Aristobulus II

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ARISTOBULUS II (d. 49 b.c.e.), younger son of Alexander Yannai and Salome Alexandra. Aristobulus, who was the last independent Hasmonean king, reigned from 67 to 63 b.c.e. Toward the end of Salome's reign, Aristobulus made himself the spokesman of the Sadducees and complained of discrimination by the Pharisees who were in control of the royal council. When the queen was stricken by a fatal illness, he joined his Sadducee supporters who commanded the fortresses of Judea. With their aid he captured 28 strongholds and hired mercenaries from the Lebanon and Trachonitis in order to subdue the entire country and prevent his elder brother *Hyrcanus from seizing the throne. With the queen's consent, Aristobulus' wife and children were taken as hostages and confined to the citadel above the Temple in Jerusalem (Jos., Ant., 13:422–9). After Salome's death Aristobulus immediately declared war on Hyrcanus and won over most of his troops. He defeated Hyrcanus in a battle near Jericho and forced him to abdicate. But at the instigation of Hyrcanus' adviser, *Antipater ii, *Aretas, king of the Nabateans, attacked Aristobulus with a large force and defeated him. Aristobulus fled and barricaded himself in the Temple area where he was besieged by Aretas and Hyrcanus (Jos., Ant., 14:4–21). When Scaurus, one of Pompey's generals, arrived in Damascus in 65 b.c.e. and heard of the fighting, he immediately left for Judea. He negotiated with the envoys of both brothers. Aristobulus offered him a large sum of money with the result that the Roman general decided to support him, and ordered Aretas to return home. Aretas obeyed. Aristobulus seized this opportunity to attack the withdrawing army and deal it a severe blow (ibid., 29–33). Pompey arrived in Damascus in the spring of 63. He received delegations from the two brothers as well as one from the Jewish people. While the ambassadors of the brothers pleaded the cause of their masters, the people's emissaries urged that the country be freed of monarchical rule and restored to government by the high priest. Pompey deferred his decision (ibid., 40–47). Aristobulus thereupon took the hasty and ill-advised decision to leave Pompey and return to Judea. Pompey, suspecting that he had embarked on an anti-Roman course, set out after him to the fortress of Alexandrium. The Roman commander demanded that Aristobulus surrender all the fortresses in Judea. After some hesitation he promised to accede. When he failed to do so, and continued on his way to Jerusalem, Pompey followed him to Jericho. Aristobulus returned to the Roman camp and promised to fulfill Pompey's terms. Pompey sent Gabinius to take over Jerusalem. However, Aristobulus' supporters resisted and closed the city gates. Pompey thereupon moved his entire force to Jerusalem. The peace party in the city gained the upper hand against Aristobulus' men, and the gates were opened. Aristobulus' men fled to the Temple area, and Pompey besieged the Temple fortifications. After a siege of three months, the Romans burst into the Temple precincts and inflicted heavy casualties. Pompey entered the inner sanctuary itself. With this, the Hasmonean kingdom ceased to exist (63 b.c.e.) and Aristobulus and his children were carried off as prisoners to Rome. In 56 b.c.e., however, Aristobulus and his son Antigonus succeeded in escaping and reached Jerusalem. He assembled a new army but was defeated and took refuge with the remnant of his troops in Machaerus. After two days' fighting the stronghold fell to a determined Roman onslaught. Aristobulus was again taken prisoner, sent to Rome in chains, and there imprisoned until Julius Caesar conquered the city in 49 b.c.e. Caesar planned to send him to Syria with two legions to fight Pompey's supporters, but Aristobulus was poisoned by Pompey's men before he was able to leave for the East. His body was later sent to Judea for burial.


Jos., Ant., 14:48–79, 62–97, 123–4; Jos., Wars, 1:117–58, 171–4, 183–4; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 214–28, 238–40; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (19643), 13 ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 291 ff., 341 ff.; Graetz, Hist, 2 (1893), 47, 56–57; F.M. Abel, Histoire de la Palestine, 1 (1952), 287 ff.

[Abraham Schalit]