There are different Herods in the Bible. We have Herod the Great who ruled when Jesus was born and Herod Antipas, who ruled later.

I have seen in several places that Herod the Great is called "king" and Herod Antipas is called "tetrarch", apart from some texts written with simple language like Gospel of Mark where he is also called king.

My question is – was Herod Antipas a true, "full" king? Or does his title suggest that he was someone lower than king? Was he coronated? Is a tetrarch a king or something more like a prince or duke?

  • A "vassal king" would be a succinct phrase to define his lordship over his kingdom. He was subject to Rome, owing them tax, and promised military support if invaded. – 3961 Sep 6 '16 at 21:03
  • I haven't researched, but I think you could probably find the answer in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews. It's available online (somewhere). The wikisphere-based answers probably point to Josephus at some point. – user22553 Sep 6 '16 at 21:54

Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great and younger brother of Archelaus (both by Malthrace). Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. Herod the Great's initial political career was as the the governor of Galilee, and later he was appointed as king over Judea by Caesar Octavius (Augustus). After he died, there was some conflict as to which of his sons were to become king of Judea (ultimately, none of them became king over all of Judea as he was). Herod made an amendment to his will just days before his death indicating that Archelaus should be king, but it didn't play out that way.1

Herod had written six wills during the course of his life. The sixth will was actually a codicil of his fifth will. Since this final version had been written only five days before his death, it had not been ratified by the emperor. Therefore, although Archelaus took over the leadership at Herod’s death he did not use the title king (Antiq. 17.8.4 §§202–3; War 2.1.1 §§2–3). After the Passover he and Antipas set out for Rome to dispute the last two wills, leaving Philip behind to govern. Archelaus wanted to convince Augustus that he should ratify the will made just before Herod died, because it represented his wish. On the other hand, Antipas sought to convince the emperor that Herod had not been of sound mind and body when he wrote the last will. While they were in Rome there was a revolt in Palestine, and a Jewish delegation arrived in Rome to ask autonomy for the nation and for union with the province of Syria. After much debate Augustus devised a compromise. He made Archelaus ethnarch (meaning “ruler of a nation”) over Idumaea, Judea, and Samaria. He made Antipas tetrarch (meaning “ruler of a quarter”) of Galilee and Perea and Philip tetrarch over Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Paneas (Antiq. 17.11.4 §§317–20; War 2.6.3 §§93–100). Thus, Antipas, while losing his bid to be king, did prevent Archelaus from ruling the entire nation.2

So to clearly answer the question, Herod Antipas was "ruler of a quarter" (tetrarch) over Galilee and Perea. I've highlighted these regions in red/pink in the map below.

Galilee & Perea3

1 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 967-8.

2 Ibid., 968. I linked all of the primary sources cited in the Encyclopedia to the English translations of the works available for free on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library so that you can read them for yourself.

3 Map from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perea#/media/File:First_century_Iudaea_province.gif (edited to highlight Galilee and Perea).


At the time before, during, and after Christ, the "kings" of Judea ruled at the pleasure of the Roman Emperor. The history I try to piece together below is found in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.

Herod the Great was the last king of all Jews, with the irony that he himself was not officially Jewish, having been born to an Arab mother (Wars of the Jews, 1.8.9). His son, Herod Antipas, at one point was designated to succeed him, but did not, as described below.

  • Herod the Great himself was originally a tetrarch, having been made so along with his brother, Phasaelus, by Marc Antony (Antiquities of the Jews, 14.13.1). A few years later, Herod essentially bribed Marc Antony into convincing the Senate and Julius Caesar to appoint him as king over all the Jews (14.4.5).

  • After Julius Caesar's death in 44 BC, civil war erupted between Marc Antony and Caesar's successor, Octavian. Herod, being a fairly astute politician, managed to travel to Rome and get Octavian to confirm (reconfirm) him as King. (15.6.7)

  • Some years later, Herod the Great developed a terrible illness (17.6.1). At this time, he bequeathed his kingdom to his son, Herod Antipas. As his disease grew progressively worse, however, he changed his mind and bequeathed to Antipas a tetrarchy only - of Galilee and Berea, and designated his other son Archelaus as his successor (17.8.1). This may have been in part due to mental derangement from his sickness, which Josephus describes (17.16.9):

His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree.

  • Archelaus' position as king, however, was disallowed by Caesar when he was asked to confirm it (since it was Caesar's, and not Herod's to give). As a result, Archelaus was given only half of the kingdom: Idumea, Judea, and Samaria. His brother Philip was given Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis; while Herod Antipas was given Perea and Galilee (17.11.4).

  • Ten years later, certain "principal men" of Judea and Samaria complained directly to Caesar about what Josephus termed Archelaus' "barbarous and tyrannical usage" of them (17.13.2). As a result, Caesar banished him from Judea and sent him to the then backwater of Vienna, in Gaul.

  • Following Archelaus' banishment, Judea was attached to the Roman province of Syria, under the Roman senator Cyrenius (18.1.1). He also sent a certain Coponius to serve as a Procurator, with "supreme power over the Jews". Herod Antipas remained installed, however, as the tetrarch over Perea and Galilee

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