Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Book 12

Sections 154 - 286

Translated by R. Marcus (1943). The section numbers in the Greek text are shown in red; the traditional chapter numbers (as in Whiston's translation) are shown in green.

 See key to translations for an explanation of the format. Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of each section.

Josephus' account of the desecration of the temple, and the resistance of Mattathias ( § 242-286 ) is mostly derived from the 'First Book of Maccabees', chapters 1-2 .

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  {4.} G     [154] G   After this Antiochus made a treaty of friendship with Ptolemy, and gave him his daughter Cleopatra in marriage, making over to him as her dowry Coele-Syria, Samaria, Judaea and Phoenicia. [155] And when the tribute was divided between the two sovereigns, the prominent men purchased the right to farm the taxes in their several provinces and, collecting the sum fixed, paid it to the royal pair. [156] G   At this time the Samaritans, who were flourishing, did much mischief to the Jews by laying waste their land and carrying off slaves ; and this happened in the high-priesthood of Onias. [157] For, when Eleazar died, his uncle Manasses took over the high priesthood, and, after he departed this life, the office came to Onias, who was a son of Simon, called the Just. [158] G   And Simon was a brother of Eleazar, as I have said before { 12.44 }. This Onias was small-minded and passionately fond of money and since for this reason he did not render on behalf of the people the tribute of twenty talents of silver which his fathers had paid to the kings out of their own revenues, he roused the anger of King Ptolemy. [159] And the king sent an envoy to Jerusalem to denounce Onias for not rendering the tribute, and threatened that, if he did not receive it, he would parcel out their land and send his soldiers to settle on it. Accordingly, when the Jews heard the king's message, they were dismayed, but Onias was not put out of countenance by any of these threats, so great was his avarice.   

  [160] G   Now there was a certain Joseph, who was still a young man but because of his dignity and foresight had a reputation for uprightness among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, his father being Tobias, and his mother a sister of the high priest Onias ; and, when his mother informed him of the envoy's arrival - for he himself happened to be away in the village of Phichola, from which he had originally come -, [161] he went to the city (of Jerusalem) and upbraided Onias for not regarding the safety of his fellow-citizens and for being willing, instead, to place the nation in danger by withholding the money on account of which, Joseph said, he had received the chief magistracy and had obtained the high-priestly office. [162] G   But, if he was so passionately fond of money that for its sake he could endure to see his country endangered and his fellow-citizens suffer all sorts of things, he advised him to go to the king and request him to remit to him either the whole of the money or a part of it. [163] As Onias, however, answered that he did not desire to hold office and said that he was ready to give up the high-priesthood if that were possible. and would not go to the king, for he was in no way concerned about these matters, Joseph asked him whether he would give him leave to go as an envoy to Ptolemy on behalf of the nation. [164] G   And, when Onias gave his permission, Joseph went up to the temple and, calling the people together in assembly, exhorted them not to be disturbed or frightened because of his uncle Onias' neglect of them, and begged them rather to keep their minds free of fear and dark forebodings ; for he promised that he himself would go as an envoy to the king and persuade him that they were not doing any wrong. [165] And so, when the people heard this, they thanked Joseph, while he himself went down from the temple and hospitably received the envoy sent by Ptolemy ; and after presenting him with valuable gifts and entertaining him lavishly for many days, he sent him on ahead to the king, telling him that he himself would follow. [166] G   For he had, indeed, become even more eager to meet the king, when the envoy encouraged him and urged that he go to Egypt, and promised to see that he should obtain from Ptolemy whatever he desired ; for the envoy greatly admired his liberality and the dignity of his character.   

