Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Herod's Other Victim

I was musing, as you do, on the subject of Salome.

You know, Salome. Herod's step-daughter. Sexy Salome. Sultry, sexy Salome. The one whose dirty dancing raised Herod's "he-rod". That Salome. Yes, I know she's not called Salome in the Bible. Probably wasn't called Salome at all. Because the actual Salome was the daughter of Herod. And that makes this little story even nastier than it already is. But alliterates, dunnit? So let's go with it.

2,000 years of being cast as Salome the Stripper. Salome the femme fatale whose foxy frolicking beguiled a king into murdering John the Baptist.

No. The villains are Herod and Herodias. There's Herod. The King. The big cheese. Numero uno, the head honcho. Except he's not. He's the puppet princeling, there to keep the Pax Romana. Walking the tightrope between upsetting the Jews and letting down the Romans. Either way he could end up with his head disconnected from his body. And there's Herodias. The woman who actually has used her wiles to grab some power. She's got a problem with John the Baptist. Because if Herod is the Jew he claims to be, he shouldn't be married to his brother's ex-wife. And if Herod takes the Jewish law seriously - as John keeps demanding - then Herodias is going to be a former queen.

The ironies are there, across the Gospels. Herod offers up to half his kingdom - a kingdom that's not really his, which the Romans aren't seriously gonna imagine him offering to a girl. And the girl can have "anything she asks for." But it's not the sort of thing a teenager is going to ask for that she gets. A bloody prophet's head ain't a pony, or even the 1st century equivalent of a career in the IT world. The thing she gets is the thing that her mother needs, to keep her backside on the throne that Herod is so fearfully trying to ensure he keeps the other half of.

So she's not a sultry temptress, a siren, a stripper, a seducer.

She's Herod's other victim.

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