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(3760 - 2080 BCE)
(2080 - 1240 BCE)
(1240 - 400 BCE)
(400 BCE - 440 CE)
(440 - 1280 CE)
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(3657 AM - 103 BCE)
Unrest in Judea
(3660 AM - 100 BCE)
Simeon ben Shetach
(3660 AM - 100 BCE)
The Book of Enoch
(3670 AM - 90 BCE)
Demetrius III in Judea
(3671 AM - 89 BCE)
Yeshu, the Jewish Jesus?
(3671 AM - 89 BCE)
Siege of Antioch by Alexander
(3674 AM - 86 BCE)
The kingdom of Armenia
(3675 AM - 85 BCE)
Unrest in Egypt
(3680 AM - 80 BCE)
Return of the Pharisees
(3680 AM - 80 BCE)
Regency of Salome
(3684 AM - 76 BCE)
Creation of public schools
(3684 AM - 76 BCE)
Death of Salome
(3693 AM - 67 BCE)
Zugot Shemaiah and Avtalyon
(3695 AM - 65 BCE)
The campaign of Pompey
(3697 AM - 63 BCE)
(3697 AM - 63 BCE)
(3711 AM - 49 BCE)
Death of Pompey
(3712 AM - 48 BCE)
Previous << Generation 31 >> Next
Hebrew years 3600 to 3720 (160-40 BCE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~
During his 27 years of reign, Alexander extended the Hasmonean kingdom to the south and to the north. His kingdom was the largest during the entire Hasmonean dynasty.~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Hasmonean kingdom under Alexander Jannai
(in pink, the areas he conquered)
However he was not able to conquer Ashqelon and its region, which ended as an enclave in his kingdom. He also got himself into trouble with Ptolemy IX “Lathyros” by attempting to convince the mother of this king, Cleopatra, to conspire against her own son. Ptolemy learned about it and, as he was campaigning in the Levant, took revenge by killing many Jews, either 30000 or 50000 according to Greek historians, and even pretending that his army boiled and ate them, thus inspiring great fear in the Jewish population. This resulted however in Cleopatra marching to Judea with an army, which forced her son to embark for Cyprus. Some time after her return to Egypt, her younger son Ptolemy X assassinated her, in 101 BCE, and seized power again in the absence of his older brother Ptolemy IX, refugied in Cyprus.
These internal troubles in Egypt gave free hand to Alexander Jannai to pursue his reconquest of historical Jewish land. After taking Gaza however, his kingdom also suffered from internal struggles between the two main sects, the Pharisees and the Saduccees. Alexander sided with the latter against the former. This situation lasted for six years until 94 BCE when the Pharisees sought to attract Demetrius III, the Seleucid king, to help them get rid of Alexander Jannai with the promise to submit to his rule:
[Deme]trius king from Greece who sought, on the counsel of those who seek smooth things [the Pharisees], to enter Jerusalem. [But God did not permit the city to be delivered] into the hands of the kings from Greece, from the time of Antiochus until the coming of the rulers of the Kittim [the Romans]. But then she shall be trampled under their feet. --- Dead Sea Scrolls, Nahum Commentary, 4QpNah/4Q169, commentary of Nahum 2: 12
Alexander’s reaction was fierce as he executed many of the rebels and hanged them alive on trees:
Interpreted, this concerns the furious young lion [King Alexander, who executes revenge] on those who seek smooth things [the Pharisees] and hangs men alive. […] Because of a man hanged alive on tree, He proclaims: ‘Behold I am against [you, says the Lord of Hosts’]. --- Dead Sea Scrolls, op. cit., (ii 12a-b)
This execution to hang a man alive is punishable by God, because hanging was authorized by Jewish law but only for people put to death first:
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and you hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is a reproach unto God; that you defile not your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” --- Deuteronomy, 21:22-23
Thus the author of Nahum Commentary insinuates that Alexander’s act was calling for a divine punishment. It is also worth noting that this passage is often translated by Christian commentators as a "crucifixion", maybe because they believe that this method of execution was common in the Holy Land in these times. But in fact, the punishment of hanging on a tree for the extreme sinners was not a crucifixion and was only applicable to a criminal already put to death. His corpse being hanged was a display to set an example for would-be criminals. And the hanged corpse had to be buried before the day of execution would end, so it would never be left hanging over night (probably to avoid animals eating human flesh).
