Thanks to support from the Romans and following bloody battles against the last of the Hasmonean kings, Herod was crowned King of Judea in the year 37 BCE. King Herod was loathed by his Jewish subjects, who saw him as a representative of foreign rule who undermined their traditional institutions and murdered their legitimate rulers, those of the Hasmonean dynasty. Talmud scholars called him an "Edomite slave" as he was the grandson of an Edomite, and described him in extremely negative terms. Herod made an attempt to become closer to the Jewish people, mainly through renovating the Temple, but his first loyalty was to Rome. Herod was a decisive ruler who did much to develop the Land of Israel and its Jewish population as well as its foreign residents. During his long reign over Judea, Herod erected numerous elaborate and innovative buildings throughout his kingdom which were revolutionary from an engineering standpoint.
In the year 40 BCE Herod was forced to flee to Rome following a rebellion that broke out in Eretz Israel. He left his family in the Masada fortress, where they withstood the siege but nearly died from lack of water. When Herod became king, he decided to turn Masada into a stronghold that could serve him as a place of refuge if another insurrection should arise. Herod built two magnificent palaces, huge storerooms for arms and food and water reservoirs holding some 40,000 cubic meters of water atop the mountain adjacent to the Dead Sea. This turned Masada into a unique combination of a regal palace and a fortified stronghold.
Herod erected his kingdom's main port city along the Mediterranean shore, in an area that was only sparsely populated beforehand. He invested most of his efforts in building the sophisticated port, which was among the largest in the Roman Empire. He put up a broad breakwater topped with a wall and towers and built docks for ships, warehouses for storing goods and lodgings for sailors. He called the city "Caesarea" in honor of the Roman Caesar Augustus and populated it with foreigners. Herod constructed lavish entertainment facilities such as a theater and a race track, as well as a high aqueduct which brought fresh water from afar for the benefit of city residents, thus making Caesarea the crown jewel of Herod's building projects.
Herod renovated and glorified the Temple and its surroundings for his Jewish subjects. He demolished the old, dilapidated Temple, which was built some 500 years earlier, in the days of Ezra and Nehemia, and erected a new magnificent Temple in its stead. He enlarged the area on which the Temple stood using a series of arches and surrounded it with splendid buildings. The area around the Temple Mount and the paths leading thereto were renovated to accommodate the throngs of pilgrims who visited the Temple during festivals. Sages referred to this building enterprise, saying "Anyone who has not seen one of Herod's buildings, has never seen a beautiful building" (Bava Batra tractate, 4, 71).
When Herod fled his pursuers during the rebellion of 40 BCE he was forced to fight for his life a few kilometers to the southeast of Jerusalem. When he became king, he decided to erect a site there in which he would be buried upon his death. He called the place "Herodian" and built a round building surrounded by an artificial mountain. Herod built an enormous compound around the mountain, including palace chambers, a garden and large pool. Herod died in Jerusalem in the year 4 BCE and a grand funeral procession brought his body to his burial site at Herodian. Herod's grave was recently discovered in archaeological excavations led by the late Professor Ehud Netzer.