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The Maccabean Revolt ( he, מרד החשמונאים) was a Jewish rebellion led by the
Maccabees The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees ( he, מַכַּבִּים ''Makabīm'' or he, מַקַבִּים, ''Maqabīm''; or ''Maccabaei''; el, Μακκαβαῖοι, ''Makkabaioi''), were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of J ...
against the
Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greece, Greek state in Western Asia, during the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Period, that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Sele ...
and against Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. The main phase of the revolt lasted from 167–160 BCE and ended with the Seleucids in control of the country, but conflict between the Maccabees, Hellenized Jews, and the Seleucids continued until 134 BCE, with the Maccabees attaining independence by the end. King
Antiochus IV Epiphanes Antiochus IV Epiphanes (; grc, Ἀντίοχος ὁ Ἐπιφανής, ''Antíochos ho Epiphanḗs'', "God Manifest"; c. 215 BC – November/December 164 BC) was a Greek Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean ...

Antiochus IV Epiphanes
launched a massive campaign of repression against the Jewish religion in 168 BCE. The reason he did so is not entirely clear, but it seems to have been related to the King mistaking an internal conflict among the Jewish priesthood as a full-scale rebellion. Jewish practices were banned,
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusałē ...

Jerusalem
was placed under direct Seleucid control, and the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Se ...

Second Temple
in Jerusalem was made the site of a syncretic Pagan-Jewish cult. This repression triggered exactly the revolt that Antiochus IV had feared, with a group of Jewish fighters led by
Judas Maccabeus Judah Maccabee (or Judas Maccabeus, also spelled Machabeus, or Maccabæus, Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it i ...

Judas Maccabeus
(Judah Maccabee) and his family rebelling in 167 BCE and seeking independence. The rebels as a whole would come to be known as the Maccabees, and their actions would be chronicled later in the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. The rebellion started as a guerrilla movement in the countryside, raiding towns and terrorizing Greek officials far from direct Seleucid control, but it eventually developed a proper army capable of attacking the fortified Seleucid cities. In 164 BCE, the Maccabees captured Jerusalem, a significant early victory. The subsequent cleansing of the temple and rededication of the altar on 25
Kislev Kislev or Chislev (: כִּסְלֵו, ''Kīslev'' ''Kīslēw''), also 'Chisleu' in the King James (authorized English) Bible, is the third month of the civil year and the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year on the . In the its name was A ...
is the source of the festival of
Hanukkah or English translation: 'Establishing' or 'Dedication' (of the Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome o ...

Hanukkah
. The Seleucids eventually relented and unbanned Judaism, but the more radical Maccabees, not content with merely reestablishing Jewish practices under Seleucid rule, continued to fight, pushing for a more direct break with the Seleucids. Judas Maccabeus died in the
Battle of Elasa The Battle of Elasa was fought between Jewish and Seleucid The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Hellenistic state in Western Asia that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. I ...

Battle of Elasa
against the Greek general Bacchides and the Seleucids reestablished direct control for a time, but remnants of the Maccabees under Judas's brother
Jonathan Apphus Jonathan Apphus (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...
continued to resist from the countryside. Eventually, internal division among the Seleucids and problems elsewhere in their empire would give the Maccabees their chance for proper independence. In 141 BCE,
Simon Thassi Simon Thassi ( he, ''Šīməʿōn haTassī''; died 135 BCE Common Era (CE) is one of the year notations used for the Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 158 ...
succeeded in expelling the Greeks from their citadel in Jerusalem. An alliance with the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the , Rome's control rapidly expanded durin ...
helped guarantee their independence. Simon would go on to establish an independent
Hasmonean kingdom The Hasmonean dynasty ( audio
; he, חַשְׁמוֹנַּאִים, ''Ḥašmona'īm'') was a ruling ...

Hasmonean kingdom
. The revolt had a great impact on Jewish nationalism, as an example of a successful campaign to establish political independence and resist governmental anti-Jewish suppression.


Background

Beginning in 338 BCE,
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (') of the kingdom of and a member of the . He was born in in 356 BC and succeeded his ...

Alexander the Great
began an invasion of the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in founded by . Ranging at its greatest extent from the and proper in the west to the in the east, it ...
. In 333–332 BCE, Alexander's Macedonian forces conquered the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
. At the time, Judea was home to many Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon thanks to the Persians. At the partition of Alexander's empire in 323 BCE after Alexander's death, the territory was given to what would become
Ptolemaic Egypt The Ptolemaic Kingdom (; grc-koi, Πτολεμαϊκὴ βασιλεία, Ptolemaïkḕ basileía) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , o ...
. Another of the Greek successor states, the
Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greece, Greek state in Western Asia, during the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Period, that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Sele ...
, would conquer Judea from Egypt during a series of campaigns from 235–198 BCE. During both Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule, many Jews learned
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
, especially upper class Jews seeking favor with the government and Jewish minorities in towns further afield from Jerusalem and more attached to Greek trading networks. Greek philosophical ideas spread through Palestine as well. A Greek translation of the scriptures, the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
, was also created during the third century BCE. Most Jews adopted dual names with both a Greek name and a Hebrew name, such as Jason and Joshua. Still, many Jews continued to speak the
Aramaic language Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
, the language that descended from what was spoken during the Babylonian exile.Cohen 1988, p. 46–53 In general, the ruling Greek policy during this time period was to let Jews manage their own affairs and not interfere overtly with religious matters. Greek authors in the third century BCE who wrote about Judaism did so mostly positively. Cultural change did happen, but was largely driven by Jews themselves inspired by ideas from abroad; Greek rulers did not undertake explicit programs of forced Hellenization.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes Antiochus IV Epiphanes (; grc, Ἀντίοχος ὁ Ἐπιφανής, ''Antíochos ho Epiphanḗs'', "God Manifest"; c. 215 BC – November/December 164 BC) was a Greek Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean ...

