Hasmonean dynasty

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Apr 19, 2024

Table of Content


The Asmonaean dynasty dominated the political life of Palestine shortly after the middle of the 2nd century BC and maintained this position for the next hundred years. The Asmonaeans ruled their country first as high priests and then as kings, trying to maintain their independence among large kingdoms and powerful states.

Hellenistic times in Palestine

Alexander the Great's arrival on the coast of Palestine marked the end of Persian rule in that country. After his death, his state was divided among his successors. Palestine came under the rule of the kingdom of the Ptolemies. The weakening of the Ptolemaic kingdom led to the loss of its Syro-Palestinian territories. Palestine, like all other territories, came under the suzerainty of their rivals the Seleucids, whose kingdom was flourishing at the time (late 3rd century BC to early 2nd century BC).

Contrasts within Palestinian society

Palestine up to the time of the appearance of the Seleucids included an area extending into Syria. Tensions arose when King Seleucus Philopator tried to appropriate the treasures of the temples of the Canaanites. Things became more serious under his successor Antiochus Epiphanes when a member of the Hellenizing Palestinians faction set aside the legitimate high priest Onias III and became high priest himself. Iason introduced Greek institutions, customs and traditions into the city which caused the reaction of the Palestinians. The situation became even worse when another of the Greek-speaking Palestinians, Menelaus, brother of the Temple patron Simon, pushed Jason aside and took the office, promising the Seleucid authority an exorbitant tribute (172

Causes and reasons

The Hellenization policy of the Seleucids, which divided the Palestinian society by creating factions of traditionalists and modernists, the poor economic situation of the Seleucid state, which suffocated the local communities with explosive results, due to the unbearable financial obligations that the Seleucids had assumed towards Rome after their defeat at the Battle of Magnesia and a fortuitous event that was a manifestation of the climate of suspicion that pervaded the Romans towards the Seleucids, the humiliation of Antiochus Epiphanes in Alexandria by the Roman ambassador Gaius Popilius Laina led to the outbreak of the revolution.

The deposed high priest Jason, following rumours that Antiochus Epiphanes had died after his humiliation, attacked Jerusalem with a small force of armed men. His opponent, the high priest Menelaus, together with a few of his followers and the Seleucid garrison of the city, easily repulsed him. When Antiochus, returning from Egypt at the end of 168 B.C., was informed of what had happened, he entered Jerusalem and proceeded to carry out a series of brutal reprisals (massacres and persecution of the Assyrians, confiscation of the temples and establishment of a polytheistic religion, settlement of the Hellenizing Palestinians with a military garrison in the fortress of Acre in Jerusalem). Finally in the winter of 167 BC a royal decree was issued in Antioch outlawing the Jewish religion.

The revolution started from the village of Modin. Its leader was the priest Mattathias from the Asmonaeans. After the death of Mattathias, in 166 BC, the leadership of the struggle was taken over by his sons led by Sfyrokopos. Sfyrokopos initially had many successes against local military officials of the Seleucid state (Apollonius).

His activity became known to the central Seleucid authority. But the forces which Antiochus Epiphanes deployed against him at the time when he was preparing to campaign in the eastern provinces of his state, though large in comparison with those of the Maccabees, could not suppress the revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes died in Persia in November or December 164 BC during his campaign. Shortly afterwards Judas captured Jerusalem (except for the fortress of Acre) (winter of 164

The end of the Hammerhead. The march towards autonomy. Jonathan

The civil strife between the Jewish factions led to a new intervention by the Seleucids at the request of the Hellenizing Jews. On the Seleucid throne, however, was the dynamic Demetrius Soter, who with repeated troop deployments to Judea managed to end the rebellion by defeating Judas in battle and killing him (160 BC).

But the Maccabean movement did not die out. Judah's brother and successor Jonathan took over the leadership and after years of effort managed to be appointed judge of the Jewish laos under the control of the Seleucid administration (152 BC).

Jonathan between Demetrius I and Alexander Vala

Jonathan, following a skilful policy of diplomacy and claims, managed to interfere in the internal conflicts of the Seleucids and exploit them to his advantage. Thus he managed to wrest the office of high priest, which was granted to him by the pretender to the throne, Alexander Vallas, in order to stand by his side despite the fact that Demetrius had granted him successive privileges in order to maintain his support.

