Hyrcanus I, John

(d. 104 BC)
   Hasmonean high priest and ethnarch 135– 104 BC. Hyrcanus I was the son and successor of Simon, the high priest of Judea and the last of the brothers of Judas Maccabeus. The death of Antiochus VII in 129 BC marked the end of Seleucid power. Judea under Hyrcanus emerged from vassal status to virtual independence. His successive campaigns regained most of the territory that had belonged to David’s kingdom nearly one thousand years earlier. Judea’s neighbour to the south, Idumea, was conquered and annexed, extending the border to Beersheba and along the shore of the Dead Sea; the Idumeans (Edomites) were made to accept the Jewish faith, and were in due course assimilated. The Perea area in Transjordan was occupied. To the north Shechem (Nablus) was taken and the temple of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim destroyed. In the coastal plain he recaptured the ports and towns that had been lost to the Seleucids, including Joppa (Jaffa).
   In his later years Hyrcanus set out to subdue the line of Greek cities that hemmed Judea in from the north and cut it off from Galilee. The strategic key was the mountain stronghold of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel centuries before. It fell after a protracted siege, and was destroyed. A Seleucid force coming to its aid was intercepted and repulsed by Hyrcanus’s sons, who occupied Scythopolis (Bet She’an) in the Jezreel Valley. The road to Galilee was now open and it was occupied soon after. The apocryphal Book of Judith, about the patriotic Jewess who slew the Assyrian general Holofernes, may have been written at the time of the siege of Samaria.
   After more than thirty years as ethnarch and high priest, Hyrcanus was succeeded by his son ARISTOBOLUS I.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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