Antiochus IV Epiphanes
came to the throne of the Seleucids in 175 BCE, and did not change this policy. He appears to have done little to antagonize the region at first, and the Jews were largely content under his rule. One element that would come to later prominence was Antiochus IV replacing the high priest
Onias IIIOnias III ( he, חוֹנִיּוֹ ''Ḥōniyyō''), son of Simon II, was High PriestThe term “high priest” usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler-priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform ...
with his brother
Jason Jason ( ; ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek ...
after Jason offered a large sum of money to Antiochus.Hengel 1973, p. 277 Jason also sought and received permission to make Jerusalem a self-governing ''
polis ''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (199 ...

polis
'', albeit with Jason able to control the citizenship lists of who would be able to vote and hold political office. These changes did not immediately appear to rouse any particular complaint from the majority of the citizenry in Jerusalem, and presumably he still kept the basic Jewish laws and tenets.Tcherikover 1959, p. 170–190 Three years later, a newcomer named
Menelaus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
offered an even larger bribe to Antiochus IV for the position of high priest. Jason, resentful, turned against Antiochus IV; additionally, a rumor spread that Menelaus had sold golden temple artifacts to help pay for the bribe, leading to unhappiness, especially among the city council Jason had established. This conflict was largely political rather than cultural; all sides, at this point, were "Hellenized", content with Seleucid rule, and primarily divided over Menelaus's alleged corruption and sacrilege. In 170–168 BCE, the
Sixth Syrian War The Syrian Wars were a series of six wars between the Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period ...
between the Seleucids and the Ptolemaic Egyptians arose, for unclear reasons. Antiochus IV led an army to attack Egypt. On his way back through Jerusalem after the successful campaign, High Priest Menelaus allegedly invited Antiochus inside the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Se ...

Second Temple
(in violation of Jewish law), and he raided the temple treasury for 1800 talents. Tensions with the Ptolemaic dynasty continued, and Antiochus rode out on campaign again in 168 BCE. Jason heard a rumor that Antiochus had perished, and launched an attempted coup against Menelaus in Jerusalem. Hearing of this, Antiochus, who was not dead, apparently interpreted this factional infighting as a revolt against his personal authority, and sent an army to crush Jason's plotters. From 168–167 BCE, the conflict spiraled out of control, and government policy radically shifted. Thousands in Jerusalem were killed and thousands more were enslaved; the city was attacked twice; new Greek governors were sent; the government seized land and property from Jason's supporters; and the Temple in Jerusalem was made the site of a
syncretic Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs and various schools of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, Lis ...
Greek-Jewish religious group, polluting it in the eyes of the devout Jews. A new citadel garrisoned by Greeks and pro-Seleucid Jews, the Acra, was built in Jerusalem. Antiochus IV issued decrees officially suppressing the Jewish religion; subjects were required to eat pork and violate
Jewish dietary law ''Kashrut'' (also ''kashruth'' or ''kashrus'', ) is a set of Food and drink prohibitions, dietary laws dealing with the foods that Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to halakha, Jewish law. Food that may be ...
, work on the Jewish Sabbath, cease their sons, and so on. The policy of tolerance of Jewish worship was at an end.Cohen 1988, p. 37–39 File:Asia Minor 188 BCE.jpg, Map of the
Diadochi 250px, Bust of Seleucus ''Nicator'' ("Victor"; 358 – 281 BCE), the last of the original Diadochi. The Diadochi (; plural of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the ...

Diadochi
successor states in 188 BCE. By 167 BCE, the start of the revolt, the
Antigonid The Antigonid dynasty (; grc-gre, Ἀντιγονίδαι) was a dynasty of Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman E ...
Kingdom of Macedonia Macedonia (; grc, Μακεδονία), also called Macedon (), was an ancient kingdom on the periphery of Archaic and Classical Greece Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years (5th and 4th centuries BC) in Greek culture.The " ...
(independent in 188 BCE) had been shattered and mostly conquered by the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the , Rome's control rapidly expanded durin ...
. The
Kingdom of Pergamon Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, during the reign of a female monarch Taxonomy * Kingdom (biology), a category in biological taxonomy Arts an ...
, directly on the Seleucid border, was a close Roman ally.
Rhodes Rhodes (; el, Ρόδος, translit=Ródos ) is the largest of the Dodecanese The Dodecanese (, ; el, Δωδεκάνησα, ''Dodekánisa'' , literally "twelve islands") are a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller Greek#REDIRECT Greek Gre ...
would become "permanent allies" of the Romans in 164 BCE. File:Judea-Maccabees-Battles.png, Battles during the Maccabean Revolt. Circles mark battles against Seleucids in Judea, triangles outlying cities attacked by the Maccabees.


The rebellion


Mattathias sparks the uprising (167 BCE)

Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city (
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusałē ...

Jerusalem
), or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. —
Flavius Josephus Titus Flavius Josephus (; ; 37 – 100), born Yosef ben Matityahu ( he, יוסף בן מתתיהו ''Yōsef ben Matiṯyāhu''; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος Ματθίου παῖς ''Iṓsēpos Matthíou paîs''), was a first-century Romano-Jewish ...
, ''
The Wars of the Jews ''The Jewish War'' or ''Judean War'' (in full ''Flavius Josephus's Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans'', el, Φλαυίου Ἰωσήπου ἱστορία Ἰουδαϊκοῦ πολέμου πρὸς Ῥωμαίους ...
, Book 1.1 §2''
In the aftermath of Antiochus IV issuing his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a campaign of land confiscations paired with shrine and altar-building took place in the Judean countryside. A rural Jewish priest from
Modein Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut ( he, מוֹדִיעִין-מַכַּבִּים-רֵעוּת) is an Israeli city located in central Israel, about southeast of Tel Aviv and west of Jerusalem, and is connected to those two cities via Route 443 (Israel), ...
,
Mattathias Mattathias ben Johanan ( he, מַתִּתְיָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן בֶּן יוֹחָנָן, ''Matīṯyāhū haKōhēn ben Yōḥānān''; died 166–165 BCE) was a Kohen (Jewish priest) who helped spark the Maccabean Revolt against th ...

Mattathias
(Hebrew: Matityahu) of the family, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the
Greek gods The following is a list of gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
at Modein's new altar. Mattathias killed a Jew who had stepped forward to take Mattathias' place in sacrificing to an idol as well as the Greek officer who was sent to enforce the sacrifice. Afterwards, he and his five sons fled to the nearby mountains, which sat directly next to Modein.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 194–198.


Guerrilla campaign (167–164 BCE)

After Mattathias' death about one year later in 166 BCE, his son
Judas Maccabeus Judah Maccabee (or Judas Maccabeus, also spelled Machabeus, or Maccabæus, Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it i ...

