The End of Independence
Alexander Yannai's widow, Salome Alexandra, reigned for nine years (76 - 67 BCE) with her elder son Hyrcanus as high priest and her younger son Aristobulus as commander-in-chief of the army. During her reign the Pharisees were given direction of the state, led by Simeon ben Shetah, who was the queen's brother. After her death civil war broke out between her two son's. As a result of this civil strife, the Romans occupied Judea in 63 BCE and Pompey, their commander, was given the authority to decide the matter of the kingship. Thus began the decline of Hasmonean Judea's independence, which had lasted 80 years; to all intents and purposes Judea now became a Roman province.
After Julius Caesar's victory over Pompey in 48 BCE, Hyrcanus and his chief adviser, Antipater, who was of Idumean origin, went over to Caesar who tool several decisions in Hyrcanus' favour, confirming him as high priest and ethnarch. Antipater rose to great power and his sons were given influential positions in the government, particularly Herod, who was appointed governor of Galilee. After a further period of civil war during which a son of Aristobulus regained the throne for a short time with the help of the Parthians, Herod was proclaimed King of Judea by the Romans. Although his territory was expanded by successive Roman rulers, Herod was, notwithstanding his title, the governor of a Roman province. He faithfully carried out Roman policy and at no time attempted to follow an independent course.
Herod was not beloved by the Jews, even though he married Mariamne of the Hasmonean dynasty to establish his legitimacy. He was also careful not to flout Jewish religious laws and customs. To demonstrate his loyalty to Judaism he decided to rebuild the Temple and erected a magnificent edifice to take the place of the previous unpretentious building that been built in Ezra's time. He extended the boundaries of the plateau on which the Temple was built; some 11 000 persons were employed for nine years on the project. All this was, however, to no avail and far from winning the hearts of the Jewish people and their sages, Herod was regarded by them as the murderer of their kings and leaders and the agent of a foreign power.
He was pathologically suspicious even of his own children and killed some of them for alleged plotting. Octavian is reputed to have said that he would rather be Herod's pig than his son, because the former had a chance of survival.
Next Step : Roman Rule
Index to Footsteps through Jewish History