What was the relation between the biblical king Herod and the Parthian king Orodes II who was named Hyrodes Anaridus on coins?

The son of Orodes II, Pacorus invaded Judea, however I could not find any accounts on the relation of Herod and Orodes II. Did they ever meet as members of the ruling class of two peoples at war?


Mostly we know details about Herod the Great from the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, and a bit from The Bible.

Before I get going, I want to address one thing that looks like a misconception here. During the Reign of King Herod, Judea was under the "protection" of Rome. One could (and Wikipedia today does) say it was a client state, but it would perhaps be more accurate to say it was a Roman Province, and King Herod was a glorified governor. According to Josephus, he was appointed to that position by the Roman Senate. So he's not someone who the Emperor of the Parthian Empire would likely have seen as an equal.

To be specific, Herod's history was discussed in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews*. Herod in this account was given control of Galilee at age 15, and did surprisingly well at it. There follows a lot of proclamations from various Roman rulers and political figures that appear to be included to prop up the author's claim that the Jewish domains were very important to the Romans, a bit about how Herod's father was killed, and then we go straight into the Roman Civil war after the Murder of Caesar and the Parthan invasion of Syria, with Pacorus leading the army.

I could only find two mentions of Orodes in AotJ, I'm not sure that either of them aren't actually Orodes I rather that II, and both appear to place him within the Parthan Empire. There's no mention of Herod venturing outside the Roman Empire, either. So no, there is no direct indication either of them ever met.

Indirectly, Herod seems to have mostly stayed in his domains (the exceptions being military expeditions against bandits), and Orodes II seems to have typically stayed home and let his generals handle all his army's field work. There are some mentions in Josephus of leaders sending or receiving embassies (delegations), so that seems to have been how any such communication would have been accomplished, were it to happen.

* - Obviously AotJ is out of copyright, so you can download English translations to read yourself directly from Project Gutenberg (which doesn't play nicely with my browser), or indirectly via Josephus.org.

  • Nice answer, just a small nitpick about the copyright issue: While Josephus'original work is in the public domain, that does not make all of its copies public domain. A translation of a book or the edition of a new version is considered a creative job, so new editions/translations could still be covered by copyright law. Yes, those from Project Gutenberg should be safe but I think it is worth explaining that the date of the original work is not the only relevant criteria to determine copyright status. – SJuan76 Aug 28 '18 at 22:19
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    @SJuan76 - This is technically true, but irrelevant for the point being made. The English language has also been around for quite a while, and people have been translating Josephus into it since the days when the Lenape owned Manhattan. So Public Domain translations of it aren't tough to find. Important works of a similar vintage that don't have serviceable PD English translations exist, but that's an unusual situation. – T.E.D. Aug 29 '18 at 13:34

The Parthians used Hellenistic script on their coins until the reign of Volgases. This is why Orodes, which is clearly an Iranian name, is made into Hyrodes. Herod was the son of Antipater and a Nabataean named Cypros, so he was also Hellenized.

Orodes II ordered his son Pacorus to invade the Levant, but he never traveled there himself. The Parthians deposed Hyrcanus II and placed Antigonus as a puppet king of Judea. Amidst these intrigues between these last Hasmoneans, Herod was able to become king with the backing of the Roman Senate. Orodes II died in the year that Herod became king.

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