  [167] And so the envoy went to Egypt and reported to the king the arrogant behaviour of Onias, and informed him of the excellence of Joseph and that he intended to come to him to ask that the sins of his people be excused, for he was their protector. Indeed, he continued to use such extravagance of speech in praising the young man that he disposed both the king and his wife Cleopatra to feel friendly toward Joseph even before his arrival. [168] G   Now Joseph, after sending to his various friends in Samaria and borrowing money, made ready the things needed for his journey, such as clothes, drinking-vessels, and pack-animals, which equipment he procured for about twenty thousand drachmas, and came to Alexandria.  [169] But it so happened that at that time all the chief men and magistrates of the cities of Syria and Phoenicia were coming there to bid for the tax-farming rights which the king used to sell every year to the wealthy men in each city. [170] G   When these men, therefore, saw Joseph on the road, they made fun of his poverty and bareness. But when he arrived at Alexandria, he heard that Ptolemy was in Memphis and so he met him there and presented himself to him. [171] Now the king was sitting in a chariot with his wife and with his friend Athenion - this was the man who had been an envoy to Jerusalem and had been entertained by Joseph -, and as soon as Athenion caught sight of him. he introduced him to the king, saying that this was the person whom he had described to him, when he returned from Jerusalem, as an excellent and liberal young man. [172] G   Ptolemy, therefore, first greeted him and even invited him to come up into his chariot, and when he was seated, began to complain about the actions of Onias. Then Joseph said, "Pardon him because of his age ; for surely you are not unaware that old people and infants are likely to have the same level of intelligence. But from us who are young you will obtain everything so as to find no fault." [173] Thereupon Ptolemy, being pleased with the charm and ready wit of the young man, began to be still fonder of him as though he were an old and tried friend, so much so that he told him to take up his residence in the palace and had him as a guest at his own table every day. [174] G   Accordingly, when the king came to Alexandria, and the chief men of Syria saw Joseph seated at his side, they were disagreeably affected.    

  [175] Now when the day came round on which the rights to farm taxes in the cities were to be sold, bids were made by those eminent in rank in the various provinces. When the sum of taxes from Coele-Syria and from Phoenicia and Judaea with Samaria added up to eight thousand talents, [176] G   Joseph came forward and accused the bidders of having made an agreement to offer the king a low price for the taxes, whereas he for his part promised to give double that amount and send over to the king the property of those who had been remiss toward his house ; for this right was sold along with that of farming the taxes. [177] Thereupon the king, who heard him gladly, said that he would confirm the sale of the tax-farming rights to him, as he was likely to increase his revenue, but asked whether he also had some persons to give surety for him ; he then answered very cleverly, " Yes, I will offer persons of the very best character, whom you will not distrust." [178] G   And when the king asked him to tell who they were, he replied, "I offer you, O King, you yourself and your wife as the persons who will give surety for me, each to guarantee the other's share." At this Ptolemy laughed and granted him the tax-farming rights without guarantors. [179] This act gave great pain to those who had come to Egypt from the cities, for they considered themselves slighted. And so they returned with discomfiture to their respective provinces.   

[180] G   Then Joseph, after getting from the king two thousand foot-soldiers - for he had asked to have some assistance, in order that he might be able to in use force with any in the cities who treated him with contempt - and borrowing five hundred talents in Alexandria from the friends of the king, set out for Syria. [181] And coming to Ascalon. he demanded tribute from the people of the city, but they not only refused to give him anything, but even insulted him to boot ; he therefore arrested some twenty of their principal men and put them to death, and sent their property, which all together was worth a thousand talents, to the king, informing him of what had happened. [182] G   Thereupon Ptolemy, who admired his spirit and commended his actions, permitted him to do whatever he wished. When the Syrians heard of this, they were struck with consternation and, having a terrible example of the consequences of disobedience in the execution of the men of Ascalon, they opened their gates and readily admitted Joseph and paid the tribute. [183] And when the inhabitants of Scythopolis also attempted to insult him and would not render him the tribute which they formerly paid without any dispute, he put to death their chief men as well and sent their property to the king. [184] G   Having thus collected great sums of money and made great profits from farming the taxes, he used his wealth to make permanent the power which he now had, thinking it prudent to preserve the source and foundation of his present good fortune by means of the wealth which he had himself acquired ; [185] and so he surreptitiously sent many gifts to the king and to Cleopatra and to their friends and to all those who were powerful at court, purchasing their goodwill through these gifts.   

