BAR 28:02, Mar/Apr 2002
Herods Horrid Death
Physicians have long debated what caused King Herods death, but there is no doubt (or disagreement) that his demise was a horrid one. Many would say it was also well-deserved.
We know the kings symptoms in some detail from the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus actually wrote two accounts, the first in his Jewish Wara narrative of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, 6670 C.E., written in the late 70sand the second in his Jewish Antiquitiesa much longer history of the Jewish people, written in the 90s. He wrote both works while he was in Rome. The second account of Herods final illness is more detailed than the first, but both are largely dependent on the firsthand account of Nicolaus of Damascus, who was Herods daily companion and thus an eyewitness to the kings condition.1 Nicolaus was also in direct contact with the court physicians who treated Herod. Nicolaus wrote a 144-volume history of the world, but unfortunately almost all that remains of the Jewish section of this work is what was quoted or otherwise used by Josephus.