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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 Eleven: The Triumviral Period


CHAPTER ELEVEN The Triumviral Period The assassination of Julius Caesar failed to halt the factional struggles that had brought him to power. On the contrary, it intensified those antagonisms. Over the course of the next thirteen years, Rome’s Civil War replayed itself until only one leader was left standing. That leader was Octavian, Caesar’s grand-nephew and designated heir. Together with his colleagues—Mark Antony and Aemilius Lepidus—Octavian committed himself to avenging the dictator’s death. Their compact was given legal force under the title triumviri rei publicae constituendae (“a commission of three to restore the state”). Exercising a consular imperium that overrode all other magistrates, the triumvirs annihilated Caesar’s assassins and their adherents. But the victors turned on one another, just as Caesar and Pompey had done a decade before, thereby perpetuating the bloodshed they sought to end. Like the Republic itself, Hasmonean Judea was one of the casualties of the Triumvirate. During the initial phase of this period, Hyrcanus continued to ride out the storm. But events beyond his control conspired to deprive the Hasmonean of both his high priesthood and his ethnarchy. Into his place stepped Antipater’s ambitious son, Herod, who gained Triumviral recognition as “King of the Judeans,” a title he would actualize after the defeat and execution of Hyrcanus’ belligerent nephew, Antigonus, in 37 BC. It was Herod, not the Hasmoneans, who would dictate the shape of Roman- Judean relations for the century to come. With Herod’s accession, then, our study reaches its conclusion. The purpose...

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