Salome was the step-daughter of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea, around the turn of the first century CE. She appears in the New Testament in Matthew 14:6-8 and Mark 6:22, although she is not named. In the Bible, as in most scholarly literature of the time, she is referred to as the Daughter of Herodias.
Salome's mother Herodias outraged and alienated many of her subjects by divorcing Salome's father, Herod II, and marrying his brother Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Such an action was forbidden according to Jewish marriage law of the time and considered by some to amount to incest. According to the Gospels, John the Baptist was one of Herodias' most vocal critics. Herodias therefore persuaded Salome to dance seductively for Antipas and ask for the head of John the Baptist as a reward.
The story of the girl who could dance compellingly enough to effect an execution as her reward has struck the imagination of many artists and writers throughout the years. Many have also used fiction to speculate about Salome's true motives, as she appears in the Bible as nothing more than a pawn in her mother's scheme. In Massenet's 1881 Opera, Herodiade, based on a novella by Gustave Flaubert, Salome is portrayed as an innocent follower of John the Baptist who commits suicide after his death. In his French play Salome of 1891, Oscar Wilde attributes Salome's request to her unrequited lust for John the Baptist.
Salome's dance has also been given extensive treatment in art, from paintings by Titian, Moreau, and Klimt, among others, to the famous dance scene in the Strauss opera Salome, based on Wilde's play. Salome is said to have won her father-in-law's heart with the Dance of the Seven Veils, in which she wore seven veils that were removed one by one during the course of the dance. Tom Robbin's novel Skinny Legs and All also uses the Dance of the Seven veils as a theme and includes a memorable dance scene.