Herodias was not only Herod Antipas' sister-in-law but his niece (being the daughter of Antipas' half-brother Aristobulus). Even the gospel writers got confused by this incestuous family. Herodias' previous husband, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, was not (as biblically stated) Herod Antipas' half-brother Philip, tetrarch of the region east of Galilee, but Herod Philip, another half-brother, in Rome. It was Salome, Herodias' daughter from the marriage to Herod Philip, who eventually married the tetrarch Philip, both Salome's and her mother's uncle.
Herod Antipas had John imprisoned in the fortress of Macherus, not so much to punish him as to protect him from Herodias, who wanted "to kill him." But then, at a birthday banquet for Herod Antipas, young Salome danced for her stepfather and his guests. The only gospel description of the dance is that it "pleased Herod" (the so-called dance of the seven veils is of modern origin), but Herod Antipas' words of appreciation suggest a remarkable performance indeed. "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it," he told Salome. "Whatever you ask for I will give you, even half of my kingdom."
Salome consulted with her mother Herodias, who told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Salome duly made the request, and Herod Antipas, not wanting to renege on a promise before his guests, reluctantly gave the order. John's head, we are told in Matthew (14:11), "was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother."
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