Hellenistic-Roman Judaea

Publication Abstracts

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A. Articles

9) ALTAY COŞKUN & BEN SCOLNIC: The Three ‘Uprooted’ Horns and Some (Peculiar) Perspectives on Seleukid Dynastic History in Daniel 7. In preparation.

Daniel’s oracular vision of the he-goat with ten horns, the last three of which were ‘uprooted’ by the eleventh, has puzzled biblical and historical scholars for over two millennia. It is largely accepted that the ten horns are an allegory for the Seleukid lineage. Likewise uncontested is that the eleventh horn stands for Antiochos IV Epiphanes, under whom the cult of Yahweh in Jerusalem was desecrated and traditional Judaism effectively banned. This persecution triggered the Maccabaean Revolt, which would re-establish a very traditional version of the cult in 164 BC and ultimately result in the independence of Judaea. No previous commentator has been able to present a consistent dynastic list. All available studies include spurious kings such as Alexander the Great or Ptolemy VI Philometor of Egypt; and most lists regard Demetrios I as the tenth king, but he would rise to power only after the successor of Epiphanes was killed in 162 BCE, so that he cannot be one of the three kings ‘uprooted’ by Epiphanes. There is, however, a clear-cut solution, if all the legally co-ruling kings of the dynasty are included. Based on this principle, a coherent list of ten Seleukid kings predessessing Epiphanes can be drawn up. This revised list enables us not only to better understand the ideological distortions of the the author behind Daniel – a contemporary of Antiochos IV and V –, but also to reconsider difficulties relating to Seleukid dynastic successions.

8) ALTAY COŞKUN: Reception of Seleukid Ideology in 2nd-Century BC Judaea. In preparation.

A series of early examples (ranging from Cyrus over Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, Seleukos I and Antiochos III to Seleukos IV) shows that the Judaeans were generally inclined to accept the legitimacy of foreign rulers. Despite the negative tone of 1Macc, even the most notorious of all, Antiochos IV Epiphanes, was regarded as legitimate before the escalation of the religious crisis in 168/67. In fact, a part of the elite even held on to him thereafter. In contrast, the Maccabees staunchly opposed the Seleukids until Jonathan acknowledged the supremacy of Demetrios I, to be recognized as ruler of a Judaean fiefdom in return. Afterwards, he made a stunning career under Alexander I Balas, who granted him the high priesthood of Jerusalem. 1Macc represents Jonathan as the king’s strongest supporter and as the protector of his son Antiochos VI. His successor Simon requested his confirmation by Demetrios II and later by Antiochos VII. After a military conflict with John Hyrkanos I, the king and high priest resumed mutual expressions of respect, as illustrated in the Antiochos coinage from Jerusalem. Surveying the relations between Judaean leaders and Hellenistic kings over several generations, regular patterns emerge: expressions of loyalty to the king were reciprocated by an acknowledgement of local leadership. In fact, nearly all preserved cases in which Judaeans voiced their recognition of Seleukid rule addressed a Judaean audience which should understand that their own leader was backed by the king.

7) ALTAY COŞKUN: Seleukid Throne Wars. In preparation for Andrea Berlin & Paul Kosmin (eds.), The Middle Maccabees from the Death of Judas through the Reign of John Hyrcanus (161–104 BC). New Archaeological and Historical Perspectives.

Although Antiochos III Megas had been defeated by the Romans in 190 BCE, the kingdom recovered splendidly, and Antiochos IV Epiphanes (175–164 BCE) may well be called the most powerful monarch of his time, second only to the Roman Republic. Despite the succession crisis of 164/62 BCE, the empire remained strong for most of the time that it was ruled by Demetrios I Soter (162–150 BCE). His final years, however, saw an acceleration of the decline, triggered by the revolt of Alexander Balas, or perhaps more correctly by the support he gained from Ptolemy VI Philometor. The endless dynastic rivalries of the 140s BCE catalyzed the further disintegration of the empire with the loss of Persia and Mesopotamia to the Parthians. And yet, recovery under Antiochos VII Sidetes was unexpectedly vigorous, and could have re-established the Seleukid Kingdom as the dominant power in the Near- and Middle East – had he not been ambushed and killed in 129 BCE. At first glance, the first two Books of Maccabees may convey the impression that the Judaeans substantially contributed to the process of Seleukid disintegration. The revolts in Judaea first under the leadership of Jason in 168 BC and then under the Maccabees as of 167/66 BC absorbed substantial resources of the realm. But no matter how glorious the military and political victories were, the Seleukid response did not wait long, and regularly resulted in a redintegration of Judaea into the kingdom. Even the grant of full independence under Simon could be reversed under his son John Hyrkanos I, as long as the Mediterranean territories were largely united under a single king. Judaean freedom became irreversible in 129 BC: after the permanent loss of Babylonian and Media, and with Syria divided, no Seleukid king was strong enough to regain control of Judaea – a development that was symptomatic for the further disintegration of Seleukid rule in the Levant as well.