Judas Maccabeus
(Hebrew: Judah Maccabee) led a band of Jewish dissidents that would eventually grow into an army. While unable to directly strike Seleucid power at first, Judas's forces could maraud the countryside and attack Hellenized Jews, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed Greek altars in the villages, forcibly circumcised boys, and drove Hellenized Jews into outlawry.Honigman 2014, p. 282–284 Judas's nickname "Maccabee," now used to describe the Jewish partisans as a whole, is taken from the Hebrew word for "hammer"; the term "Maccabee" or "Maccabeus" was also used as an honorific for Judas's brothers as well. Judas's campaign in the countryside became a full scale revolt. Maccabean forces employed
guerrilla tactics Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or Irregular military, irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, Raid (military), raids, ...
emphasizing speed and mobility. While less trained and under-equipped for pitched battles, the Maccabees could control which battles they took and retreat into the wilderness when threatened. They defeated two minor Seleucid forces at the Battle of Ma'aleh Levona in 167 BCE and the Battle of Beth Horon in 166 BCE. Toward the end of summer in 165 BCE, Antiochus IV departed for Babylonia in the eastern half of his empire, and left
Lysias Lysias (; el, Λυσίας; c. 445 – c. 380 BC) was a logographer (speech writer) in Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek D ...
in charge of the western half as regent. Shortly afterward, the Maccabees won a more substantial victory at the
Battle of Emmaus The Battle of Emmaus Emmaus (; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
. The factions attempted to negotiate a compromise, but failed; a large Seleucid army was sent to quash the revolt. After the
Battle of Beth Zur The Battle of Beth Zur was fought between the Maccabees The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees ( he, מַכַּבִּים ''Makabīm'' or he, מַקַבִּים, ''Maqabīm''; or ''Maccabaei''; el, Μακκαβαῖοι, ''Makkabaioi''), ...
in 164 BCE as well as news of the death of Antiochus IV in Persia, the Seleucid troops returned to Syria.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 276–282. The Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph. They ritually cleansed the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Se ...

Second Temple
, reestablishing traditional
Jewish worship Jewish prayer ( he, תְּפִלָּה, ; plural ; yi, תּפֿלה, tfile , plural ; Yinglish: davening from Yiddish 'pray') is the prayer recitation that forms part of the observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with i ...
there; 25 Kislev, the date of the cleansing in the Hebrew calendar, would later become the date when the festival of
Hanukkah or English translation: 'Establishing' or 'Dedication' (of the Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome o ...

Hanukkah
begins. Regent Lysias, preoccupied with internal Seleucid affairs, agreed to a political compromise that revoked Antiochus IV's ban on Jewish practices. This proved a wise decision: many Hellenized Jews had cautiously supported the revolt due to the suppression of their religion. With the ban retracted, their religious goals were accomplished, and the Hellenized Jews could more easily be potential Seleucid loyalists again. The Maccabees did not consider their goals complete, however, and continued their campaign for a starker break from Greek influence and full political independence. The rebels suffered a loss of support from moderates as a result.


Continued struggle (163–160 BCE)

With the rebels now in control of most of Jerusalem and its environs, a second phase of the revolt began. The rebellion had additional resources, but also additional responsibilities. Rather than being able to retreat to the mountains, the rebels now had territory to defend; abandoning cities would leave their loyalists open to reprisals if the pro-Seleucid forces were allowed to take control again. As such, they focused on being able to win open battles, with additional trained heavy infantry. A civil struggle of low-level violence, reprisals, and murders arose in the countryside, especially in more distant areas where Jewish people were in the minority.Regev 2013, p. 273–274 Judas launched expeditions to these regions outlying Judea to fight non-Jewish Idumeans, Ammonites, and Galileans. He recruited devout Jews and sent them into Judea to concentrate his allies where they could be protected, although this influx of refugees would soon create food scarcity issues in the land the Maccabees held. In 162 BCE, Judas began a long siege of the fortified Acra citadel in Jerusalem, still controlled by Seleucid loyalist Jews and a Greek garrison. Regent Lysias, having dealt with rivals back in Antioch, returned to Judea with an army to aid the Seleucid forces. The Seleucids besieged Beth-Zur and took it without a fight, as it was a
fallow Fallow is a farming Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, Exercise trends, Increases in ...

fallow
year and food supplies were meager. They battled Judas's forces in an open fight at the Battle of Beth Zechariah next, with the Seleucids defeating the Maccabees. Judas's younger brother
Eleazar Avaran:''For other people named Eleazer. see: Eleazar (name)'' Eleazar Avaran, also known as Eleazar Maccabeus, Eleazar Hachorani/Chorani (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic la ...
died in battle after bravely attacking a
war elephant A war elephant was an elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structu ...

war elephant
and being crushed.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 335–339 Lysias's army next besieged Jerusalem. With supplies of food short on both sides and reports of a political rival returning from the eastern provinces to Antioch, Lysias decided to sign an agreement with the rebels and confirm the repeal of the anti-Jewish decrees; the rebels, in return, abandoned their siege of the Seleucid Acra. Lysias and his army then returned to Antioch, with the province officially at peace, but neither the Hellenized Jews nor the Maccabees laid down their arms.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 342–346 At some point from 163–162 BCE, Lysias ordered the execution of despised High Priest Menelaus as another gesture of reconciliation to the Jews. Shortly afterward, both regent Lysias and 11-year old king
Antiochus V Antiochus V Eupator (Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Αντίοχος Ε' Ευπάτωρ''), whose epithet means "of a good father" (c. 172 BC – 161 BC) was a ruler of the Greece, Greek Seleucid Empire who reigned from late 164 to 161 BC (based on dates ...

Antiochus V
were executed after losing a succession struggle with
Demetrius I Soter Demetrius I (Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Δημήτριος Α`'', 185 – June 150 BC, reigned September/October 161 – June 150 BC), surnamed Soter (Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Σωτήρ'' - "Savior"), was a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. ...
, who became the new Seleucid king. In the winter of late 162 BCE to early 161 BCE, Demetrius I appointed a new high priest,
Alcimus Alcimus (from grc-gre, Ἄλκιμος ''Alkimos'', "valiant" or Hebrew אליקום ''Elyaqum'', "God will rise"), also called Jacimus, or Joachim (), was a List of High Priests of Israel, High Priest of Israel for three years, 162–159 BCE, who ...
, to replace Menelaus and sent an army led by general Bacchides to enforce Alcimus's station. Judas did not give battle, perhaps still rebuilding after his defeat at Beth Zechariah.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 348–350 Alcimus was accepted into Jerusalem, and proved more effective at rallying moderate Hellenists to the pro-Seleucid faction than Menelaus had been. Still, violent tensions between the Maccabees and the Hellenized Jews continued. Bacchides returned to Syria, and a new general, Nicanor, was appointed military governor of Judea. A truce was briefly made between Nicanor and the Maccabees, but was soon broken.Tcherikover 1959, p. 230–233 Nicanor gained the hatred of the Maccabees after reports surfaced that he had blasphemed in the Temple and threatened to burn it. Nicanor took his forces into the field, and fought the Maccabees first at Caphar-salama, and then at the Battle of Adasa in late winter of 161 BCE. Nicanor was killed early in the fight, and the rest of his army fled afterward.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 359–361 Judas had been negotiating with the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the , Rome's control rapidly expanded durin ...
and extracted a vague agreement of potential support. While this would be cause for caution to the Seleucid Empire in the long term, it was not a particular concern in the short term, as the Romans would be unlikely to intervene if the Judean unrest could be decisively crushed.


