Agrippa I: Wikis


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Coin minted by Herod Agrippa I.
For other with this name, see Agrippa (disambiguation).

Agrippa I also called the Great (10 BC - 44 AD), King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice.[1] His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, "Herod (Agrippa)" (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as "Agrippa the Great".[2]





Josephus informs us that, after the murder of his father, young Agrippa was sent by Herod the Great to the imperial court in Rome. There, Tiberius conceived a great affection for him, and had him educated alongside his son Drusus, who also befriended him, and future emperor Claudius.[1] On the death of Drusus, Agrippa, who had been recklessly extravagant and was deeply in debt, was obliged to leave Rome, fleeing to the fortress of Malatha in Idumaea. There, it was said, he contemplated suicide.[3]

After a brief seclusion, through the mediation of his wife Cypros and his sister Herodias, Agrippa was given a sum of money by his uncle, Herodias' husband, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and was allowed to take up residence in Tiberias, and received the rank of aedile in that city, with a small yearly income. But having quarrelled with his brother-in-law, he fled to Flaccus, proconsul of Syria. Soon afterwards he was convicted, through the information of his brother Aristobulus, of having received a bribe from the Damascenes, who wished to purchase his influence with the proconsul, and was again compelled to flee. He was arrested as he was about to sail for Italy, for a sum of money which he owed to the treasury of Caesar, but made his escape, and reached Alexandria, where his wife succeeded in procuring a supply of money from Alexander the Alabarch. He then set sail, and landed at Puteoli. He was favorably received by Tiberius, who entrusted him with the education of his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. He also formed an intimacy with Caligula, then a popular favorite. Agrippa was one day overheard by his freedman Eutyches expressing a wish for Tiberius' death and the advancement of Caligula, and for this he was cast into prison.[1]

Caligula and Claudius

Laureate head of Caligula left, Germanicus in triumphal quadriga right.

Following Tiberius' death and the ascension of Agrippa's friend Caligula, Agrippa was set free and made governor first of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis that his cousin Herod II had held, then of the tetrarchy of Lysanias, with the title of "king". Caligula also presented him with a golden chain of a weight equal to the iron one he had worn in prison. In 39 AD, Agrippa returned to Rome, and brought about the banishment of his uncle, Herod Antipas, whose tetrarchy over Galilee and Peraea he then was granted.[4]

On the assassination of Caligula in 41, Agrippa's advice helped to secure Claudius' accession as emperor, while he made a show of being in the interest of the senate. As a reward for his assistance, Claudius gave Agrippa dominion over Judea and Samaria, while the kingdom of Chalcis in Lebanon was at his request given to his brother Herod III. Thus Agrippa became one of the most powerful princes of the east; the territory he possessed exceeded that which was held by his grandfather Herod the Great.

In the city of Berytus he built a theatre and amphitheatre, baths, and porticoes. He expressed similar magnanimity in Sebaste, Heliopolis and Caesarea. The suspicions of Claudius prevented him from finishing the fortifications with which he had begun to surround Jerusalem. His friendship was courted by many of the neighboring kings and rulers,[1] some of whom he housed in Tiberias, which also caused Claudius some displeasure.[4]

Reign and death

Account in Josephus

Agrippa I prutah.

He returned to Judea and governed it to the satisfaction of the Jews. His zeal, private and public, for Judaism is recorded by Josephus and the rabbis. Perhaps because of this, his passage through Alexandria around 40 instigated anti-Jewish riots.[4] At the risk of his own life, or at least of his liberty, he interceded with Caligula on behalf of the Jews, when that emperor was attempting to set up his statue in the temple at Jerusalem shortly before his death in 41.

