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date: 20 April 2024



  • Tessa Rajak


A family of Jewish high priests and kings, descended from Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabaeus (see maccabees). Prominent between 165 and 37 bce, they ruled *Judaea between 142 and 63, creating a Jewish state of dimensions comparable to David's biblical kingdom and anticipating Herod's. Josephus derives the family name (absent in 1 and 2 Maccabees) from the great-grandfather of Mattathias. They belonged to the priestly house of (eh)oarib, and regarded Modein, near Lydda, as their ancestral home.Hasmonean ascendancy was based first on military success against *Seleucid armies and then on effective diplomacy with monarchs and pretenders. Jonathan, the youngest of the five sons of Mattathias, came to terms with the general Bacchides, raised an army in support of *Demetrius (10) I, and thus recovered Jerusalem, leaving only the Akra fortress in the hands of foreign troops and Jewish ‘Hellenizers’ (see hellenism). When ambassadors to *Sparta brought back letters attesting Jewish kinship with the Spartans, this was a statement that Hasmonean Judaea was part of the Greek world.


  • Jewish Studies

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