- The Collaborative Numismatics Project
  Explore Our Website And Find Joy In The History, Numismatics, Art, Mythology, And Geography Of Coins!!! NumisWiki Is An Enormous Unique Resource Including Hundreds Of Books And Thousands Of Articles Online!!! The Column On The Left Includes Our "Best of NumisWiki" Menu If You Are New To Collecting - Start With Ancient Coin Collecting 101 NumisWiki Includes The Encyclopedia of Roman Coins and Historia Nummorum If You Have Written A Numismatic Article - Please Add It To NumisWiki All Blue Text On The Website Is Linked - Keep Clicking To ENDLESSLY EXPLORE!!! Please Visit Our Shop And Find A Coin You Love Today!!!

× Resources Home
New Articles
Most Popular
Recent Changes
Current Projects
Admin Discussions
How to
Index Of All Titles


Aes Formatum
Aes Rude
The Age of Gallienus
Alexander Tetradrachms
Ancient Coin Collecting 101
Ancient Coin Prices 101
Ancient Coin Dates
Ancient Coin Lesson Plans
Ancient Coins & Modern Fakes
Ancient Counterfeits
Ancient Glass
Ancient Metal Arrowheads
Ancient Oil Lamps
Ancient Pottery
Ancient Weapons
Ancient Wages and Prices
Ancient Weights and Scales
Anonymous Follis
Anonymous Class A Folles
Antioch Officinae
Armenian Numismatics Page
Augustus - Facing Portrait
Bronze Disease
Byzantine Denominations
A Cabinet of Greek Coins
Caesarean and Actian Eras
Campgates of Constantine
A Case of Counterfeits
Byzantine Christian Themes
Clashed Dies
Coins of Pontius Pilate
Conditions of Manufacture
Corinth Coins and Cults
Countermarked in Late Antiquity
Danubian Celts
Damnatio Coinage
Damnatio Memoriae
Denarii of Otho
Diameter 101
Die Alignment 101
Dictionary of Roman Coins
Doug Smith's Ancient Coins
Edict on Prices
ERIC - Rarity Tables
Etruscan Alphabet
The Evolving Ancient Coin Market
Fel Temp Reparatio
Fertility Pregnancy and Childbirth
Friend or Foe
The Gallic Empire
Gallienus Zoo
Greek Alphabet
Greek Coins
Greek Dates
Greek Coin Denominations
Greek Mythology Link
Greek Numismatic Dictionary
Hellenistic Names & their Meanings
Hasmonean Dynasty
Helvetica's ID Help Page
The Hexastyle Temple of Caligula
Historia Numorum
Holy Land Antiquities
Horse Harnesses
Illustrated Ancient Coin Glossary
Important Collection Auctions
Islamic Rulers and Dynasties
Julian II: The Beard and the Bull
Julius Caesar - The Funeral Speech
Kushan Coins
Later Roman Coinage
Latin Plurals
Latin Pronunciation
Library of Ancient Coinage
Life in Ancient Rome
List of Kings of Judea
Medusa Coins
Maps of the Ancient World
Military Belts
Military Belts
Mint Marks
Museum Collections Available Online
Nabataean Alphabet
Nabataean Numerals
The [Not] Cuirassed Elephant
Not in RIC
Numismatic Bulgarian
Numismatic Excellence Award
Numismatic French
Numismatic German
Numismatic Italian
Numismatic Spanish
Parthian Coins
Patina 101
Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet
Paleo-Hebrew Script Styles
People in the Bible Who Issued Coins
Imperial Mints of Philip the Arab
Phoenician Alphabet
Pi-Style Athens Tetradrachms
Pricing and Grading Roman Coins
Reading Judean Coins
Representations of Alexander the Great
Roman Coin Attribution 101
Roman Coin Legends and Inscriptions
Roman Keys
Roman Locks
Roman Militaria
Roman Military Belts
Roman Mints
Roman Names
Rome and China
Satyrs and Nymphs
Serdi Celts
The Sign that Changed the World
Silver Content of Parthian Drachms
Star of Bethlehem Coins
Statuary Coins
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum
Syracusian Folles
Taras Drachms with Owl Left
The Temple Tax
The Temple Tax Hoard
Test Cut
Travels of Paul
Tribute Penny
Tribute Penny Debate Continued (2015)
Tribute Penny Debate Revisited (2006)
Tyrian Shekels
Uncleaned Ancient Coins 101
Venus Cloacina
What I Like About Ancient Coins
Who was Trajan Decius
Widow's Mite