Thus Jonathan found himself on the side of the victor of the civil conflict, Alexander Vala (winter 151

Jonathan between Alexander Vala and Demetrius II

The misrule of Vala, who lacked administrative skills, caused separatist tendencies in the kingdom and eventually the emergence of a new challenger, the young son of Demetrius Soteros (spring 147 BC). Demetrius Nicator also had the support of Apollonius, the general of Colian Syria. However, Jonathan, an ally of Vala, managed to defeat Apollonius in a battle fought at Azotus and captured the cities of Azotus, Joppa and Ascalon.

Ptolemy Philomitor rushed to Syria to support his son-in-law. Jonathan met him in Azotus and managed to secure his favour.

The Lagides monarch changed sides when, on reaching the walls of Antioch, his son-in-law organised and carried out a failed assassination attempt against him. Valas eventually lost not only the war but his life (145 BC). Jonathan who at the same time tried to take advantage by unsuccessfully attempting to take over Accra not only suffered no consequences from the new king but managed to retain the privileges he had held and extracted more with the only obligation being to tolerate the garrison of Accra and pay an annual tax of 300 talents.

Jonathan between Demetrius II and Diodotus Tryphonus. The end of

The cruelty with which the new king treated his subjects caused a rebellion in his capital Antioch which was put down in blood and with the assistance of Jonathan. Jonathan for his help obtained a promise from Demetrius that the garrison of Accra would be withdrawn. This promise was not kept.

When the violence and bloodshed from the suppression of the revolt in Antioch caused the defection of a general, Diodotus (who proclaimed Vala's grandson king under the name Antiochus Dionysus), Jonathan came to an agreement with him, intending to break Demetrius' promise and received new privileges (summer 144 BC). He then took on Demetrius' generals with remarkable success.

Diodotus soon realised that Jonathan was acting for his own benefit and turned against him. After he managed to capture him by a trick, he finally decided to march on Jerusalem. But the defence put up by Jonathan's brother and deputy leader Simon, who took over the leadership, and bad weather conditions halted his march. So Diodotus left the area after executing Jonathan(143

Simon. Judea becomes independent

Simon allied himself with Demetrius, who withdrew the garrison from Accra (143

The 142

Demetrius Nicator was captured in 139 BC by the Parthians. He was succeeded on the throne the following year by his younger brother Antiochus Sidetes. Sidetes formed an alliance with Simon against Tryphon, whom he was besieging in the city of Dora in Phoenicia.

Simon was quick to reinforce him. The two allies came to blows when Sidetes demanded compensation for the privileges he had granted Simon. The rupture ended in a conflict. Thus Tryphon managed to escape.

Tryphon fled to Apamea where he committed suicide (137 BC), while Sidetes commissioned one of his generals to conduct raids against Judea. But Simon's sons defeated him and forced him to retreat. Eventually Sidetes, seeing the Romans' interest in the Judean high priest, decided to take a more moderate stance.

Sidetes' calculations proved to be correct. A few years later (February 134 BC) a relative of Simon, his son-in-law Ptolemy son of Abubus, with the possible complicity of Sidetes himself, murdered him and two of his sons in an attempt to seize power.

The activity of Ioannis Yerkanos

John Hyrcanus was the son of Simon. After he managed to escape his father's murderer, he was proclaimed high priest. Ptolemy of Abubo asked Antiochus for help. Antiochus Sidetes, came with an army to Judea and besieged Jerusalem when John of Hyrcanus refused to satisfy the claims he had long ago made against John's father, Simon. After a long siege, John Hyrcanus surrendered (131 BC).

Antiochus Sidetes respected Jewish tradition and imposed only the demolition of the walls of Jerusalem and the payment of a tax (500 talents) on the external possessions of the Jews. He did not establish a garrison in Accra but took hostages.

John Hyrcanus participated in the campaign conducted by Antiochus Sidetes against the Parthians and was captured when the Seleucid king lost a battle and with it his life. He was released shortly afterwards, however, as his expansionist ambitions served the Parthian goal of weakening the Seleucids.

After his liberation, John Hyrcanus attacked several cities both in Idumea and Samaria, which he conquered as the Seleucid army, due to the war with the Parthians, did not exist in the area.

The Seleucid kingdom was still going through a period of crisis at that time. The new Seleucid king Alexander Zabinas followed a policy towards John Hyrcanus that was contrary to that of Antiochus Sidetes. The same policy was followed by his successor, from 123

In (108 BC) John Hyrcanus and his two sons Aristobulus and Antigonus besieged the city of Samaria. Antiochus Cyzicus turned against them but was defeated and withdrew. Then the Jews occupied and excavated Samaria (November 108 BC). John Hyrcanus obtained from Rome recognition of his new conquests. A few years later (104 BC) he died.

