Antigonus II Mattathias

Antigonus II Mattathias
King and High Priest of Judaea
Antigonus II Mattathias.jpg
PredecessorHyrcanus II
SuccessorHerod the Great

Antigonus II Mattathias (Hebrew: מתתיהו אנטיגונוס השני, Matityahu), also known as Antigonus the Hasmonean (died 37 BCE) was the last Hasmonean king of Judea. A puppet king installed by the Parthians,[1] he was the son of King Aristobulus II of Judea. In 37 BCE Herod handed him over to the Romans for execution, after Antigonus's three-year reign during which he led the Jews' fierce struggle for independence against the Romans.


Antigonus the Hasmonean was the second son of Aristobulus II, and together with his father was carried prisoner to Rome by Pompey in 63 BCE. He escaped and returned to Judea in 57 BCE. Despite an unsuccessful attempt to oppose the Roman forces there, the senate released him, but he refused to surrender his dynastic rights. After the death of his older brother Alexander, Antigonus claimed that his uncle Hyrcanus was a puppet in the hands of the Idumean Antipater and attempted to overthrow him with the help and consent of the Romans. He visited Julius Cæsar, who was in Syria in 47, and complained of the usurpation of Antipater and Hyrcanus. In 42, he attempted to seize the government of Judea by force with the assistance of his brother-in-law, Ptolemy Mennei but was defeated by Herod.[2]

The excessive taxation wrung from the people to pay for the extravagances of Antony and Cleopatra had awakened a deep hatred against Rome. Antigonus gained the adherence of both the aristocratic class in Jerusalem and the leaders of the Pharisees. The Parthians, who invaded Syria in 40 BCE, preferred to see an anti-Roman ruler on the throne of Judea. When Antigonus promised them large sums of gold and five hundred female slaves besides, they put a troop of five hundred warriors at his disposal. Hyrcanus was sent to Babylon after suffering the mutilation of his ears, which rendered him unfit for the office of high priest. Herod fled from Jerusalem. In 40 BCE Antigonus was officially proclaimed king and high priest by the Parthians. His three-year reign was a continuous struggle.[2]

Just after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Parthians, Herod fled quickly from Masada to Rome, where he - somewhat surprisingly - was nominated in 40 BCE as the new king of Judea (Latin: Rex socius et amicus populi Romani, allied king and friend of the Roman people) through the Senate by the recommendation of the triumvir Mark Antony.[3] On Herod's return from Rome in 39 BCE he opened a campaign against Antigonus and laid siege to Jerusalem. In the spring of 38 BCE, Herod wrested control of the province of Galilee and eventually all of Judea as far as Jerusalem. Due to the approach of winter, Herod postponed his siege of Jerusalem, where Antigonus and the remnants of his army took refuge, until spring. Herod was held off for 3–5 months but the Romans did eventually capture the city; however, the supporters of Antigonus fought until the Romans reached the inner courtyard of the Temple.[4] Antigonus was taken to Antioch and executed,[5] ending Hasmonean rule.[2]

Josephus states that Mark Antony beheaded Antigonus (Antiquities, XV 1:2 (8–9). Roman historian Cassius Dio says that he was crucified and records in his Roman History: "These people [the Jews] Antony entrusted to a certain Herod to govern; but Antigonus he bound to a cross and scourged, a punishment no other king had suffered at the hands of the Romans, and so slew him."[6] In his Life of Antony, Plutarch claims that Antony had Antigonus beheaded, "the first example of that punishment being inflicted on a king."[7]

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