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Inside Herod’s Courts: Social Relations and Royal Ideology in the Herodian Palaces

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Abstract The article examines the social relations in Herod’s royal courts according to the archaeological discoveries in the Herodian palaces of Jericho, Masada, and Caesarea and what kind of political self-image is represented by these palaces. Space Syntax Theory (Access Analysis) is used to examine the spatial plan of these five palaces. Until 15 B.C.E. Herod was interested in maintaining an open court, being easily approachable to many visitors. It therefore seems that Nicolaus and Josephus exaggerated in their depiction of Herod’s suspicious and antisocial behavior. In the last decade of his reign Herod’s palaces reflect discreteness and the division into segregated sections. Access to the king became more remote. Social interaction became more hierarchical, stressing the king’s privacy and his control over his visitors with low interaction potential. The archaeological evidence shows that Herod transformed his court structure and royal posture several years before Josephus’ report of the emergence of his grave suspicions of Alexander and Aristobulus. His social behavior changed drastically sometime before 15 B.C.E., that is, before his paranoia became worse.

Affiliations: 1: Bar-Ilan University


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