Salome

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This article is about the daughter of Herodias. For other uses, see Salome (disambiguation)..
Herod's Banquet by Fra Filippo Lippi


Salome /səˈlm/[1] (Greek: Σαλώμη Salōmē, pronounced [salóːmeː]) (c. AD 14 – between 62 and 71) was the Daughter of Herod II and Herodias. According to Flavius Josephus's Jewish Antiquities, Salome was first married to Philip the Tetrarch of Ituraea and Trakonitis. After Philip's death in 34 AD she married Aristobulus of Chalcis and became queen of Chalcis and Armenia Minor. They had three children. Three coins with portraits of Aristobulus and Salome have been found.[1] Her name in Hebrew is שלומית (Shlomiẗ, pronounced [ʃlomiθ]) and is derived from the root word שלם (ŠLM), meaning "peace".

Cultural and Biblical significance[edit]

Salome is often identified with the dancing woman from the New Testament (Mark 6:17-29 and Matthew 14:3-11, where, however, her name is not given). Christian traditions depict her as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness, notably in regard to the dance mentioned in the New Testament, which is thought to have had an erotic element to it, and in some later transformations it has further been iconized as the Dance of the Seven Veils. Other elements of Christian tradition concentrate on her lighthearted and cold foolishness that, according to the gospels, led to John the Baptist's death.

A similar motif was struck by Oscar Wilde in his Salome, in which she plays the role of femme fatale. This parallel representation of the Christian iconography, made even more memorable by Richard Strauss' opera based on Wilde's work, is as consistent with Josephus' account as the traditional Christian depiction; however, according to the Romanized Jewish historian, Salome lived long enough to marry twice and raise several children. Few literary accounts elaborate the biographical data given by Josephus.

Historical account by Flavius Josephus[edit]

Coin of Salome (daughter of Herodias), queen of Chalcis and Armenia Minor.

Salome was mentioned as a stepdaughter of Herod Antipas in Josephus's Jewish Antiquities (Book XVIII, Chapter 5, 4):

Herodias, [...], was married to Herod,[2] the son of Herod the Great, who was born of Mariamne, the daughter of Simon the high priest, who had a daughter, Salome; after whose birth Herodias took upon her to

confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod, her husband's brother by the father's side, he was tetrarch of Galilee; but her daughter Salome was married to Philip,[3] the son of Herod, and tetrarch of Trachonitis; and as he died childless,

Aristobulus,[4] the son of Herod,[5] the brother of Agrippa, married her; they had three sons, Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus;[6]

Unlike the text of the New Testament, Josephus made no connection between Salome and John the Baptist.

As a Biblical figure[edit]

In the New Testament[edit]

According to Mark 6:21-29 a daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and her mother Herodias at the occasion of his birthday, and in doing so gave her mother the opportunity to obtain the head of John the Baptist. This daughter of Herodias is often identified with Salome. According to Mark's gospel Herodias bore a grudge against John for stating that Herod's marriage to her was unlawful; she encouraged her daughter to demand that John be executed.

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 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. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:21-29, KJV)

A parallel passage to Mark 6:21-29 is in the Gospel of Matthew 14:6-11:

But on Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus. (Matt 14:6-11, D-R)

Some ancient Greek versions of Mark read "Herod's daughter Herodias" (rather than "daughter of the said Herodias").[7] To scholars using these ancient texts, both mother and daughter had the same name. However, the Latin Vulgate Bible translates the passage as it is above, and western Church Fathers therefore tended to refer to Salome as "Herodias's daughter" or just "the girl". Nevertheless, because she is otherwise unnamed in the Bible, the idea that both mother and daughter were named Herodias gained some currency in early modern Europe.

Herod's daughter is not Salome the disciple, who is a witness to the Crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15:40.

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist by Titian, c 1515 (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome)

In apocryphal texts[edit]

According to "'Letter of Herod To Pilate the Governor", Herod's daughter was playing in the pool with ice on the surface until it broke under and decapitated her, leaving Herod's wife holding the head of her daughter.

In the passage, Herod relates to Pontius Pilate the governor of Jerusalem, that:

"I am in great anxiety. I write these things to you, that when you have heard them you may be grieved for me. For as my daughter Herodias, who is dear to me, was playing upon a pool of water that had ice upon it, it broke under her and all her body went down, and her head was cut off and remained on the surface of the ice. And behold, her mother is holding her head upon her knees in her lap, and my whole house is in great sorrow."[8][9]

The passage was printed in an 18th-century text entitled The Apocryphal Books of the New Testament.[10] An edition published in Philadelphia in 1901 by David McKay (later a publisher of comic books) contains a disclaimer to the second edition of the work which stating that "[c]oncerning any genuineness of any portion of the work, the Editor has not offered an opinion, nor is it necessary that he should."[11]

Salome in the arts[edit]

Salome and the Apparition of the Baptist's Head, watercolor by Gustave Moreau

Salome has become a symbol for dangerous female seductiveness. Her dance before Herod, or with the head of John the Baptist on a charger have provided inspiration for Christian artists.

