Aristobulus I

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For other people with this name, see Aristobulus (disambiguation) To see other rulers related or affiliated with Aristobulus, see Hasmonean dynasty
Aristobulus I
King and High Priest of Judaea
Reignc. 104–103 BC (1 year)[1]
PredecessorJohn Hyrcanus, Maccabean leader
SuccessorAlexander Jannaeus
Diedc. 103 BC
SpouseSalome Alexandra
FatherJohn Hyrcanus I
ReligionHellenistic Judaism

Judah Aristobulus I /ˌærɪstəˈbjləs/ (Greek: Ἰούδας Ἀριστόβουλος Ioúdās Aristóboulos, the epithet meaning "best-advising";[2] reigned c. 104 – 103 BC[3]) was the first ruler of the Hasmonean Dynasty to declare himself "king". He was the eldest of the five sons of John Hyrcanus, the previous leader.[4][5]

Aristobulus was not only just the first king from the Hasmonean lineage, but the first of any Hebrew kings to claim both the high priesthood and the kingship title. The Sadducees and the Essenes were not concerned about Aristobulus taking the title of king, but the Pharisees were infuriated: they felt that the kingship could only be held by descendants of the Davidic line (the Hasmoneans were Levites). The Pharisees began a massive rebellion, but Aristobulus died before any attempt to depose of him could occur.[6]


The reign of Aristobulus I is particularly noted for the Judaization of Galilee, Golan, as well as the native Semitic people called Ituraeans.[7] An account by Timagenes, using Strabo as source, described his regime as kindly and "very serviceable to the Jews" on account of the significantly expanded territory and the integration of "a portion of Ituraean nation whom he joined to them by the bond of circumcision".[8]

Ascension as king[edit]

Hasmonean Kingdom under Aristobulus
  situation in 104 BC
  area conquered

According to the directions of John Hyrcanus, the country after his death was to be placed in the hands of his wife, and Aristobulus was originally to receive the high-priesthood only.[9] Aristobulus did not approve of his father's wishes, instead, he seized the crown with the support of his brother Antigonus. To secure his kingship, he had his mother placed in prison where she starved to death; and to ensure himself of any possible endangerment from his family, he placed his three brothers into prison except for Antigonus.[10]

Conquest of Galilee[edit]

Much of the Galilee region was annexed by Aristobulus, however, there was some resistance from the Ituraean tribes from the northern parts of the region. The terrain made campaigning difficult against the Galilee inhabitants. In the end, Aristobulus would eventually conquer much of the territory from them.[11] The Golan region was also taken during the campaign and Mount Hermon as well.[12][13][10] The conquered inhabitants were forced to accept the Jewish faith, primarily, circumcision was forcibly performed as the main step to conversion.[14][10][15]

Death and successor[edit]

Aristobulus's feeble health gradually led his remaining reign under the control of a clique, at the head of which stood Queen Alexandra Salome, his wife. Through this group's machinations, the king was led to suspect his favorite brother, Antigonus—whom he had entrusted with a share in the government, and whom he treated almost as a coregent—of designs against him. When he showed signs of disease, the queen conspired to murder Antigonus. She deceived the king with suggestions that Antigonus was attempting to overthrow him by force. Salome then convinced Antigonus that his king wished to see his new armor, while telling Aristobulus that his brother was coming to kill him. Antigonus was killed by Aristobulus's guards before he could get close to his brother. Days later, Aristobulus died from pain and internal bleeding from an unknown disease. The Jews perceived his death as a sign of God's disgruntlement. The queen released the younger brothers from prison, placing Alexander Jannaeus on the throne.[16][17]

Archeological findings[edit]

Galilee and Golan settlements[edit]

Archaeological findings in eastern Galilee and lower Golan reveal massive ethnic changes in the area just before, during, and immediately after Aristobulus's reign. Beginning with John Hyrcanus and ending with Alexander Jannaeus, large numbers of pro-Hasmonean Jews immigrated into those territories to support Hasmonean political, economic, and religious ideology, displacing much of the pre-existing population. Although many of these towns were later seized by Roman forces who instituted pro-Hellenic policies, the previous Hasmonean influence survived and would incite conflict during and after the rule of Herod the Great.[18]


The first mint of Hasmonean coins didn't begin until the leadership of John Hyrcanus.[Note 1] Like his father, Judah Aristobulus only minted his coins with the title of the high priesthood. It wasn't until Alexander Jannaeus that both the roles of kingship and the high priesthood were minted onto coins.[19][20] The majority of Judah's coins were found in the regions of Galilee and the Golan, primary, the largest amount of coins were from Gamla. Majority of them come from his actual reign, while a small amount of these coins were minted after.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Hasmoneans were the first in Jewish history to struck coins as an independent government. Chancey, Mark A. (2005). Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9781139447980.


  1. ^ Rocca 2009, p. 6.
  2. ^ Elwell & Comfort 2001, p. 109.
  3. ^ Baskin 2011, p. 221.
  4. ^ Brisco 1999.
  5. ^ Ellens & Greene 2009, p. 205.
  6. ^ Wine 2012, p. 174.
  7. ^ Magness, Jodi (2019). Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press. p. 108. ISBN 9780691167107.
  8. ^ Kasher, Aryeh (1988). Jews, Idumaeans, and Ancient Arabs: Relations of the Jews in Eretz-Israel with the Nations of the Frontier and the Desert During the Hellenistic and Roman Era (332 BCE-70 CE). Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr Siebeck. p. 79. ISBN 3161452402.
  9. ^ Jahn, Johann (1829). History of the Hebrew commonwealth: from the earliest times to the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 72, with a continuation to the time of Adrian, Volume 1. London: Hurst, Chance, and Co. p. 378.
  10. ^ a b c Magness 2012, p. 95.
  11. ^ Horbury et al. 1999, p. 198.
  12. ^ Myers 2010, p. 26.
  13. ^ Nickelsburg, Neusner & Avery-Peck 2003, p. 462.
  14. ^ Metzger & Coogan 2004, p. 85.
  15. ^ Marshak 2015, p. 56.
  16. ^ Freedman & Myers 2000, p. 67.
  17. ^ Losch 2008, p. 146.
  18. ^ a b Buth & Notley 2013, p. 154.
  19. ^ Sayles 1999, p. 110.
  20. ^ Eyal 2013, p. 175.


External links[edit]

Aristobulus I
 Died: 103 BC
Jewish titles
Preceded by
John Hyrcanus I
King of Judaea
104 BC – 103 BC
Succeeded by
Alexander Jannaeus
High Priest of Judaea
104 BC – 103 BC