6) ALTAY COŞKUN: The Liberation of Judaea and Early Maccabaean Diplomacy with Rome According to Justin (36.3.9), Diodorus (40.2/4) and Caesar (Jos. Ant. Jud. 14.10.6 [205]). Forthcoming in Anabasis.

Justin (36.3.9), Diodorus (40.2/4) and Julius Caesar (quoted by Josephus, Ant. Jud. 14.10.6 [205]) are the only non-Jewish sources that mention Roman-Judaean diplomacy in the 2nd century BCE. Some scholars have adduced them to reject the claim of 1Macc 8 that Judas Maccabee established friendship and alliance with Rome in 161 BCE – unduly so, as this article sets to argue. Justin has often been misunderstood as attesting only a grant of freedom to Judaea rather than a treaty, but this would be misreading the anti-Roman rhetoric. What is more, Justin mentions that amicitia began under King Demetrius, and different to previous interpretations, the context compels us to identify him with Demetrius II Nicator during his second tenure (129–125 BCE). Diodorus has been read as evidence for freedom under Demetrius I Soter (162–150 BCE), but the transmitted text does not speak of a Demetrius or a revolt from the Seleucids; what it does is alluding to Judaean diplomacy with Rome under John Hyrcanus I (135–105 BCE). Caesar states that Joppa was a possession of the Judaeans before the Romans first made a treaty with them. Since the city was taken by Jonathan and Simon for the first time in 150 BCE, Caesar reflects the same unawareness of the first Judaean-Roman treaty of friendship and alliance made under Judas. Rather than providing independent evidence against the claim of 1Macc 8, the three sources under examination seem to be traces of one now-lost Graeco-Roman tradition that let Judaean-Roman amicitia begin under John Hyrcanus I in ca. 128 BCE.

5) ALTAY COŞKUN: The Chronology of the Desecration of the Temple and the Prophecies of Daniel 7–12 Reconsidered. Forthcoming in Historia 68.4, 2019, 436-462.

Generations of scholars have been puzzled by the chronological time frame that the Seleukid prophecies of Daniel 7–12 are structured around. Basic to the problem is Dan 11.40–45, which clearly implies that the author did not know when and how Antiochos IV died. This seemed to warrant the terminus ante quem of late 164 BC, with the result that the prophet had not yet seen the effective turn in the Maccabaean revolt against the king, let alone the purification of the Jerusalem temple on 25 Kislev 148 SE (ca. 14 Dec. 164 BC). The present study suggests relating this terminus only to Dan 10–11, while allowing for a later composition of the remaining Seleukid prophecies. Based on a chronological revision of the First and Second Book of Maccabees, a plausible timeline can be presented that is compatible with every historical implication of Dan 7–9 and 12. Accordingly, the apocalyptic final year week started with the replacement of Jason as high priest by his rival Menelaos in 171/70 BC; the temple was pillaged by Antiochos IV in summer 169 BC, and Seleukid forces expelled Jason from Jerusalem in 168 BC. The cataclysmic final three-and-a-half years started with the arrival of the commander Apollonios in Jerusalem in May or June 167 BC, followed by the issue of Antiochos’ religious edict around October 167 BC. The pinnacle of the religious persecution was reached with the sacrifice to Zeus Olympios in the temple of Yahweh on 25 Kislev 145 SEB (December 167 BC). Nearly all prophecies regard the purification of the temple as the end point of the crisis. Only the addendum Dan 12.12 alludes to an event that happened 45 days later, perhaps the completion of the fortifications against the royal garrison and the Judaean collaborators on the Akra of Jerusalem. Dan 7–9 and 12 were likely composed by the end of January 163 BC, to supersede Dan 10–11, which had become obsolete after the king’s death. The two groups of Seleukid prophecies were later merged when the collective memory of the events was fading away (before 100 BC).

4) ALTAY COŞKUN: Triangular Epistolary Diplomacy with Rome from Judas Maccabee to Aristobulos I. In: Altay Coşkun & David Engels (eds.): Rome and the Seleukid East. Selected Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Brussels, 21–23 Aug. 2015 (Collection Latomus 360), Brussels 2019, 355-388.

