Antigonus II

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ANTIGONUS II (Mattathias ), last king of the *Hasmonean dynasty, reigned 40–37 b.c.e.; youngest son of Aristobulus *ii. After the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey (63 b.c.e.) Antigonus was taken to Rome with other members of the royal family. In 57 he escaped with his father, but was sent back to Rome by *Gabinius. Eventually Aristobulus' children received permission from the Senate to return to Judea. After the death of his father and his brother Alexander (49), Antigonus and his sisters went to Chalcis to Ptolemy, son of Mennaeus (see *Alexandra, daughter of Aristobulus ii). In 47 he argued before Julius Caesar the case for his right to rule over Judea, over which *Antipater ii, father of Herod, was in control. Caesar, however, preferred Antipater who was more useful to his plans in the East. After the assassination of Caesar (44), Antigonus tried to enter Galilee in an attempt to advance on Jerusalem and seize the throne, but he was repulsed by Herod and returned to Chalcis. After the Parthians conquered Syria (40), Antigonus allied himself with them, and broke through to Jerusalem at the head of an army of Hasmonean supporters. Herod with his men retreated to the royal palace while Antigonus remained on the Temple Mount, awaiting the Parthian troops who were moving on Jerusalem. Against Herod's wishes, his brother *Phasael and ex-king Hyrcanus ii were persuaded to go to the Parthian headquarters in Galilee for a conference and were arrested. Herod thereupon escaped from Jerusalem with Mariamne the Hasmonean and her mother Alexandra. Antigonus' men pursued the fugitives and overtook them south of Jerusalem at the spot where Herod afterward built his fortress palace Herodium. They were repulsed and Herod brought his family and the remnant of his force to Idumea, entrusting them to his brother Joseph, who settled them in *Masada. There are contradictory accounts as to the fate of Phasael; it is probable that he committed suicide or was killed while attempting to escape. The Parthians cut off Hyrcanus' ears, on the advice of Antigonus, who desired thereby to disqualify him from the high priesthood. Antigonus was now designated king over Judea by the Parthians and also assumed the high priesthood. This appointment bound him to the Parthians and from then on he was regarded by Rome as a declared enemy. Antigonus besieged Masada but failed to conquer it. Herod, who had arrived in Rome, succeeded in being appointed king of Judea, and immediately left for the East. He arrived in Judea at the end of 40 or early in 39, and immediately began hostilities against Antigonus. However, Ventidius, Antony's legate (later the victor of the Parthian War), gave him no substantial support, and left Judea soon after, probably having been bribed by Antigonus. Herod meanwhile succeeded in liberating Masada, after which he marched on Jerusalem, and attempted to take the city in a surprise attack. The attempt failed, and Herod retreated. The war continued throughout the winter of 39–38 and Herod succeeded in subduing the whole of Galilee, while Antigonus remained in Jerusalem, unable to assist his partisans in the north. Nevertheless Herod would not have got the upper hand if Ventidius had not decisively defeated the Parthians (38). As a result of this victory, Roman forces were freed for action. Even then they did not cooperate with Herod who journeyed to Mark Antony's camp to seek his full support. During Herod's absence from Palestine Antigonus defeated Herod's brother Joseph, who was killed in battle. A general rising followed in Galilee, whose inhabitants seized partisans of Herod and drowned them in the Sea of Galilee; the revolt even spread to Idumea. Herod, returning at the head of a considerable Roman force, crushed the uprising. Antigonus then committed a fatal error: instead of concentrating all his forces against Herod, he dispatched a large part of them against the Roman troops in Samaria, and his army was defeated at Jeshanah. Only the approach of winter prevented Herod from besieging Jerusalem. In 37 Herod was reinforced by a large Roman army, 11 legions (about 50–60,000 men), sent by Mark Antony and commanded by Sosius. The siege lasted five months and the distress in the city was particularly acute, as that year was a sabbatical year and food was in short supply. Two sages in the besieged city, whose names are given by Josephus as Sameas (Shammai or Shemaiah) and Pollion (Hillel or Avtalyon), recommended that the city gates be opened, not out of love for Herod, but in the belief that this was a heaven-sent punishment which must be endured. Josephus' statement that the city fell on a fast day has been wrongly understood to refer to the Day of Atonement; it was probably a communal fast customarily proclaimed in time of danger. Antigonus and his forces fortified themselves on the Temple Mount, and when this was taken by storm by the Romans, Antigonus surrendered to Sosius. He was sent to Antioch to Mark Antony, who ordered him to be beheaded. This was the first time that the Romans executed a legitimate king in such a way, probably to show that they did not recognize him as such.


Jos., Wars, 1:239–40; 248–353; Jos., Ant., 4:297–300; 330–491; 15: 1–10; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 262–73; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (1960), 47–59, 370–3, 507–11; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19044), 354 ff.; R. Laqueur, Der juedische Historiker Flavius Josephus (1920), 186 ff.

[Abraham Schalit]