[186] G   This good fortune he enjoyed for twenty-two years, a becoming the father of seven sons by one wife, and also begetting a son, named Hyrcanus, by the daughter of his brother Solymius, whom he married under the following circumstances. [187] He once came to Alexandria with his brother as he was taking there his daughter, who was of marriageable age, in order that he might marry her to one of the Jews of high rank ; and when Joseph was dining with the king, a beautiful dancing-girl came into the banquet-room, and Joseph, having fallen in love with her, told his brother of this and begged him, since the Jews were prevented by law from having intercourse with a foreign woman, to aid in concealing his sin and do him a good service by making it possible for him to satisfy his desire. [188] G   Thereupon his brother gladly undertaking to be of service, beautified his own daughter and brought her to him by night to sleep with him. But Joseph in his drunken state did not know how matters really were, and so he had intercourse with his brother's daughter, and when this had happened several times, he fell still more violently in love with her. He then told his brother that he was risking his life for a dancer whom the king would perhaps not allow him to have. [189] But his brother urged him not to be anxious, telling him to enjoy without fear the woman whom he loved, and to make her his wife ; and he revealed the truth to him, how he had chosen to dishonour his own daughter rather than see him fall into disgrace, and so Joseph, commending him for his brotherly love, married his daughter and by her begot a son named Hyrcanus, as we said before. [190] G   Now this child while still a young lad of thirteen years showed such natural courage and intelligence that he became an object of violent jealousy to his brothers because of his great superiority and enviable qualities. [191] But when Joseph, wishing to learn which of his sons was naturally well disposed to virtue, sent them one after another to those who were then famed as teachers, the other sons because of their laziness and disinclination for work returned to him foolish and ignorant ; [192] G   and after that he sent out his youngest son Hyrcanus a two days' journey into the wilderness to sow the ground, giving him three hundred yoke of oxen, but hiding the yoke-straps. [193] He, however, on coming to the place without having the straps, disregarded the counsel of the ox-drivers, who advised him to send some men to his father to bring back the straps, for he thought that he ought not to lose time in waiting for those who might be sent, and instead conceived an ingenious plan worthy of an older man. [194] G   Accordingly, he slaughtered ten yoke of oxen and after distributing their meat among the workmen, he cut up their hides and made straps with which he fastened the yokes ; and when he had in this way sown the ground which his father had ordered him to sow, he returned to him. [195] And when he came, his father was more than delighted with his good sense, and commending the Quickness of his intelligence and the boldness combined with this, he loved him still more as if he were his only genuine son, and this vexed his brothers.   

  [196] G   About this time he was told by someone that a son had been born to King Ptolemy, and all the leading men of Syria and the territory subject to him were setting out with a great array for Alexandria to celebrate the birthday of the child ; he himself was kept from going by his age, but he tried his sons to see whether any of them was willing to go abroad to the king. [197] The elder sons, however, begged to be excused, saying they were too rough for such company, but they advised him to send their brother Hyrcanus ; gladly listening to them, therefore, he called Hyrcanus and asked him whether he was able and willing to travel to the king. [198] G   And when he undertook to go, saying he would not need much money for the journey - for, he added, he would live reasonably, so that ten thousand drachmas would suffice him - Joseph was pleased with his son's moderation. [199] But a little while afterward the son advised his father not to send the king gifts from where he was, but to give him a letter to his steward in Alexandria in order that he might provide him with money to buy the most beautiful and precious things which he could find. [200] G   Joseph, therefore, thinking that the cost of the presents for the king would be ten talents, commended his son for his excellent suggestion, and wrote to his steward Arion, who managed all the wealth which he had in Alexandria, amounting to not less than three thousand talents. [201] For Joseph used to send to Alexandria the money collected from Syria, and when the appointed day came on which he was required to pay over the tribute to the king, he would write to Arion to do this. [202] G   And so, having asked his father for a letter to this man, and having received it, Hyrcanus set out for Alexandria. But when he had gone, his brothers wrote to all the friends of the king that they should make an end of him.   