   View Menu


Revolt of the Maccabees

By Lucas Harsh


Hasmoneans refers to the Jewish dynasty that obtained a degree of independence for Judea beginning in the second century B.C.  The Hasmonean revolt is also referred to as the Revolt of the Maccabees when Judas the Maccabee defeated the army of Seleucid king Antiochus IV.  They dynasty ruled for just over a century until the ascendancy of Herod the Great and ever increasing Roman dominion over Judah.  During the Hasmonean dynasty, the first true Jewish coins appear and are a treasured collecting area for both the serious numismatists well as those interested in biblical history.

Persian Empire:

The Persians conquered Babylon around 539 B.C., and allowed expelled Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 589 B.C.  This period is referred to as the Second Temple period, and lasted until the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D..  Judah was under Persian control as the satrapy of Yehud in the Achaemenid Empire until the conquest of Alexander the Great.

Greek Domination:

After Alexander 's untimely death, his empire was divided between his generals with Ptolemy I ruling Egypt and Judah, and Seleucus ruling the Syrian empire to the north of Judah.   Strategically located along the trade routes between Arabia and Egypt in the South, and the Mediterranean ports of the Phoenicians  and Syrian trade centers in the north, Judah was a valuable piece of real estate, and the rulers in the area coveted the revenues that could be derived from the trade moving through the area.  The Seleucids took control of Israel from the Ptolemies, and the land changed hands a number of times.  During this period, Hellenistic ideas spread throughout the Levant challenging the traditions of the Jews.  There were tensions between traditional and Hellenized Jews, as well as between Jews and Hellenized outsiders.  In 201, Antiochus II invaded Palestine, and wrestled control of the territory from Ptolemy V, just five years old at the time he took the throne.

Revolt of the Maccabees:

The Seleucids controlled Judah and surrounding territories at the time of the Hasmonean revolt.  Antiochus IV, Epiphanes unsuccessfully tried to invade Ptolemaic Egypt, but was repelled.  He then turned to increase his control over Judea, and in 167 B.C., invaded Jerusalem and massacred many Jews.   One way of exerting his control was imposing Hellenistic practices and suppressing Jewish cultural and religious practices.  He profaned the Temple in Jerusalem, outlawed observance of the Sabbath, and prohibited the practice of circumcision.  His actions were abhorrent to traditional Jews and posed a direct threat to their traditional religious worship.

Antiochus sent soldiers into the land of Judea to enforce his prohibition against traditional Jewish practices and spread Hellenism in the face of Jewish opposition.  This sparked an outright revolt against his policies and rule.  Among modern scholars, there is some debate if the conflict was primarily between traditional and Hellenized Jews, or between Jews and outsiders, but whatever the case, the revolt centered around opposition to Hellenistic encroachment on traditional Jewish practices and the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus.

Mattathias, a priest living near Modin, sparked the revolt against Antiochus when he killed a Jew who was going to sacrifice to pagan gods at the direction of Seleucid soldiers.  In I Maccabees, the scene is described as follows: "there came a certain Jew in the sight of all to sacrifice to the idols upon the altar in the city of Modin, according to the king 's commandment. And Mattathias saw and was grieved, and his reins trembled, and his wrath was kindled according to the judgment of the law, and running upon him he slew him upon the altar: Moreover the man whom king Antiochus had sent, who compelled them to sacrifice, he slew at the same time, and pulled down the altar."   I Maccabees 2:23-25.  Thus began the Revolt of the Maccabees.

Leaving all they had behind, Mattathias and his sons escaped into the wilderness, and from there, waged a guerrilla war against the Seleucids.  The revolt was extended, but ultimately, the Maccabees began to succeed against the Seleucids.  Around 164 B.C., Judah Maccabee, the son of Mattathias and military leader of the revolt, took Jerusalem and purified the Temple.  The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple following this victory.

