BACCHIDES°


BACCHIDES° (second century B.C.E.), Syrian general and governor of Seleucid territories west of the Euphrates. A friend of Demetrius I, Bacchides was given the task of installing Alcimus as high priest. To this end he was assigned a large body of troops, for it was evident that opposition would be forthcoming from Judah Maccabee and the other leaders of the Hasmonean uprising. The pious *ḥasidim, rejoicing at the sight of a priest from the tribe of Aaron assuming the office of high priest, were inclined to accept the peaceful overtures of Bacchides. However, he disregarded his oath and immediately slew 60 of the Ḥasidim, thus reuniting the bulk of the Jewish population behind Judah. Leaving an army with Alcimus, Bacchides handed the country over to him and returned to Syria. Meanwhile, Judah decisively defeated another Syrian general, Nicanor (13 Adar, 161 B.C.E.). Within two months Bacchides returned to Judea, accompanied by a force of 20,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 horsemen. Judah's army, camped near Elasa, dwindled from 3,000 to 800, and in the fierce battle that ensued Judah was killed. Bacchides again entrusted the administration of Judea to the Hellenists, while the rebels, led by Jonathan and Simeon, dispersed and fled south and beyond the Jordan. Bacchides succeeded in tracking Jonathan down, but waited until the Sabbath to attack the Jewish army, thinking that they would not fight. However, Jonathan fought back and the Syrian general suffered many casualties in an indecisive battle. Bacchides retreated to Jerusalem and fortified the citadel there. He also fortified many places around Jerusalem in order to strengthen the Seleucid hold on the city. Believing that the royalist rule was secure, Bacchides returned to Syria and remained there for two years (until 158). His last expedition to Judea, at the request of the Hellenists, was virtually a disaster. By that time Bacchides had become dissatisfied with those Jews who repeatedly urged him to attack the Hasmonean brothers. Sensing this, Jonathan proposed peace and a release of prisoners. Bacchides agreed, considering this the most dignified way of withdrawing, and returned for the last time to Syria.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

I Macc., 7:8–20; 9; Jos., Ant., 12:393–7, 420–34; 13:4–33; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 216ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19592), 40–41, 46–53.

[Isaiah Gafni]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.