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Hyrcanus Ii.

Ὑρκανός), high priest and king of the Jews, was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, and his wife, Alexandra. On the death of Alexander (B. C. 78) the royal authority devolved, according to his will, upon his wife Alexandra, who immediately appointed Hyrcanus to the high-priesthood -- a choice which he probably owed not so much to his seniority of age, as to his feeble, indolent character, which offered a strong contrast to the daring, ambitious spirit of his younger brother, Aristobulus. Accordingly, during the nine years of his mother's reign, he acquiesced uniformly in all her measures, and attached himself to the party of the Pharisees, which she favoured. On the death of Alexandra (B. C. 69), he succeeded, for a time, to the sovereign power, but Aristobulus, who had already taken his measures, quickly raised an army, with which he defeated him near Jericho, and compelled him to take refuge in the citadel of Jerusalem, where he was soon induced to consent to a treaty, by which he resigned the sovereignty into the hands of Aristobulus, and retired unmolested into a private station. The easy, unambitious disposition of Hyrcanus would probably have led him to acquiesce permanently in this arrangement: but he was worked upon by the artifices and intrigues of Antipater, who succeeded in exciting his apprehensions, and ultimately induced him to fly from Jerusalem, and take refuge at the court of Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, B. C. 65. That monarch now assembled an army, with which he defeated Aristobulus in his turn, and blockaded him in the temple of Jerusalem, Hyrcanus and his partisans being masters of the rest of the city. But their progress was now stopped by the intervention of Pompey's lieutenant, M. Aemilius Scaurus, who had arrived at Damascus with a Roman army, and being gained over by the bribes and promises of Aristobulus, ordered Aretas and Hyrcanus to withdraw from Judaea. The next year, Pompey himself arrived in Syria, and the two brothers hastened to urge their respective claims before him: but Aristobulus gave offence to the Roman general by his haughty demeanour, and the disposition of Pompey to favour Hyrcanus became so apparent, that Aristobulus, for a time, made preparations for resistance. But when Pompey returning victorious from his campaign against the Nabathaean Arabs, entered Judaea at the head of his army, he abandoned all hopes of defence, and surrendered himself. into the hands of the Roman general. The Jews, however, refused to follow his example: they shut the gates of Jerusalem, and prepared to hold out the last; nor was it till after a long and arduous siege, that Pompey was able to make himself master of the city, B. C. 63.

After his victory, the conqueror reinstated Hyrcanus in the high-priesthood, with the authority, though not the name, of royalty. (J. AJ 13.16, 14.1-4, B. J. 1.5-7; D. C. 37.15, 16; Diod. xl. Exc. Vat. p. 128.; Oros. 6.6.; Euseb. Arm. p. 94.)