Nonetheless, this text seems to prove that Alexander’s handling of the religious rebels was cruel. They may have deserved to die, as conspirers against the state and intelligence with a foreign power to hand over the nation’s independence. But the punishment had been harsh, beyond the permissible ways.
All the religious leaders fled to Egypt during the persecutions of Alexander Jannai. But Simeon ben Shetach, a leading figure among the Pharisees, who had previously fled to Egypt during the reign of Hyrcanus, because his sister Salome was married to Alexander Jannai, returned to Jerusalem to take over the duties at the Sanhedrin which was then entirely re-composed of Saduccees. He was nonetheless elected as the nassi in abstentia of the previous head, Joshua ben Perachiah. Being the brother of the queen, Simeon was successful over time in opposing the Saduccees' practices in many religious decisions and in imposing the rule of the Law to them. He taught the following:
Be thorough in the interrogation of witnesses and be careful in your words, lest from them they learn to utter falsehood. --- Talmud, Avoth, Mishna 9
For centuries, the world knew of a Jewish document that was canonical to the Ethiopian Church but not to other Christian church. It was the Book of Enoch, named as such because it was said to be dating from Enoch (Hanoch in Hebrew) who walked in the path of God and taking alive from this world (to read about Hanoch, click here). The tradition about him had started in Egypt, long ago, and was found vivid among Ethiopian people. But, lately, in the 20th century, some extracts from the Book of Enoch were also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in Aramaic, which shows that the book must have circulated from Egypt or Ethiopia back into Judea at some point.
My assumption is that the religious people who came to Egypt at this time came across this work, and brought it to Judeah when they returned there, sometime in the First Century BCE, and its translation in Aramaic found its way to the community of Essenes in Qumran, Dead Sea. The following extract is related to the corruption of mankind when the Fallen Angels (Nephilim) copulated with the women of Earth, a theme mentioned in the Biblical text too (Genesis 6:4):
And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.' And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.' Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader, Araklba, Rameel, Kokablel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaq1el, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jomjael, Sariel. These are their chiefs of tens. --- Charles, Robert Henry, Apocrypha and Pseudedigrapha of the Old Testament in English, the Book of Enoch, Chapter 6
So, called by the Pharisees, Demetrius III decided to intervene in the Judean affairs with the goal to take control of the land and attach it to his realm. Alexander opposed resistance but was defeated in 89 BCE and he fled with come of his followers to a hiding place in the mountains. But Demetrius could not come into Jerusalem, because the Jewish rebels who had called for him finally rebelled against him, preferring being ruled by a bad Jewish king than by the Seleucid foreigner. They went to find Alexander and called him to lead them again. Seeing this position becoming critical with this change of allegiance, Demetrius decided to retreat back to Damascus, his home city and died soonafter in 88 BCE at the hand of his main enemy, the Parthians.
According to the Talmud, Jesus (called Yeshu) was a young man who was a student of the nassi Joshua ben Perachiah until it was discovered, because of the student's misbehaviour, that he was a mamzer which means he was not "clean" in the point of view of Rabbinical laws. This word is usually translated as bastard, but it really simply means a religiously illegitimate child (see Deuteronomy 23:2 and Talmud Yebamoth 49a). The story is found in Toledot Yeshu, a book written some time before the Talmud which probably used it as a source. It starts as follows:
In the [Hebrew] year 3671 in the days of King Jannaeus [Alexander Jannai], a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Joseph Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah. Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yohanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in the Torah and God-fearing. At the close of a certain Sabbath, Joseph Pandera, attractive and like a warrior in appearance, having gazed lustfully upon Miriam, knocked upon the door of her room and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yohanan. Even so, she was amazed at this improper conduct and submitted only against her will.--- Toledot Yeshu, to see translation on line, click here
The theory that Yeshu was such a mamzer child is also hinted in the New Testament when Jesus was confronted by fellow Jews who taunted him as an illegitimate child, unlike them. This may also be viewed as a contradiction to the claim that he came from Davidic lineage, as expected for the Messiah himself:
“Abraham is our father,” they [the Jews] answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”--- Gospel of John, 8:39-41
Also, the early Christian theologist, Origen of Alexandria, confirmed the existence of this tradition about Jesus' origin in a book he wrote about 250 CE. At that time, the Talmud was not compiled yet, but this tradition was known or accessible to scholars in the Toledot Yeshu:
But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that "when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera."--- Origen, "Contra Celsum", Book I, chapter 32 (to see text online, click here)
Origen didn't mention his source but clearly knew of the father of Jesus being Panthera or Pandera. Some say that Panthera was in fact a nickname for a soldier-like Hellenistic Jew (not a Roman soldier, as some later sources mentioned) from the Greek Parthenon (same as the name of the famous temple in Athens). Parthenon means the part of house which is used as the unmarried woman's apartment ! The similarity of the names and their significance may not be a mere coincidence. Origen was later declared anathema by the Church in 553 CE.
