Scholars believe they have solved a 2,000-year-old mystery of
how King Herod died, suggesting he was probably a victim of kidney
The king, who reputedly ordered the executions of one wife,
three sons and the slaughter of thousands of baby boys in an attempt
to destroy the baby Jesus, died aged 69 in 4 BC.
Experts in the US looked at texts giving a description of
Herod's symptoms during his final days to make their analysis.
Research co-ordinator Dr Jan Hirschmann said: "Herod the Great
expired from chronic kidney disease probably complicated by
"The texts we depend on for a close description of Herod's last
days list several major features of the disease that caused his
death - among them, intense itching, painful intestinal problems,
breathlessness, convulsions in every limb and gangrene of the
The research presented their conclusions at this year's
historical Clinical Pathologic Conference (CPC) in the US on 25
January 2002 in Baltimore.
Dr Hirschmann said: "When I first looked at the general diseases
that cause itching, it became clear that most of them couldn't
explain a majority of the features of Herod's illness."
He first considered Hodgkin's disease and some diseases of the
liver, but concluded the disorder that accounted for nearly all the
features of Herod's illness was chronic kidney disease.
However, one feature of Herod's illness - gangrene of the
genitalia - was not explained by this diagnosis.