Monday, July 02, 2007

Herod on the couch

More Herod the Great in the news: a new psychobiography makes full use of everything that has been learned in the last 50 years from archeology, medicine, study of ancient texts, and so on.

Herod, more than ever, fits into the picture of a semi-insane Hellenistic king with paranoid tendencies. Kings of that era often came from inbred families with strong tendencies towards mental illness - like the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes, made famous by Hannukah. In Herod's case, paranoia was the most obvious tendency. But so was megalomania, what with his massive building program, the largest in classical antiquity.

The new book is reviewed by Ha'aretz. The quote from Augustus is striking: Herod wouldn't have eaten or touched a pig, but he did kill his own sons.

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