AGRIPPA II. (or in full MARCUS JULIUS AGRIPPA; known also as Herod Agrippa II.):
By: M. Brann
Son of Agrippa I. He was born in the year 28, and according to a statement that is not uncontradicted (Photius, "Bibliotheca," cod. 33), it is said that he died in the year 100. He was educated in Rome, where he saw much of the court life that had been so harmful to his father. It proved just as detrimental to him, for he reached maturity just at the time that Messalina and Agrippina dared to flaunt the most fearful depths of profligacy in public. On the sudden death of his father, the emperor Claudius desired him to enter into the full inheritance of all his rights and titles, but upon the advice of court favorites he refrained from doing so. Once again Judea was handed over to the care of procurators, and for the time being the young man was detained at court. Here he had the opportunity of being helpful to his coreligionists from time to time (Josephus, "Ant." xv. 11, § 4; xx. 1, § 2) and of acquiring proficiency in all the arts of courtly flattery.Succeeds Herod II.
On the death of Herod II., Agrippa succeeded in having the former's post promised him. In the year 50, without regard to the rights of the heir to the throne, he had himself appointed ("B. J." ii. 12, § 1; "Ant." xx. 5, § 2; 9, § 7) to the principality of Chalcis by the emperor, and also to the supervisorship of the Temple at Jerusalem, which carried with it the right of nominating the high priest. Within three years—possibly before he left Rome to assume the dignity of his office—the emperor presented him with larger territory in exchange for Chalcis, giving him the tetrarchy of his great-uncle Philip—over which Agrippa's father had also ruled—together with that of Lysanias (Abilene), and the district of Varus ("Ant." xx. 7, § 1; "B. J." ii. 12, § 8). Nero, when he became emperor, added to this territory, giving him considerable tracts of Galilee and Perea.Coins of Agrippa.
These transfers took place probably in the years 53 and 61, and thus enabled him to inscribe these two years on his coins as the dates of the beginning of his reign ("Wiener Numismatische Zeit." iii. 451). In the stamping of these coins he showed no consideration whatever for the religious scruples of the Jews. Nearly all of them bear the names and effigies of the reigning emperor (10th year, sometimes his own also), and even heathen emblems (11th year). He abused the right to appoint and remove the high priests, and in his selections rarely took the fitness of the appointee into consideration. He lived in constant strife and quarrel with the priests. At one time he encroached on their privileges by ordering the Levites to assume garments similar to those of the priests (see Büchler, "Die Priester u. der Cultus," p. 144). At another time he added a watch-tower to the Herodian palace in Jerusalem, which permitted him to see into the Temple courts; but in defiance the priests raised the Temple wall.
He gratified his desire for the erection of beautiful buildings, especially in his capital, Cæsarea Philippi, which he adorned with magnificent edifices, and which, in order to flatter Nero, he called Neronias ("Ant." xx. 9, § 4). He led a lordly life, devoid of care, without a thought for the unhappy destiny of his people, who were inevitably hastening toward their national downfall. Unlike his father, whom he otherwise emulated in all things, he abandoned all attempt to secure political independence for the Jews from their Roman master. When the final struggle broke out he saw safety and salvation for his people only in blind submission to the emperor, and employed his brilliant eloquence to warn the inflamed leaders against extremes, and counseled the return, so far as possible, to calmness and deliberation. But his words were without avail ("B. J." ii. 16, §§ 4, 5); he barely escaped from Jerusalem with his life. From that time he stood unreservedly on the side of the Romans, and even assisted them with his troops. He actually went so far, after the capture of Jotapata, as to deliberately invite Vespasian and his army to his capital, to celebrate the occasion of the conquest of the Jews. The drunken festivities and unrestrained debauchery that ensued lasted for three weeks. He then joined the conquerors in their victorious march onward.
As a reward for this valuable aid against his own brethren the Romans spared his beautiful city, Tiberias. On receipt of the news of the downfall of Nero, Vespasian sent his son Titus, accompanied by Agrippa, to Italy to pay homage to the new emperor. While on their journey the tidings reached them that the new emperor had already been murdered; Titus turned back, but Agrippa continued his journey to Rome ("B. J." iv. 9, § 2). He left Rome only when he heard that Vespasian had been exalted to the imperial throne (Tacitus, "Hist." ii. 81), and joined Titus, to whom Vespasian had entrusted the continuation of the war, and remained with him until the destruction of the Temple (Tacitus, "Hist." v. 1). In compensation for this new aid against the Jews, Vespasian enlarged his dominions (Photius, "Bibliotheca," cod. 33), and conferred upon him, in the year 75, the rank of pretor (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 15).
Of his religious life very little that is praiseworthy can be mentioned. It is true that he insisted that the heathen princes who wooed his handsome sister should undergo circumcision ("Ant." xx. 7, §§ 1, 3), and that once, suffering from a revulsion of feeling, he shed tears before the assembled congregation on the reading of the passage Deut. xvii. 15-20 (see Tosef., Soṭah, vii. 15; Yer. Soṭah, 22; Bab. Soṭah, 7, 8). But the people hated him for his arbitrary treatment of the high-priesthood, and for the adoption of the heathen emblems on his coins. He certainly never desired to embrace Christianity, for the utterance attributed to him in Acts, xxvi. 28, is evidently to be taken as a jest.
His private life seems to have been anything but creditable. The worst of reports were current at home, as well as in Rome, concerning his relations with his beautiful but profligate sister Berenice, afterward the mistress of Titus ("Ant." xx. 7, § 3; Juvenal, "Satires," vi. 153). He died childless (100), surviving the downfall of Judea only a few decades. Josephus, the historian, was indebted to him for numerous corrections and additions. Probably Agrippa gave him these for the purpose of justifying and defending his own acts ("Vita," § 65; compare Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iii. 9). With him the race of Herod ends.
- Josephus, Ant. xix., xx.;
- idem, B. J. ii., vii. (ed. Niese, see index);
- Acts, xxv. 13 et seq.;
- on inscriptions see Schürer in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1873, pp. 248 et seq.;
- Zeit. Deutsch. Paläst. Ver. vii. 121 et seq.;
- Monatsschrift, xix. 433 et seq., 529 et seq., xx. 13 et seq.;
- Bärwald, Josephus in Galiläa u. sein Verhältniss zu den Parteien, Breslau, 1877;
- Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, iii. 4th ed., 14 et seq.;
- Libowitz, Herod and Agrippa (Hebrew), 2d ed., New York, 1898.