Herod refused to take the position that Cleopatra offered him. As mentioned in a previous posting, it is not clear what the position was, exactly, but some scholars agree with Josephus that she probably wanted Herod to command an expedition she was preparing to aid Antony in his fight against the Parthians. If Herod had agreed to take the position, the history of Judea would have been quite different. But it is clear that he did not want to be involved with Cleopatra in any capacity, be it personal or official. His famous refusal to have an affair with her, if it really happened, is quite surprising when one considers how attractive Cleopatra was to most men, but such aversions do happen. And on professional and political levels, he never quite trusted her. So he refused the mission and elected to sail to Rome.
Sailing in winter was a very risky undertaking in those days, and most people tried to avoid it and sailed only in spring and summer. And indeed, Herod’s ship encountered a violent storm, and the people on board could be saved only by throwing the cargo overboard, retaining only absolute necessities and money. They survived the storm, and finally he reached Rhodes. There Herod was met by two friends, Sappinus and Ptolemy, and was shocked to find the city in ruins from the war against Cassius. With generosity he really could not afford, he gave some of his money to help restore the city, but did not stay long to see it rebuilt. Accompanied by his friends, he soon sailed to Italy, and landed safely at Brundisium. From there it was a short way to Rome, where he rushed to see Antony.
Antony listened to all the bad news of the Parthians’ interference with Judea’s business. Herod told him about the tragedy of Phasael’s suicide in their jail, Hyrcanus being their prisoner, and Antigonus being put on the throne after promising the Parthians a large sum of money and five hundred Jewish women of good families, a horrible insult to Judea. He told Antony how he escaped with his soldiers and took all the women and children with him, and finally, how he braved the sea in winter just so that he could see Antony and ask for his help.
Antony was most sympathetic; he had every reason to support his friend. Memories of the help Antipater, Herod’s father, extended to Antony in the past, Herod’s faithful friendship to him and promise of plenty of money if he became king, and his own personal hatred of Antigonus, who was seen as the enemy of Rome, all affected his decision to help Herod as much as he could. He took Herod to the Senate, and had two friends, Messala and Atratinus, present him formally, and express their gratitude for Herod’s and his family’s loyalty to Rome. They also exposed Antigonus as a traitor who received his kingship from the Parthians, not the Romans. When they were done with the presentation, Antony rose and told the Senate that Herod as a king would be a great advantage to Rome in the war with the Parthians. The proposal was promptly voted upon, and the Senate agreed that Herod should be made king of Judea.
This was more than Herod expected. It was not customary for Rome to give kingship to anyone other than a relative of the ruling family. Some scholars maintain that he intended to ask for kingship not for himself, but for a relative of his wife, at least for the time being. But Antony changed all that and Herod’s kingship was now supported by Rome and the Senate. In addition, Antony cut all the usual Roman bureaucracy and red tape and arranged for Herod to obtain all the grants in seven days. All that was left to do was to show Herod leaving the Senate surrounded by highly important people, and then go to the Capitol to make a sacrifice and deposit the official kingship decree. Lavish entertainment followed, Roman style, and within a week Herod boarded a ship back to Judea.
Of course Herod knew that the fight had just begun, and that Antigonus was not going to give up the kingship as long as the Parthians supported him. On reaching Judea, Herod started accumulating a strong force of both foreigners and countrymen, and marched to the Galilee. He had the support of many in the Galilee, and his power constantly increased until the entire region was on his side. He also had to rescue his relatives and friends in Masada. In that region he had the affection of the inhabitants because of their loyalty to his late father, so in a short time, his position was relatively secure and he was ready to fight Antigonus – this time in Jerusalem. This would decide, once and for all, the struggle between the old Hasmonean dynasty and the new Herodian rulership.