The Roman Conquest of Jerusalem

The internal wars for succession between the Hasmonean grandsons of John Hyrcanus—Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II—first made Judea susceptible to intervention by the Roman triumvir Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Pompey the Great (106-48 B.C.E.). Pompey was in the east on other business. Pirates had taken control of the Mediterranean Sea and the economic impact on Rome's Mediterranean trade resulted in government intervention (see Primary Document 2.1). In 67 B.C.E., the Lex Gabinia granted Pompey a three-year imperium, "authority of the government," over the entire Mediterranean to eradicate the pirates. He accomplished this in three months rather than in the anticipated three years. While he was in the east, he made Syria a Roman province under the control of a Roman legate. This decision, seemingly to protect Syria from being taken over again by pirates and warring rival kings, effectively laid the groundwork for the great Roman expansion called the pax Romana, which Augustus would establish over the eastern empire. Although not directly annexed, Judea was also subject to the legates of Syria. When Pompey arrived in Syria in 63 B.C.E., delegations from both Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II arrived from Judea laden with gifts and bribes in order to gain his support. This meeting in Damascus between Pompey and the rivaling Hasmonean brothers inaugurated almost two centuries of Judeo-Romano relations that saw the status of Judea change: an independent nation under the Hasmonean priest-kings, Judea became a client kingdom of Rome under the Herods, and, finally, a subject kingdom under direct Roman rule.

At the meeting in Damascus, Pompey recognized Hyrcanus II as high priest and ethnarch, but he left civil authority in the hands of the legate of Syria. In belligerent indignation Aristobulus II returned to Judea to prepare for war. Almost immediately, Pompey followed him and marched on Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. According to Josephus, within three months of arriving there Pompey had captured and desecrated part of the Temple and killed some 12,000 Jews. The true extent of Rome's control was revealed when Aristobulus II and his sons were forced to march in humiliation in Pompey's triumph in Rome while several Greek cities that had been conquered and annexed by the Maccabee kings were reestablished independent of Judea. In a further decentralization of Maccabean power, Hyrcanus II was permitted to retain only the office of high priest but was relieved of the title of king.

0 0

Post a comment