Battle of Elasa (160 BCE)

In 160 BCE, Seleucid King Demetrius I went on campaign in the east to fight the rebellious
Timarchus Timarchus or Timarch was a usurper A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the Inter ...

Timarchus
. He left his general Bacchides to govern the western part of the empire.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 376–402 Bacchides led an army of 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry into Judea on a second expedition intending to reconquer the restive province before it grew too used to autonomy. The size of the rebel army facing them is disputed; 1 Maccabees implausibly claims that Judas's army at Elasa was tiny, with 3,000 men of which only 800–1,000 would fight. Historians suspect the true numbers were larger and possibly as many as 22,000 soldiers, and the author downplayed their strength in an attempt to explain the defeat. The Seleucid army marched through Judea after carrying out a massacre in the
Galilee Galilee (; he, הַגָּלִיל, ha-galil; ar, الجليل, al-jalīl) is a region located in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Galilee traditionally refers to the mountainous part, divided into Upper Galilee (, ; , ) and Lower Galil ...

Galilee
. This tactic would force Judas to respond in open battle, lest his reputation be damaged by inaction and Alcimus's faction gain strength by claiming he was better positioned to protect the people from future killings. Bacchides advanced toward Jerusalem, while Judas encamped on the rough terrain at Elasa to intercept the Seleucid army. Judas opted to attack the right flank of the Seleucid army hoping to kill the commander, similar to the victory over Nicanor at Adasa. The elite horsemen on the right retreated, and the rebels pursued. This may have been a tactic from Bacchides, however, to feign weakness and draw the Maccabees in where they could be surrounded and defeated, their own retreat cut off. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, the Seleucids regained their formation and trapped the rebel army with their own left flank. Judas was eventually killed and the remaining Judeans fled. The Seleucids had reasserted their authority in Jerusalem. Bacchides fortified cities across the land, put allied Greek-friendly Jews in command in Jerusalem, and ensured children of leading families were held as hostages as a guarantee of good behavior. Judas's younger brother
Jonathan Apphus Jonathan Apphus (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...
(Hebrew: Yonatan) became the new leader of the Maccabees. Jonathan fought Bacchides and his troops for a time, but the two eventually made a pact for a cease-fire. Bacchides then returned to Syria in 160 BCE.


Autonomy (160–138 BCE)

While the Maccabees had lost control of the cities, they seem to have built a rival government in the countryside from 160–153 BCE. The Maccabees avoided direct conflict with the Seleucids, but the internal Jewish civil struggle continued: the rebels harassed, exiled, and killed Jews seen as insufficiently anti-Greek.Schürer 1896, p. 239–242 According to 1 Maccabees, "Thus the sword ceased from Israel. Jonathan settled in
Michmash Michmas ( he, מכמש; sometimes spelt ''Michmash'' ) - "Laid Up hat is, concealedPlace"; a town of Benjamin, east of Bethel and south of Migron, Mateh Binyamin, Migron, on the road to Jerusalem. Location Michmas lay on the line of march of a ...
and began to judge the people; and he destroyed the godless out of Israel." The Maccabees were handed an opportunity as the Seleucids broke into infighting in a series of civil wars, the Seleucid Dynastic Wars. The Seleucid rival claimants to the throne needed all their troops elsewhere, and also wished to deny possible allies to other claimants, thus giving the Maccabees leverage. In 153–152 BCE, a deal was struck between Jonathan and Demetrius I. King Demetrius was fending off a challenge from
Alexander Balas Alexander I Theopator Euergetes, surnamed Balas ( grc, Ἀλέξανδρος Βάλας, Alexandros Balas), was the ruler of the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλά ...

Alexander Balas
, and agreed to withdraw Seleucid forces from the fortified towns and garrisons in Judea, barring Beth-Zur and Jerusalem. The hostages were also released. Seleucid control over Judea was weakened, and then weakened further; Jonathan promptly betrayed Demetrius I after Alexander Balas offered an even better deal. Jonathan was granted the title of both High Priest and ''
strategos Bust of unnamed ''Strategos'' with Hadrian.html"_;"title="Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrian">Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrianic_Roman_copy_of_a_Greek_sculpture_of_c._400_BC ''Strategos'',_plural_''strategoi'',_ Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrianic_Roman_copy_of_a_G ...
'' by Alexander, essentially acknowledging that the Maccabee faction was a more relevant ally to would-be Seleucid leaders than the Hellenist faction. Jonathan's forces fought against Demetrius I, who would die in battle in 150 BCE. From 152–141 BCE, the rebels achieved a state of informal autonomy akin to a
suzerain Suzerainty () is a relationship in which one state or other polity controls the foreign policy and relations of a tributary state, while allowing the tributary state to have internal autonomy. The dominant state is called the "suzerain." Suzeraint ...
.Tcherikover 1959, p. 236–240 The land was ''de jure'' part of the Seleucid Empire, but continuing civil wars gave the Maccabees considerable autonomy. Jonathan was given official authority to build and maintain an army in exchange for his aid. During this period, the legitimized armies of Jonathan fought in these civil wars and border struggles to maintain the favor of allied Seleucid leaders.Mendels 1997, p. 174–179 The Seleucids did send an army back into Judea during this period, but Jonathan evaded it and refused battle until it eventually returned to the Seleucid heartland. In 143 BCE, regent
Diodotus Tryphon Diodotus or Trypho ( el, Διόδοτος) was a king of the Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signif ...
, perhaps eager to reassert control over the restive province, invited Jonathan to a conference. The conference was a trap; Jonathan was captured and executed, despite Jonathan's brother Simon raising the requested ransom and sending hostages. This betrayal led to an alliance between the new leader of the Maccabees,
Simon Thassi Simon Thassi ( he, ''Šīməʿōn haTassī''; died 135 BCE Common Era (CE) is one of the year notations used for the Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 158 ...
(Hebrew: Simeon), and
Demetrius II Nicator :''For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon. For the Macedonian prince, see Demetrius the Fair.'' Demetrius II ( grc, Δημήτριος Β`, ''Dēmḗtrios B''; died 125 BC), called Nicator ( grc, Νικάτωρ, '' ...
, a rival of Diodotus Tryphon and claimant to the Seleucid throne. Demetrius II exempted Judea from payment of taxes in 142 BCE, essentially acknowledging its independence. The Seleucid settlement and garrison in Jerusalem, the Acra, finally came under Simon's control, peacefully, as did the remaining Seleucid garrison at Beth-Zur. Simon was appointed High Priest around 141 BCE, but he did so by acclamation from the Jewish people rather than appointment by the Seleucid king. Both Jonathan and now Simon had maintained diplomatic contact with the Roman Republic; official recognition by Rome came in 139 BCE, as the Romans were eager to weaken and divide the Greek states. This new Hasmonean-Roman alliance was also worded more firmly than Judas Maccabeus's hazy agreement 22–23 years earlier. Continuing strife between rival Seleucid rulers made a government response to formal independence of the new state difficult. New Seleucid King
Antiochus VII Sidetes Antiochus VII Euergetes ( el, Ἀντίοχος Ζ΄ Ευεργέτης; c. 164/160 BC129 BC), nicknamed Sidetes ( el, Σιδήτης) (from Side, Turkey, Side, a city in Asia Minor), also known as Antiochus the Pious, was ruler of the Hellenistic ...

