King Solomon: History, Overview

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the ancient Israelite kingdom's most successful king, Solomon. Through conquest diplomacy and key improvements in infrastructure, Solomon's reign rivals those of some of history's greatest monarchs.

The Greatest Ever?

'Who is the greatest ever?' is one of the questions people love to debate. Whether it is sports figures, presidents, or even scientists, long hours can be spent weighing the relative merits of each candidate. In some areas it is relatively easy: Michael Jordan would likely win most of the votes for best basketball player ever, while other debates - such as who is the best U.S. president ever - would likely see votes spread across a range of contenders.

In the admittedly smaller debate (strictly within history nerd circles) over who is the best king of the ancient Israelite Kingdom, one name dominates the discussion: King Solomon.

Who was King Solomon?

King Solomon was the second king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, reigning in the middle of the tenth century B.C. Solomon was the son of the first king, David, who carved out the kingdom that lay west of the Euphrates River and east of the Egyptian lands, in parts of what is today Israel, Palestine, Syria and Jordan. Whereas David founded the empire, his son Solomon, who was only 12 at the time of his accession, grew and consolidated his father's fledgling kingdom.

Solomon expanded the Israelite kingdom territorially through several means. He was an excellent field general, and military conquest of surrounding tribes and kingdoms was the most effective mode of expansion. Sources frequently discuss Solomon's campaigns east into Syria with an impressive array of chariots and mounted cavalry. In addition to his military exploits, Solomon also expanded the Israelite kingdom and consolidated his conquests through diplomatic marriages with the relatives of local chieftains.

While Solomon expanded the Israelite kingdom to its greatest lengths through conquest and diplomacy, he similarly proved an able administrator and frequent builder. In cities Solomon conquered or in cities he felt were vulnerable to attack, Solomon fortified city walls and left garrisons of troops to defend them.

Solomon's Temple and Other Biblical Stories

King Solomon was an especially avid builder in his kingdom's capital, Jerusalem. The fabled Holy Temple of Solomon is his most storied work. The temple was built as a shrine to the Judaic God that King Solomon and the Israelites worshiped. Though no archaeological remains of the temple have ever been found, the temple and its supposed site atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remain one of the holiest places in both Christianity and Judaism.

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