Antiochus IV Epiphanes
ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES
King of the Seleucian Kingdom of Syria (175–163 b.c.). He pursued a policy aimed at Hellenizing the Jewish religion that brought on the Machabean revolt; occupied by revolts in the eastern part of his empire and strongly opposed by the nationalism and religion of the Jews, Antiochus IV was unable to implement his Hellenizing decrees in Palestine.
Aggressive Hellenism of Antiochus IV. After the Battle of Magnesia (190 b.c.), Epiphanes was taken hostage and held in Rome for about 15 years. Upon his release, though not in a position to succeed immediately to the throne, he was able to eliminate his older brother's rightful heir, Demetrius. Antiochus made extravagant efforts to live up to his surname Epiphanes, which means "(God) Manifest"; his enemies punned on it, calling him Epimanes, "crazy." His relationship with the Jews and Jerusalem was unhappy and turbulent. Early in his reign he intervened to settle the dispute between the high priest onias iii and his brother Jason. Since Jason showed Hellenizing sympathies and came forward with a substantial bribe, Antiochus deposed Onias and made Jason high priest. Three years later one Menelaus, not of the lineage of the high priests, successfully bribed Antiochus to depose Jason and make him high priest. A subsequent, ill–advised revolt led by Jason in the absence of Antiochus was severely punished; Antiochus stripped the Temple of its treasures and put Jerusalem under a despotic governor named Philip (1 Mc 1.21–29). Frustrated in Egypt by Roman interference, Antiochus vented his anger on the Jews. His edict (1 Mc 1.43–53) that all peoples within his kingdom must be one in law, custom, and religion brought his relationship with the Jews to the worst possible climax, that of general persecution. Antiochus decreed the sternest measures against the Sabbath observance, circumcision, and food laws (1 Mc 1.48, 51). Any Jew discovered in possession of a copy of the Law was executed. The unforgiveable desecration, however, was the erection of an altar to the Olympian Zeus in the Temple, the "horrible abomination" (Dn 11.31; 1 Mc 1.57; see abomination of desolation).
Maccabean Revolt. In 167 b.c. Antiochus's policy, aimed at Hellenizing the Jews, brought open revolt, first under the leadership of the priest Mattathias (1 Mc 2.1–2.69), and then under his famous son Judas Machabee. The latter, aided by the Jews faithful to the Law, especially the hasidaeans (1 Mc 2.42), drove the Syrians out of Judea through a swift succession of victories (3.1–4.35). The enraged Antiochus was powerless to do anything about it. He was distracted and concerned by serious insurrections in Parthia and Armenia. Eventually he lost his life in leading an expedition against the Parthians (1 Mc 6.1–16). Tradition adds the ironic note of tragedy that, shortly before his death, Antiochus really became insane. The Book of Daniel, in its last four chapters, tells in veiled symbolism the story of Antiochus IV.
See Also: daniel, book of; maccabees, history of the; seleucid dynasty.
Bibliography: f. m. abel, "Antiochus Épiphane," Revue biblique 50 (1941) 231–254. a. aymard, "Autour de l'avènement d'Antiochos IV," Historia 2 (Wiesbaden 1953–54) 49–73. m. noth, The History of Israel, tr. p. r. ackroyd (2d ed. New York 1960). j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959) 401–412. g. downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton 1961) 95–111. m. wellmann, Paulys Realencyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 1.2 (1894) 2470–76.
[j. f. devine]