Hasmonaeans

views updated

HASMONAEANS

A Jewish dynasty of the 2d and 1st centuries b.c., the descendants of Mattathias's son Simon and successors of the Maccabees. (see maccabees, history of the.) The name Hasmonaean is derived from that of Hasmonaeus, who according to Josephus was Mattathias's great-grandfather. Seven members of the dynasty held actual power.

John Hyrcanus (135104 B.C.). He succeeded his father Simon as king and high priest. In the first year of his reign Antiochus VII Sidetes of the seleucid dynasty of Syria besieged Jerusalem and forced Hyrcanus to pay tribute for Jewish possessions outside Judea. In 130 b.c. Hyrcanus had to aid Antiochus in a campaign against the Parthians, during which the Syrian king died.

Hyrcanus took advantage of the resulting power vacuum to seize some of the surrounding territoryMedaba (Medeba), sichem (shechem), Adora, and Marissaand to force the Idumeans to accept Judaism; in later years he captured Samaria. Syria's internal problems and wars with Egypt meant effective independence for the Jewish state from 128 b.c. on. Hyrcanus's policies of conquest and national expansion clearly showed the secular character of the Hasmonaean dynasty and brought about a break with the pharisees, the successors of the hasidaeans, whose religious convictions the Machabees had fought to uphold. Some of the Pharisees whom Hyrcanus persecuted joined the qumran community.

Aristobulus (104103 B.C.). Known also as Judas, Aristobulus, the eldest of Hyrcanus's five sons, was to have succeeded only to the priesthood; Hyrcanus wished the government to pass to his widow. Instead, Aristobulus put her and three of his brothers in prison; later, because of reports of a plot, Aristobulus had his fourth brother, Antigonus, killed. Aristobulus died, apparently of remorse, soon after. During his reign he had extended his territory northward and Judaized the Ituraeans who lived in Galilee.

Alexander Jannaeus (10376 B.C.). The eldest of the three remaining sons of Hyrcanus was Alexander Jannaeus, known also as Jonathan. Aristobulus's widow, Salome Alexandra, made him king and high priest and married him. Alexander's reign was occupied with territorial expansion through military campaigns. The first of these, against Ptolemais (Accho), led to defeat through Egyptian interference. More successful were his campaigns against Gadara, east of the Jordan, and, c. 96 b.c., the old Philistine cities of Raphia, Anthedon, and Gaza. The Pharisees continued to oppose the warlike Hasmonaean policies of secular nationalism. When Alexander returned to Jerusalem after a campaign in which he had subdued the Moabites and Galaadites but then suffered a reversal from the Nabataean King Obodas I, he met with rebellion. For six years, with the aid of mercenary troops, he fought against civil uprisings; reportedly 50,000 Jews were killed. At last, in 88 b.c., the people appealed for aid to the Seleucid Demetrius III, who defeated Alexander at Sichem. Patriotism, however, brought many Jews back to Alexander, and he was able to expel Demetrius and finally to put down the rebellion. Alexander was pressed by the Nabataeans under Aretas III, but between 83 and 80 b.c. he expanded Jewish territory east and north, as far as Seleucia in Gaulanitis. By the end of his reign Alexander controlled the same territory that had formed the kingdom of David and Solomon. He died in 76 b.c., worn out by excesses, at the age of 51.

Alexandra (7667 B.C.). She was the widow of Jannaeus and succeeded him as ruler; the heir, Hyrcanus II, became high priest. Though this position satisfied the unambitious Hyrcanus, his younger brother Aristobulus chafed at being subordinate and powerless. Whereas Jannaeus had alienated the Pharisees, Alexandra gave them decisive influence. Aristobulus, however, took the part of the Hellenized, more secular-minded Sadducees. While he was plotting to gain power for himself, Alexandra died at the age of 73.