Hyrcanus, though supported by the powerful aid of Rome, and the abilities of Antipater, did not long enjoy his newly recovered sovereignty in quiet: Alexander, one of the sons of Aristobulus, who had been carried prisoner to Rome by Pompey, made his escape from captivity, and quickly excited a revolt in Judaea, which Hyrcanus was unable to suppress, until he called in the assistance of Gabinius, the proconsul of Syria. By his aid, Alexander was defeated, and compelled to submit (B. C. 56): but the next year a fresh insurrection was excited by Aristobulus himself, who had also made his escape from Rome: and though this was again put down by Gabinius and his lieutenant, M. Antony, and Aristobulus a second time made prisoner, yet as soon as the arms of the proconsul were occupied in an expedition to Egypt, Alexander once more assembled a large army, and invaded Judaea. Nor were the Jewish governors able to oppose his progress: but on the return of Gabinius from Egypt. he was quickly defeated and put to flight. Previous to this, the Roman general had changed the form of the government of Judaea, and deprived the high-priest of the supreme authority, which he transferred to five provincial councils or sanhedrimns. Antipater, however, appears to have maintained his former power and influence; but neither he nor Hyrcanus were able to prevent the plunder of the temple and its sacred treasures by Crassus, who succeeded Gabinius in the command of Syria. On the breaking out of the civil war between Pompey and Caesar (B. C. 49), the latter at first sought to effect a diversion against his rival in the East, by inducing Aristobulus to set up anew his claim to the throne of Judaea: but Hyrcanus was saved from this threatened danger, for Aristobulus was poisoned by the partizans of Pompey, and his son, Alexander, put to death by Scipio at Antioch. After the battle of Pharsalia, Hyrcanus, or rather Antipater in his name, rendered such important services to Caesar during the Alexandrian war (B. C. 47), that the dictator, on his return from Egypt, settled the affairs of Judaea entirely in accordance with their wishes, re-established the monarchical form of government, and restored Hyrcanus to the sovereign power, though with the title only of high-priest, while Antipater, under the name of procurator of Judaea, possessed all the real authority. A striking proof of this occurred soon after: Herod, the younger son of Antipater, whom he had made governor of Galilee, being accused of having committed needless severities in the administration of his province, Hyrcanus was induced to bring him to trial before the sanhedrim: but as soon as he saw that the adverse party were disposed to condemn him, he gave private warning to him to withdraw from Jerusalem. The young prince complied, but having soon after obtained by the favour of Sextus Caesar the government of Coele-Syria, he advanced against Jerusalem at the head of an army; and it was only by the prayers and entreaties of his father and brother, that he was induced to desist from the enterprise. The feeble and spiritless character of lvyrcanuts was still more strongly displayed shortly after, when he acquiesced first in the assassination of Antipater, who was poisoned by Malichus, and again in the vengeance exacted for his death by Herod, who caused Malichus to be assassinated almost before the eves of Hvrcanus. (J. AJ 14.5-9, 11, B. JJ. 1.8-11.)

From this time forth Hyrcanus bestowed upon the youthful Herod the same favour, and conceded to him the same unlimited influence that had been enjoyed by his father, Antipater: he also betrothed to the young prince his grand-daughter, the beautiful Mariamne.

When the battle of Philippi (B. C. 42) had rendered M. Antony supreme arbiter of the affairs of the East, both Hyrcanus and Herod hastened to pay their court to him, and obtained from him the confirmation of their power. It was not long, however, before this was suddenly overthrown from an unexpected quarter. Pacorus, the son of the Parthian king Orodes I., had invaded Syria with a mighty army (B. C. 40), and overrun a great part of that province, when Antigonus, the surviving son of Aristobulus, applied to him for aid in recovering his father's throne. Neither Hyrcanus nor the sons of Antipater were able to oppose the force sent by the Parthian prince against Jerusalem, and they took refuge in the fortress of Baris, from whence Hyrcanlus and Phasael were soon after decoyed under pretence of negotiation, and made prisoners by the faithless barbarians. Hyrcanus had his ears cut off, by order of Aristobulus, in order for ever to incapacitate him from resuming the high-priesthood, and was then sent a prisoner to Seleuceia, on the Tigris. Here, however, he was treated with much liberality by the Parthian king, and allowed to live in perfect freedom at Babylon, where the oriental Jews received him with the utmost distinction, and where he led a life of dignified repose for some years. But when he at length received an invitation from Herod, who had meanwhile established himself firmly on the throne of Judaea, and married his betrothed Mariamne, the old man could not resist his desire to return to Jerusalem, and having obtained the consent of the Parthian king, he repaired to the court of Therod. IIe was received with every demonstration of respect by that monarch, to whom he could no longer be an object of apprehension, nor does it appear that any change took place in the conduct of Herod towards him, until after the battle of Actium, when the king who was naturally suspicious of the disposition of Augustus towards himself, deemed it prudent to remove the only person whose claim to the throne might appear preferable to his own. It is not unnlikely that the feeble old man, who was now above eighty years of age, might really have been induced to tamper in the intrigues of his daughter Alexandra; but whether true or false, a charge was brought against him of a treasonable correspondence with Malchus, king of Arabia, and on this pretext he was put to death, B. C. 30. (J. AJ 14.12, 13, 15.2, 6, B. J. 1.12, 13, 22 D. C. 48.26 )


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hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.1
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.11
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.12
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.13
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.4
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.5
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.2
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.6
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 13.16
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.9
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