What do we know about King Herod historically?
Herod the Great known in the Bible as the monster who ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem, is a well known figure in ancient historical records. According to the Amazing Bible Timeline Herod was born in 74 BC, 24 years after Julius Caesar and during the same decade that Buddhism was introduced to China.
“The Gospels tell us that Christ’s birth was shortly before Herod the Great died. Herod’s death can be fixed with certainty.Josephus records an eclipse of the moon just before Herod passed on. This occurred on March 12th or 13th in 4 B.C. Josephus also tells us that Herod expired just before Passover. This feast took place on April 11th, in the same year, 4 B.C. From other details supplied by Josephus, we can pinpoint Herod the Great’s demise as occurring between March 29th and April 4th in 4 B.C.
It might sound strange to suggest that Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 B.C. since B.C. means ‘before Christ.’ But our modern calendar which splits time between B.C. and A.D. was not invented until A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, poor Dionysius missed the real B.C./A.D. division by at least four years!
Now Matthew tells us that Herod killed Bethlehem’s babies two years old and under. The earliest Jesus could have been born, therefore, is 6 B.C. Through a variety of other time indicators, we can be relatively confident that the one called Messiah was born in either late 5 or early 4 B.C.” (from http://bible.org/article/birth-jesus-christ)
In 2007 two different groups of scientists added information to the facts about his life. Where he was buried. How he died.
Where Herod the Great Was Buried
In May 2007, Ehud Netzer (of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem) announced to the world that after a lifetime’s search, he had uncovered the remains of Herod the Great’s tomb (BBC coverage; London Times story).
The likely site of the tomb – Herodium – is a man-made fortress of immense scale with many buildings, monuments, trackways and open spaces. Herodium is located in the West Bank some eight miles from Jerusalem.
How Herod The Great Died
“Herod the Great expired from chronic kidney disease probably complicated by Fournier’s gangrene,” according to the medical investigative work of Jan Hirschmann, M.D., staff physician at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and professor of medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
The texts that we depend on for a close description of Herod’s last days list several major features of the disease that caused his death—among them, intense itching, painful intestinal problems, breathlessness, convulsions in every limb, and gangrene of the genitalia,” says Hirschmann. (from a news release by the Veterans Administration at http://www.newswise.com/articles/what-killed-king-herod in January 2002)
As always Wikipedia has a wealth of information on Herod the Great all in one entry