Antiochus VII Sidetes
refused an offer of help from Simon's troops while pursuing their mutual enemy Diodotus Tryphon, and made demands for both tribute and for Simon to cede control of the border towns and Gazara. Antiochus VII sent an army to Judea at some point between 139 and 138 BCE under command of a general named Cendebeus, but it was repulsed. The Hasmonean leaders did not immediately call themselves "king" or establish a monarchy; Simon called himself merely " nasi" (in Hebrew, "Prince" or "President") and "
ethnarch Ethnarch, pronounced , the anglicized form of ethnarches ( el, ), refers generally to political leadership over a common ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (p ...
" (in Koine Greek, "Governor").Regev 2013, p. 115–117. Regev translates "Nasi" as "King", however, and credits Simon with less restraint than other authors, though he acknowledges the different terms.


Aftermath

In 135 BCE, Simon and two of his sons (Mattathias and Judas) were murdered by his son-in-law, Ptolemy son of Abubus, at a feast in
Jericho Jericho ( ; ar, أريحا ' ; he, יְרִיחוֹ ') is a State of Palestine, Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is located in the Jordan Valley, with the Jordan River to the east and Jerusalem to the west. It is the administrative sea ...

Jericho
. All five sons of Mattathias had died violent deaths: Judas and Eleazar died in battle, Jonathan was betrayed and killed by Diodotus Tryphon, John Gaddi was seized and killed by the sons of Jambri from Medeba, and now Simon joined them in death. Afterward, Simon's third son,
John Hyrcanus John Hyrcanus (; ''Yōḥānān Hurqanōs''; grc, Ἰωάννης Ὑρκανός, Iōánnēs Hurkanós) was a Hasmonean ( Maccabean) leader and Jewish High Priest of Israel, high priest of the 2nd century BCE (born 164 BCE, reigned from 134 BC ...

John Hyrcanus
, became High Priest of Israel. King Antiochus VII would personally invade and besiege Jerusalem in 134 BCE, but after Hyrcanus paid a ransom and ceded the cities of Joppa and Gazara, the Seleucids left peacefully. The conflict ceased, whether through an unrecorded peace treaty or an informal cessation of hostilities, and Hyrcanus and Antiochus VII joined themselves in an alliance. For this, Antiochus VII was referred to as "Euergetes" ("the Benefactor") by the grateful populace. After Antiochus VII's death, the Hasmoneans ceased offering aid or tribute to the remnants of the declining Seleucid Empire. John Hyrcanus and his children would go on to centralize power more than Simon had done. Hyrcanus's son
Aristobulus I Judah Aristobulus I or Aristobulus I (; el, Ἀριστόβουλος, Aristóboulos, the epithet meaning "best-advising") was the first Hasmonean dynasty, Hasmonean king of Judaea from 104 BCE until his death in 103 BCE. He was the eldest of the f ...
called himself "
basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic quali ...
" (king), abandoning pretensions that the High Priest managing political matters was a temporary arrangement.Regev 2013, p. 165–172 The Hasmoneans exiled leaders on the council or '' gerusia'' that they felt might threaten his power. The council of elders - who would later evolve into the
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
- ceased to be an independent check on the monarchy.Cohen 1988, p. 123–125 After the success of the Maccabean Revolt, leaders of the Hasmonean dynasty continued their conquest to surrounding areas of Judea, especially under
Alexander Jannaeus Alexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai; he, יהונתן "ינאי" אלכסנדרוס, born Jonathan Alexander) was the second king of the Hasmonean dynasty, who ruled over an expanding kingdom of Judea from 103 BC, 103 to 76 ...

Alexander Jannaeus
. The Seleucid Empire was too riven with internal unrest to stop this, and Ptolemaic Egypt maintained largely friendly relations.Tcherikover 1959, p. 246–255 The Hasmonean court at Jerusalem would not make a sharp break from Hellenic culture and language, and continued with a blend of Jewish traditions and Greek ones. They continued to be known by Greek names, would use both Hebrew and Greek on their coinage, and hired Greek mercenaries, but also restored Judaism to a place of primacy in Judea and fostered the new sense of Jewish nationalism that had sprouted during the revolt.Regev 2013, p. 17–25 The dynasty would last until 37 BCE, when
Herod the Great Herod I (; ; grc-gre, ; c. 72 – 4 or 1 BCE), also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romu ...
, making use of heavy Roman support, defeated the last Hasmonean ruler to become a Roman
client king A client state, in international relations, is a State (polity), state that is economically, politically, and/or militarily subordinate to another more powerful state (called “controlling state” in this article). A client state may variously be ...
.


