The dynasty derived its name from a distant priestly ancestor, Hasmonaeus, of the family that secured Jewish independence from the Seleucid Empire. Judah, the rebel leader, was killed in battle; his younger brother, Jonathan, took over and by skilful exploitation of Seleucid dynastic rivalries gained the governorship of Judaea and control of neighbouring Peraea. Jonathan was trapped and later executed by a contender for the Seleucid throne; his brother Simon succeeded him, achieving formal independence before also being assassinated (135 BCE) with two of his sons by his son-in-law. His surviving son, John Hyrcanus, took power, and was forced to repel a Seleucid invasion at the outset. Thereafter, the Seleucids rapidly disintegrated into internecine strife, and John was able first to cement, then extend, his power, annexing Samaria, Medeba and Idumaea. His son, Alexander Jannaeus, was effective in war but his brutal repression polarized Jewish society.
— OR —