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Hasmonean Kingdom to 63 BC
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BCE.

Accession

Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome. After the death of Alexander in 76 BCE, his widow succeeded to the rule of Judea and installed her elder son Hyrcanus as High Priest.

When Salome died in 67 BCE, she named Hyrcanus as successor to the Kingship as well. Hyrcanus was already High Priest but also shared his mother's religious views, sympathetic to the Pharisees. In contrast to this, Alexander Jannaeus had supported the Saducees.

Deposition

Hyrcanus had scarcely reigned three months when his younger brother Aristobulus II, who agreed with his father's Sadducean stance, rose in rebellion. Hyrcanus advanced against him at the head of his mercenaries and his followers. The brothers met in battle near Jerichomarker and many of Hyrcanus' soldiers went over to Aristobulus II, and thereby gave the latter the victory.

Hyrcanus took refuge in the citadel of Jerusalemmarker; but the capture of the Templemarker by Aristobulus II compelled Hyrcanus to surrender. A peace was then concluded, according to the terms of which Hyrcanus was to renounce the throne and the office of high priest, but was to enjoy the revenues of the latter office.

Alliance with the Nabataeans

This agreement however did not last, as Hyrcanus feared that Aristobulus was planning his death. Such fears were furthered by Hyrcanus' adviser Antipater the Idumean. According to Josephus, Antipater aimed at controlling Judea by putting the weak Hyrcanus back unto the throne.

Hyrcanus took refuge with Aretas III, King of the Nabataeans, who had been bribed by Antipater into espousing the cause of Hyrcanus by the promise of returning Arabian towns taken by the Hasmoneans.

The Nabataeans advanced toward Jerusalem with an army of 50,000 and besieged the city for several months. During the siege, the adherents of Hyrcanus stoned the pious Onias (Honi ha-Magel, also Khoni or Choni ha-Magel), who had refused to pray for the demise of their opponents, and further angered many Jews by selling a lamb of the paschal sacrifice to the besieged for the enormous price of one thousand drachmae and then instead delivered a pig, an animal deemed unclean among the Jews and therefore unfit as a sacrifice.

Roman intervention

Roman Judea under Hyrcanus II
During this civil war, the Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus defeated the Kingdoms of Pontus and the Seleucids. He sent his deputy Marcus Aemilius Scaurus to take possession of Seleucid Syria.

As the Hasmoneans were allies of the Romans, both brothers appealed to Scaurus, each endeavoring by gifts and promises to win him over to his side. Scaurus, moved by a gift of 400 talents, decided in favor of Aristobulus and ordered Aretas to withdraw his army. During his retreat, the Nabateans suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Aristobulus.

When Pompey arrived in Syria in 63 BCE, both brothers and a third party that desired the removal of the entire dynasty, sent their delegates to Pompey, who however delayed the decision. He favoured Hyrcanus over Aristobulos, deeming the elder, weaker brother a more reliable ally of the Roman Empire.

Aristobulos, suspicious of Pompey, entrenched himself in the fortress of Alexandriummarker, but when the Romans summoned their army, he surrendered and undertook to deliver Jerusalem over to them. However, since many of his followers however were unwilling to open the gates, the Romans besieged and captured the city by force, badly damaging city and temple. Aristobulus was taken to Rome a prisoner and Hyrcanus restored.

Restoration

Hyrcanus was restored to his position as High Priest but not to the Kingship. Political authority rested with the Romans whose interests were represented by Antipater, who primarily promoted the interests of his own house. In 47 BCE, Julius Caesar restored some political authority to Hyrcanus by appointing him ethnarch. This however had little practical effect, since Hyrcanus yielded to Antipater in everything.

Exile

In 40 BCE, Aristobulus' son Antigonus allied himself with the Parthians and was proclaimed King and High Priest. Hyrcanus was seized and mutilated at his ears (according to Josephus, Antigonus bit his uncle's ears off) to make him permanently ineligible for the priesthood.

Then Hyrcanus was then taken to Babylonia, where for four years he lived amid the Babylonian Jews, who paid him every mark of respect.

Return to Jerusalem and death

In 36 BCE, Herod, who had vanquished Antigonus with Roman help and feared that Hyrcanus might induce the Parthians to help him regain the throne, invited the former High Priest to return to Jerusalem. Hyrcanus accepted and Herod received him with every mark of respect, assigning to him the first place at his table and the presidency of the state council.

However, in 30 BCE Herod charged Hyrcanus with plotting with the Nabateans and put him to death.

Bibliography

Sources



Literature

  • Heinrich Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, volume IV, p. 524ff.
  • Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, volume III, p. 167ff.
  • Hitzig , Geschichte des Volkes Israel, volume II, p. 500ff.
  • Emil Schürer, Geschichte des judischen Volks im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, volume I, p. 338 et seq.


Notes

  1. Schürer, "Gesch." i. 291, note 2


References




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