The first Asmonean kings

After the death of John Hyrcanus, his eldest son Aristobulus, who was proclaimed king, assumed power. Aristobulus gave second place in his state to his brother Antigonus. The rest of his close relatives he imprisoned.

Aristobulus was successful in foreign policy as he conquered Galilee, but in his personal life he fell victim to a plot organized by his wife Salome Alexandra and murdered his brother. Shortly after this event he died (103 BC).

Aristobulus was succeeded in the royal office by his brother Alexander Iannaios. Alexander Iannaeus was released from prison by Salome Alexandra after he agreed to marry her.

Alexander Iannaius pursued an aggressive policy towards his neighbours. This policy brought him into conflict mainly with the Ptolemies who at that time due to a dynastic dispute that had broken out were in open conflict with each other (Ptolemy Lathyrus against his mother Cleopatra). Alexander Iannaeus suffered several defeats, his greatest success being the capture of Gaza (101 BC).

Alexander Jannaius and the Pharisees

Alexander Iannaius faced an internal crisis as he was overtly projected as a Hellenistic monarch. At a religious festival (of Skenopigia) while he was going to perform his duties in the Temple the crowd disapproved of him. Alexander Iannaius reacted by hiring mercenaries and quelling the rebellious movement in blood.

Then he attacked against Obeda king of the Nabataean Arabs. But in Gaul he was ambushed by the Arab ruler and his army was dispersed.

Because of its defeat, a new civil conflict broke out in Palestine between modernists (the Asmonean dynasty and its allies the Sadducees) and traditionalists (the Pharisees, who proved to be faithful followers of the Ascidians' tradition) (94 BC). The confrontation developed into a multi-year civil war with some 50,000 casualties by the time the Pharisees sought the help of Seleucid Demetrius Eukairus (88 BC).

Demetrius, who wanted to humiliate Alexander Iannaeus, invaded Samaria and, after joining several thousand Pharisees, crushed the army of Alexander Iannaeus at Sikima. The Pharisees (about 6,000), however, realizing in time the expansionist intentions of Demetrius, abandoned his army and allied themselves with Alexander Iannaeus. Demetrius, who was facing dynastic entanglements, withdrew.

Alexander Iannaius attacked the Pharisees and after killing several of them he besieged the rest in the city of Bemaseli where they fled. He then took the city and captured several prisoners. When he returned to Jerusalem he crucified 800 of them. Before the crucifixion, he killed their wives and children in front of those on death row. This ended the civil conflict.

Alexander Iannaius continued his aggressive activity against the Seleucids and the Nabataeans and died during the siege of a fortress across the Jordan called Ragaba (76 BC).

Stagnation and dynamic disputes

Alexander Iannaeus was succeeded in power by his wife Salome Alexandra, who for some time managed to keep the balance and avoid tensions both on the external front where she managed to compromise with the new powerful factor of the East, King Tigranes of Armenia (69 BC), and internally where she approached the faction of the Pharisees.

Salome Alexandra's effort fell on deaf ears when her younger son Aristobulus proclaimed himself king, while a few months before she had proclaimed her eldest son Hyrcanus as king. But she did not have time to take any real action against him as she died shortly afterwards (67 BC). The followers of the two brothers clashed at Jericho and the defeated Hyrcanus ceded power to his brother (66 BC).

The conflict between the two brothers developed into a real civil war when Antipater Idumaeus, the main collaborator of Hyrcanus, for selfish reasons, asked for the help of the Nabataean Arabs. Aristobulus found himself blockaded and besieged by his brother's forces in Jerusalem. He then turned to the Romans.

Gnaeus Pompey

Aristobulus first turned to Marcus Aemilius Scairo, the antitype of Pompey, who was in Damascus (64 BC). Soon, however, both sides were in contact with Pompey himself, who was in Syria to bring order to the chaotic situation there (64

Pompey, after negotiations with both sides, sided with Antipater and Hyrcanus. Then he decided to settle the situation by moving towards Jerusalem. Aristobulus was arrested and his followers were blocked and besieged by Pompey in the Temple. After three months Pompey captured the Temple and suppressed all resistance. The kingdom of the Asmoneans was abolished (63 BC). Aristobulus, his two sons Alexander and Antigonus Mattathias and the rest of his family were captured and taken to Rome. Hyrcanus remained in Jerusalem holding the office of high priest.

