Last 100 Years Part 2: From Pompei to Herod
Pompei’s conquest of Yerushalayim did not go unchallenged. After Pompei ruled in favor of Hyrcanus and Antipater his puppeteer, Aristobulus was forced to surrender all the Chashmonai fortresses throughout the land. Not being able to reconcile his own humiliation, the ever warrior, Aristobulus, decided to try to salvage his rule over the city of Yerushalayim. This didn’t impress Pompei who summoned him once again. Once again he capitulated to the fearsome general’s demands. Only by now, many of Aristobulus’s men had taken control of the Temple Mount and prepared their defense, with or without their leader.
After a heroic stand against Pompei and the Roman war machine, aided by Hyrcanus and his men, Pompei’s troops stormed the Har HaBayis, killing every Kohen in the middle of the avodah along the way. The death toll from this devastating assualt reached 12,000 Jews. Pompei himself, gleaming with pride, entered the Bais HaMikdash to see it firsthand. He left without desecrating it in any way.
Pompei then left Eretz Yisrael for Rome to celebrate his great victory in the East over the Roman nemesis, Persia. He took Aristobulus captive along with his son Alexander. These fearsome and proud Chashmonai warriors never completely capitulated. Alexander escaped during the journey and fled back to Eretz Yisrael where he rallied a new army of 10,000 men and mounted a rebellion against Rome. He seized all the old fortresses of his father. This fledgling army however, was no match for the Roman legions. Alexander was led back to Rome in captivity. He would eventually escape and lead another failed revolt seven years later in which he ultimately was executed upon Pompei’s instructions. His father Aristobulus would also escape from Roman captivity to lead a failed rebellion and again be sent back to Rome.
Although initially Rome did not interfere with normal Jewish rule in Eretz Yisrael, after witnessing time and time again the stubborn resistance of the Jewish people, Rome decided it was time to weaken their powerbase. In the Year 57 BCE, the Roman Proconsul based in Syria, Gabinus, upon the advice of Antipater decided to rip out the heart of the Jewish people.
In a quest to erode Jewish strength in Eretz Yisrael, Gabinus took away the power of law from the Sanhedrin and in its place set up ruling councils in five newly created provinces dividing the country. These councils were ruled by the Saduccees, enemies of authentic religion. Furthermore he settled many non-Jews in the old Greek cities throughout Eretz Yisrael to dilute the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael..
Meanwhile back in Rome history was taking place at an alarming rate. Pompei along with Julius Caesar and Crassus formed a powerful ruling triumvirate usurping the power of the ruling Senate. As power hungry people never cease to desire more power, Pompei and Julius Caesar eventually turned against each other. Pompei was driven from Rome by Caesar and fled to the East. Crassus was killed in a Persian campaign a number of years earlier after robbing the treasury of the Bais HaMikdash to finance his war.
In attempt to weaken Pompei, Caesar decided the time was right to send Aristobulus back to Eretz Yisrael from Antipater and Hyrcanus, allies of Pompei.This was Aristobulus best legitimate chance at finally securing his kingdom. However Aristobulus was assassinated along the way by Pompei’s spies in his entourage. Ultimately Caesar prevailed over Pompei, and Pompei was assassinated in Egypt.
Now as the sole ruler over the Roman Empire Caesar had to choose between the Antipater Hycanus alliance versus the new claimant to the throne Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus.