Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Review of Herod exhibition

MENACHEM KAISER has a long, detailed, and well-informed review in Tablet Magazine of the Israel Museum's Herod the Great exhibition: Herod’s Edifice Complex: The great Judean builder and his outsized ego are the subject of a monumental Israel Museum exhibit. (Sorry about the lame pun in the title.) Excerpt:
What’s so interesting and admirable about this exhibit is that it isn’t content to catalog and applaud Herod’s construction projects, it also attempts to convey the man (and the ego) behind them. We can admire all that he built and accomplished, but what do we really think about the guy? Herod the man was morally atrocious, but as a politician, he was something of a phenom. He switched loyalties with astonishing finesse, aligning first with Mark Antony and then with Mark Antony’s usurper, Augustus. He ruled effectively, if forcefully, and oversaw peace and relative prosperity (if at the expense of the occasional violent suppression). The Hasmoneans—whom Herod displaced and is in political competition with—were strife-ridden. But the Hasmonean dynasty has been, rightly or wrongly, appointed as the Zionist predecessors, and Herod the Roman King has often been cast as the anti-Zionist (though in a particularly non-modern sense). The exhibit, in subtle and interesting ways, seeks to challenge this reputation. His political acumen is celebrated; his cruelty isn’t glossed over; and his architectural legacies are laid out like trophies.
More on the exhibition here and links.