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Rome and Judea in Transition

Hasmonean Relations with the Roman Republic and the Evolution of the High Priesthood

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Chris Seeman

Rome and Judea in Transition is the first English-language book to study exclusively the first century and a half of Roman-Judean political relations (164–37 B.C.). It presents a comprehensive reassessment of the Late Republic's involvement in the Levant, the motives of Hasmonean diplomacy, and the development of the Jewish high priesthood. Therefore, it is of interest to classicists, ancient historians, biblical scholars, and students of Judaica alike.
Previous studies have often mischaracterized this period as a consistent unfolding of Rome’s hegemonic will at Jewish expense. By contrast, this book argues that the Republic harbored no imperial designs on Judea prior to Pompey’s opportunistic intervention in 63 B.C., and that Rome’s subsequent intermittent meddling in the region’s governance did not significantly alter the dynamics of the Hasmonean state. Only with the Parthian invasion of Syria in 40 B.C. – and because of it – did the Republic unilaterally reshape Judean politics by its elevation of Herod the Great as «King of the Jews.»
Judea’s alliance with Rome began in the context of Judas Maccabeus’ revolt against Seleucid rule. Scholars have therefore understandably assumed that the primary hope of Judas’ successors was that Roman recognition would secure and extend Judean sovereignty. This book argues that the main motive for Hasmonean diplomacy was domestic: to advertise the legitimacy of the Maccabees against their Jewish rivals. For this reason, the documentary record of relations with the Republic is of great value for studying the ideology and institutional growth of high priestly power during this period.

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Chapter Eight: Pompey Intervenes

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CHAPTER EIGHT Pompey Intervenes In the spring of 69 BC, Lucullus, the Roman general entrusted with Mithridates’ subjugation, extended the war to Armenia, whose king, Tigranes, had granted asylum to the Pontic monarch. After three years of inconclusive fighting, command of the conflict was transferred to another Roman general, Gn. Pompeius (Pompey), who succeeded in exacting Tigranes’ surrender. The Armenian king was allowed to keep his ancestral domain on condition that he relinquish all his conquests. Foremost among those conquests was Syria, which Tigranes had been in the process of consolidating when Lucullus invaded Armenia. This meant that the whole of the Levant was now (in theory) a Roman possession, to be disposed of as Pompey saw fit. Ratification of any arrangements he might make lay with the Roman people. Yet they had authorized Pompey, as part of his Mithridatic command, “to act however he wished, both to wage war and to name whomever he saw fit as friends or enemies of the Romans.”1 This was the mandate that informed Pompey’s intervention in the power struggle then raging in Judea between the sons of Alexander Jannaeus. The decision to do so was Pompey’s; he had received no special instructions concerning Judea. Yet, as an epilogue to Tigranes’ short-lived Levantine empire, the disposition of Judean affairs cannot be isolated from Pompey’s assertion of Rome’s imperium throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Interpretation of the events of 64-63 BC therefore calls for a nuanced approach that recognizes the simultaneously influence of several contexts....

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