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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 Ten: The Civil War


CHAPTER TEN The Civil War Julius Caesar’s chief gain from the Luca conference in April of 56 BC had been Pompey’s and Crassus’ pledge to support a five-year extension of his Gallic command, a promise made good on their assumption of consular office in 55. 1 The extraordinary length of Caesar’s proconsulship became a target for his senatorial foes, who accused him of harboring tyrannical designs. In September of 51, pressure was stepped up for Caesar to lay down his magistracy. Official discussion of the matter was blocked by tribunician veto in March of the following year, which strengthened the resolve of Caesar’s enemies and strained his relations with Pompey. An eleventh-hour attempt to diffuse the situation through mutual demobilization of Caesar’s and Pompey’s legions served only to further aggravate matters.2 When the Senate reconvened at the beginning of 49, prospects for a peaceful solution had all but evaporated. A week later, the Senate declared a state of emergency, entrusting Pompey with defense of the Republic. A few days later, Caesar invaded Italy. Rome’s Civil War had begun. For the next three and a half years, the contest between Caesarean and Pompeian forces would span the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, consuming resources and manpower on a hitherto unprecedented scale and leaving no nation untouched. Over the previous decade, Judea’s experience of Rome’s imperium had been defined mainly by individual magistrates and the side-effects of senatorial schemes. After 49, Judean interaction with Roman officialdom would be directly shaped by...

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