The Toledot Yeshu only became openly known to the Church in 1514 CE and this was the cause of persecutions against the Jews and their books to be burned.
Then Alexander marched onto Antioch, the Seleucid capital, and participated to its siege for three years. It was done in a combined effort with the Armenians who came from the north. According to the Book V of the Maccabees, which is not always accurate for the historical details, the king of Antioch is mentioned to be Demetrius, although Demetrius’seat was in Damascus and he had already died in his war against the Parthians. But the king of Antioch was Antiochus X. After three years of siege, he made an exit in an attempt to unlock the city. But he was killed in battle, in 83 BCE. Then Alexander returned to Judea as a hero:
He returned to Jerusalem to his citizens; who magnified him, honouring and praising him for having defeated his enemies. And the Jews agreed to submit to him, and his heart was at rest, and he sent his armies against all his enemies, whom he put to flight, and gained the victory over them. He also gained possession of the mountains of Sarah [Seir], and the country of Ammon, and Moab, and the country of the Philistines, and all the parts which were in the hands of the Arabians who fought with him, even to the bounds of the desert. And the affairs of his kingdom were ruled aright; and he placed his people and his country in a state of safety. --- Maccabees, Book V, 29:17-20
Coinage of Alexander Jannai (source Wikipedia)
The king Tigranes II of Armenia, so-called “the Great”, took over the Syrian part of the Seleucid kingdom, while the Parthians had control over the eastern and southern part. Tigranes’ ambition did not take him to the land of Judea, owing to the fact that he had probably made an alliance with Alexander.
The Armenian kingdom under Tigranes II the Great
(source Kingdom of Armenia)
Egypt was going through trouble again at this time. After that Ptolemy X had assassinated his mother and seized power from his older brother Ptolemy IX “Lathyros”, in 107 BCE, he had reigned for nearly 20 years until he died in a battle. His older brother Ptolemy IX reigned again from 88 BCE. But he made himself infamous in the eyes of the Ptolemaic nation when he stole the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great for its gold in order to issue coinage. This act outraged the people of Alexandria who will murder him in 81 BCE A period of political instability started in Egypt, at a time when Simeon ben Shetach returned to Jerusalem.
Coinage of Ptolemy IX
Some time before Alexander’s death, Simeon ben Shetach was authorized to recall the Pharisees from their exile in Egypt, among them was also his predeccessor as nassi, Joshua ben Perachiah. Joshua was eventually elected back to his role of nassi, and Simeon became av beth din, his right hand. The religious authority of the Sanhedrin was then restored. The event that triggered this change of policy from Alexander was told as follows. During a session when the king was called to court for a hearing against him, because he was asked to return a property he had confiscated for his personal use, the Saduccees would not be pass a religious judgment against him. Simeon, in anger, called for divine judgment and the Saduccees dropped dead. Afraid, Alexander pleaded for Simeon to form a Sanhedrin as he wished and to be called for judgment.
When Joshua died, Simeon took back the role of nassi, and Judah ben Tabbai was chosen as av beth din.
Alexander was ill for the last three years of his life. By fear of the Pharisees, he had advised his wife to conceal his death, until she would be able to secure her regency for their young sons to be king. He died after a long reign of 27 years. The Pharisees however made no opposition to his last wish when they learned about his death and respected his will to see his sons rule after him, and to have his wife Salome Alexandra (called Shlomzion in Hebrew) as the regent in the meantime.
Salome was the sister of Simeon ben Shetach so had nothing to fear from the Pharisees. She restored all their rights, freed the ones who were still in prison, and recalled the ones who were in exile. As of her brother, Simeon, he restored the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin and the religious rulings that had been discarded by the Saduccees since the great persecution of John Hyrcanus.