Tactics and technology

Both sides were influenced by Hellenistic army composition and tactics. The basic Hellenistic battle deployment consisted of heavy infantry in the center, mounted cavalry on the flanks, and mobile skirmishers in the vanguard. The most common infantry weapon used was the
sarissa The sarisa or sarissa ( el, σάρισα) was a long spear or pike about in length. It was introduced by Philip II of Macedon Philip II of Macedon ( grc-gre, Φίλιππος ; 382 – 21 October 336 BC) was the king (basileus ''Ba ...
, the Macedonian
pike Pike, Pikes or The Pike may refer to: Fish * Blue pike or blue walleye, an extinct freshwater fish * Ctenoluciidae, the "pike characins", some species of which are commonly known as pikes * ''Esox'', genus of pikes ** Northern pike, common north ...
. The sarissa was a powerful weapon; it was held in two hands and had great reach (approximately ~6.3 meters), making it difficult for opponents to approach a
phalanx The phalanx ( grc, φάλαγξ; plural phalanxes or phalanges, , ) was a rectangular In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is a quadrilateral A quadrilateral is a polygon in Euclidean geometry, Euclidean plane geometry with four Edge ...

phalanx
of sarissa-wielding infantry safely. Hellenistic cavalry also used pikes, albeit slightly shorter ones. The Seleucids also had access to trained
war elephant A war elephant was an elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structu ...

war elephant
s imported from India, who sported natural armor in their thick hides and could terrify opposing soldiers and their horses.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 16–19 Rarely, they also made use of
scythed chariot The scythed chariot was a war chariot A chariot is a type of carriage A carriage is a private four-wheeled vehicle for people and is most commonly Horse-drawn vehicle, horse-drawn. Second-hand private carriages were common public transpo ...
s. In terms of army size, the respected historian
Polybius Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the ...

Polybius
reports that in 165 BCE, a military parade near the Seleucid capital
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
held by Antiochus IV consisted of 41,000 foot soldiers and 4,500 cavalrymen. These soldiers were preparing to fight in an expedition to the east, not in Judea, but give a rough estimate to the total size of the Seleucid forces in the Western part of their empire capable of being deployed wherever the ruler needed them, not including local
auxiliaries Auxiliaries are personnel that assist the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (po ...
and garrisons. Antiochus IV appears to have augmented the size of his army by hiring additional
mercenaries A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is a private individual, particularly a soldier, who takes part in military conflict War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and ...
, at cost to the Seleucid treasury.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 30–36 Most of the forces at that parade would be deployed on matters more important to the Seleucid leadership than suppressing the Judean rebellion, however, and as such only a portion of them likely participated in the battles of the rebellion. They may have been supplemented by local Seleucid-allied militias and garrisons, however.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 40–43 The Maccabees started as a guerrilla force that likely used the traditional weapons effective in small unit combat in mountainous terrain:
archer Archery is the art, sport, practice, or skill of using a bow to shoot arrows.Paterson ''Encyclopaedia of Archery'' p. 17 The word comes from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

archer
s, slingers, and light infantry
peltast A ''peltast'' ( grc-gre, πελταστής ) was a type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Sou ...
s armed with sword and shield. Later writers would romantically portray the Maccabees as ordinary people fighting as
irregulars Irregular military is any non-standard military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (poli ...
, but the Maccabees did eventually train a standing army similar to the Seleucids, complete with Hellenic-style heavy infantry phalanxes, horse-mounted cavalry, and siege weaponry.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 68–75 However, while manufacturing the mostly wooden sarissa would have been easy for the rebels, their body armor was lower quality. They likely used simple
leather armor Armour (British English) or armor (American English; see American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, spelling differences) is a covering to protect an object, individual, or vehicle from damage, especially direct contact weapons ...
due to a paucity of metals and craftsmen capable of making Greek-style metal armor. It is speculated that diaspora Jews in countries hostile to the Seleucids, such as Ptolemaic Egypt and
Pergamon Pergamon or Pergamum ( or ; grc-gre, Πέργαμον), also referred to by its modern Greek form Pergamos (), was a rich and powerful ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 ...
, may have joined the cause as volunteers, bringing their own local talents to the rebel army.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 85–89. Note that historian directly doubts Bar-Kochva's suggestion of diaspora Jews providing training to the Maccabees, suspecting Jews trained as mercenaries abroad would have been more likely to aid the Seleucids instead (Shatzman 1991, p. 19). The rebel forces grew with time. There were 6,000 men in Judas's army near the start of the revolt, 10,000 men at the Battle of Beth Zur, and possibly as many as 22,000 soldiers by the time of the defeat at Elasa.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 47–62 In several battles, the rebels may have had numerical superiority to compensate for shortfalls in training and equipment. After Jonathan was legitimized as high priest and governor by the Seleucid rulers, the Hasmoneans had easier access to recruitment; 20,000 soldiers are reported as repulsing Cendebeus in 139 BCE. Much of the combat in the revolt took place in hilly and mountainous terrain, which complicated warfare. Seleucid phalanxes trained for mountain combat would fight at somewhat greater distance from each other compared to packed lowland formations, and used slightly shorter but more maneuverable Hasta (spear), Roman-style pikes.