[203] When he came to Alexandria, he delivered the letter to Arion, who asked him how many talents he wished to have - he hoped that he would ask for ten or a little more, but when he said he needed a thousand, Arion became angry and rebuked him for having chosen a dissolute way of life, and explained to him how his father had amassed his wealth by working hard and restraining his desires, and he advised him to imitate the example of his sire. He added that he would give him no more than ten talents, and these for presents to the king. [204] G   At this the youth was provoked and threw Arion into chains. But Arion's wife informed Cleopatra of this and begged her to rebuke the youth - for Arion was held by her in great esteem-, whereupon Cleopatra made the matter known to the king. [205] So Ptolemy sent to Hyrcanus, saying he was surprised that having been sent to him by his father, he had not appeared before him and had, moreover, imprisoned the steward. He ordered him, therefore, to come and explain to him the reason for his conduct. [206] G   But Hyrcanus is said to have replied to the man sent by the king that he should tell him that there was a law in his country which prevented the celebrant of a birthday from partaking of a sacrifice before he had gone into the temple and sacrificed to God ; it was in accordance with this same principle that he himself had not come to the king, but was waiting to bring the gifts to him who had been his father's benefactor. [207] As for the slave, he had punished him for disobeying the orders which he had been given ; for it made no difference, he added, whether one were a small master or a great one. "For if we do not punish such fellows, even you may expect to be held in contempt by your subjects." When Ptolemy heard this, he fell to laughing, and admired the high spirit of the youth.    

[208] G   But Arion, on learning that this was the way the king felt and that there was no help for him, gave the thousand talents to the youth, and was released from chains. And after letting three days go by, Hyrcanus paid his respects to the royal pair, [209] who were glad to see him and entertained him in friendly fashion in honour of his father. Then he secretly went to the slave-dealers and bought from them a hundred boys who were well educated and in the prime of youth, at a talent apiece, and a hundred virgins at the same price. [210] G   Now once when he was invited together with the leading men of the country to feast with the king, he was placed at the foot of the table, being slighted as still a youth by those who assigned the places according to rank. [211] And all those who reclined at table with Hyrcanus piled up before him the bones of their portions - from which they themselves had removed the meat -, so as to cover the part of the table where he reclined, [212] G   whereupon Tryphon, who was the king's jester and was appointed to make jokes and raise laughter when there was drinking, with the encouragement of those who reclined at the table, stood up before the king and said, "My lord, do you see the bones lying before Hyrcanus ? From this you may guess that his father has stripped all Syria in the same way as Hyrcanus has left these bones bare of meat." [213] The king then laughed at Tryphon's words, and asked Hyrcanus why there were so many bones lying before him, and he replied, "It is natural, my lord ; for dogs eat the bones together with the meat, as these men do" - and he looked toward those who reclined there, indicating that there was nothing lying before them -, "but men eat the meat and throw the bones away, which is just what I, being a man, have now done." [214] G   Thereupon the king, who admired his reply for being so clever, and to show approval of his wit, ordered all to applaud. 

[215] But the next day Hyrcanus, going to each of the king's friends and the men powerful at court, and paying his respects to them, inquired of their servants what gift their masters were going to give the king for the child's birthday. [216] G   And when they said that some were going to give gifts worth ten talents, while of the others, who were of high rank, each would give in accordance with the amount of his wealth, he pretended to be grieved at not being able to bring so large a present, saying he had no more than five talents. Accordingly, when the servants heard this, they reported it to their masters. [217] And they rejoiced at the thought that Joseph would be judged unfavourably and offend the king by the smallness of his present ; and when the day came, the others brought their offerings to the king, which in the case of those who believed themselves to be unusually munificent were not worth more than twenty talents, but Hyrcanus brought the hundred boys and hundred virgins whom he had purchased, and giving each of them a talent to carry, presented them, the boys to the king, and the girls to Cleopatra. [218] G   And while all were astonished at the unexpected lavishness of his gifts, including the royal pair themselves, he also gave to the king's friends and to those who were in attendance on him gifts worth many talents so as to escape any danger from them ; for Hyrcanus' brothers had written to them to make an end of him. [219] Then Ptolemy in admiration of a the young man's magnanimity directed him to take whatever present he wished. But he asked that the king do no more for him than to write to his father and brothers about him. 

