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Aristobulus I

(d. 103 BCE)

Fifth Hasmonean priest to rule Judea (104-103 B.C.E.) and the eldest son of Johanan Hyrcanus I. According to his father's will, Aristobulus was to become high priest while his mother was to receive the throne. However, not content merely with the priestly office, Aristobulus seized the throne, cast his mother in prison where she died of hunger, and incarcerated all his brothers, except *Antigonus , for whom he had a particular affection. According to Josephus, Aristobulus later had Antigonus put to death, following an allegation that Antigonus was plotting against his life.

According to Josephus (Ant., 11:301), Aristobulus was the first of the Hasmoneans to adopt the title of king. The statement of Strabo, however (26:2, 40), that Alexander Yannai was the first, is more trustworthy since on extant coins Aristobulus is designated only as high priest while Alexander Jannai is specifically designated as king. Josephus also states that Aristobulus called himself "Philhellene." This title was assumed by other Eastern rulers who adopted Hellenistic culture. It is surprising however that Aristobulus should do so since the attitude of the Hasmoneans to the "Hellenes" was far from cordial. It is possible that it is a misreading for Philadelphus, which is the name he assumed as a sign of his affection for his brother Antigonus. But the use of the term is indicative of the extent of Hellenistic influence in his court.

Aristobulus followed both the cultural and military policies of his father. He extended Jerusalem's control further north and conquered Syrian strongholds at Samaria and Scythopolis. The statement of Josephus that he conquered part of the territory of the Itureans, forcibly converting them to Judaism, probably refers to the conquest of Upper Galilee by his father, Johanan Hyrcanus I, since the Itureans inhabited the Lebanon. In this campaign it is possible that Aristobulus was in command of his father's army.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica, Into His Own Jos., Ant., 13:301 ff.; Jos., Wars, 1:70 ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 141 ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19044), 273 ff.; Graetz, Gesch, 3 (19055), 118 ff.; Meyer, Ursp, 2 (1921), 274 n. 4; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (19643), 107, 409 (esp. n. 183).