), the name generally given to the descendants of the family of the heroic Judas Maccabi or Maccabaeus, a surname which he obtained from his glorious victories. (From the Hebrew, , makkab,
" a hammer;" see Wirner. Biblsches Realwörterbuch,
vol. i. p. 745.) They were also called Asamonaci (Ἀσαμωναίοι
), from Asamonaeus, or Chasmon, the great-grandfather of Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabaeus, or, in a shorter form, Asmonaei
This family, which eventually obtained the kingly dignity, first occurs in history in B. C. 167, when Mattathias raised the standard of revolt against the Syrian kings.
According to Josephus (J. AJ 14.16
) the Asmonaean dynasty lasted for 126 years; and as he places its termination in B. C. 37, the year in which Antigonus, king of Judaea, was put to death by M. Antony, it would have commenced in B. C. 163, when Judas Maccabaeus took Jerusalem, and restored the worship of the temple.
At the death of Antigonus there were only two members of the Asmonaean race surviving, namely, Aristobulus and his sister Mariamne, the former of whom was put to death by Herod in B. C. 35, and the latter was married to the murderer of her brother, to whom she bore several children.
The history of the Maccabees is related at length by Josephus (12.6--14.16), and the war of independence against the Syrian kings down to the time of Simon in the first and second books of Maccabees.
It is only necessary here to give a brief account of the founders of this family, since the various members of it, who obtained the kingly dignity, are given under their proper names.
A genealogical table of the whole family will be found in Vol. II. p. 543.
From the death of Alexander the Great the Greek language, religion, and civilisation, which had been spread more or less throughout the whole of Asia, from the Indus to the Aegaean, had been making a certain though slow progress among the Jewish nation also. Under the sovereignty of the early Ptolemies and Seleucidae, who had allowed the Jews liberty of religious worship, an influential party had adopted the Greek religion and Greek habits; and their example would probably have been followed by still greater numbers, had not the attempts of Antiochus (IV.) Epiphanes to root out entirely by persecution the worship of Jehovah roused the religious patriotism of the great body of the people, who still remained stedfast to their ancient faith.
Antiochus IV. had sold the priesthood successively to Joshua, who assumed the Greek name of Jason, and subsequently to Onias, who also changed his name into that of Menelaus, under the condition of their introducing into Jerusalem Greek rites and institutions. Onias, in order to obtain the money to pay for the priesthood, had purloined the sacred vessels of the temple, and sold them at Tyre.
This act of sacrilege, united with other circumstances, caused a formidable insurrection at Jerusalem, for which, however, the inhabitants had to pay dearly. Antiochus was just returning from his Egyptian campaign when he heard of the revolt.
He forthwith marched against the city, which he easily took (B. C. 170), put to death a vast number of the inhabitants, pillaged the temple, and profaned it by offering a sow on the altar of burnt sacrifices. Two years afterwards, when he was forced by the Romans to retire from Egypt, he resolved to root out entirely the Jewish religion, and to put to death every one who still adhered to it.
He again took possession of Jerusalem, and commanded a general massacre of the inhabitants on the Sabbath; he set fire to the city in many places, and built a strong fortress in the highest part of Mount Sion, to command the whole of the surrounding country.
He then published an edict, which enjoined uniformity of worship throughout his dominions; and the most frightful cruelties were perpetrated on those who refused obedience.
The barbarities committed in every part of Judaea soon produced a reaction. At Modin, a town not far from Lydda, on the road which leads from Joppa to Jerusalem, lived Mattathias, a man of the priestly line and of deep religious feeling, who had five sons in the vigour of their days, John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan. When the officer of the Syrian king visited Modin, to enforce obedience to the royal edict, Mattathias not only refused to desert the religion of his forefathers, but with his own hand struck dead the first renegade who attempted to offer sacrifice on the heathen altar.
He then put to death the king's officer, and retired to the mountains with his five sons (B. C. 167). Their numbers daily increased; and as opportunities occurred, they issued from their mountain fastnesses, cut off detachments of the Syrian army, destroyed heathen altars, and restored in many places the synagogues and the open worship of the Jewish religion. Within a few months the insurrection at Modin had grown into a war for national independence.
But the toils of such a war were too much for the aged frame of Mattathias, who died in the first year of the revolt, leaving the conduct of it to Judas, his third son.
1. Judas assumed the surname of Maccabaeus, as has been mentioned above, carried on the war with the same prudence and energy with which it had been commenced. Antiochus had collected a powerful army to put down the revolt, but being called to the eastern provinces of his empire (B. C. ]66), he left the conduct of it to his friend and minister Lysias, who was also entrusted with the guardianship of his son and the government of the provinces from the Euphrates to the sea. [LYSIAS, No. 4.] Lysias sent against the Jews a large force under the command of Ptolemy, the son of Dorymenes, Nicanor, and Gorgias, but they were entirely defeated by Judas near Emmaus in B. C. 165.
In the next year (B. C. 164) Lysias took the field in person with a still larger army, but he met with the same fate as his generals, and was overthrown a little to the north of Hebron.