[220] G   And so the king, after showing him the highest honour and giving him splendid presents, wrote to his father and brothers and to all his governors and administrators, and sent him away. [221] But when Hyrcanus' brothers heard that he had obtained these favours from the king and was returning with great honour, they went out to meet him and do away with him, even though their father knew of it ; for being angry with him because of the money which had been spent for the presents, he felt no concern for his safety ; his anger at his son had, however, been concealed by Joseph, who feared the king. [222] G   And when Hyrcanus' brothers encountered him in battle, he killed many of the men with them and also two of the brothers themselves, while the rest escaped to their father in Jerusalem. Hyrcanus therefore went to that city, but as no one admitted him, he withdrew in fear to the country across the river Jordan, and there made his home, levying tribute on the barbarians.   

  [223] At that time there had begun to reign over Asia Seleucus, surnamed Soter, who was the son of Antiochus the Great. [224] G   And then also died Hyrcanus' father Joseph, who had been an excellent and high-minded man and had brought the Jewish people from poverty and a state of weakness to more splendid opportunities of life during the twenty-two years when he controlled the taxes of Syria, Phoenicia and Samaria. And death also came to his uncle Onias, who left the high priesthood to his son Simon. [225] When he too died, his son Onias became his successor in office, and it was to him that the Lacedaemonian king Areios sent an embassy with a letter, of which the following is a copy. 

[226] G   " Areios, king of the Lacedaemonians, to Onias, greeting. We have come upon a certain document from which we have learned that the Jews and Lacedaemonians are of one race and are related by descent from Abraham. It is right, therefore, that you as our brothers should send to us to make known whatever you may wish. [227] We also shall do this, and shall consider what is yours as our own, and what is ours we shall also share with you. Demoteles, the courier, is bringing this letter to you. The writing is square. The seal is an eagle holding fast a serpent."   

  [228] G   Such, then, were the contents of the letter sent by the Lacedaemonian king. Now on the death of Joseph there arose factional strife among the people on account of his sons. For the elder brothers made war on Hyrcanus, who was the youngest of Joseph's children, and the population was divided into two camps. [229] And the majority fought on the side of the elder brothers, as did the high priest Simon because of kinship with them. Hyrcanus, therefore, gave up his intention of returning to Jerusalem, and settled in the country across the Jordan, where he continually warred on the Arabs until he killed many of them and took many captive. [230]  G   And he built a strong fortress, which was constructed entirely of white marble up to the very roof, and had beasts of gigantic size carved on it, and he enclosed it with a wide and deep moat. [231] He also cut through the projecting rock opposite the mountain, and made caves many stades in length ; then he made chambers in it, some for banqueting and others for sleeping and living, and he let into it an abundance of running water, which was both a delight and an ornament to his country-estate. [232] G   The entrances of the caves, however, he made narrower, so that only one person and no more could enter at one time ; and this arrangement he made deliberately for the sake of safety, in order to avoid the danger of being besieged and taken by his brothers. [233] In addition he also built enclosures remarkable for their size, and adorned them with vast parks. And when he had completed the place in this manner, he named it Tyre. This place is between Arabia and Judaea, across the Jordan, not far from Essebonitis. [234] G   And he ruled over those parts for seven years, during all the time that Seleucus reigned over Asia. Now when this king died, his brother Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, occupied the throne after him. [235] And Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, who was also surnamed Epiphanes, died, leaving two sons who were still quite young, the elder being called Philometor and the younger Physcon. [236] G   As for Hyrcanus, seeing how great was the power which Antiochus had, and fearing that he might be captured by him and punished for what he had done to the Arabs, he ended his life by his own hand. And all his property was seized by Antiochus.   