Antiochus IV died in 164 B.C., and the Seleucids continued to try and subjugate the Jews but internal struggles in the empire left an opening for Jewish independence.  Judah was killed in the Battle of Elasa in 160 B.C., but his brothers, Simon and Jonathan, continued the struggle.  Jonathan, the first Hasmonean High Priest, was killed by Diodotus Tryphon, a Seleucid general, captured Jonathan and held him hostage when he was invited to a conference.  Upon Jonathan 's death, Simon assumed leadership of the revolt around 142 B.C..  By resolution, the people declared the leadership of the Hasmoneans, and Simon ruled as both High Priest, and prince of Israel.  1 Maccabees 14:41.   Simon eventually gained a degree of independence from the Seleucids and the freedom for Jews to worship freely.  He was assassinated in 135 B.C., and his son, John Hyrcanus I became High Priest.   Under John Hyrcanus I, Judaism saw expansion with the annexation of Trans-Jordan Samaria, Galilee, and Edom.  Idumeans in Edom were forced to convert to Judaism.

Hasmonean Dynasty:

The Hasmoneans ruled Judea from circa 153 B.C. until 37 B.C., at which time Herod the Great wrestled control of the country with the help of Rome.  The rulers under the Hasmonean dynasty are generally ordered as follows:

Jonathan Maccabaeus 153-142 B.C.
Simon Maccabaeus 142-134 B.C.
John Hyrcanus I  134-104 B.C.
Aristobulus I 104-103 B.C.
Alexander Jannaeus 103-76 B.C.
Alexander Salome, Queen as Regent for John Hyrcanus II 76-67 B.C.
John Hyrcanus II 76-66 B.C.
Aristobulus II 66-63 B.C.
John Hyrcanus II 63-40 B.C.
Antigonus 40-37 B.C.

End of the Dynasty:

Although Judea gained independence under the Hasmoneans, their rule was far from unified.  The division between traditional and Hellenized Jews continued to fester.  Upon the death of Alexander Jannaeus, Queen Salome Alexandra, ruled the land of Israel.  Her oldest son, Hyrcanus II, was named High Priest, but a civil war erupted upon the death of Alexandra between Hyrcanus II and his brother, Aristobulus II.  Hyrcanus II was generally seen as weak and pliable, where Aristobulus II was aggressive and politically savvy. Aristobulus II gained control, but that was not the end of Hyrcanus II, who was advised by Antipater the Idumean to seek the assistance of the Nabataeans under king Aretas. 

This civil war among the Jews was to cause the end of the independence they had so dearly fought for.  Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, a Roman general under Pompey the Great, took possession of the kingdom of the Seleucids and became involved in Judea 's civil war when each of the brothers attempted to get his intervention on their respective sides.  Pompey himself arrived in 63 B.C., and decided to bring Judea under Roman rule.  He, like Antipater, viewed Hyrcanus as a more pliable ruler than Aristobulus, and laid siege to Jerusalem.  Upon entering the city, Pompey entered the Temple itself, and Judea became a protectorate of Rome.

Between 57 and 55 B.C., the Romans split the Hasmonean kingdom into the provinces of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.  Antipater and Hyrcanus supported Caesar during his conflict, and secured their positions of power.  Antigonus,, the son of Aristobulus, disfigured Hyrcanus II making him unsuitable for the position of High Priest, and obtained the double title of King an High Priest.  Antigonus ' rule was to be short lived however, as Herod the Great secured the title "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C., and with the help of Roman military support, secured his position in 37 B.C. ending the Hasmonean rule.


1 Maccabees

2 Maccabees

The Wars of the Jews, Flavius Josephus

Guide to Biblical Coins, fifth edition, David Hendin

A Treasury of Jewish Coins, Ya 'akov Meshorer

A Numismatic Journey Through the Bible, Richard Plant


Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History, Joseph Telushkin

Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Lee I. Levine

Atlas of the Jewish World, Nicholas DeLange






All coins are guaranteed for eternity