- The Machabees
Jewish dynasty which began with the rebellion of Mathathias and his five sons against the Syrian king, Antiochus IV (168 BC) and ruled the fortunes of Israel until the advent of Herod the Great. Syrian attempts to force Greek paganism on the Jews, the profanation of the Temple at Jerusalem, and the massacre which followed, brought the nation to arms under Mathathias, a priest of the sons of Joarib. At the death of Mathathias, Judas Machabeus, his third son, drove the Syrians and Hellenists out of Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple, and began an offensive and defensive alliance with the Romans. Before the treaty was concluded, however, Judas, with 800 men, risked battle at Laisa with an overwhelming army of Syrians under Bacchides, and was slain. He was succeeded in command by his youngest brother, Jonathan (161 BC). Jonathan defeated Bacchides, revenged the death of his brother, and made peace with Alexander who had usurped the throne of Demetrius, the successor to Antiochus. A period of peace followed in which Jonathan ruled as high priest in Jerusalem, but Tryphon, who was plotting for the throne of Asia, treacherously captured him at ptolemais and later put him to death. The captaincy of the armies of Israel then fell to Simon, the second son of Mathathias. Under him the land of Juda flourished exceedingly. He obtained the complete independence of the country and a grateful people bestowed upon him the hereditary kingship of the nation. His rule marked five years of uninterrupted peace. He was treacherously slain by his son-in-law, Ptolemy, about the year 135 BC After Simon the race of the Machabees quickly degenerated. In 63 BC the Romans thought it necessary to interfere in the fratricidal war between Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. With this interference and the advent of Herod the Great the scepter passed forever from the land of Juda. The story of the Machabees is written in the two books of the Old Testament which bear that name.