Friday, September 19, 2014

King of the Hill

Did I tell you Blandine owns a hill? Yup, no kidding:-
Ok, it’s not really a hill. It’s a rock face on a slice of the Rhone valley. Blandine owns a farm above that rock…

 …and the rock forms a part of her property.
But what the hell, for all practical purposes it’s a hill.

I’m rather proud of the fact that my girlfriend owns a hill.
And it’s not just any old hill. It’s a historical piece of rock. Locally, it’s known as Rocher d’Hérode. Herod’s Rock. No, it’s not just a name. Herod was actually exiled to Vienne. Yup, the same Herod mentioned in the Bible. One of them.
Reading the Bible as a kid in bible knowledge class at a missionary school in Africa, I knew Herod to be the general baddy in the great book. But it was only recently that I realized that there are at least five Herods in the Bible. The authors of the New Testament conflate all of them, and the average bible knowledge teacher does not bother clarifying intricate points like that to kids (if they know it themselves, in the first place). The Herod who orders the execution of all the firstborns in Bethlehem was probably the historical figure known as Herod the Great. When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided amongst his sons by Rome (the Jewish kings of this time ruled as protectorate of the Roman Empire). Herod Archelaus got Judea and Herod Antipas got Galilee. The Herod whom Jesus knew as youth and man, and the one who delivered him to Pontius Pilate for judgment, was Herod Antipas. But Herod Archelaus too is indirectly mentioned in the New Testament, since Joseph did not wish to return to Judea from Egypt for fear of Herod Archelaus. Now it was Herod Archelaus who was exiled to Vienne in 6 AD by Rome, as there were complaints against his high-handedness. Herod Antipas too was exiled to Roman Gaul some decades later, probably to the nearby Lugdunum (Lyon). (By the way, there are two further Herods mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles – those are still later members of the Herodian dynasty).

Anyhow, a biblical Herod was certainly living in these parts in the first century AD. So there are firm historical grounds for this hill being called Herod’s Rock. But why this particular rock? Who knows? A legend has it that Herod buried his treasure at this rock. A more logical explanation is that Herod probably liked to come to this rock of an evening to brood on the general unfairness of life, and so the rock got its name.

Having stood frequently upon this rock, I can attest it is a great spot for brooding. You can see the Rhone flowing beneath your feet. 
On the other bank, you can see Vienne laid out on the slope of the valley.  
The sky seems to touch your shoulder. You feel as if you are floating on air. You start to think of life.
I loved standing here, whenever I accompanied Blandine to the farm. Unlike Herod, I did not brood. I liked to stand here with my hand in my pocket, surveying all that was laid out beneath my feet, and say to myself ‘I am the King of the Hill.’
Actually, that is not strictly true. I am the current boyfriend of the Queen of the Hill. Or rather, since Blandine has willed the rock to her son Alexis, I am the current boyfriend of the Queen Mother of the Hill.
But what the heck. If you can’t stretch a point when talking to yourself, when can you stretch a point?

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