When her two sons grew up, Salome made Hyrcanus high priest and Aristobulus commander of the army (Maccabees, Book V, 31:6-7). As the army was composed of many Saduccees, they had more influence over Aristobulus while, in his role of high priest, Hyrcanus was guided by the Pharisees. On the account that the Pharisees sought revenge against the Sadducees for what they had done against during Alexander’s reign, the Sadducees complained to Queen Salome and threatened to restart a civil war. They told her:
“Nor will we endure to be killed by the Pharisees, like sheep. Therefore, either restrain their malice from us, or allow us to go out from the city [Jerusalem] into some of the towns of Judah." And she said to them, “Do this, that their annoyance to you may be prevented." And the Sadducees went forth of the city ; and their chiefs departed with the men of war who adhered to them ; and went with their cattle to those of the towns of Judah which they had selected, and dwelt in them ; and there were joined to them those who were devoted to virtue, (i. e. the Hasdanim). --- Maccabees, Book V, 31:8-12
They established themselves, along with the Hasdanim (the Essenes), outside the main cities of Judea, in cities of refuge instored by the Law.
Simeon ben Shetah was also the religious leader who was first to establish Jewish schools for children. Before him, the tradition was that children should be educated by their fathers but, with the religious knowledge being on the decrease for some time, it was considered sensible to leave the education to knowledgeable teachers. The decision to create public schools could only be afforded with political backing. So this policy probably happened once Simeon' sister became the Regent Queen. The first model of school was like a modern yeshiva, dedicated to the study of the Scripture.
This was an important move for Jewish life and allowed religious leaders to raise many students of Jewish laws and future disciples for their teaching. And this concept of yeshiva continues unto this day. Education is in fact very important in Jewish life, and schools became publicly open to every child in every region of the country over the years that followed:
R. Joshua ben Gamala came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town and that children should enter school at the age of six or seven.--- Talmud, Baba Batra, 21a
So, in Jewish life, schools were open from the age of six and free to every child. It took about 2000 years for the Western world to have such as a model in the form of primary schools, also starting from about the age of six. This long-lasting Jewish tradition goes further in setting the suitable number of pupils per class:
Raba further said: The number of pupils to be assigned to each teacher is twenty-five. If there are fifty, we appoint two teachers. If there are forty, we appoint an assistant, at the expense of the town.--- Talmud, Baba Batra, 21a
We should wish every school to be like that, even in our days !
Shortly before Salome died of illness, her son Aristobulus joined the Sadducees to exort them to join him for a war to rid the country of his brother Hyrcanus and the Pharisees. Meanwhile Salome gave the powers to Hyrcanus, her eldest son, and died at the age of 73, after 9 years of reign. The war between the two brothers quickly led to victory for Aristobulus who besieged Jerusalem where Hyrcanus and his followers had retreated. One episode of this siege wais recounted in the Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: When the members of the Hasmonean house were contending with one another, Hyrcanus was within and Aristobulus without [the city wall]. [Those who were within] used to let down to the other party every day a basket of denarii, and [in return] cattle were sent up for the regular sacrifices [of the Temple]. There was, however, an old man [among the besiegers; some say it was Antipater himself] who had some knowledge in Grecian Wisdom [Sophism] and who said to them: ‘So long as the other party [are allowed to] continue to perform the service of the sacrifices they will not be delivered into your hands.’ On the next day when the basket of denarii was let down, a swine was sent up. When the swine reached the centre of the wall it stuck its claws into the wall, and Eretz Yisrael quaked over a distance of four hundred parasangs by four hundred parasangs.--- Talmud, Baba Kama 82b
To avoid utter destruction of the Holy City, it was agreed to give the kingship to Aristobulus while Hyrcanus would solely focus on the priesthood. Peace was thus restored, but only for a short while.
Later on, an Idumean Jew called Antipater  conspired against Aristobulus in order to restore, as he said, the kingship to the rightful and pious older brother Hyrcanus. Aristobulus' followers believed that Hyrcanus was behind this conspiration, but that was not the truth. However, after a while, Antipater succeeded to convince Hyrcanus to join the conspiration and he also made alliance with Aretas, the king of the Nabataeans in Petra, to gather his army against Aristobulus. When war started, most of the Jewish army joined Hyrcanus’ forces, and Aristobulus retreated to Jerusalem and prepared for an expected siege.
