Seleucid Palestine on the eve of the Maccabean Revolt 167–161 BCE


Map Code: Ax01178

The empire founded by Seleucus, one of the heir-generals of Alexander the Great, was entering a prolonged death spiral by 167 BCE, when revolt erupted in Judaea. Battered by the rising power of Parthia, bullied by the established power of Rome, the Seleucids were increasingly plagued by civil unrest and palace intrigues. Leading the rebellion, Judah Maccabee (the ‘Hammer’, from his ferocity in battle), repeatedly defeated Seleucid armies, and when Antiochus IV, the Seleucid king, was killed in battle with the Parthians (164 BCE), liberation seemed near. But the Maccabean revolt, led by conservative rural Jews, was focussed upon Hellenized Jews in the cities as well as Seleucid rule. Judah embarked on a campaign of destruction against the Hellenized cities, sacking Ashdod and Marisa, and the Hellenized High Priest of Jerusalem, Alcimus, fled to solicit support from the Seleucids. An army was sent, and in the ensuing battle, Judah was slain (161 BCE).

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