Despite Josephus' account, she was not consistently called Salome until the nineteenth century when Gustave Flaubert (following Josephus) referred to her as "Salome" in his short story "Herodias".

Painting and sculpture[edit]

This Biblical story has long been a favorite of painters. Painters who have done notable representations of Salome include Masolino da Panicale, Filippo Lippi, Benozzo Gozzoli, Leonardo da Vinci followers Andrea Solario and Bernardino Luini, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Titian, Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Fabritius, Henri Regnault, Georges Rochegrosse, Gustave Moreau, Lovis Corinth and Federico Beltran-Masses.

Titian's version (illustration c.1515) emphasizes the contrast between the innocent girlish face and the brutally severed head. Because of the maid by her side, this Titian painting is also considered to be Judith with the Head of Holofernes. Unlike Salome who goes nameless in the Christian bible, Judith is a Judeo-Christian mythical patriot whose story is perhaps less psychological and as she was a widow, may not be particularly girlish nor innocent in representations.

In Moreau's version (illustration, left) the figure of Salome is emblematic of the femme fatale, a fashionable trope of fin-de-siecle decadence. In his 1884 novel À rebours Frenchman Joris-Karl Huysmans describes the depiction of Salome in Moreau's painting:

No longer was she merely the dancing-girl who extorts a cry of lust and concupiscence from an old man by the lascivious contortions of her body; who breaks the will, masters the mind of a King by the spectacle of her quivering bosoms, heaving belly and tossing thighs; she was now revealed in a sense as the symbolic incarnation of world-old Vice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs her flesh and steels her muscles, - a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning.[12]


Theatre and literature[edit]

"The Peacock Skirt", illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé, 1896

In 1877 Gustave Flaubert's Three Tales were published, including "Herodias". In this story full responsibility for John's death is given to Salome's mother Herodias and the priests who fear his religious power. Salome herself is shown as a young girl who forgets the name of the man whose head she requests as she is asking for it. Jules Massenet's 1881 opera Hérodiade was based on Flaubert's short story.

Oscar Wilde's play[edit]

Main article: Salome (play)

Salomé's story was made the subject of a play by Oscar Wilde that premiered in Paris in 1896, under the French name Salomé. In Wilde's play, Salome takes a perverse fancy for John the Baptist, and causes him to be executed when John spurns her affections. In the finale, Salome takes up John's severed head and kisses it.

Because at the time British law forbade the depiction of Biblical characters on stage, Wilde wrote the play originally in French, and then produced an English translation (titled Salome). To this Granville Bantock composed incidental music, which was premiered at the Court Theatre, London, on 19 April 1918.

Richard Strauss' opera[edit]

Main article: Salome (opera)

The Wilde play (in a German translation of Hedwig Lachmann) was edited down to a one-act opera by Richard Strauss. The opera Salome, which premiered in Dresden in 1905, is famous for the Dance of the Seven Veils. As with the Wilde play, it turns the action to Salome herself, reducing her mother to a bit-player, though the opera is less centered on Herod's motivations than the play.

Antoine Mariotte's opera[edit]

Main article: Salomé (Mariotte)
Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).

Shortly after the success of Strauss' opera, Antoine Mariotte created another opera based on Wilde's original French script. It was premiered on 30 October 1908 at the Grand Théâtre at Lyon. This opera was revived only in 2005 at the Montpellier Festival.

Slavko Osterc's opera Much less known is the existence of the opera Salome by Slovene composer Slavko Osterc (17 June 1895 – 23 May 1941), which was composed 1929/30, but premiered in 1979/80 season.

Ballet[edit]

In 1907 Florent Schmitt received a commission from Jacques Rouché to compose a ballet, La tragédie de Salomé, for Loie Fuller to perform at the Théâtre des Arts. Another Salome ballet was composed by the Japanese composer Akira Ifukube in 1948. Danish choreographer Flemming Flindt's ballet Salome with music by Peter Maxwell Davies premiered in 1978.

Poetry[edit]

In "Salome" (1896) by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, characterized by some critics as "neo-Pagan", Salome instigated the death of John the Baptist as part of a futile effort to get the interest of "a young sophist who was indifferent to the charms of love". When Salome presents to him the Baptist's head, the sophist rejects it, remarking in jest "Dear Salome, I would have liked better to get your own head". Taking the jest seriously, the hopelessly infatuated Salome lets herself be beheaded and her head is duly brought to the sophist, who however rejects it in disgust and turns back to studying the Dialogues of Plato.

Other Salome poetry has been written by among others including Ai (1986), Nick Cave (1988), and Carol Ann Duffy (1999).