When Simeon ben Shetach died, he was replaced by Shemaiah as nassi and Avtalyon was the av beth din. Both were converts of Assyrian descent, from Sennacherib who had destroyed the kingdom of Samaria and later repented of his deeds.[3a] The main teaching of Shemaiah was:
Love work, hate acting the superior, and do not bring yourself to the knowledge of the ruling authority. --- Talmud, Avot, 1:10
In their time, the high priesthood was more and more remote from the faith and offered as a high position to some of the royal or Sadducee nobility. The teaching of the two Sages may be echoed by the the following anecdote showing the arrogance and jealousy displayed by the High Priest:
It happened with a High Priest that as he came forth from the Sanctuary, everybody followed him, but when they saw Shemaiah and Avtalyon, they forsook him and went after Shemaiah and Avtalyon. Eventually Shemaiah and Avtalyon visited him, to take their leave of the High Priest. He said to them: May the descendants of the heathen come in peace![3b] — They answered him: May the descendants of the heathen, who do the work of Aaron, arrive in peace, but the descendant of Aaron, who does not do the work of Aaron, he shall not come in peace! --- Talmud, Yoma, 71b
Their tombs have been placed together in Jish, Northern Israel, near the tombs of other scholars of their time.
Tombs of Zugot Shemaiah and Avtalyon
In parallel to the fratricidal war in Judea, which caused the death of 100,000 people, the roman general Gnaeus Pompeius, who is now known as Pompey the Great, was campaigning against the Tigranes of Armenia and Mithridates of Parthia who had taken control of the Seleucid kingdom. In 65 BCE, he made a separate treaty with Tigranes in order to defeat Mithridates, which he did, and made of Parthia a Roman province. In 64 BCE he deposed the last Seleucid ruler, Antiochus XIII Asiaticus, and also made of Syria a Roman province. He then moved south, into Judea, in 63 BCE while the civil war still raged between the two brothers. Both sought after Pompey's support and the Roman general chose to support Hyrcanus. The reason for this decision, although Pompey was first inclined to support Aristobolus as the current ruler of Judea, is in the arguments that Antipater, Hyrcanus' envoy, had told Pompey:
And Pompey (who is Gneus) was inclined to help Aristobulus [because of a big present that he sent to Pompey]. Which when Antipater saw, he watched an opportunity that he might speak with Pompey alone, and said to him: "In truth, that present which you have received from Aristobulus needs not be restored to him, even though you should not assist him; yet Hyrcanus offers you twice so much: and Aristobulus will not be able to bring the Jews into subjection to you, but this Hyrcanus will do." And Pompey supposed the matter to be so as Antipater had said; and rejoiced to think that he could bring the Jews under his dominion. --- Maccabees, Book V, 36:12-16
After taking the city, Pompey entered Jerusalem and the Temple but was respectful of the religious practice of the Jews, actually encouraging them to cleanse the Holy place and to restore the divine service. Conquerors always had great wish and expectations to enter the Temple, but only to be deceived:
As victor he [Pompey] claimed the right to enter the Temple, and this incident gave rise to the common impression that it contained no representation of the deity—the sanctuary was empty and the Holy of Holies untenanted. --- Tacitus, Histories, 5: 9
In the Temple, Pompey only found the holy Menorah, pouring vessels, and lots of spices. This content is depicted in many Jewish artifacts of which a carved stone that was found in 2009 in the antique synagogue of Migdal in Israel which was operative in the time of Pompey’s visit.
The carved stone from Migdal synagogue (100 BCE)
(photography: Ferrell Jenkins)
In terms of politics, Pompey divided the Judean kingdom in three parts. Two parts were ruled by cities (polis since the Hellenistic times) that were pagans: these were Galilee with capital Sepphoris, and the East side of Jordan. The only part left as "Judea" was the rest of the country, with capital Jerusalem. Judea, for the Romans, meant the country of the Jews, so any region that was ruled by an Hellenistic city (polis) was considered to be outside the dominion of the Jews.
