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The Hasmonean Kingdom (pronunciation) in ancient Judea and its ruling dynasty from 140 BC to 37 BC was established under the leadership of Simon Maccabaeus, two decades after Judah the Maccabee defeated the Seleucid army in 165 BC.
Origin of the Hasmonean dynasty
The origin of the Hasmonean dynasty is recorded in the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. These books are not part of the Hebrew Bible, but are part of the deuterocanonical historical and religious material from the Septuagint; this material was not later codified by Jews as part of the Bible, but was so codified by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.
The Jews believed that the Seleucid Greeks had defiled the Temple in Jerusalem by offering pigs to their gods angering the local population. Judah the Maccabee leading the first Hasmoneans re-dedicated the Temple, and established the rule of his family over a liberated land of Judah. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees' victories during these events.
The festival of Hanukkah was instituted by Judah Maccabee and his brothers in the year 165 BC, to be celebrated annually with joy as a memorial of the dedication of the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. (1 Macc. iv. 59). After having recovered Jerusalem, Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one, and new holy vessels to be made. When the fire had been kindled anew upon the altar and the lamps of the candlestick lit, the dedication of the altar was celebrated for eight days amid sacrifices and songs (1 Macc. iv. 36) in a similar fashion to Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Macc. x. 6 and i. 9) which also lasts for eight days, and at which the lighting of lamps and torches formed a prominent part during the Second Temple (Suk.v. 2-4).
The leadership of the Hasmoneans was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BC, at a large assembly "of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet" (I Macc. xiv. 41).
Recognition of the new dynasty by the Romans was accorded by the Senate about 139 BC, when the delegation of Simon was in Rome.
When Jonathan the Maccabee fell into the power of Tryphon, Simon, his brother, assumed the leadership (142 BC), and after the murder of Jonathan took the latter's place. Simon, who had made the Jewish people semi-independent of the Seleucid Greeks, reigned from 142 to 135 BC. In February 135 BC, he was assassinated at the instigation of his son-in-law Ptolemy.
Simon was followed by his third son, John Hyrcanus, whose two elder brothers, Mattathias and Judah, had been murdered, together with their father. John Hyrcanus ruled from 135 to 104 BC. According to his directions, the government of the country after his death was to be placed in the hands of his wife, and Aristobulus, the eldest of his five sons, was to receive only the high-priesthood. Aristobulus, who was not satisfied with this, cast his mother into prison and allowed her to starve there. By this means he came into the possession of the throne, which, however, he did not long enjoy, as after a year's reign he died of a painful illness (103 BC).
Aristobulus' successor was his eldest brother, Alexander Jannĉus, who, together with his two brothers, was freed from prison by the widow of Aristobulus. Alexander reigned from 103 to 76 BC, and died during the siege of the fortress Ragaba.
Alexander was followed by his wife Alexandra, who reigned from 76 to 67 BC. Against her wishes, she was succeeded by her son Aristobulus II. (67-63 BC), who during the illness of his mother had risen against her, in order to prevent the succession of the elder son, Hyrcanus.
During the reign of Alexandra, Hyrcanus had held the office of high priest, and the rivalry between him and Aristobulus brought about a civil war, which ended with the forfeiture of the freedom of the Jewish people. Israel had to pay tribute to Rome and was placed under the supervision of the Roman governor of Syria. From 63 to 40 BC the government was in the hands of Hyrcanus II as High Priest and Ethnarch, although effective power was in the hands of Antipater the Idumaean.
After the victory of Herod over Antigonus and the execution in Antioch of the latter by order of Antony, Herod the Great (37-4 BC) became king of the Jews, and the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty was ended.
The family name of the Hasmonean dynasty originates with the ancestor of the house, Ἀσαμωναῖος Asamoneus or Asmoneus (see Josephus Flavius, Jewish Antiquities: ; ; ), who is said to have been the grandfather of Mattathias, but about whom nothing more is known.
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