Archelaus, or Herod Archelaus (Greek: Ἡρώδης Ἀρχέλαος, Hērōdēs Archelaos; 23 BC – c. 18 AD) was ethnarch[1][2] of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea (biblical Edom), including the cities Caesarea and Jaffa, for a period of nine years[3] (circa 4 BCE to 6 CE). Archelaus was removed by Roman Emperor Augustus when Judaea province was formed under direct Roman rule, at the time of the Census of Quirinius. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, and was the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod II. Archelaus (a name meaning "leading the people") came to power after the death of his father Herod the Great in 4 BCE, and ruled over one-half of the territorial dominion of his father.

Herod Archelaus

Coin of Herod Archelaus, HERODIAN KINGS of JUDAEA. Herod Archelaus. 4 BCE - 6 CE. Æ Prutah (17mm, 2.72 g, 9h). Jerusalem mint. HPWDOU, double cornucopiae / Galley left, EQNARCOU (retrograde) below. Meshorer 70; RPC I 4914; Hendin 503. Good VF, dark green patina with light earthen encrustation.


Archelaus became king of Judea while a young Jesus was hidden in Egypt with Joseph and Mary.[fn 1] Archelaus’ father Herod the Great willed to him the rulership of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, which was twice the share given to each of the other two sons, and which included the cities of Jerusalem, Samaria, Joppa, and Caesarea. After Herod’s death, Archelaus endeavored to make his rulership more secure by appearing before Augustus in Rome; in spite of opposers to his claim, including his brother and a delegation of Jews, Archelaus was allowed to retain his power, though Augustus made him, not a king, but an ethnarch, a tributary prince ranking higher than a tetrarch. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the author of the book of Matthew, however, refers to Archelaus as ‘reigning,’ for the local army had previously proclaimed him king.[5][4]


Archelaus was a cruel ruler and very unpopular with the Jews. In quelling a riot, he once had 3,000 of them ruthlessly slain in the temple grounds; he twice deposed the high priest; and in addition, his divorce and remarriage were contrary to Jewish law. Complaints from the Jews and Samaritans to Augustus finally resulted in an investigation and Archelaus’ banishment in the ninth or tenth year of his reign. Judea thereafter was under Roman governors.[4]


  1. Archelaus was known for a tyrannical rule, therefore Joseph settled his family outside of Archelaus’ jurisdiction, by settling in Nazareth of Galilee.—Mt 2:22, 23.[4]


  1. Josephus, Antiquities (book 17, chapter 11, verse 4).
  2. Shatzman, Israel (1991). The Armies of the Hasmonaeans and Herod: From Hellenistic to Roman Frameworks. Mohr Siebeck. p. 129. ISBN 978-3161456176. Retrieved on 28 September 2016. 
  3. Josephus, Wars of the Jews (book 2, chapter 7, verse 3).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Insight (1988) Vol.1, pp.156, Archelaus
  5. Jewish Antiquities, by F. Josephus, XVII, 194, 195 (viii, 2).
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