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Antigonus the Hasmonean

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Title: Antigonus the Hasmonean  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mark Antony, 40 BC, Herod the Great, Hasmonean dynasty, List of High Priests of Israel, Aristobulus II, Hyrcanus II, Lysanias, 10 agorot controversy, Roman–Persian Wars
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Antigonus the Hasmonean

Antigonus II Mattathias (Hebrew: מתתיהו אנטיגונוס השני‎) (known in Hebrew as Matityahu) (died 37 BCE) was the last Hasmonean king of Judea. He was the son of King Aristobulus II of Judea. Antigonus was handed over by Herod for execution in 37 BCE, after a reign of three years during which he led a fierce struggle of the Jews for independence from the Romans.


Antigonus the Hasmonean was captured and taken to Rome in 63 BCE. He escaped and returned to Judea in 57 BCE. After an unsuccessful attempt to oppose the Roman forces there, the senate released him but he refused to surrender his ancestral rights. After the death of his older brother Alexander, Antigonus claimed that his uncle Hyrcanus was a puppet in the hands of the Idumean Antipater and attempted to overthrow him with the help and consent of the Romans. He visited Julius Cæsar, who was in Syria in 47, and complained of the usurpation of Antipater and Hyrcanus. In 42, he attempted to seize the government of Judea by force with the assistance of his brother-in-law, Ptolemy Mennei but was defeated by Herod.[1]

He gained the adherence of the aristocratic class in Jerusalem and the leaders of the Pharisees. The Parthians, who invaded Syria in 40 BCE, preferred to see an anti-Roman ruler on the throne of Judea. When Antigonus promised them large sums of gold and five hundred female slaves besides, they put a troop of five hundred warriors at his disposal. Hyrcanus was sent to Babylon after suffering the mutilation of his ears, which rendered him unfit for the office of high priest. Herod fled from Jerusalem. In 40 BCE Antigonus was officially proclaimed king and high priest by the Parthians. His three year reign was a continuous struggle.[2]

On Herod's return from Rome in 39 BCE he opened a campaign against Antigonus and laid siege to Jerusalem. In the spring of 38 BCE, Herod wrested control of the province of Galilee and eventually all of Judea as far as Jerusalem. Due to the approach of winter, Herod postponed his siege of Jerusalem, where Antigonus and the remnants of his army took refuge, until spring. Herod was held off for 3–5 months but the Romans did eventually capture the city; however, the supporters of Antigonus fought until the Romans reached the inner courtyard of the Temple.[3] Antigonus was taken to Antioch and executed,[4] ending Hasmonean rule.[5]


Obv: Menorah with Greek inscription "Basileus Antignus" (King Antignus) Rev: Table (Shulchon) with Hebrew inscription "Matisyahu HaKohen" (Matisyahu the High Priest). Josephus states that Marc Antony beheaded Antigonus (Antiquities, XV 1:2 (8-9). Roman historian Dio Cassius says he was crucified. Cassius Dio's Roman History records: "These people [the Jews] Antony entrusted to a certain Herod to govern; but Antigonus he bound to a cross and scourged, a punishment no other king had suffered at the hands of the Romans, and so slew him."[6] In his Life of Antony, Plutarch claims that Antony had Antigonus beheaded, "the first example of that punishment being inflicted on a king."[7]

Recent Archaeology

In 1971, bulldozers removing earth in Jerusalem for a construction project uncovered a tomb with an inscription that, according to some scholars, indicates that this was the tomb of King Antigonus, the last Hasmonean king.[8] However, the 1977 report by the only scientific team to examine the remains concluded they were not that of Antigonus.[9]

In Popular Culture

Author Robert Graves in his historical fiction novel King Jesus presents Hasmonean King Antigonus as the father of Mary the mother of Jesus, i.e., the maternal grandfather of Jesus Christ. Graves claimed to have proof supporting this association but never published said evidence. Author Joseph Raymond in his book Herodian Messiah attempts to provide a case for Jesus as the grandson of King Antigonus.[10]


External links

  • Antigonus entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
Antigonus II Mattathias
Hasmonean Dynasty
Died: 37 BCE
Preceded by
Hyrcanus II
King of Judaea
40 BC – 37 BCE
Succeeded by
Herod I
High Priest of Jerusalem
40 BCE – 37 BCE
Succeeded by

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