Writings


Original histories

The most detailed contemporaneous writings that survived were the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees, First Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, Second Maccabees, as well as Josephus's ''The Wars of the Jews'' and Book XII and XIII of ''The Antiquities of the Jews''. The authors were not disinterested parties; the authors of the books of Maccabees were favorable to the Maccabees, portraying the conflict as a divinely sanctioned holy war and elevating the stature of Judas and his brothers to heroic levels.Grabbe 2010, p. 67–68 In comparison, Josephus did not want to offend Greek pagan readers of his work, and is ambivalent toward the Maccabees.Regev 2013, p. 25–30Bickerman 1937, p. 22–23 The book of 1 Maccabees is considered mostly reliable, as it was seemingly written by an eyewitness early in the reign of the Hasmoneans, most likely during John Hyrcanus's reign. Its depictions of battles are detailed and seemingly accurate, although it portrays implausibly large numbers of Seleucid soldiers, to better emphasize God's aid and Judas's talents.Bar-Kochva 1989, p. 63–67 The book also acts as Hasmonean dynasty propaganda in its editorial slant on events.Harrington 1988, p. 57–59 The new rule of the Hasmoneans was not without its own internal enemies; the office of High Priest had been occupied for generations by a descendent of the High Priest Zadok. The Hasmoneans, while of the priestly line (Kohens), were seen by some as usurpers, did not descend from Zadok, and had taken the office originally only via a deal with a Seleucid king. As such, the book emphasizes that the Hasmoneans' actions were in line with heroes of older scripture; they were God's new chosen and righteous rulers. For example, it dismisses a defeat suffered by other commanders named Joseph and Azariah as because "they did not listen to Judas and his brothers. But they did not belong to the family of those men through whom deliverance was given to Israel." 2 Maccabees is an abridgment by an unknown Egyptian Jew of a lost five-volume work by an author named Jason of Cyrene. It is a separate work from 1 Maccabees and not a continuation of it. 2 Maccabees has a more directly religious focus than 1 Maccabees, crediting God and divine intervention for events more prominently than 1 Maccabees; it also focuses personally on Judas rather than other Hasmoneans. It has a special focus on the Second Temple: the controversies over the position of High Priest, its pollution by Menelaus into a Greek-Jewish mix, its eventual cleansing, and the threats by Nicanor at the Temple. 2 Maccabees also represents an attempt to take the cause of the Maccabees outside Judea, as it encourages Egyptian Jews and other diaspora Jews to celebrate the cleansing of the temple (Hanukkah) and revere Judas Maccabeus.Harrington 1988, p. 36–56 Josephus wrote over two centuries after the revolt, but his friendship with the Flavian dynasty Roman emperors meant he had access to resources undreamt of by other scholars. Josephus appears to have used 1 Maccabees as one of his main sources for his histories, but supplements it with knowledge of events of the Seleucid Empire from Greek histories since lost, as well as unknown other sources.Harrington 1988, p. 109


Related works

The Book of Daniel appears to have been written during the early stages of the revolt around 165 BCE, and would eventually be included in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. While the setting of the book is 400 years earlier in Babylon, the book is a literary response to the situation in Judea during the revolt (''Sitz im Leben''); the writer chose to move the setting either for esoteric reasons or to evade scrutiny from would-be censors. It urges its readers to remain steadfast in the face of persecution. For example, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar orders his court to eat the king's rich food; the Daniel (biblical figure), prophet Daniel and his companions keep kosher and eat a diet of vegetables and water, yet emerge healthier than all the king's courtiers. The message is clear: defy Antiochus's decree and keep Jewish dietary law. Daniel predicts the king will go insane; Antiochus's title, "Epiphanes" ("Chosen of God"), was mocked by his enemies as "Epimanes" ("Madman"), and he was known to keep odd habits. When Daniel and the Jews are threatened with death, they face it calmly, and are saved in the end, a relevant message among Jewish opposition to Antiochus IV.Harrington 1988, p. 17–35 The final chapters of the book of Daniel include apocalypse, apocalyptic visions of the future. One of the motives for the author was to give heart to devout Jews that their victory was foreseen by prophecy 400 years earlier. Daniel's final vision refers to Antiochus Epiphanes as the "king of the north" and describes his earlier actions, such as being repelled and humiliated by the Romans in his second campaign in Egypt, but also that the king of the north would "meet his end". Additionally, all those who had died under the king of the north would be revived, with those who suffered rewarded while those who had prospered would be subjected to shame and contempt.Grabbe 2010, p. 11–16 The main historical items taken away from Daniel is in its depiction of the king of the north desecrating the temple with an abomination of desolation, and stopping the tamid, the daily sacrifice at the Temple; these line up with the depictions in 2 Maccabees of temple politics and explain the deep Jewish discontent. Other works appear to have at least been influenced by the Maccabean Revolt include the Book of Judith, the Testament of Moses, and the Qumran Habakkuk Commentary. The Book of Judith is a historical novel that describes Jewish resistance against an overwhelming military threat. While the parallels are not as stark as Daniel, some of its depictions of oppression seem influenced by Antiochus's persecution, such as General Holofernes demolishing shrines, cutting down sacred groves, and attempting to destroy all worship other than of the king. Judith, the story's heroine, also bears the feminine form of the name "Judas".Harrington 1988, p. 114–119 The Testament of Moses, similar to the Book of Daniel, provides a witness to Jewish attitudes leading up to the revolt: it describes persecution, denounces impious leaders and priests as collaborators, praises the virtues of martyrdom, and predicts God's retribution upon the oppressors. The Testament is usually considered to have been written in the first century CE, but it is at least possible it was written much earlier, in the Maccabean or Hasmonean era, and then appended onto with first century CE updates. Even if it was entirely written in the first century CE, it was still likely influenced by the experience of Antiochus IV's reign.Harrington 1988, p. 110–114 The Qumran Habakkuk Commentary, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, is perhaps the most uncertain. The Qumran religious community was not on good terms with the Hasmonean religious establishment in Jerusalem, and is believed to have favored the Zadokite line of succession to the High Priesthood. The commentary (''pesher'') describes a situation wherein a "Teacher of Righteousness, Righteous Teacher" is unfairly driven from their post and into exile by a "Wicked Priest" and a "Man of the Lie" (possibly the same person). Many figures have been proposed as the identity of the people behind these titles; one theory goes that the Righteous Teacher was whoever held the High Priest position after Alcimus's death in 159 BCE, perhaps a Zadokite. If this person even existed, they lost their position after Jonathan Apphus, backed by his Maccabee army and his new alliance with Seleucid royal claimant Alexander Balas, took over the High Priest position in 152 BCE. Thus, the Wicked Priest would be Jonathan, and the Qumran community of the era would have consisted of religious opposition to the Hasmonean takeover: the first Essenes. The date of the work is unknown, and others scholars have proposed different candidates as possible identities of the Wicked Priest, so the identification with Jonathan is only a possibility, yet an intriguing and plausible one.Harrington 1988, p. 119–123


