- John Hyrcanus
John Hyrcanus ("Yohanan Girhan") (reigned 134 BCE - 104 BCE, died 104 BCE) was a
Hasmonean( Maccabeean) leaderof the 2nd century BC. Apparently the name "Hyrcanus" was taken by him as a regnal nameupon his accession to power.
Life and work
He was the son of
Simon Maccabaeusand hence the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan Maccabaeusand their siblings, whose story is told in the deuterocanonical booksof 1 Maccabeesand 2 Maccabees, and in the Talmud. John was not present at a banquet at which his father and his two brothers were murdered, purportedly by his brother-in-law Ptolemy. He attained to his father's former offices, that of high priest and king (although some Jews never accepted any of the Hasmoneans as being legitimate kings, as they were not lineal descendants of David).
His taking a Greek regnal name - "Hyrcanus" - was a significant political and cultural step away from the intransigent opposition to and rejection of
Hellenisticculture which had characterised the Maccabaen revolt against Seleucidrule. It reflected a more pragmatic recognition that Judea, once having attained independence, had to maintain its position among a milieu of small and large states which all shared the Hellenistic culture. All subsequent Hasmonean rulers followed suit and adopted Greek names in their turn.
John Hyrcanus apparently combined an energetic and able style of leadership with the zeal of his forebears. He was known as a brave and brilliant military leader. He is credited with the forced conversion of the
Idumeansto Judaism, which was unusual for a Jewish leader; Judaism was not typically spread by the sword. He also set out to resolve forcibly the religious dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans; during his reign he destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim(although their descendants still worship among its ruins), which served further to deepen the already-historic hatred and rivalry between the two groups. Many historians believe that the apocryphal book of Jubileeswas written during his reign; some would suggest even at his behest. Some writers, particularly Christianones, have dated the division of Judaism into the parties of Phariseesand Sadduceesto his era; most Jewish writers and some Christian ones suggest that this split actually well predates him. Some historians would go so far as to identify him, as a priest, predominantly with the Sadducee party, which was closely associated with the Temple worship and the priestly class.
Peak and decline of the kingdom
John Hyrcanus represented in some ways the highest point of the Hasmonean Dynasty. The restored Jewish "kingdom" approached its maximum limits of both territory and prestige. Upon his death, his offices were divided among his heirs; his son
Aristobulussucceeded him as high priest; his wife as " Queen regnant". The son, however, soon came to desire the essentially unchecked power of his father; he shortly ordered his mother and his brothers imprisoned. This event seems to mark the beginning of the decline of the Hasmonean Dynasty; in just over four decades they were removed from power by the Roman Republicand none of them ever began to approach the level of power or prestige that had pertained to John Hyrcanus or his predecessors.
Tel Avivhas a Yochanan Hyrcanus Street (רחוב יוחנן הורקנוס), as do several other cities in contemporary Israel. In the ealy decades of the 20th century, the Zionisthistorical perception of the Jewish past tended to approve of and revere strong warrior kings of both Biblical and later periods, and Hyrcanus' exploits earned him a place in that pantheon.
* [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1004&letter=H&search=John%20Hyrcanus Jewish Encyclopedia: HYRCANUS, JOHN (JOHANAN) I.]
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