The Seleucid administration of Judea, the High Priesthood and the rise of the Hasmoneans

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Abstract / Description of output

The nature of Seleucid rule over Judea was to a large degree determined by the interaction between imperial and local traditions. The article studies the role of the Seleucid and the Judean high priesthood in this process. The first part deals with the pre-Hasmonean Seleucid administration. The current consensus that there was a groundbreaking reform in 178 BCE, based on the new inscription from Maresha, cannot be upheld. Contrary to the prevailing interpretation, there is no causal relation between the introduction of the Seleucid high priesthood and the Maccabean revolt. Severe changes in the treatment of the Judean high priesthood were made only by Antiochus IV in 175, and this same ruler seems to have let the Seleucid high priesthood fall into oblivion. His measures were largely determined by ad hoc-reactions to current events, not by administrative constraints. The second part of the paper analyzes the rise of the Hasmoneans within the Seleucid administration. Contrary to a recent theory, Jonathan did not become a Seleucid high priest in 152; instead, the Hasmonean high priests were integrated into the Seleucid administration through military offices. Nevertheless, a new conceptualization of the high priesthood was the result of a series of experiments. When Simon claimed independence in 143, he called himself archiereus megas in Greek, to show that his powers went beyond the competences of the former Seleucid archiereis and the competences accorded to him by the current compromise. All this shows how a local institution could be incorporated into Seleucid imperial administration in very different ways, with severe results for both Seleucid rule and the institution itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-87
JournalJournal of Ancient History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Seleucid Empire
  • Hasmoneans
  • Jewish High Priesthood
  • Seleucid archiereis


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