Aristobulus I Biography

Aristobulus I (c. 140 BC – 103 BC). King and high priest of the Jews, belonging to the Asmonean Dynasties.


Son and successor of John Hircano, he took power, over his mother and brothers, turning the government into a kingdom, and him as the first Jewish King, since his predecessor Zedekiah, dethroned by the Babylonians in 587 BC.

His action was decisive in achieving the conversion of the Galileos to Judaism, although such religious adoption was done by force. His rule lasted barely a year, however, according to historians the way he used Aristobulus I to come to power led to the intrigues and murders of the powerful Jewish families, which would weaken this nation, leaving it totally vulnerable to the Roman desires for expansion.

Assumption to the throne

Aristobulus is believed to have been born, within the Asmonean Dynasty, somewhere in Judea, around 140 BC, becoming one of the five children of Governor Juan Hircano and his wife. Upon his death, his father appointed his wife and all his children, who were to hand over, as a successor to his power.

However, Aristobulus I disagreed with that decision. In light of what Flavius Josephus recounted, in his work Antiquities of the Jews (book XIII), Aristobulus exercising his position as firstborn, acted against his family, imprisoning his own mother, whom he starved to death. On the other hand he imprisoned three of his brothers, allowing only Antigonus to remain in freedom, because he was the one he loved the most.

Having done this, Aristobulus I took power for himself, but unlike his father, he did not declare himself ruler, but on the contrary was crowned, turning the government into a kingdom, and he became King of the Jews. He also sent coin to be minted, where the inscription “Judah, in high priest” was levied. So it is considered that he also held this position.

Main contributions

In this way, Aristobulus I began his term. Although it only lasted for a year, and had its beginning in betrayal and family murder, his political work resulted in benefits for his nation.

Aristobulus I distinguished himself by being a just, equitable king and practitioner of austerity. He also set out to convert all the peoples who inhabited his domains to Judaism. In this sense, he managed to take northern Galilee, and convert – albeit by force – the Galileos to the Jewish religion. He also declared war on the Itureos, located northwest of the Jordan River, whose territory he annexed to that of his nation, forcing its inhabitants to live under Jewish precepts and beliefs.

Court intrigues

In light of what the ancient historian Flavius Josephus comments, shortly after being in power, a series of intrigues began to creep around the fraternal relationship of this monarch and his brother Antigonus, in order to harm and break it.

According to Flavius Josephus, at first, Aristobulus I did not believe in the stories that came to him about the betrayal prepared by his brother Antigonus. However, the persistence of the monarch’s enemies and his brother paid off, causing this relationship to also have a tragic outcome.

Apparently, during the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, of his first year as King, Aristobulus I was extremely ill. For his part, Antigonus decided to go to the temple, to ask for the health of his brother. For this he dressed ostentatiously, and marched with a striking escort of soldiers, who showed off their armor and swords.

This event gave material to those who intended to break up among the brothers, to tell Aristobulus I that Antigonus had come to Jerusalem, in the company of his soldiers to assassinate him and take the Crown for him.

Murder of Antigonus

The story achieved its effect on the heart of Aristobulus I, who was born to distrust his brother. To check if Antigonus’s intentions were such, he sent a messenger to tell his brother to come to his castle, while unarmed.

However, he told a guardian to wait hidden in the shadows to see if Antigonus came armed or not, and to kill him, then the stories he had told were true.

For her part, the queen of Judea, wife of Aristobulus I, and who was involved in the compound, convinced the messenger to change the order, and tell Antigonus to come armed with his new armor, for the King wanted to see in full his military equipment. Antigonus obeyed. Before he reached the Castle, the hidden guard, when he was armed, killed him.

End and succession

As his account Flavius Josephus continues, Aristobulus I could not recover from the remorse that occupied his encouragement since the execution of his brother. Within days, she was preytoed with severe pains and vomited blood. Current historians believe that perhaps Aristobulus I would have been the victim of pulmonary tuberculosis.

His bloody excretion was collected by a servant, who proceeded to remove the container containing her from the room, however, arriving just at the place that was still stained from antigonus’s blood, he stumbled pouring The blood of Aristobulus I into it, which made the impression of all servants. Aristobulus I forced them to tell what was going on, and upon him, he fell into a state of guilt, which led him to die.

It was 103 BC, Aristobulus I had managed to remain in power for only a year. He was immediately succeeded by his wife Salomé Alejandra, who remained in power, before leaving the throne to Alexander Janneo.

Image source: wikipedia.org

Aristobulus I Biography
Source: Education  
August 14, 2019


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