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Salome with the head of John the Baptist. Audrey Beardsley, based on Oscar Wilde's play Salomé: A tragedy on one act

Salome or Salomé (Hebrew: שלומית Shlomit) (c AD 14 – between 62 and 71), is the name of a character in the New Testament. Her name is not actually given there, but she was an entirely historical person. She was the daughter of Herod Antipas and Herodias. Her name is pronounced with a short 'o', and the 'e' at the end is sounded.

This Salome is not the same Salome who is said to be a witness to the Crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15:40.

Biblical character[change | change source]

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

According to Mark 6:21-29, Salome was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, and danced before Herod and her mother Herodias at the occasion of Herod's birthday. The New Testament suggests that Salome caused John the Baptist to be executed because his spoke out that Herod's marriage to Herodias was adulterous. Herodias put her up to the demand that John be executed, something the king was initially reluctant to do.

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 [a large serving plate] 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, King James Bible)

The version in Matthew (Chapter 14, verses 3–11, is perhaps clearer:

For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
Wereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
And the king was sorry: nevertheless, for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

Her name[change | change source]

Her name is established by being mentioned in the account by Flavius Josephus in Josephus's Jewish Antiquities (Book XVIII, Chapter 5, 4). Despite the early date of this account, she was not always called Salome until the nineteenth century, when Gustave Flaubert (following Josephus) referred to her as Salome in his play Herodias (1876).

There is a coin with her name on it. This rare coin bears the inscription BACIΛIC ΣΆΛΩΜΉ (Queen Salome). It is the reverse side of her later husband's coinage of Chalcis and Armenia Minor He was Aristobulus of Chalcis.

Adaptations[change | change source]

The story above has been adapted to various forms of art. Innumerable paintings about it exist. There is a play by Oscar Wilde. Operas about it have been composed by Richard Strauss and Jules Massenet. Ballets by Florent Schmit and Flemming Flindt. Various films have also been made between 1918 and 2006.

References[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

  • Salome II entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith