The power of Idumaea, a country to the south of Judaea started to rise with Antipater. He was shrewd enough to know who to support among the Roman generals since Rome held the real power in the region. He supported John Hyrcanus II against Judas Aristobulus II because he felt that the latter might prove to be too powerful for him.
His son Herod was just as shrewd if not more so. First, he supported Mark Antony and was nominated tetrarch by him and then later switched sides to Caesar Augustus, who confirmed his position and actually made him king of Judaea. It was with this confidence in the support of the emperor of the Roman Empire that he attacked Antigonus and defeated him in 37BC, thereby setting himself up as the undisputed ruler of Judaea and king of the Jews. Herod’s rule was despotic to say the least and he had most of his close associates, including members of his own family killed.
He vigorously promoted Roman culture and embarked on grand architectural projects among which was the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple on a very grand scale, which took over forty years to complete. All these he did in his attempt to gain support among his Jewish subjects. He also built amphitheatres, hippodromes and so on to impress his masters in Rome.
Herod the Great died at about 4BC and the country was divided up among his sons: Herod Antipas was made tetrarch of Galilee; Archelaus was given Judaea, Idumaea and Samaria and Herod Phillip was given an area on the eastern shore of Galilee. Archelaus’ rule was marked by terrible despotism and was deposed in 4BC and direct rule was established by the Romans.
Herod Phillip was the most benevolent and was well-liked by his subjects. Herod Antipas was also very despotic and was responsible for the death of John the Baptist in collusion with his wife Herodias. The direct Roman rule imposed on Idumaea, Samaria and Judaea meant that Roman procurators were appointed with headquarters in Syria. A succession of procurators followed the deposition of Archelaus until the time of Pontius Pilate, the procurator at the time of the trial of Jesus.