Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Miracle of Chanukah Story's Enemy, Antiochus IV and His Wife, Laodice IV

Our Miracle of Chanukah Story's Enemy, Antiochus IV and His Wife, Laodice IV

Nadene Goldfoot                                            
Our Chanukah celebration is that of success in a war against the Greeks in 164 BCE that had to do with being overrun by an empire's army and our precious 2nd Temple.

The Greek king in the story was Antiochus IV Epiphanes who had seized the throne and had been king for 11 years, being he was a son in the Seleucid Empire.  It was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty that had been in existence since 312 BCE, after Alexander the Great had died.  What had happened was that at Alexander's death,  his vast kingdom was divided among his generals.  A power struggle had engulfed all the nations of the Middle East, and Israel-meaning Judah,  had found itself under the sway of the Seleucid Dynasty of Greek kings who reigned from Syria.  So the Greeks now had another state that was their neighbor and they were not friends, but were then  taking over.   This Greek king had taken the throne in 175 BCE and his error was in taking Judah for he would die the next year in 163 BCE.
Statue of a Seleucid prince without a crown
The Seleucid Empire was a major center of Hellenistic culture that maintained the Greek customs and where a Geek political elite dominated, mostly in the cities, of course.  Seleucid expansion into Anatolia and Greece was abruptly stopped after many defeats in fighting the Roman army.  They had already defeated Ptolemaic Egypt, their old enemy and no longer could due to Roman demands.

Seleucid kings had been ruling their empire from Syria until the invasion by the Armenian king Tigranes the Great and their ultimate overthrow by the Roman general Pompey.
One of first Seleucid Kings, Nicatore
Antiochus decided to use very aggressive Hellenizing activities that were designed to de-Judaize the Jewish community in Judah that they had taken.  "In the narrative of I Maccabees, after Antiochus issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods.  Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias' place. He and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judah. After Mattathias' death about one year later in 166 BCE, his son, Judah Maccabee, led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Hellenized Jews, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars in the villages, circumcised boys and talked  Hellenized Jews into helping them. The term Maccabees was used to describe the Jewish army,  taken from the Hebrew word for "hammer".  Thus, Judah Maccabee was called The Hammerer.

The revolt itself involved many battles, in which the light,quick and mobile Maccabean forces gained notoriety among the slow and bulky Seleucid army,and also for their use of guerrilla tactics. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there and installing Jonathan Maccabee as high priest. A large Seleucid army was sent to quash the revolt, but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV.   Its commander, Lysias, preoccupied with internal Seleucid affairs, agreed to a political compromise that restored religious freedom."
Antioches IV on a coin
The result was that it provoked a full scale armed rebellion, the Maccabean Revolt.  Efforts to deal with both the Parthians and the Jews as well as retain control of the provinces at the same time proved beyond the weakened empire's power.  The Parthians " at its height  stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han Empire of China, became a center of trade and commerce." 

 Antiochus IV  died during a military expedition against the Parthians in 164 BCE.  Over the years of Greek domination in religion and attitudes, many Jews had begun to embrace the Greek culture and its hedonistic, pagan way of life.  They had become pawns in Antiochus' scheme to obliterate Judaism.  They had invaded the Holy Temple, desecrated it and robbed it of its treasures.  Many Jews had been massacred and the survivors were heavily taxed.  The ultimate sin by Antiochus was in placing an idol of Zeus on the holy altar and force Jews to bow before it under penalty of death.  He had forbidden Jews to observe their most sacred traditions such as the Sabbath and the rite of circumcision.  Then he proclaimed himself a god, taking the name "ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES-the Divine.  Even his own followers had mocked him by calling him Antiochus Epimanes-the madman.
Laodice IV
Maybe now that the scene has been set, we can understand some of why his wife should have been mad, also.  Laodice was a priestess and her mother was Laodice III.  This Greek princess who became the Head Priestess and Queen of the Seleucid Empire had been appointed as such by Antiochus III in 193 BCE.  The state cult she belonged to was dedicated to her late mother, Laodice III in Media.  She later was married to 3 kings of the Seleucid Empire, all her brothers!

This made Laodice to be of Greek Macaedonian and Persian descent.  She was one of the daughters of Antiochus III the Great and Laodice III.  Her paternal grandparents were the former Seleucid Monarchs, Seleucus II Callinicus and Laodice II, while her maternal grandparents were King Mithridates II of Puntus and his wife Laodice.

Her parents were 1st cousins since her paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were brother and sister; children of Antiochus II-Theos and Laodice.  This was an extreme endogamous family group.

Laodice married her eldest brother first,  Antiochus, her sibling in 196 BCE.  They had a daughter, Nysa.  Then her brother-husband died. Then it was arranged to marry her next brother, Seleucus IV Philopator.  They had 3 children; 2 sons, Antiochus, Demetrius I oter and a daughter, Laodice V.  They became king and queen and reigned from 187 to 175 BCE.  Then Seleucus died.  Then she married her youngest brother, Antiohus IV Epiphanes who at first co-ruled with his nephew, Antiochus and adopted him as his son who he had later assassinated in 170 BCE.  Laodice bore him 2 children:  a son Antiochus V Eupator and a daughter, Laodice VI.  Her 2nd son, Demetrius I Soter was sent as a political hostage to Rome.
Chanukah Gelt
win in game of Dreidal
Dreidal with letters that stand for:
a great miracle happened there-
Nes Gadol Hayah Sham
nun, gimel, hay, shin
As we remember Chanukah and this historic struggle that we had with another and much different culture that almost overtook us, we contemplate on the miracle that ensued of the eternal lamp in the Temple that had but a drop of oil in it, enough to last for a few minutes at the most, but kept lit for 8 days!  The special oil menorah had 7 lamps, a natural number-days of a week (6 days of creation and 1 day of rest).  Why did it burn for 8 days, the time it took the runner to go and fetch more oil for the lamp?   A miracle, a number outside-higher than nature and above time itself, associated with the coming of the Moshiach-may he come speedily in our days.

Only 213 years after the victory of retaking our 2nd Temple and gaining back our religion, The Temple would be burned down; destroyed in Rome's occupation of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Our people would be expulsed from our Holy City of Jerusalem for a short while,   and Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Mizrachim Jews, depending on their route fleeing, would be so named.  It would become another chapter in our long history of Judaism.s

Now, here's music from the stage play, Hamilton, singing about Chanukah

Your Chanukah guide 1996-Lubavitch World Headquarters

1 comment:

  1. King Antiochus returned from Egypt in 167 BC, enraged by his defeat; he attacked Jerusalem and restored Menelaus, then executed many Jews.[12]

    When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.

    — 2 Maccabees 5:11–14