Pompey appointed Hyrcanus as king and returned to Rome taking with him Aristobulus and his children except Alexander who had fled. In Rome, Pompey was celebrated in triumph for two days during which he exhibited the kings he had captured in his campaign that brought Eastern provinces to the Roman empire:
The captives led in triumph, besides the chief pirates, were the son of Tigranes the Armenian [king] with his wife and daughter, Zosime, a wife of King Tigranes himself, Aristobulus, king of the Jews, a sister and five children of Mithridates, Scythian women, and hostages given by the Iberians, by the Albanians, and by the king of Commagene; there were also very many trophies, equal in number to all the battles in which Pompey had been victorious either in person or in the persons of his lieutenants. --- Plutarch, Pompey, 45:5
The Triumph of Pompey in Rome, Nicolo Giolfino, about 1520 (Castelvecchio museum, Verona)
Many Judeans were also taken by Pompey as slaves and were sent to the colonies of Spain where Pompey was popular. According to some historians, the presence of Jews in Spain dates from Pompey. But in fact Jews had formed a colony much earlier, at the time when Solomon entertained a maritime trade with the Phoenicians.
As a supervisor of the Asian provinces, Pompey had appointed Lucius Valerius Flaccus. The latter issued a decree to seize the gold paid by Jerusalem as a tribute to Rome, although Cicero, a friend of his and future co-conspirator, defended the decision in front of the Senate:
 As gold, under pretence of being given to the Jews, was accustomed every year to be exported out of Italy and all the provinces to Jerusalem, Flaccus issued an edict establishing a law that it should not be lawful for gold to be exported out of Asia. And who is there, O judges, who cannot honestly praise this measure? The senate had often decided, and when I was consul it came to a most solemn resolution that gold ought not to be exported. But to resist this barbarous superstition were an act of dignity, to despise the multitude of Jews, which at times was most unruly in the assemblies in defence of the interests of the republic, was an act of the greatest wisdom. “But Cnaeus Pompeius, after he had taken Jerusalem, though he was a conqueror, touched nothing which was in that temple.”  In the first place, he acted wisely, as he did in many other instances, in leaving no room for his detractors to say anything against him, in a city so prone to suspicion and to evil speaking. For I do not suppose that the religion of the Jews, our enemies, was any obstacle to that most illustrious general, but that he was hindered by his own modesty. --- Cicero, Pro Flacco, 67-68 from M. Tullius Cicero. The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, literally translated by C. D. Yonge, B. A. London. Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. 1856 (source: Perseus)
In the Jewish eyes, Flaccus was perceived as a greedy leader and this helped Alexander to lead a rebellion against Hyrcanus and the Roman army left behind by Pompey in the Eastern provinces. When the Romans went to campaign in Arabia, Alexander took the opportunity to retake Jerusalem in 58 BCE but was driven out from it a few months later by a second Roman army which came from Syria in support to Hyrcanus and led by Aulus Gabinius. When Gabinius went to Egypt in 55 BCE on orders from Pompey, to also restore Ptolemy XII to the throne of Egypt, Alexander started to rebel again and a third Roman army, this time led by Mark Antony (who will become a famous triumvir and the future lover of Cleopatra), moved from Egypt to Judea to defeat the Jewish pretender. Mark forced Alexander to retreat in a Judean fortress called Alexandrium (named after Alexander Jannai who built it) and besieged him until he came out to surrender. Alexander was taken prisoner in Egypt under the supervision of Gabinius.
In Judea, Gabinius pursued the policy of Pompey of "divide and conquer": he divided the Judean province into five parts. The centers in modern-day Israel were Jerusalem, Jericho and Sepphoris.
And when he [Grabinius] had ordained five councils, he distributed the nation into the same number of parts. So these councils governed the people; the first was at Jerusalem, the second at Gadara, the third at Amathus, the fourth at Jericho, and the fifth at Sepphoris in Galilee. So the Jews were now freed from monarchic authority, and were governed by an aristocracy.--- Josephus, Antiquities XIV, 89
In the Roman Empire, civil war started when the general Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 50 BCE and marched onto Rome which he seized in 49 BCE. As Pompey fled to Egypt and threatened to separate the Eastern provinces from the Roman Empire, Caesar freed Aristobulus and his party and allowed them to return to Judea in order to counter Pompey’s allies in the region.
When Aristobulus reached Judea, a large party gathered and showed their support to him, but he soon fell victim of the designs of Antipater who managed to have agents to poison him while he was in Damascus. And his son Alexander was put to death by Gabinius in 49 BCE on orders from Pompey to remove any pretender to the throne of Judea. Alexandra, the wife of Alexander, survived him because she was his first cousin, daughter of Hyrcanus II.
