Queen Malthace – The loyal wife of King Herod the Great

Queen Malthace
(public domain)

Queen Malthace was the fourth wife of King Herod the Great of Judea. She was not a Jewess but a Samaritan. King Herod married her in order to anger the Jewish people who openly disfavoured him after Queen Mariamne I’s execution. Queen Malthace is portrayed as a good and loyal wife who did not scheme against her husband. Because of her goodness, King Herod gave her sons the best territories within his kingdom. Queen Malthace would also be known as the mother of Prince Herod Antipas, who played a major role in the deaths of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.

Queen Malthace was born circa 40 B.C.E. There is very little information about her background.[1] We only know that she was part of the Samaritans, who were enemies of the Jewish people in Judea.[2] We do not even know how she married King Herod.[3] Many historians believe that when King Herod was renovating the capital of Samaria in honour of Emperor Augustus, he fell ill circa 24 B.C.E.[4] Malthace nursed him back to health.[5] After King Herod recovered from his illness, he married her to anger the Jewish people, who openly disfavoured him because of Queen Mariamne I’s execution.[6] King Herod also violated the law of a Jew marrying a non-Jewish woman.[7] Thus, the Jewish people were outraged by King Herod’s marriage.[8]

Queen Malthace bore King Herod the Great three children named Olympias, Herod Antipas, and Herod Archelaus.[9] Unlike King Herod’s other wives, Queen Malthace did not scheme against him.[10] Instead, she remained faithful to King Herod.[11] Therefore, Malthace enjoyed all the wealth and privileges that King Herod bestowed on her as queen until his death in 4 B.C.E.[12] In his will, he gave Queen Malthace’s sons the best territories of his kingdom, which were Samaria, Judea, and Idumaea.[13]

After King Herod’s death, Queen Malthace’s sons, Prince Herod Antipas and Prince Herod Archelaus, quarrelled over their inheritance in their father’s will.[14] Queen Malthace accompanied her sons to Rome to plead their case to Emperor Augustus.[15] While they were still appealing their case to the Roman Emperor, Queen Malthace died in Rome in 4 B.C.E.[16] In the end, neither Prince Herod Archelaus nor Prince Herod Antipas was declared King of Judea.[17] Instead, Prince Herod Archelaus became the ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.[18] Prince Herod Antipas became the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.[19]

Prince Herod Archelaus is mentioned in the Bible for when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus left Egypt, they were afraid to go back to Bethlehem because Prince Herod Archelaus was the ruler of Judea.[20] Instead, they settled in Nazareth.[21] Prince Herod Antipas would be heavily involved in the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. In 27 C.E., he married Princess Herodias, who was his niece and his half-brother’s former wife.[22] Their marriage was heavily criticized by John the Baptist, which caused Princess Herodias’s displeasure.[23] Princess Herodias would be best known for prompting her daughter, Princess Salome, to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a silver platter.[24]

While very little is known about Queen Malthace, it is clear that she was very wise.[25] She was not involved in any intrigues against King Herod the Great. This earned her husband’s respect, and he rewarded her and her sons. Yet, she had to witness her son’s quarrel long over their inheritance which forced her to die in Rome. Queen Malthace’s greatest legacy was that of her son, Prince Herod Antipas, who was a key player in the executions of two legendary Biblical figures.[26]


Kasher, A., Witztum, E. (2008). King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor: A Case Study in Psychohistory and Psychobiography. Germany: Netlibrary.

Macurdy, G. H. (1937). Vassal-queens and Some contemporary Women in the Roman Empire. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.

Malamat, A. (1976). A History of the Jewish People. United Kingdom: Harvard University Press.

Schalit, A. (2007). “Herodias.” Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd Edition). (M. Berenbaum, Ed. and F. Skolnik, Ed.), 9, New York: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 39.

Smith, M. H. (n.d.). “Malthace (died 4 BCE.)”. Virtual Religion Network. Retrieved on 21 December 2022 from https://virtualreligion.net/iho/malthace.html.

The New American Bible, Revised Edition (1986th Edition). (2011). Charlotte: Saint Benedict Press, 2011.

[1] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[2] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[3] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[4] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”; Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[5] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[6] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[7] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[8] Kasher and Witztum, 2008

[9] Macurdy, 1937

[10] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[11] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[12] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[13] Malamat, 1976

[14] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[15] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[16] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[17] Malamat, 1976

[18] Malamat, 1976

[19] Macurdy, 1937

[20] Matthew 2:22

[21] Matthew 2:23

[22] Schalit, 2007

[23] Schalit, 2007

[24] Mark 6:28

[25] Smith, n.d., “Malthace (died 4 BCE)”

[26] Macurdy, 1937

About Lauralee Jacks 189 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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