The sheer amount of scholarship on Judaean-Roman diplomacy from Judas Maccabee (166-161 BC) to Hyrkanos II (76-30 BC) has done little to reduce the controversies on nearly every single aspect. This said, scholarly opinions tend to converge towards accepting that Roman commitment was very limited, whether the sources that tell otherwise were fabricated or the Romans never had the intention to get involved, despite the treaties of friendship and alliance they concluded. One way or another, Roman inactivity is blamed for the discontinuation of friendship by the end of the 2nd century BC, unless the change is explained with the growing aggressiveness and expansionism of the Judaeans. The present study questions these views, not least by demonstrating how highly amcitia populi Romani was appreciated both by the Author (ca. 140 BC) and Continuator (ca. 128 BC) of 1Macc. The major methodological novelty is to accept the historicity of the diplomatic documents in 1Macc and Josephus Jewish Antiquities, and to systematically correct their narratives on the basis of this primary evidence. Accordingly, Eupolemos and Jason made an alliance under Judas (161 BC), which was renewed under Simon (142 BC) and again under John Hyrkanos I (ca. 128 BC). Another mission to Rome under John Hyrkanos was headed by Straton (107 BC). Next, I shall argue that the alliance was also renewed under Aristobulos (104 BC) and Alexander Jannaios (by 100 BC). The evidence allows us to describe the mechanism of Judaean diplomacy: ambassadors were sent from Jerusalem to the Roman Senate, put forward their concerns, expected and normally received official letters that told third parties what to do. Of particular importance were documents that impressed the Seleukid kings in Antioch or Damascus. This kind of ‘triangular diplomacy’ was particularly successful under Simon and John Hyrkanos. Gradually, however, the large-scale changes in the eastern Mediterranean World on the verge from the 2nd to the 1st century BC diminished Roman interest and influence in the Near East. As a result, the high tide of Roman epistolary diplomacy came to an end as well.

3) ALTAY COŞKUN: ‘Friendship and Alliance’ between the Judaeans and the Romans under Judas Maccabee (1Macc 8.17–32): A Response to Linda Zollschan’s Rome and Judaea (2017), Electrum 25, 2018, 185-225.

Zollschan promises a highly interdisciplinary study of the report on the first Roman embassy to Rome under Judas Maccabee in 1Macc 8. In part, she argues that the Senate did not grant the requested alliance, but only informal amicitia; in part, she claims that not even amicitia was granted but only a declaration of liberty; in part, she proposes that the ambassadors misunderstood the result of their mission, since it meant subjection under Rome without effective protection. Further results include the views that the embassy was undertaken in 162 BCE, and that the account and treaty text is based on the Aramaic report of the ambassadors Eupolemus and Jason. The contradictions and misunderstandings of Zollschan’s book are plentiful and serious. The present study engages with the questions she asks and with the answers she gives, adds substantially to the recent bibliography in the addressed areas and concludes with very different assessments: namely, that we should maintain the traditional date of 161/60 BCE for the Judaean embassy, that the Senate granted a treaty of friendship and alliance, that the Continuator of 1Macc inserted the (highly edited) version he found on a bronze inscription in Jerusalem, and that success was largely denied to the mission, since the ambassadors returned after Judas had died in battle.

2) ALTAY COŞKUN: Neue Überlegungen zur Chronologie und historischen Einordnung der hasmonäischen Münzprägungen – Zugleich eine verspätete Würdigung der ‚Häresie‘ Ya‘akov Meshorers (‘Revision of the Chronology and Historical Interpretation of Hasmonaean Coinage – Also a Belated Recognition of the “Heresy” of Ya‘akov Meshorer’). In: Revue Belge de Numismatique 164, 2018, 285-321.

Most scholars have traditionally ascribed the beginning of Hasmonaean Bronze issues (Prutot) to John (Yehoḥanan) Hyrkanos I as of 129 BCE, to be followed by his sons Judas (Yehuda) Aristobulos I and Jonathan (Yehonatan) Alexander Jannaios, as well as by the latter’s two sons Hyrkanos II and Aristobulos II, and grandson Antigonos (till 37 BCE). Ya‘akov Meshorer (1966; 1982) suggested instead to attribute all Yehoḥanan coins to John Hyrkanos II and those of Yehuda to Judas Aristobulos II; he dated the earliest Prutot to the rule of Alexander Jannaios. But Meshorer changed his mind, when a hoard with over 700 Prutot issued in the name of Yehoḥanan was found in 1988. He then endorsed what has become the new ‘orthodoxy’ of Hasmonaean coinage (Meshorer 1990/91; 2001). In contrast, the present article tries to demonstrate that a return to Meshorer’s earlier chronology has the potential of better explaining the many numismatic and historical difficulties. The naming practices among the Hasmonaeans, the development of their titulature and the historical context of the aforementioned bronze hoard all seem to be pointing to around 90 BCE for the beginning of Prutot. If this is accepted, the long-disputed legend ḥever ha Yehudim probably denotes a council introduced by Alexander after 90 BCE, and the title roš ha ḥever ha Yehudim marked the grant of the ethnarchy to John Hyrkanos II by Caesar in 47 BCE.

