< IT’S BAD ENOUGH that folks remember Herodias as Galilee’s First Lady of Don’t Mess with Me—for getting the head of John the Baptist served up on a platter merely because he called her a sinner. But she had stink left in her after killing John.
In fairness to the First Lady, John got personal—calling her an incestuous pervert and all.
He didn’t put it quite that way, but close enough. He called her out for breaking that particular Jewish law.
Herodias had divorced her husband, Herod II (ruled 4 BC-AD 34), so she could marry his younger, richer brother, Herod Antipas of Galilee (ruled 4 BC-AD 39). Though that might rate as an upgrade today, Jewish law called it incest: “Don’t have sex with a close relative….Don’t have sex with your brother’s wife” (Leviticus 18:6, 16).
As the story goes—one of the most famous in the Bible—Herodias’ daughter, Salome, danced one fine number for her stepdad’s birthday party. Grateful as all get out, he offered her a gift of her choice. She asked her mom to help her choose. They got John’s head.
I know that story well. But here’s the Friday Fun Fact, something I had forgotten: Herodias later stirred up enough of a stink in her own family to get herself and her husband kicked off the continent.
It seemed to start when Herodias talked her husband into helping her brother, Herod Agrippa I, out of a financial fix. A bailout. In time, the two Herods didn’t like each other anymore. Money disagreement? Who knows.
Herodias’s brother happened to be friends since childhood with Caligula, a wacked emperor if there ever was one. Caligula made her brother king of a territory, which got Herodias a bit jealous. She convinced her husband to ask Caligula for a promotion, so he could be a king, too. At the time, his job title in Latin, the language of Rome, was closer to “governor” than “king.”
Bad timing on the request.
Her husband showed up in Rome at the same time his still-ticked brother-in-law arrived…to charge him with treason.
Herod Agrippa said his sister’s husband had stockpiled enough weapons for an army of 70,000 men, which he probably intended to use in a revolt against Rome.
Herod Antipas admitted the weapon’s stash, but denied it was for a revolt.
What’s an emperor to do? Promote him or kill him?
Split the difference.
Caligula banished him to France. Herodias went, too.
Probably just a coincidence, but a first-century writer named Pliny reported something new coming out of France about that time: soap.