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Alexander Jannai

(killed 76 BCE)

Sixth Hasmonean priest to rule Judea. The youngest son of Johanan Hyrcanus was imprisoned for a year by his oldest brother, Aristobulus [104 BCE]. Released by his widowed sister-in-law, Salome, whom he married, Alexander conquered cities on the Mediterranean coast from Gaza to Carmel and extended Judean control to Gadara across the Jordan. He ruled more territory than any Judean king since Solomon. Yet he faced mounting criticism from hasidic Jews in Jerusalem.

Public outrage at this Hellenized soldier-priest reached a climax when he was pelted with citrons at the festival of Sukkoth [Oct. 94 BCE]. His soldiers responded by massacring thousands of worshippers. This in turn led to a six year revolt led by the Pharisees, who called the Syrian king Demetrius III to their aid. Alexander's forces were crushed at Shechem [88 BCE]. But the Judean rebels rallied around him, when they realized that the Syrian army planned to take Jerusalem. Rather than accept their aid, Alexander sought vengeance against the rebels by crucifying 800 Pharisees. His remaining years were spent on military campaigns. He died in battle near Gadara.

Sources: Into His Own