  {5.}   [237] About this same time the high priest Onias also died, and Antiochus gave the high priesthood to his brother ; for the son whom Onias had left was still an infant. But we shall relate all the facts concerning this son in the proper place { 12.387 }. [238] G   Jesus, however, - this was the brother of Onias - was deprived of the high-priesthood when the king became angry with him and gave it to his youngest brother, named Onias ; for Simon had three sons, and the high-priesthood came to all three of them, as we have shown. [239] Now Jesus changed his name to Jason, while Onias was called Menelaus. And when the former high priest Jesus rose against Menelaus, who was appointed after him, the populace was divided between the two, the Tobiads being on the side of Menelaus, while the majority of the people supported Jason.

[240] G   Being hard pressed by him, Menelaus and the Tobiads withdrew, and going to Antiochus informed him that they wished to abandon their country's laws and the way of life prescribed by these, and to follow the king's laws and adopt the Greek way of life. [241] Accordingly, they petitioned him to permit them to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem. And when he had granted this, they also concealed the circumcision of their private parts in order to be Greeks even when unclothed, and giving up whatever other national customs they had, they imitated the practices of foreign nations.   

  [242] G   But Antiochus, in whose own kingdom things were going well, determined to march against Egypt because he coveted it and also because he held in contempt the sons of Ptolemy, who were still weak and not yet able to govern so great a state. [243] And so he arrived at Pelusium with a great force, and circumventing Ptolemy Philometor by cunning, occupied Egypt ; and after he had arrived in the neighbourhood of Memphis and taken possession of this city, he set out for Alexandria with the intention of reducing it by siege and getting into his power the Ptolemy who was reigning there. [244] G   He was, however, repelled not only from Alexandria, but also from the whole of Egypt, for the Romans instructed him to keep away from the country, as we have already related somewhere in an earlier passage. [245] But I shall give a detailed account of this king, how he became master of Judaea and the temple ; for since in my first work I mentioned these things only in summary fashion, I have thought it necessary now to go back and give a more exact account of them.   

  [246] G   King Antiochus, then, returning from Egypt, through fear of the Romans, marched against the city of Jerusalem, and entering it in the hundred and forty-third year of the Seleucid reign { 169 B.C. }, took the city without a battle, for the gates were opened to him by those who were of his party. [247] And having become master of Jerusalem in this way, he killed many of those who were in opposition, and taking large sums of money as spoil, he returned to Antioch.   

  [248] G   Two years later, as it happened, in the hundred and forty-fifth year { 167 B.C. }, on the twenty-fifth day of the month which by us is called Chasleu, and by the Macedonians Apellaios, in the hundred and fifty-third Olympiad, the king went up to Jerusalem, and by pretending to offer peace, overcame the city by treachery. [249] But on this occasion he did not spare even those who admitted him, because of the wealth of the temple, but through greed - for he saw much gold in the temple and an array of very costly dedicatory offerings of other kinds -, and for the sake of taking this as spoil, he went so far as to violate the treaty which he had made with them. [250] G   And so he stripped the temple, carrying off the vessels of God, the golden lamp-stands and the golden altar and table and the other altars, and not even forbearing to take the curtains, which were made of fine linen and scarlet, and he also emptied the temple of its hidden treasures, and left nothing at all behind, thereby throwing the Jews into deep mourning. [251] Moreover he forbade them to offer the daily sacrifices which they used to offer to God in accordance with their law, and after plundering the entire city, he killed some of the people, and some he took captive together with their wives and children, so that the number of those taken alive came to some ten thousand. [252] G   And he burnt the finest parts of the city, and pulling down the walls, built the Akra (citadel) in the Lower City ; for it was high enough to overlook the temple, and it was for this reason that he fortified it with high walls and towers, and stationed a Macedonian garrison therein. Nonetheless there remained in the Akra those of the people who were impious and of bad character, and at their hands the citizens were destined to suffer many terrible things. [253] The king also built a pagan altar upon the temple-altar, and slaughtered swine thereon, thereby practising a form of sacrifice neither lawful nor native to the religion of the Jews. 