The Roman civil war came to an end when Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus in Greece, in the midlle of 48 BCE. Pompey fled to Egypt where he was assassinated by orders of the young king Ptolemy XIII who wanted to gain favour from Caesar. Ptolemy was a young boy married to his older sister Cleopatra. But Ptolemy and his main advisor wanted to expel Cleopatra from Egypt. This happened at the time when Caesar was pursuing Pompey and his followers into Egypt. Caesar executed the advisor who had Pompey assassinated, an act which triggered a war against Ptolemy XIII. Caesar’s forces were outnumbered and entrenched in the city of Alexandria, in 47 BCE, and the famous library went on fire, by accident according to Plutarch.
The burning of the library of Alexandria
(source: Dudley, Ambrose, Hutchinsons History of the Nation, 1910)
Reinforcements soon came from Mithridates and Antipater who both were eager to show support to Caesar after having been allies of Pompey. The victory, according to the Book of Maccabees, owed to the determination of Antipater and the neutral attitude of the Jews of Egypt who initially supported their ruler Ptolemy XIII:
But as they [Antipater’s army] departed thence, they found an army of the Jews who dwelled in Egypt, making a stand at the entrance, to prevent Mithridates from entering Egypt. And Antipater produced to them a letter from Hyrcanus, commanding them to desist, and not oppose Mithridates, the friend of Caesar. And they forbore. But the others marched till they came to the city of the then reigning king [Ptolemy XIII] who came out to them with all the armies of the Egyptians, and when they engaged with him, he conquered and routed them; and Mithridates turned his back and fled; whom, when he was surrounded by the Egyptian troops, Antipater saved from death, and Antipater and his men ceased not to resist the Egyptians in battle, whom he routed and conquered, and won the whole country of Egypt. --- Maccabees, Book V, 42:17-21
This Ptotemaic-Roman war ended with the death of Ptolemy XIII. Caesar reinstated his older sister Cleopatra on the throne of Egypt, along with her younger brother Ptolemy XIV. Caesar also had a liaison with Cleopatra and gave her a son, Caesarion.
Cleopatra before Caesar, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1866
As of Antipater, his change of allegiance to Caesar and his decisive actions that secured the victory earned him a Roman citizenship granted by Caesar who also appointed him Procurator of Judea and changed Hyrcanus’ role back to High Priest, for him and his descendants.
The assassination of Caesar in 44 BCE brought another period of unrest in the Roman empire, and old enmities surfaced again. Cleopatra got rid of her brother Ptolemy XIV in order to secure her son’s future as Ptolemy XV. In 42 BCE, Antipater was poisoned by a party who supported Hyrcanus without the latter’s knowledge. Meanwhile Octavian, the heir of Caesar, was gaining ground against those of the Senate who assassinated Caesar. He defeated Crassius’ rebellious army in Greece and killed Brutus, Caesar’s adoptive son. At this time, Hyrcanus sent ambassadors to Octavian to show alleagiance to the new Roman ruler.
Hasmonean dynasty from John Hyrcanus to Herod
 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, 12:5
 The Idumeans had converted to Judaism some years before, during the reign of John Hyrcanus
[3a] According to Talmud, Gittin, 57b: Descendants of Sennacherib gave public expositions of the Torah. Who were these? Shemaya and Abtalion.
[3b] This was a rude comment aimed to remind the two Sages that they came from conversion
 To date, this synagogue is one of the six only known in Israel that date from the Second Temple period
 Concening the funerals of Julius Caesar, it is interesting to note that the Latin historian Suetonius mentioned that the Jews of Rome mourned his death, which shows that a sizeable Jewish community was already established in the imperial city at this time (Suetonius, Lives of Caesars, Julius Caesar, chapter 84: "In this public mourning there joined a multitude of foreigners, expressing their sorrow according to the fashion of their respective countries, but especially the Jews who for several nights together frequented the spot where the body was burnt.") Another source mentioned that, at the time of Pompey, 4000 Jews lived in the Trastevere (meaning "across the Tiber" river) borough of Rome where they built a synagogue; Jewish catacombs have been found in Rome (such as Monteverde in Trastevere) and dating from before the Common Era (for more information, click here)
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