What Is the Story of Salome, Who Danced Before Herod?


Quick Answer

Salome was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas and, on his birthday, danced for him in return for the execution of John the Baptist. According to Salome's story in the Bible, it is her mother, Herodias, who directs Salome to seek the prophet's murder.

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Full Answer

Salome's mother, Herodias, was married to Herod Antipas' half brother, Phillip, when they began an adulterous affair. Herodias and Herod were each divorced to marry one another. Because Herodias was formerly married to her husband's brother, the union was viewed as incestuous. John the Baptist spoke publicly condemning the marriage, embarrassing and enraging Herodias. To appease his wife, King Herod ordered the prophet imprisoned.

On Herod's birthday, he threw a great party where Salome danced before the court. Herod was so pleased with the dance that he offered the girl anything she wanted from his kingdom. After consulting with her mother, Salome demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

The Bible states that King Herod was very sorry that he had made his offer in front of his court. He did not want to kill John the Baptist because the people would be outraged; however, to avoid embarrassment, he sent a guard to murder the prophet in his prison cell. The guard returned with John the Baptist's head on a platter and presented it to Salome, who turned it over to her mother.

Oscar Wilde's play "Salome" and Strauss' opera of the same name are loosely based on Salome's biblical story. These theatrical productions embellished the story and introduced the "Dance of the Seven Veils," which is never mentioned in the Bible.

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