And he compelled them to give up the worship of their own God, and to do reverence to the gods in whom he believed ; he then commanded them to build sacred places in every city and village, and to set up altars on which to sacrifice swine daily. [254] G   He also ordered them not to circumcise their children, threatening to punish anyone who might be found acting contrary to these orders. He also appointed overseers who should assist in compelling them to carry out his instructions. [255] And so, many of the Jews, some willingly, others through fear of the punishment which had been prescribed, followed the practices ordained by the king, but the worthiest people and those of noble soul disregarded him, and held their country's customs of greater account than the punishment with which he threatened them if hey disobeyed ; and being on that account maltreated daily, and enduring bitter torments, they met their death. [256] G   Indeed, they were whipped, their bodies were mutilated, and while still alive and breathing, they were crucified, while their wives and the sons whom they had circumcised in despite of the king's wishes were strangled, the children being made to hang from the necks of their crucified parents. And wherever a sacred book or copy of the Law was found, it was destroyed ; as for those in whose possession it was found, they too, poor wretches, wretchedly perished.   

  [257] But when the Samaritans saw the Jews suffering these misfortunes, they would no longer admit that they were their kin or that the temple on Garizein was that of the Most Great God, thereby acting in accordance with their nature, as we have shown ; they also said they were colonists from the Medes and Persians, and they are, in fact, colonists from these peoples. [258] G   Accordingly, they sent envoys to Antiochus with a letter in which they made the following statements. "To King Antiochus Theos Epiphanes, a memorial from the Sidonians in Shechem. [259] Our forefathers because of certain droughts in their country, and following a certain ancient superstition, made it a custom to observe the day which is called the Sabbath by the Jews, and they erected a temple without a name on the mountain called Garizein, and there offered the appropriate sacrifices. [260] G   Now you have dealt with the Jews as their wickedness deserves, but the king's officers, in the belief that we follow the same practices as they through kinship with them, are involving us in similar charges, whereas we are Sidonians by origin, as is evident from our state documents. [261] We therefore petition you as our benefactor and saviour to command Apollonius, the governor of the district, and Nicanor, the royal agent, not to molest us in any way by attaching to us the charges of which the Jews are guilty, since we are distinct from them both in race and in customs, and we ask that the temple without a name be known as that of Zeus Hellenios. For if this be done, we shall cease to be molested, and by applying ourselves to our work in security, we shall make your revenues greater." [262] G   To this petition of the Samarians the king wrote the following reply. "King Antiochus to Nicanor. The Sidonians in Shechem have submitted a memorial which has been filed. [263] Now since the men sent by them have represented to us sitting in council with our friends that they are in no way concerned in the complaints brought against the Jews, but choose to live in accordance with Greek customs, we acquit them of these charges, and permit their temple to be known as that of Zeus Hellenios, as they have petitioned." [264] G   In this fashion he also wrote to Apollonius, the district-governor, in the hundred and forty-sixth year { 166 B.C. }, on the eighteenth of the month Hekatombaion Hyrkanios.   

  {6.} G     [265] At this same time there was a man living in the village of Modai in Judaea, named Mattathias, the son of John, the son of Symeon, the son of Asamonaeus, a priest of the course of Joarib and a native of Jerusalem. [266] G   He had five sons, John called Gaddes, Simon called Thatis, Judas called Maccabaeus, Eleazar called Auran, and Jonathan called Apphus. [267] Now this Mattathias lamented to his sons over the state of things, the plundering of the city and the spoiling of the temple, and the misfortunes of the people, and said it was better for them to die for their country's laws than to live so ingloriously.  