1) ALTAY COŞKUN: Der Ethnarchentitel des Simon (Makkabaios) und die Verleihung der Souveränität durch Antiochos VII. Sidetes (‘The Title Ethnarch of Simon Maccabaeus and the Grant of Sovereignty by Antiochos VII Sidetes’). In: Scripta Classica Israelica 37, 2018, 129-161.

A systematic enquiry into the oldest occurrences of the titel ‘ethnarch’ has yielded the result that the two first instances, Jos. ant. Jud. 13.6.7 (on 142 BCE) and 1Macc 14.47 (on 140 BCE) are anachronistic. This does not justify, however, the conclusion that the next known instances, 1Macc 15.1-2 (on 138 BCE) are likewise not authentic, and that the title was first introduced under John Hyrkanos II, as is now a widespread belief. The attestation of ‘ethnarch’ in Antiochos VII’s letter to Simon is rather entirely plausible. After the Parthians had captured his brother Demetrios II, and while the usurper Diodotos Tryphon was holding large parts of Syria, Antiochos was ready to make substantial concessions to gain the support of the Judaeans, including their full immunity and liberty. This view is not contradicted by the fact that the king showed himself less generous after defeating Tryphon, when he refused to accept some of Simon’s conquests. At any rate, Simon and after him John Hyrkanos I bore the titel ‘ethnarch’ besides that of the ‘great priest’ (hiereus megas), which is often rendered as ‘high priest’ (archiereus) in the Graeco-Roman context. The rank of ethnarch did not imply any limitation of sovereignty, but rather reflects hesitation as regards kingship among the Jews. Only after the end of Hasmonaean kingship, if not after the death of Herod the Great, ‘ethnarchy’ gained a connotation of second-class rule.

B. Book Project

ALTAY COŞKUN: A Historical Analysis of 1 Maccabees: Urtext, Continuation, Ideological Layers and Chronology. In preparation.

The First Book of Maccabees (1Macc) is the most important source for early Maccabaean history. It also presents the most coherent surviving Seleukid narrative of the mid-2nd century BC, and further offers occasional glimpses into Roman foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean during the same period. 1Macc provides a panhoply of information, much of which is precise, accurate and consistent, although the ideological lens of the pro-Maccabaean author has distorted some of it. Other tensions have been created either through the use of heterogeneous sources or through additions, when the work was later augmented, continued or translated from Hebrew to Greek. Yet other details are simply based on misunderstandings. Studies by Classical Historians, Biblical scholars and Judaists are legion, and much progress in elucidating the Maccabaean account has been made since the 1930s. The problem remains, however, that no matter how solid or innovative the approach of any scholar has been, so far no one has followed through on a literary analysis that pays as sufficient attention to narrative structure, ideological layers and a detailed chronology of events. At the same time, historical commentators continue to focus on individual problems, often without considering the complex genesis of the text or the methodological principles underlying 1Macc. The present study tries to combine a variety of approaches into one critical scrutiny, regarding every narrative unit as part of a literary plot, as part of an ideological tissue and, at the same time, as reflecting Judaean history evolving in time and space. Among the most important conclusions are the identification of a (Hebrew) Urtext of 140 BC, which covers much of chapters 1–14, the continuation of a translated Greek text completed by 128 BC and further the conviction of both the Author and the Continuator that the documents they quoted were authentic.



1) Summary

2) The Plot of 1 Maccabees

PART I: Uncovering the Urversion (140 BC) and Continuation (128 BC) of 1 Maccabees

1) The Problem

2) Chronological Termini Ad Quem for the Composition and a First Argument for ca. 129 BC

3) Anti-Gentile Polemics and a Possible Composition Date Early under John Hyrkanos

4) Inconsistent Representation of the Seleukids

5) Analytical versus Unitarian Approaches

6) Encapsulated Documents, Literary Criticism and the Urversion

7) From to the Hebrew Urversion to the Septuagint Version

8) More Documentary Philology

9) The Translator and Continuator of 1 Maccabees

10) Conclusions and Outlook: Urversion, Continuation, Chronicle of John and a Call for More Analytical Studies in 1 Maccabees

PART II: The Use of the Seleukid Era and Other Chronological Problems in 1 Maccabees

1) Introduction: the Use of the Seleukid Era in 1 Maccabees

2) When Was Antiochos IV in Jerusalem: in 169 or 168 BC?

