I am currently reading Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace aloud to my 14 & 12 year old as their current literature selection. As I read this portion the other day I found his description of Herod the Great mesmerizing, yet quite chilling.
After a time two officers entered and stopped, one on each side of the door; after them slowly followed a most striking personage--and old man clad in purple bordered with scarlet, and girt to his waist by a band of gold linked so fine that it was pliable as leather; the latchets of his shoes sparkled with precious stones; a narrow crown wrought in filigree shone outside a tarbooshe of softest crimson plush, which, encasing his head, fell down the neck and shoulders, leaving the throat and neck exposed. Instead of a seal, a dagger dangled from his belt. He walked with a halting step, leaning heavily upon a staff. Not until he reached the opening of the divan did he pause or look up from the floor; then, as for the first time conscious of the company, and roused by their presence, he raised himself, and looked haughtily round, like one startled and searching for an enemy--so dark, suspicious, and threatening was the glance. Such was Herod the Great--a body broken by diseases, a conscience seared with crimes, a mind magnificently capable, a soul fit for brotherhood with the Caesars; now seven-and-sixty years old, but guarding his throne with a jealousy never so vigilant, a power never so despotic, and a cruelty never so inexorable. pp. 72-73