The Start of the Hasmonean Dynasty

The Hasmonean Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during the days of classical antiquity. The first rulers of the dynasty were the Maccabees, who fought against the Seleucid Empire and paved the way for the Jewish people to gain their independence. In this article, you will learn about the founding father and the historical background of the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Between around 140 and 164 BCE, the dynasty ruled almost on its own , separate from the Seleucids who were dominating in the region of Judea. From 110 BCE, the Seleucid Empire was suffering a dwindling of their power and the dynasty enjoyed full independence as a result. They started to expand into neighboring regions, such as Galilee, Perea, and Samaria.

In 63 BCE, the Roman Republic conquered the kingdom and it was broken up. It now became a Roman client state. The Kingdom was able to survive for 103 years before they succumbed to the Herodian Dynasty in 37 BCE. To make sure he had a stronghold over the region, Herod the Great took a Hasmonean princess as his wife, and planned to drown the last male Hasmonean heir that was still alive.

Throughout the years, the Hasmonean Dynasty saw many shifts in power and rule. Some of the leaders of the dynasty have included the following figures:

The Maccabees

The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel who took over Judea during a time when it was a client state of the Seleucid Empire. It was them who founded the Hasmonean Dynasty, which was the ruling power from 164 BCE to 63 BCE. The establishment of the dynasty helped to strengthen the spread and recognition of the Jewish religion. During this time, the boundaries of the Land of Israel also expanded. Over this time period, the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism grew weaker and weaker.

Mattathias , First Leader of Jewish Revolt

The first leader of the Maccabees was Mattathias (170 to 167 BCE). Mattathias was a Jewish priest whose role in the Jewish revolt against the Syrian Greeks is told in the Books of the Maccabees. Mattathias came from a priestly family that lived in a rural region. He was the father of Judah, as well as the Maccabee leaders that would follow. He served in the Temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, he would not live long enough to see the accomplishments that his sons would achieve in their fight for religious independence.

His son, Judas Maccabeus was the second leader associated with the Maccabees. He ruled from 167 to 160 BCE, and led a revolt against the Seleucid Empire during that time. In Jewish history, he is regarded as one of the best warriors , joining the ranks of Joshua, Gideon, and David.

In the next article, you will learn about the accomplishments of Judah Maccabee, who made a reputation of displaying great bravery and military skill.