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Herodias, daughter of Aristobulus -- son of Herod the Great and Mariamne -- was a descendant of the famous Hasmonean heroes, the Machabees, who had done so much for the Jewish nation. Having married Herod Philip, her own uncle, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, Herodias longed for social distinction, and accordingly left her husband and entered into an adulterous union with Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, who was also her uncle (Jos., Ant., XVIII, v, 1, 4). St. John the Baptist rebuked Antipas for this union and thus aroused the hatred of Herodias, who by the dance of her daughter brought about the death of the prophet ( Matthew 14:3-12 ; Mark 6:17-29 ). Josephus gives the main facts, but adds that John was put to death because Herod feared his influence over the people (Ant., XVIII, v, 2, 4). Schurer admits that here both the Evangelists and Josephus may be right ; since all the motives mentioned may have urged Herod to imprison and murder John [Hist. (Eng. tr.) Div. I, V, ii, 25].

When Agrippa, the brother of Herodias became king, she persuaded Antipas to go to Rome in search of the royal title, as his claim to it was far greater than that of her brother. Instead of a crown, however, he found awaiting him a charge of treason against the Romans, with Agrippa as chief accuser, who in advance had sent messengers to defeat the ambitious plans of Antipas. He was therefore banished to Lyons in Gaul. At the same time Herodias, spurning the kind offers of the emperor, preferred exile with Antipas to a life of splendour in the palace of her brother Agrippa (Jos., Ant., XVIII, vii). This generosity, if we may so style it, came from her Hasmonean blood, but her cruelty she inherited from her grandfather Herod (see HEROD under ANTIPAS ).

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