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Rome and Judea in Transition

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


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 Nine: The Pompeian Settlement


CHAPTER NINE The Pompeian Settlement Prior to 63 BC, Judean affairs had followed an independent course. The Hasmoneans took advantage of senatorial pronouncements to further their own ends, but most Judeans neither knew nor cared what Rome did in the wider world. Consequently, it is possible to study the pre-Pompeian period without sustained reference to Roman politics. The Pompeian settlement changed all that. Judea now lay within the provincia—the sphere of activity—of Rome’s Syrian governors.1 The conduct of those magistrates in Judea, and the larger issue of Rome’s objectives in the region, cannot be adequately assessed without some awareness of the political struggles which brought these men to the Levant and influenced their actions there. The purpose of this chapter is to analyze Roman political and military behavior in Judea during the decade between Pompey’s intervention and the outbreak of Rome’s Civil War. On the one hand, it traces the ongoing strife within the Hasmonean house and Judeans’ shifting allegiance toward different members of the dynasty. On the other hand, it examines the intensification of Rome’s own internal factionalism that resulted from Pompey’s eastern conquests, exposing how the machinations of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus impacted what happened in Judea during these years. As with the events analyzed in the previous chapter, we lack documentary testimony for this period of Roman-Judean relations and are forced to rely mainly on Josephus’ narratives for reconstructing them. Even more so than in his accounts of Pompey’s intervention, the sections in War and...

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