Decline and demise of the dynasty

Neither Aristobulus nor his two sons Alexander and Antigonus Mattathias gave up their quest to regain power and avenge their hated rivals Antipater and Hyrcanus. At first Alexander, who escaped during his transfer to Rome, tried to take Jerusalem, which he temporarily succeeded in doing (57 BC). But the Roman prefect of Syria, Aulus Gabinus, managed to crush him and capture him. The following year Aristobulus and Antigonus, who also escaped from Rome, organized another failed rebellion. Both were captured and sent back to Rome. Eventually, after negotiations with the Roman prefect, a compromise was reached, Alexander and Antigonus Mattathias were set free in Palestine, and their followers surrendered in return what fortified positions they held to the Romans.

Two new rebellions that Alexander participated in or organized, in 55 BC and 52 BC, met with a miserable fate, although he managed to survive.

In 49 BC Caesar, during his conflict with Pompey, freed Aristobulus and sent him to Palestine to incite a revolution. But Pompey's followers arrested him and executed him in Antioch. The same fate befell Alexander shortly afterwards (49

Antipater was the one who benefited from the Roman civil war. For his assistance to Caesar during the latter's operations in Alexandria, he received the Roman state. At a meeting held in Syria between Caesar, Antipater, Hyrcanus and Antipater, the latter's claims and protests were not only ignored but, moreover, Antipater was appointed by Caesar commissioner of Palestine (47 B.C.).

Antigonus Mattathias tried to regain power during the time of the conflict between the Assassins and the Second Triumvirate, when unrest had broken out in Syria. But Antigonus and his allies were repulsed by Antipater's son Herod, who held the office of general of Coli in Syria and Samaria (42 BC). The latter even became engaged after this success to Alexander's daughter and granddaughter of Hyrcanus, Mariam.

Two years later (40 BC) the Parthians conquered Syria. Antigonus and his allies secured their help. The Parthians captured Jerusalem and Antigonus was proclaimed king. His hated uncle Hyrcanus was arrested and taken into captivity after Antigonus had previously amputated his ears with his teeth in order to destroy his physical integrity which was a prerequisite for holding the high priesthood and to ensure that he would never again become high priest.

Herod, who was a tetrarch at the time, managed to escape to Rome. There he was proclaimed king by the Senate (December 40 BC) and with the support of the Romans he returned to Palestine (late 39 BC). After years of civil war, he conquered Jerusalem with the help of the Syrian prefect Sosius. Antigonus Mattathias was captured and led in irons to Antioch where he was quarantined (summer 37 BC).

Shortly before the capture of Jerusalem, Herod married Maryam. He also managed to free Hyrcanus and bring him back to Palestine because he feared that the Parthians might use him against him (36 BC). Herod's suspicion was to prove disastrous for the descendants of the Asmoneans as he successively eliminated the young high priest Aristobulus, brother of Mariam, because he feared the crowd's sympathy for him (35 BC), Hyrcanus because he suspected that he had conspired with the Nabataean king to assassinate him (30 BC), and Herod because he suspected that he was conspiring with the Nabataean king to assassinate him (30 BC). B.C.), Mariam on the charge of plotting against him (29 B.C.), his mother-in-law Alexandra for organizing a stand against him (28 B.C.) and finally his own sons by Mariam Aristobulus and Alexander who fell victim to the corrupt environment that prevailed at his court (6 B.C.).


  1. Hasmonean dynasty
  2. Ασμοναϊκή δυναστεία
  3. ^ Neusner 1983, p. 911.
  4. ^ Vermes 2014, p. 36.
  5. Σάντερς Ε.Π. Το ιστορικό πρόσωπο του Ιησού.3.To πολιτικό σκηνικό. σελ.45-46
  6. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους. Τόμος Δ΄ Μέγας Αλέξανδρος Ελληνιστικοί Χρόνοι.ΝΕΕΣ ΑΝΑΚΑΤΑΤΑΞΕΙΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΥΓΚΡΟΥΣΕΙΣ.Η ΟΡΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΔΙΑΜΟΡΦΩΣΗ ΤΩΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΤΙΚΩΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΩΝ (301-280 π.Χ.).σελ.295
  7. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους. Τόμος Δ΄ Μέγας Αλέξανδρος Ελληνιστικοί Χρόνοι. Η ΕΞΑΣΘΕΝΙΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΑΙΓΥΠΤΟΥ.σελ.433-435
  8. a et b Simon Claude Mimouni, Le Judaïsme ancien du VIe siècle avant notre ère au IIIe siècle de notre ère, Paris, 2012, éd. PUF, p. 332.
  9. a et b Christian-Georges Schwentzel, Juifs et nabatéens: Les monarchies ethniques du Proche-Orient hellénistique et romain, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013, Rennes (France), p. 249.

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?