  [268] G   But there came to the village of Modai the officers appointed by the king to compel the Jews to carry out his ordinances, and they ordered the inhabitants to sacrifice as the king had ordered; and as Mattathias was held in esteem because of various things and especially because of his goodly sons, they invited him to be the first to sacrifice - [269] for, they said his fellow-citizens would follow him, and for that reason he would be honoured by the king -, but Mattathias refused to do so, saying that even if all the other nations obeyed the commands of Antiochus whether through fear or through desire to please he himself and his sons would never be persuaded to abandon their native form of worship. [270] G   But when he had ceased speaking, one of the Jews came forward and in their midst sacrificed as Antiochus had commanded, whereupon Mattathias in rage rushed upon him with his sons, who had broad knives, and cut down the man himself, and also made an end of Apelles, the king's officer, who was compelling them to sacrifice, together with a few of his soldiers ; and after pulling down the pagan altar, he cried out, [271] "Whoever is zealous for our country's laws and the worship of God, let him come with me ! " So saying, he set out with his sons into the wilderness, leaving behind all his property in the village. [272] G   And many others also did the same, and fled with their children and wives to the wilderness, where they lived in caves. But when the king's officers heard of this, they took as many soldiers as were then in the citadel of Jerusalem, and pursued the Jews into the wilderness.

[273] And when they had overtaken them, they tried at first to persuade them to repent and choose a course which was for their own good, and not to bring upon the king's men the necessity of treating them in accordance with the laws of war ; [274] G   the Jews, however, did not accept their terms, but showed a hostile spirit, whereupon they attacked them on the Sabbath-day and burned them in their caves, just as they were, for not only did the Jews not resist, but they did not even stop up the entrances to the caves. And they forbore to resist because of the day, being unwilling to violate the dignity of the Sabbath even when in difficulties, for the law requires us to rest on that day. [275] And so about a thousand with their wives and children died by suffocation in the caves ; but many escaped and joined Mattathias, whom they appointed their leader. [276] G   And he instructed them to fight even on the Sabbath, saying that if for the sake of observing the law they failed to do so, they would be their own enemies, for their foes would attack them on that day, and unless they resisted, nothing would prevent them from all perishing without striking a blow. [277] These words persuaded them, and to this day we continue the practice of fighting even on the Sabbath whenever it becomes necessary. [278] G   So Mattathias gathered a large force round him, and pulled down the pagan altars, and killed as many of those who had sinned as he could lay his hands on - for many of them in fear of him had scattered among the neighbouring nations ; and as for the boys who had not been circumcised, he ordered them to be circumcised, and drove out the officers who had been appointed to prevent this.   

  [279] But after being in command for a year, he fell ill, and calling his sons, made them stand round him, and said, "I myself, my sons, am about to go the destined way, but my spirit I leave in your keeping, and I beg you not to be unworthy guardians of it, [280] G   but to be mindful of the purpose of him who begot you and brought you up, and to preserve our country's customs and to restore our ancient form of government, which is in danger of passing away, and not to make common cause with those who are betraying it whether of their own will or through compulsion ; [281] but since you are my sons, I wish you to remain constant as such and to be superior to all force and compulsion, being so prepared in spirit as to die for the laws, if need be, and bearing this in mind, that when the Deity sees you so disposed. He will not forget you, but in admiration of your heroism will give them back to you again, and will restore to you your liberty, in which you shall live securely and in the enjoyment of your own customs. [282] G   For though our bodies are mortal and subject to death, we can, through the memory of our deeds, attain the heights of immortality ; it is this which I wish you to be in love with, and for its sake to pursue glory and undertake the greatest tasks and not shrink from giving up your lives for them. [283] But most of all I urge you to be of one mind, and in whatever respect one of you is superior to the others, in that to yield to one another, and so make the best use of your several abilities. And since your brother Simon excels in understanding, look upon him as your father, and follow whatever counsel he gives you ; [284] G   but Maccabaeus you shall take as commander of the army because of his courage and strength, for he will avenge our nation and will punish our enemies. And also admit to your ranks the righteous and pious, and so increase their power."   

  [285] Having addressed his sons in these words, he prayed to God to be their ally and to recover for the people its own way of life once more ; and not long afterwards he died and was buried in Modai, the entire people making great lamentation for him. And he was succeeded as first in authority by his son Judas, also known as Maccabaeus, in the hundred and forty-sixth year { 166 B.C. }. [286] G   Then Judas with the ready assistance of his brothers and others drove the enemy out of the country, and made an end of those of his countrymen who had violated their fathers' laws, and purified the land of all pollution. 

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