The death of Antiochus Epiphanes, which happened in this year at Tabae in Persia, and the struggle which arose between Lysias and Philip for the guardianship of the young Antiochus Eupator and for the administration of the empire, paralysed for the time the exertions of the Syrians. Judas and his brothers entered Jerusalem in B. C. 163 and purified the temple; they then proceeded to expel the Syrians and Hellenising Jews from every part of Judaea. Meantime, however, Lysias, with the aid of the apostate Jews, had again collected a formidable army, with which he marched against Judas, accompanied by the young king. His forces were arrested by the strong fortress of Bethsura, which commands the narrow passes that lead to Jerusalem; and notwithstanding an heroic battle near this place, in which Eleazar, the brother of Judas, perished, the town was obliged to capitulate and Judas to retire to Jerusalem. Here Judas shut himself up, and successfully resisted all the attempts of Lysias to take the place; but as both parties suffered dreadfully from famine, and the approach of Philip made Lysias anxious to be at liberty to oppose his rival, a treaty was concluded between Judas and Lysias, and the latter withdrew his troops.
This peace, however, was of short duration. Demletrius, who was the rightful heir to the throne of Syria, had escaped front Rome, where he had been a hostage, and on his arrival in Syria succeeded in getting into his power Lysias and the young Antiochus, both of whom he put to death, B. C. 162.
He then proceeded to sow dissension along the patriotic party in Judaea, by proclaiming Alcimus high-priest. Several of the zealots for the law declared in favour of the latter, and his claims were supported by a Syrian army.
But as Judas would not own the authority of a highpriest who owed his appointment to the Syrians, the war broke out again.
At first the Maccabee met with great success; he defeated the Syrians under Nicanor in two successive battles, and then sent an embassy to Rome to form an alliance with the republic. His offer was eagerly accepted by the Roman senate; but before this alliance became known, he was attacked by an overwhelming Syrian force under the command of Bacchides, and having only 800 men with him, fell in battle after performing prodigies of valour, B. C. 160.
He was succeeded in the command of the patriotic party by his brother,
2. As Bacchides and Alcimus were in possession of almost the whole of the country, Jonathan was obliged to act on the defensive.
He took up a strong position in the wilderness of Tekoah, and in conjunction with his brother Simon carried on a harassing and desultory warfare against the Syrians. About the same time another of the brothers, John, fell in battle. Jonathan, however, gradually grew in strength; and Bacchides, who had met with several disasters, at length concluded a peace with Jonathan, although Jerusalem and several other important towns still continued in the possession of the Syrian party.
A revolution in the Syrian monarchy in B. C. 152 gave Jonathan still greater power.
In that year an adventurer, Alexander Balas, laid claim to the throne of the Seleucidae. [ALEXANDER BALAS, Vol. I. p. 114.] Alexander and the reigning monarch, Demetrius Soter, eagerly courted the assistance of Jonathan.
He espoused the side of Alexander, who offered him the high-priesthood, and various immunities and advantages. As Alexander eventually drove Demetrius out of his kingdom, Jonathan shared in his good fortune, and became recognised as the high-priest of the Jewish people.
After the death of Alexander, which followed soon after, Jonathan played a distinguished part in the struggle for the Syrian throne between Demetrius Nicator, the son of Soter, and Antiochus VI., the youthful son of Alexander Balas.
He first supported the former; but subsequently espoused the side of Antiochus; and it was mainly owing to his energy and ability that Demetrius was obliged to take to flight, and yield the throne to his young rival. Tryphon, the minister of Antiochus, wished, however, to supplant his master, and obtain the Syrian throne for himself; and finding Jonathan the chief obstacle to his ambitious views, he treacherously got him into his power, B. C. 144, and put him to death in the following year. Jonathan was succeeded in the high-priesthood by his brother,
3. Simon immediately declared for Demetrius, and was confirmed by the latter in the high-priesthood.
He was the most fortunate of the heroic sons of Mattathias. IIe renewed the alliance with the Romans, fortified many towns, and expelled eventually the Syrian garrison from the fortress in Jerusalem. Under his fostering care the country began to recover from the ravages of the long protracted wars, and gradually increased in wealth and prosperity. Still he was not destined to end his days in peace. In B. C. 137, Antiochus VII., who had succeeded his brother Demetrius Nicator, unwilling to lose Judaea, which had now become an independent state, sent an army, under his general Cenbedeus, to invade the country.
The aged Simon entrusted the conduct of the war to his sons Judas and Joannes Hyrcanus, who conquered Cenbedeus, and drove him out of the country. But Simon did not long enjoy the fruits of his victory. His son-in-law Ptolemy, the governor of Jericho, instigated by Antiocius, formed a plot to obtain the government of Judaea.
He treacherously seized Simon at a banquet, and put him to death with two of his sons, Judas and Mattathias, B. C. 135. His other son Joannes Hyrcanus escaped, and succeeded his father.
Joannes Hyrcanus I.
4. was high-priest B. C. 135-106.
He did not assume the title of king, but was to all intents and purposes an independent monarch. His life is given under HYRCANUS.
He was succeeded by his son,
5. was the first of the Maccabees who assumed the kingly title, which was henceforth borne by his successors. His reign lasted only a year (B. C. 106-105). [ARISTOBULUS, No. 1.] He was succeeded by his brother,
6. reigned B. C. 105-78. [ALEXANDER JANNAEUS, Vol. I. p. 117.] He was succeeded by his widow,
7. appointed her son Hyrcanus II. to the priesthood, and held the supreme power B. C. 78-69. On her death in the latter year her son,
8. obtained the kingdom, B. C. 69, but was supplanted almost immediately afterwards by his brother,
9. who obtained the throne B. C. 68. [ARISTOBULUS, No. 2.] For the remainder of the history of the house of the Maccabees see HYRCANUS II. and HERODES I.