Later analysis and historiography

In the First and Second Books of the Maccabees, the Maccabean Revolt is described as a collective response to cultural oppression and national resistance to a foreign power. Written after the revolt was complete, the books urged unity among the Jews; they describe little of the Hellenizing faction other than to call them lawless and corrupt, and downplay their relevance and power in the conflict.Bickerman 1937, p.17–21 While many scholars still accept this basic framework, that the Hellenists were weak and dependent on Seleucid aid to hold influence, this view has since been challenged. In the revisionist view, the heroes and villains were both Jews: a majority of the Jews cautiously supported Hellenizing High Priest Menelaus; Antiochus IV's edicts only came about due to pressure from Hellenist Jews; and the revolt was best understood as a civil war between traditionalist Jews in the countryside and Hellenized Jews in the cities, with only occasional Seleucid intervention. Elias Joseph Bickerman, Elias Bickerman is generally credited as popularizing this alternative viewpoint in 1937, and other historians have continued the argument. For example, Josephus's account directly blames Menelaus for convincing Antiochus IV to issue his anti-Jewish decrees.Mendels 1997, p. 119–129 Alcimus, Menelaus's replacement as High Priest, is blamed for instigating a massacre of devout Jews in 1 Maccabees, rather than the Seleucids directly. The Maccabees themselves fight and exile Hellenists as well, most clearly in the final expulsion from the Acra, but also in the earlier countryside struggles against the Tobiads, Tobiad clan of Hellenist-friendly Jews. In general, scholarly opinion is that Hellenistic historians were biased, but also that the bias did not result in excessive distortion or fabrication of facts, and they are mostly reliable sources once the bias is removed.Mendels 1997, p. 4 There exist revisionist scholars who are inclined to discount the reliability of the primary histories more aggressively, however. Daniel R. Schwartz argues that Antiochus IV's initial attacks on Jerusalem from 168–167 BCE were not out of pure malice, as 1 Maccabees depicts, or a misunderstanding as 2 Maccabees depicts (and most scholars accept), but rather suppressing an authentic rebellion whose members were lost to history, as the Hasmoneans wished to show only themselves as capable of bringing victory. Sylvie Honigman argues that the depictions of Seleucid religious oppression are misleading and likely false. She advances the view that the main sources indicate that the loss of civil rights by the Jews in 168 BCE was not the result of religious persecution but rather an administrative punishment in the aftermath of local unrest over increased taxes. She also argues against that the moralistic slant of the sources mean that their depictions of impious acts by Hellenists cannot be trusted as historical. For example, the claim that Menelaus stole temple vessels to pay the bribe is merely slander aimed at delegitimizing opponents. Later scholars and archaeologists have found and preserved various artifacts from the time period and analyzed them, which have informed historians on the plausibility of various elements in the books. For a recent example, the Givati Parking Lot dig in Jerusalem from 2007–2015 has found possible evidence of the Acra; it might resolve a seeming contradiction between Josephus's account of the Acra's fate (he claimed it was torn down) and 1 Maccabees's account (it was merely occupied) in favor of the 1 Maccabees version.


Legacy

The Jewish festival of
Hanukkah or English translation: 'Establishing' or 'Dedication' (of the Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome o ...

Hanukkah
celebrates the rededication of the Temple following Judas Maccabeus's victory over the Seleucids. According to rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained pure and uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah (Temple), Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil had been procured. During the era of the Hasmonean kingdom, Hanukkah was observed prominently; it acted as a "Hasmonean Independence Day" to commemorate the success of the revolt and the legitimacy of the Hasmonean rulers.Regev 2013, p. 50–57 Jewish diaspora#Pre-Roman diaspora, Diaspora Jews celebrated it as well, fostering a sense of Jewish collective identity: it was a liberation day for all Jews, not merely Judean Jews.Regev 2013, p. 278–279 As a result, Hanukkah outlasted Hasmonean rule, although its importance receded somewhat as time passed. Hanukkah would gain new prominence in the 20th century and rekindle interest in its origins in the Maccabees.Harrington 1988, p. 131 The Jewish victory at the Battle of Adasa led to an annual festival as well, albeit one less prominent and remembered than Hanukkah. The defeat of Seleucid general Nicanor is celebrated on Adar, 13 Adar as ''Yom Nicanor''. The traumatic time period heightened a tendency toward apocalyptic thinking. The portrayal of an evil tyrant like Antiochus IV attacking the holy city of Jerusalem in the Book of Daniel became a common theme during later Roman rule of Judea, and would contribute to Christian conceptions of the Antichrist. The persecution of the Jews under Antiochus, and the Maccabees response, would influence and create new trends in Jewish strains of thought with regard to divine rewards and punishments. In earlier Jewish works, devotion to God and adherence to the law led to rewards and punishments in life: the observant would prosper, and disobedience would result in disaster. The persecution of Antiochus IV directly contradicted this teaching: for the first time, Jews were suffering precisely because they refused to violate Jewish law, and thus the most devout and observant Jews were the ones suffering the most. This resulted in literature suggesting that those who suffered in their earthly life would be rewarded afterward, such as the Book of Daniel describing a future resurrection of the dead, or 2 Maccabees describing in detail the martyrdom of a woman with seven sons, woman and her seven sons under Antiochus, but who would be rewarded after their deaths.Cohen 1988, p. 105–108 As a victory of the "few over the many", the revolt served as inspiration for future Jewish resistance and revolts. The most famous of these were the First Jewish–Roman War in 66–73 CE (also called the "Great Revolt") and the Bar Kochba revolt from 132–136 CE.Hengel 1973, p. 306 After the failure of these revolts, Jewish interpretation of the Maccabean Revolt became more spiritual; it instead focused on stories of Hanukkah and God's miracle of the oil, rather than practical plans for an independent Jewish polity backed by armed might. The Maccabees were also discussed less as time went on; they appear only rarely in the writings of the Tannaim after these Jewish defeats. The Maccabees were also downplayed due to the books describing them being relegated to Deuterocanonical books, secondary canon status and excluded from the Jewish Bible; it would be Christians who would produce more art and literature referencing the Maccabees during the medieval era, as the books of Maccabees were included in the Catholic and Orthodox Biblical canon.Harrington 1988, p. 131 This interpretation would be challenged centuries later in the 19th century and early 20th century, as Jewish writers and artists held up the Maccabees as examples of independence and victory. Proponents of Jewish nationalism of that era saw past events, such as the Maccabees, as a hopeful suggestion to what was possible, influencing the nascent Zionism, Zionist movement. For example, the revolt was featured in plays of the playwrights , , and Moshe Shamir. Various organizations in the modern state of Israel name themselves after the Maccabees and the Hasmoneans or otherwise honor them.


See also

*Jewish military history *Second Temple period


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Maccabean Revolt
at ''Oxford Bibliographies''


External links

* * {{Hanukkah footer, state=expanded Maccabean Revolt, 160s BC conflicts 2nd century BC in the Hasmonean Kingdom 2nd-century BCE Judaism Coele-Syria Jewish rebellions Jewish religious nationalism Rebellions against empires Rebellions in Asia Religion-based wars Wars involving the Seleucid Empire Wars of ancient Israel