Aristobulus II (6763 B.C.). Although Hyrcanus was the rightful heir, his younger brother Aristobulus II, son of Jannaeus and Alexandra, used force to supplant him. In a battle near Jericho, in which many of his troops went over to Aristobulus, Hyrcanus was forced to flee to the citadel of Jerusalem; and there he surrendered himself, the kingship, and the high priesthood to his brother. But a royal official, the Idumean Antipater, persuaded Hyrcanus to seek to regain his rights with the aid of Aretas III, king of the Nabataeans, to whom at Petra Hyrcanus fled. When Aretas besieged Aristobulus in the Temple citadel, the Jews took the part of Hyrcanus. At this point, however, the Romans intervened. Coming from the campaign against Mithridates and Tigranes, Pompey's general Scaurus received delegations from both sides in the dispute, decided in favor of Aristobulus, and ordered Aretas to lift the siege. This decision was subject to reversal by Pompey, however, and when he reached Damascus in 63 b.c., he was met by three delegations. The Jewish people countered the two brothers' arguments by asking that the monarchy be abolished and the priests given power. Pompey postponed a final decision, but Aristobulus defied him and fled to Jerusalem. Although he surrendered there, his partisans would not admit Pompey's general Gabinius to the city. When Pompey himself came, Hyrcanus's followers surrendered the city, but the war party that supported Aristobulus took refuge in the Temple citadel. After a three-month siege Pompey forced his way in, and 12,000 Jews were massacred. Pompey's entrance marked the end of Jewish independence. Judea and Jerusalem were made tributary; and all coastal possessions, Samaria, Scythopolis, and the non-Jewish towns east of the Jordan were lost. These Pompey incorporated into the newly organized province of Syria. Judea now consisted of Juda, Perea, Galilee, the southern districts of Samaria, and Idumea. Aristobulus, with his sons Alexander and Antigonus, was taken to Rome to march in Pompey's triumph of 61 b.c., but Alexander escaped on the way.

Hyrcanus II (6340 B.C.). Hyrcanus now was high priest, but lacked political power for most of his reign. In 57 b.c., after an attempted rebellion by Alexander, Gabinius divided the land into five districts and placed these under the Roman governor of the province of Syria. The following year Aristobulus and Antigonus escaped from their Roman captivity and led a revolution; after a two-year siege Aristobulus was again captured and taken to Rome. The freedom granted his sons permitted another revolt, led by Alexander, in 55 b.c. Subsequently Gabinius, reversing the five-district division of 57 b.c., decided to strengthen Hyrcanus's position against his rivals and restored the high priest's power. When the Roman civil wars began in 49 b.c., Caesar planned to use Aristobulus to fight for him in Syria, but both he and Alexander were murdered by the Pompeians. Hyrcanus and Antipater joined the Caesarean party after Pompey's defeat at Pharsalia in 48 b.c. and furnished aid in Caesar's Egyptian campaign. For this service Caesar confirmed Hyrcanus as high priest and appointed him ethnarch; Antipater was made Roman procurator of Judea. After Caesar's assassination (44 b.c.) and again after the Battle of Philippi (42 b.c.) Hyrcanus gave his allegiance to the victorious faction, first to Cassius, then to Mark Antony. Antony confirmed Hyrcanus as high priest and made the sons of Antipater, Phasael and herod (later known as the Great), tetrarchs.

Antigonus (4037 B.C.). Antigonus, however, who was known also as Mattathias, took advantage of the Parthian invasion of Syria to have himself installed as king and high priest under the protection of the Parthian garrison in Jerusalem. Phasael and Hyrcanus were captured by a ruse, and Antigonus had his uncle's ears cut off, to make him legally unable to be high priest again, and sent him into exile with the Parthians; Phasael committed suicide. Herod, who had avoided being taken by the Parthians, was himself pronounced king by the Roman Senate at the end of the same year. In 37 b.c. he captured Jerusalem and had Antigonus executed. Hyrcanus was brought back from Babylon, but in 30 b.c. Herod executed him, at the age of 80, to remove his last possible rival for power.

Other members of the Hasmonaean dynasty figured in later Palestinian history. In 37 b.c. Herod married Mariamme, whose parents were Hyrcanus's daughter Alexandra and Alexander, the son of Aristobulus II. At Alexandra's urging Mariamme's brother Aristobulus was appointed high priest by Herod in 36 b.c., but within the year he was murdered by him. In 29 b.c. the jealous Herod had Mariamme herself killed; their sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, he had executed in 7 b.c. Aristobulus's son agrippa i was king of Judea from a.d. 37 to 44. Agrippa I's son, agrippa ii (d. a.d. 9394 or 100), was the last descendant of the Maccabees-Hasmonaeans to have any political power.

Bibliography: f. m. abel, Histoire de la Palestine depuis la conquête d'Alexandre jusqu'à l'invasion Arabe, 2 v. (Études bibliques [Paris 1903 ] 1952) v. 1. t. h. robinson and w. o. e. oesterley, A History of Israel, 2 v. (Oxford 1932) 2:217349. e.r. bevan, "Syria and the Jews," The Cambridge Ancient History, 12 v. (London and New York 192339) 8:495533; "The Jews," ibid. 9:397436. g. h. stevenson and a. momigliano, "Rebellion within the Empire," ibid. 10:850865. m. j. lagrange, Le Judaísme avant Jésus-Christ (Études bibliques 1931). r. de vaux, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirto et al. (Paris 1928) 4:773775. d. schÖtz, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 5:23.

[j. walsh]

About this article

Hasmonaeans

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article