by David M. Jacobson
New York: Routledge, 2019. Pp. xxiv, 232.
Illus., maps, chron., stemma, tables, appends., notes, biblio., index. $124.00. ISBN: 1138331813
A Long-Neglected King of Judea
Although the grandson of the biblical villain Herod the Great, and the longest reigning and of the Herodian dynasty, Herod Agrippa II (fl. c. A.D. 28-c. 95) lacked a biography in any language until now.
Dr. Jacobson (King’s College London) opens with a critique of the Agrippa found in the works of Flavius Josephus (fl. c. 37-100), whose depiction of the man has largely colored his treatment by later scholars. Jacobson points out the many contradictions, omissions, and inconsistencies in Josephus’ account and then discusses the rather numerous other sources upon which he drew for this work.
Jacobson makes a good case that Agrippa was rather successful in juggling his roles as a client of the Roman Empire and both the king of an extensive, heavily Jewish state and the guardian of the Temple of Jerusalem and of the office of High Priest. He also shows us that Agrippa II lacked the political dexterity, ingenuity, and personal connections with the imperial house of his father, Herod Agrippa I (11 B.C.-A.D. 44). Jacobson faults Agrippa for failing to foresee and perhaps avert the “Jewish Revolt” of 66-71. He offers a very interesting account of the war, during and after which the king almost literally disappears as an important actor.
Jacobson gives us profiles of the various Jewish factions and many of the actors in the events of Agrippa’s life, among them several emperors, various high priests, generals, and others, as well as the king’s sister Berenice, lover of the later emperor Titus.
An impressive piece of scholarship – the footnotes are well worth reading – Agrippa II, a volume in the series “Routledge Ancient Biographies”, is a valuable work for any scholar of the period and particularly for the study of the First Romano-Jewish War.
Note: Agrippa II is also available in several e-editions.
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