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Mattathias ben Johanan [died 165 BCE]

Author of the Judean revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire [166 BCE] & patriarch of the Hasmonean dynasty of Judean rulers. By birth Mattathias was a lesser priest of the line of Jehoiarib & the family of Hasmon. A fervent religious conservative, he moved his family to Modein, a village northwest of Jerusalem, to escape Hellenization of the temple cult. After Antiochus IV pillaged the temple & replaced Judean religious tradition with Greek worship & culture [167 CE], Mattathias led Judeans to rebel against Syrian domination. He died within a year but his revolt was continued by his sons, three of whom -- Judah Maccabee, Jonathan & Simon -- became de facto rulers of Judea. His descendents (through the offspring of Aristobulus IV) remained prominent in the politics of the Near East until almost 100 CE. He himself was celebrated in later rabbinic Judaism as a champion of religious freedom.

Judah Maccabee [killed 160 BCE]

Second leader of the Judean revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire [166 BCE]. Westerners have traditionally referred to the third son of Mattathias of Modein by the Latinate form of his name: Judas Maccabeus. A Judean priest, he assumed command of Judean resistance to Greek forces after his father's death [165 BCE]. His defeat of the Greek governor of Samaria led to even more stunning victories over larger Greek armies at Beth-horon & Emmaus. After this, Judah captured Mt. Zion, purged the temple of Hellenistic cult paraphernalia, reconstructed the sanctuary according to Torah prescriptions & reconsecrated it to the worship of YHWH [Dec. 164 BCE]. The festival of cHannukah was later instituted to commemorate this triumph. Judah was repelled, however, in his attempt to drive the Syrian garrison from the rest of Jerusalem & was defeated near the village of Beth Zechariah, southwest of Jerusalem [162 BCE]. He died in the battle of Elasa (north of Jerusalem). Though Judah himself never held an official political position other than ad hoc general of the Jewish rebellion, he had a major influence on the direction of later history by initiating an alliance with the republic of Rome against the Greek Syrian empire. He was succeeded by his youngest brother, Jonathan who, like him left no male heirs. But the descendents of his older brother Simon became the Hasmonean dynasty of Judean rulers.

Simon Thassi [murdered 134 BCE]

Fourth leader of the Judean revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire [166 BCE]. The second & last surviving son of Mattathias of Modein aided & consolidated the gains of his younger brothers, Judah Maccabee & Jonathan. After rallying dispirited Jews to defeat the Syrian general who had killed Jonathan [142 BCE], he persuaded Demetrius II to exempt Jews from taxation or tribute. He then eliminated the last vestige of Syrian control of Judea by capturing the citadel in Jerusalem. His military & diplomatic successes won him renewal of the alliances that his brothers had negotiated with Rome & Sparta. Judean coins proclaimed him "High Priest, General & Ruler of the Jews." He may be the legendary "Simon the Just" of later rabbinic tradition. Yet, the price of his diplomatic triumphs was renewed Hellenization of Judea. As the only son of Mattathias who produced male heirs, he was the real founder of the Hasmonean dynasty. But he was assassinated by his own son-in-law, Ptolemy, who hoped to succeed him.

Jonathan Apphus [killed 142 BCE]

Third leader of the Judean revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire [166 BCE]. Jonathan was the youngest son of Mattathias of Modein & chief lieutenant of his elder brother, Judah Maccabee. He reorganized Judean resistance to Syrian forces after his brother's death [160 BCE]. He not only eluded capture by the Syrian general who garrisoned Judea, but shrewdly bargained with rival claimants to the Syrian throne. He was awarded the Judean high-priesthood by Alexander Balas [152 BCE] & later rewarded with full control of Judean territory after he defeated Demetrius II [147 BCE]. After Balas' death [145 BCE], Jonathan gained a foothold in Samaria by allying himself with Demetrius. When Demetrius was overthrown, Jonathan courted more gentile allies & tried to take control of more territory. He invaded southern Galilee, but was captured & killed by treachery at Ptolemaïs [Akko]. Despite spectacular external political gains, Jonathan's policies created religious discord among conservative Jews, many of whom viewed his claim to the high-priesthood illegitimate. He left no male heirs, but the Jewish historian Josephus claimed descent from an unnamed daughter. He was succeeded by his older brother Simon, whose descendents became the Hasmonean dynasty of Judean rulers.

