What is the Real Story of Hanukkah?

Part 4 of the historically accurate 8 Part Series

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Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

Q. After the Maccabees were victorious what was the relationship between them and Rome?

A. There was a Roman-Jewish Treaty. This was an agreement made between Judah Maccabee and the Roman Republic in 161 BCE according to 1 Maccabees 8:17–20 and Josephus. It was the first recorded contract between the Jewish people and the Romans.

The agreement with Rome failed to have any effect on Demetrius’ policy. On receipt of the news of Nicanor’s defeat, he dispatched a new army, again commanded by Bacchides. This time the Seleucid forces of 20,000 men were numerically so superior that most of Judah’s men left the field of battle and advised their leader to do likewise and to await a more favorable opportunity. However, Judah decided to stand his ground.

In the Battle of Elasa, Judah and those who remained faithful to him were killed. His body was taken by his brothers from the battlefield and buried in the family sepulchre at Modiin. The death of Judah Maccabee (d. 160 BCE) stirred the Jews to renewed resistance. After several additional years of war under the leadership of two of Mattathias’ other sons (Jonathan and Simon), the Jews finally achieved independence and the liberty to worship freely. This was the beginning of the Hashmonian dynasty which was established under the leadership of Simon Maccabaeus, two decades after his brother Judah the Maccabee defeated the Seleucid army during the Maccabean Revolt. The successful Maccabean revolt is one of the most important events in Jewish history.

Q. Being that the Hasmonean revolt was originally a revolt against Greek overlordship did the Hasmonians attempt to remove Greek culture form Jewish life after the victory of the Maccabees?

A. Interestingly no, The Hasmonean kingdom and also the Herodian kingdom which followed gradually became more and more Hellenized. From 37 BCE to 6 CE, the Herodian dynasty, Jewish-Roman client kings ruled Judea. Herod the Great considerably enlarged the Temple (it was called Herod’s Temple by many), making it one of the largest religious structures in the world. The style of the enlarged temple and other Herodian architecture shows significant Hellenistic architectural influence.

Q. How long did the dynasty last?

A. It lasted from 165 BCE to 63 BCE. The Hasmonean Dynasty eventually disintegrated in a civil war, which coincided with civil wars in Rome.

Q. Who was the last Hasmonean ruler?

A. This was Antigonus II Mattathias, who was captured by King Herod and executed in 37 BCE. It should be noted here that Mariamne I (died 29 BCE), also called Mariamne the Hasmonean, was a Hasmonean princess and the second wife of Herod the Great. Herod’s fear of his rivals, the Hasmoneans, led to him executing all of the prominent members of the family, including Mariamne and her sons (Her daughters survived).

Q. What is the lineage from Judah Maccabee to Herod the Great?

A. Hasmonean Rebel Leaders (167–153 BC)

· Judas Maccabeus 167–160 BC

· Jonathan Maccabaeus 160–153 BC

Hasmonean High Priests and Kings (153–37 BC)[edit]

· Jonathan Maccabaeus 153–142 BC

· Simon Maccabaeus 142–134 BC

· John Hyrcanus I 134–104 BC

· Aristobulus I (also King) 104–103 BC

· Alexander Jannaeus (also King) 103–76 BC

· Alexandra Salome (Queen) 76–67 BC

· John Hyrcanus II

  • High Priest 76–66 and 63–40 BC
  • King 67–66 BC
  • Governor of the People 63–57 BC
  • Ethnarch of Judaea 47–40 BC
  • Aristobulus II 66–63 BC
  • Antigonus 40–37 BC


In Part 5 of this series on Hanukkah, we will explore what modern historians know of the time period and the external political events that culminated in the Maccabean revolt of Judah Maccabee.

Author: Lewis Harrison is an Independent Scholar with a passion for history, personal development, self-improvement, and problem-solving. He is the creator of Harrison’s Applied Game Theory.

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I offer advice on the arts, innovation, self-improvement, life lessons, mental health, game theory strategies, and love. LewisCoaches.Medium.com

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