Songs[edit]

Songs about Salome were written by, among others, Tommy Duncan (1952), Karel Kryl (1965), Drs. P (1974), John Cale (1978), Kim Wilde (1984), U2 (1990), Andrew Lloyd Webber (1993), Liz Phair (1993), Kurt Elling (1995), Susan McKeown (1995), Mark St. John Ellis as Elijah's Mantle (1995), Old 97's (1997), The Changelings (1997), Loudovikos ton Anogeion (1997), The Residents (1998), Enrique Bunbury (1998), Chayanne (1999), Patti Smith (2000), Killing Miranda (2001), Gary Jules' "Pills" (2001), The Booda Velvets (2001), Stormwitch (2004), Xandria (2007), Pete Doherty (2009), Os Pontos Negros (2009), Saltatio Mortis (2009), 9GOATS BLACK OUT (2009), Justin Vivian Bond (2011), Regina Spektor and Kaya (2012), and Behemoth (2014).

Film[edit]

Wilde's Salome has often been made into a film, notably a 1923 silent film, Salome, starring Alla Nazimova in the title role and a 1988 Ken Russell play-within-a-film treatment, Salome's Last Dance, which also includes Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas as characters. Steven Berkoff filmed his stage version of the play in 1988.

In the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, the principal character Norma Desmond is portrayed as writing a screenplay for a silent film treatment of the legend of Salome, attempting to get the screenplay produced, and performing one of the scenes from her screenplay after going mad.

IMDB lists at the very least 25 Salome/Salomé films, and numerous resettings of the Salome story to modern times. These films include:

Television[edit]

In 1995, the hoax mockumentary of Peter Jackson and Costa Botes, Forgotten Silver, claimed that fictional film-maker Colin McKenzie produced the first ever feature film based on the life of Salome during the early part of the 20th Century. The fake documentary includes substantial amounts of footage of the film that were created in modern times as part of the hoax.[13]

In 2012, American broadcasting company HBO announced that in the fifth season of their popular supernatural drama series True Blood, a character by the name of Salome would appear as an ancient vampire. The third episode of the season confirmed that the character is the historical Salome, played by Valentina Cervi, and one of the oldest and most powerful vampires currently in existence. Salome discusses her own portrayal in the Bible: "They made me a convenient villain, a symbol for dangerous female sexuality. But I was just a girl." She states that she was "wrapped" in seven veils, and gifted to her Uncle, and that what followed was a "dance of sorts." Salome by her own description was not a powerful femme fatale, but a powerless pawn and a sexual object, shamelessly exploited by her own family and wielded as a political tool.[14]

Video game[edit]

The 2009 art game Fatale, by developer Tale of Tales, is a depiction of Salome in the context of an interactive vignette. The player begins by controlling John the Baptist prior to and during his execution. The second section is a courtyard scene, where Salome stands in silence, next to the head. The player is invited to examine the scene. When they have examined it sufficiently, their view is changed again, this time to that of Herod during the dance.

In scientific nomenclature[edit]

Asteroid 562 Salome is named after her.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ In modern speech, the irregular pronunciation /ˈsæləm/ is often heard.
  2. ^ Herod Philip, according to William Smith (ed), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870. Volume III, p. 698, 4.
  3. ^ Salome's uncle Philip, the tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, according to William Smith (ed), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870. Volume III, p. 698, 4.
  4. ^ her cousin Aristobulus, son of Herod king of Chalcis, according to William Smith (ed), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870. Volume III, p. 698, 4.
  5. ^ Herod of Chalcis, according to William Smith (ed), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870. Volume III, p. 698, 4.
  6. ^ William Whiston's translation of "Antiquities of the Jews" by Flavius Josephus, at Project Gutenberg
  7. ^ Taylor, V. (1966). The gospel according to St Mark, 2nd Edition. London: Macmillan (pp310ff.)
  8. ^ Platt, Jr., Rutherford H. (ed.); Brett, J. Alden (asst. ed.); illustrations by Paul Laune (1976). The Lost books of the Bible and The forgotten books of Eden. Cleveland: Collins/World. p. 269. ISBN 0-529-03385-2. 
  9. ^ "Letters of Herod to Pilate". Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Hone, William; Jones, Jeremiah; Wake, William (1901). The apocryphal books of the New Testament. David McKay. p. 269. 
  11. ^ Hone, William; Jones, Jeremiah; Wake, William (1901). The apocryphal books of the New Testament. David McKay. p. 12. 
  12. ^ Huysmans À rebours - Toni Bentley (2002) Sisters of Salome: 24
  13. ^ "'Behind the Bull". Lone Pine Film & Television Productions and NZ On Screen. 2000. 
  14. ^ Neuenschwander, Andy (October 21, 2011). "'True Blood' Season 5: Bon Temps Gets Biblical With New Characters". Yidio. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gillman, Florence Morgan. Herodias: At Home in the Fox's Den. Interfaces. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8146-5108-9
  • Claudel, Paul-André. Salomé: Destinées imaginaires d'une figure biblique, Paris: Ellipses, 2013. ISBN 9782729883171