Aristobulus I [died 103 BCE]

Fifth Hasmonean priest to rule Judea & the first to claim the title of "king" [basileus]. The eldest son of Johanan Hyrcanus was a ruthless warrior, who imprisoned his own kin to prevent rivals. He extended Jerusalem's control further north than since 950 BCE. He conquered Syrian strongholds at Samaria & Scythopolis. After his father's death, he wrested control of Galilee from the Itureans [Lebanese] & forced the inhabitants to accept "the laws of the Judeans." His brief turbulent reign was terminated by his death from some painful disease. He was succeeded by his brother, Alexander Jannai.

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 & extended Judean control to Gadara across the Jordan. He ruled more territory than any Judean king since Solomon. Yet he faced mounting criticism from chasidic 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.

Alexandra Salome [died 67 BCE]

Sixth Hasmonean ruler of Judea. The widow of both Aristobulus I [d. 103 BCE] & Alexander Jannai [d. 76 BCE] became only the second female monarch in Judean history. But she was dominated by the Pharisees, whom her late husband had advised her to placate. The Pharisees' unrestrained campaign of revenge against Alexander's former associates in turn alienated the aristocratic Sadducees & her own younger son, Aristobulus II. She died as the latter's army was preparing to lay siege to Jerusalem.

Hyrcanus II [executed 30 BCE]

Eighth Hasmonean ruler of Judea. The indolent older son of Alexander Jannai & Salome Alexandra succeeded his father as high priest [76 BCE], while his mother retained at least nominal control of political affairs. After her death [67 BCE] he was deposed by his younger brother, Aristobulus, but with the support of Antipater he was restored to the high-priesthood after Roman forces wrested control of Jerusalem from his brother's aristocratic supporters [63 BCE]. Yet he was deprived of the title of "king" [basileus] by the Roman general, Pompey, who was opposed to monarchies in principle. He was deposed [40 CE] by Aristobulus' son, Antigonus, who had him castrated (which under Mosaic law disqualified him from acting as priest) to preclude his restoration to the high-priesthood. Antipater's son, Herod, avenged Hyrcanus & was rewarded by engagement to the ex-high priest's granddaughter, Mariamne. Though nominally the chief Jewish official, Hyrcanus was always dominated by others: first his mother, then Antipater & finally his grandson-in-law, Herod, who ultimately had him executed on charges of treason, so that there would be no male Hasmoneans left for the new emperor Augustus to make ruler of the Jews in his stead.

Aristobulus II [murdered 43 BCE]

Seventh Hasmonean ruler of Judea. The impetuous younger son of Alexander Jannai & Salome Alexandra rebelled against his mother, defeated his older brother Hyrcanus at Jericho & proclaimed himself high priest & king. He was supported by the Sadducees but was driven from Jerusalem [65 BCE] by Arab armies of Nabatea [Jordan], who came to his brother's aid at the invitation of Antipater. Aristobulus called for & received support from the Roman legate of Syria. But Hyrcanus appealed directly to Pompey, the Roman conqueror of Syria, who was in Damascus. Aristobulus sent a counter-petition to Pompey. Yet, rather than wait for Pompey's decision --- which was complicated by an appeal by residents of Jerusalem to abolish the Judean monarchy & return to a theocracy ---, Aristobulus seized the fortress of Alexandrium. Pompey used this as a pretext to attack Jerusalem. When Aristobulus' aristocratic supporters fortified themselves in the temple, Pompey breached the walls, slaughtered thousands of Jews in the sanctuary & even entered the holy of holies. Aristobulus was sent to Rome as a hostage. He was eventually released by Julius Caesar [49 BCE], only to be poisoned by Pompey's supporters before he could wrest control of Jerusalem from supporters of his older brother.

Antigonus [executed 30 BCE]

Ninth & last Hasmonean to claim control of Judea. The ambitious younger son of Aristobulus II, with his older brother, led several futile Jewish rebellions against the Romans [57-55 BCE] during their father's imprisonment, which only increased Rome's suspicions of independence-minded Jews. The murder of Antipater [43 BCE] -- the chief supporter of his uncle, Hyrcanus II -- led Antigonus to launch a last attempt to seize control of Judea. He was defeated in battle by Antipater's younger son, Herod. But Antigonus allied himself with the Parthians, who were challenging Rome for control of Syria & Palestine. Proclaiming Antigonus "king" [basileus], a Parthian force took Jerusalem [40 BCE], deposed Hyrcanus from the high-priesthood & held Herod's older brother, Phasael, hostage. Herod, however, escaped & rallied Roman support. With his Parthian allies bested by Marc Antony, Antigonus was isolated & eventually captured in Jerusalem by Herod [37 BCE], who delivered him to the Romans at Antioch, where he was beheaded: the first "king" to be so executed at the hands of Rome.

 

 


Source: Into His Own