3) The Dates of the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ and of the Purification of the Temple

4) When Did Antiochos IV Die?

5) Evincing the First Judaean Campaign of Lysias as a Literary Fiction

6) The Chronology of the Second Judaean Campaign of Lysias

7) The Usurpation of Demetrios I, the Battle of Adasa and Nikanor’s Day

8) The Date of the Judaean Embassy to Rome under Judas

9) The Date of the Battle at Elaza

10) Jonathan’s Switch from Demetrios I to Alexander Balas

11) Jonathan’s Switch from Demetrios II to Antiochos VI and the Timing of His Alleged Embassy to Rome in 143 BC

12) Simon’s Succession, Numenios’ Embassy to Rome and the Agreement with Demetrios II

13) The Date of Simon’s Capture of the Akra

14) The Date of Demetrios II’s Parthian Campaign and the Beginning of Antiochos VII’s Rule

15) The Dates of Simon’s Murder and John Hyrkanos I’s Succession

PART III: The Evidence for Maccabaean Diplomacy with Rome (and Sparta)

1) Introduction: Prolegomena to a History of Judaean-Roman Diplomacy

2) An Alleged Roman Letter Addressing the Judaeans in 164 BC (2Macc 11.34–38)

3) The First Judaean Embassy to Rome in 161 BC (1Macc 8)

4) Judaean Ambassadors under the Late Oniads and Early Maccabees, 200–104 BC

5) A Letter of C. Fannius, Consul of 161 BC (Jos. Ant. Jud. 14.10.15 [233])

6) The Beginning of Judaean-Roman Friendship According to Justin, Diodorus and Caesar

7) Judaean Diplomacy with Sparta and Rome under Jonathan in 143 BC (1Macc 12.1–23)?

8) The Embassy to Rome under Simon in 142 BC (1Macc 14.16–24, 40; 15.16–24)

9) Two Embassies to Rome under John Hyrkanos I in 128/27, 107, ca. 106 BC

a) John Hyrkanos I’s Diplomacy with Rome: Narrative versus Documentary Evidence

b) The Letter of the Praetor Lucius Valerius and the Mission of Numenios in 128/27 BC

c) A First Look at the Pergamene Decree (Jos. Ant. Jud. 14.10.22 [247–255])

d) The Judaean Campaign of Antiochos IX Kyzikenos – A Chronological Survey

e) Joppa, the Second Embassy to Rome (107 BC) and Diplomacy with Pergamon (105 BC)

f) The Athenian Decree for Hyrkanos in 105 BC

10) The Fannius Decree and an Embassy to Rome under Aristobulos I (105/4 BC)

11) A Gift of Friendship from Alexander Jannaios and the end of Judaean-Roman amcitia

12) Triangular Epistolary Diplomacy with Rome from Judas to Aristobulos I


Appendix 1: A New Analytical Approach to Daniel

1) The Chronological Timeframe of the Seleukid Prophecies

2) The Chronological Layers of the Book of Daniel

Appendix 2: A New Analytical Approach to 2 Maccabees

1) Onias III and Jason of Cyrene

2) Epitomator and Compilator of 2 Maccabees

Appendix 3: 1 Maccabees and Josephus: Tracing an Intermediary Source

1) Various Theories on Short Earlier or Different Later Versions of 1 Maccabees

2) The Distinct Ideology of the Intermediary Source

3) Conclusions

Appendix 4: What Caused the Religious Persecution under Antiochos IV?

Appendix 5: The Impact of the Sabbatical Year on Judaean Life, Warfare and Historiography

1) Introduction: the Impact of Sabbatical Year as an Excuse for Military Failure

2) Herod’s Siege of Jerusalem and the Capture of Antigonos Early in the Sabbatical Year

3) Reconsidering the Effect of the Sabbatical Year on Judaean Warfare

4) Evidence for Other Sabbatical Years in the Roman Empire

5) The Talmudic Tradition and of the Modern Cycle of the Sabbatical Year

6) Epilogue: Apologetic References to the Sabbatical Year in the Historiographic Tradition

Appendix 6: Titulature of the Early Maccabaeans

1) Judas

2) Jonathan

3) Simon

4) John Hyrkanos I

Appendix 7: Judaean History – A Timeline for 200 to 37 BC