After Passover in 44, Agrippa went to Caesarea, where he had games performed in honor of Claudius. In the midst of his elation Agrippa saw an owl perched over his head. During his imprisonment by Tiberius a similar omen had been interpreted as portending his speedy release, with the warning that should he behold the same sight again, he would die within five days. He was immediately smitten with violent pains, and scolded his friends for flattering him and accepting his imminent death. He experienced heart pains and a pain in his abdomen, and died after five days.[5] Acts 12 relates simply that he was eaten by worms (possibly Fournier's gangrene, the same disease that may have killed his grandfather Herod the Great).[6]

Josephus then relates how Aggripa's brother, Herod of Chalcis, and Helcias send Aristo to kill Silas.[7]

Account in the New Testament

Coin of Herod of Chalcis, showing Herod of Chalcis with brother Agrippa I crowning Roman Emperor Claudius I.

"King Herod", mentioned in the Bible's Acts of the Apostles,[8] is often identified as the same person as King Agrippa I. The identification is based on the description of his death, which is sufficiently reminiscent to Agrippa's death in Josephus' work, although Josephus does not verify the Bible's claims that "an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." The fact that the Bible knows the king by a different name led apologetic Bible historians to rename him as "Herod Agrippa". However, it must be noted that "Herod" was the name of Agrippa's brother, King of Chalcis and High Priest of Jerusalem, so the king described in the Bible may as well be an amalgam of several different royals.

Description of King Herod as a cruel, godless king that persecuted the Jerusalem church, had James son of Zebedee killed and imprisoned Peter, is in stark contrast with the Josephus' account.


By his wife Cypros he had a son, Agrippa II, and three daughters, including Berenice, who first married her uncle Herod III, king of Chalcis, and afterwards lived with her brother Agrippa, and subsequently married Polamo, king of Cilicia; she is alluded to by Juvenal;[9] Mariamne, and Drusilla, who married Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judaea.[10][11][12][13]

Agrippa in other media

  • Herod Agrippa is the protagonist of the Italian opera, L’Agrippa tetrarca di Gerusalemme (1724) by Giuseppe Maria Buini (mus.) and Claudio Nicola Stampa (libr.), first performed at the Teatro Ducale of Milan, Italy, on August 28, 1724.[14]
  • Herod Agrippa is a major figure in Robert Graves' novel Claudius the God, as well as the BBC television adaptation I, Claudius, (wherein he was portrayed by James Faulkner). He is depicted as one of Claudius' closest life-long friends.


  1. ^ a b c d Mason, Charles Peter (1867), "Agrippa, Herodes I", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, pp. 77–78,  
  2. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xvii. 2. § 2
  3. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xviii. 7. § 2
  4. ^ a b c Rajak, Tessa (1996), "Iulius Agrippa (1) I, Marcus", in Hornblower, Simon, Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press  
  5. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xix. 345-350 (Chapter 8 para 2)
  6. ^ "King Herod Agrippa". Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  7. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xix. Chapter 8 para 3 But before the multitude were made acquainted with Agrippa's being expired, Herod the king of Chalcis, and Helcias the master of his horse, and the king's friend, sent Aristo, one of the king's most faithful servants, and slew Silas, who had been their enemy, as if it had been done by the king's own command.
  8. ^ Acts 12:1-23
  9. ^ Juvenal, Satires vi. 156
  10. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xvii. 1. § 2, xviii. 5-8, xix. 4-8
  11. ^ Josephus, The Wars of the Jews i. 28. § 1, ii. 9. 11
  12. ^ Cassius Dio lx. 8
  13. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History ii. 10
  14. ^ G. Boccaccini, Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts (Turin: Zamorani, 1992).


External links

Wikisource-logo.svg "Agrippa, Herod, I.". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  

Preceded by
37-41 CE. Crisis under Caligula
King of Judaea
41 CE – 44 CE
Succeeded by
Agrippa II

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Agrippa I. article)

From BibleWiki

The grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus and Bernice. The Roman emperor Caligula made him governor first of the territories of Philip, then of the tetrarchy of Lysanias, with the title of king ("king Herod"), and finally of that of Antipas, who was banished, and of Samaria and Judea. Thus he became ruler over the whole of Palestine. He was a persecutor of the early Christians. He slew James, and imprisoned Peter (Acts 12:1-4). He died at Caesarea, being "eaten of worms" (Acts 12:23), A.D. 44. (Comp. Josephus, Ant. xix. 8.)

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This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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