Johanan  [John] Hyrcanus  [died 104 BCE]

Grandson of Mattathias of Modein & chief architect of Judean dominance of Palestine. The youngest & only surviving son of Simon Thassi succeeded his father as high priest in 134 BCE. He was the fourth Hasmonean to rule Jerusalem. But his tenure began with a year-long Syrian siege that forced him agree to tear down the city's fortifications & renew tribute to the Greek king (133 BCE). Within a few years, however, he took advantage of political turmoil in Syria following the death of Antiochus VII (129 BCE) to rebuild his forces, reclaim independence and extend Judean control over Palestine & Jordan. On the southern front he forced Judah's neighbors in Idumea [descendents of the Edomites] to accept Judaism & on the northern front he destroyed the rival temple at Shechem in Samaria. Such triumphs made him the probable subject of messianic tributes by his fellow Judeans. But his own preference for Greek culture made him controversial in Jerusalem. When Pharisees challenged his right to be high priest, he switched his allegiance to the aristocratic Sadducee [Zadokite] party. Still, the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that other Zadokites probably rejected his leadership & left Jerusalem, labeling him the "wicked priest," who persecuted the priest whom they regarded as the "Teacher of Righteousness."

References: Josephus, Antiquities 13.228-302; 16.179-181.
                   _____, War 1.54-71.

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Johanan Hyrcanus was the first Hasmonean ruler to mint coins in his own right. The absence of the image of a foreign king & the Hebrew inscription on the face of this bronze prutah indicate the degree of cultural and political autonomy that he won for Judea. The words within the wreath read: "Jehohanan the high priest and the council of the Jews." The reverse bears the image of a pomegranate between the horns of double cornucopia.

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