Salome

On the occasion of the birthday celebration for Herod Antipas, the lascivious gyrations of Salome culminated in an offering from her shocked and aroused uncle for anything her heart desired, including half of his kingdom. Salome said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention the dance of young Salome before her uncle that brought about the murder of John the Baptist.

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. (Mark 6:24–26)

Herodius hated John the Baptist for often criticizing her incestuous marriage to Herod Antipas (see Herodius). Though tradition blames Salome for John's death, her mother and stepfather were directly responsible — Herodius for telling Salome what to request as her gift, and Herod Antipas for ordering the execution.

Had Herod Antipas not made such a generous offer to his niece/stepdaughter within earshot of so many, perhaps he might have reconsidered. John, then, might have been spared a vicious and humiliating death. But though Herod Antipas was surely shocked, and possibly knew he had been manipulated, he was the highest authority in the room, and he had to save face. Some scholars say it illustrates the weakness of Herod Antipas and the corruption of the Herodian court.

Some Bible scholars assert that the entire story of Salome's seductive dance was a fabrication, citing questions over differing dates in the canonical Gospels and in the accounts of the historian Josephus, a contemporary of John the Baptist. Also, a young girl of the royal household would never have been asked to be the entertainment for guests of the king, since that would have been considered improper in the ancient world. others say Josephus would not have made up Salome's existence and marriage to the king of Chalcis, and that the account of her is supported by the Gospels.

The story of Salome ends badly for the young woman whose page in history will forever be stained with the blood of John the Baptist. Legend says that she was decapitated when she fell through a partially frozen lake and the ice shards cut through her neck. The historian Josephus recorded a different account. He said the scandalous behavior began and ended with the infamous dance. Salome married a cousin and bore three children — her life apparently had one extraordinary moment, and the rest of it was uneventful and normal.

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