fishing. Herod’s third son, Philip, ruled the territory north and east of the Jordan until his death in 34 CE. In the east, the Decapolis was a league of ten Greek cities, which functioned as autonomous city-states.
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