Rulers in the Hellenistic and Maccabean Eras by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
Note: The hyperlinked names are mentioned in the Bible; see the explicit references below the chart.
Dates (all BCE) refer to years of reigning, not lifespans. Some dates are uncertain or only approximate; overlapping dates are due to co-regencies.
Hellenistic (Greek) Rulers:
Jewish High Priests (in Jerusalem):
Alexander the Great (336-323 BCE)
Wars of the Diadochi (323-305)
Jaddua (ca. 350-320 BCE)
Onias I (ca. 320-290)
Simon I (ca. 290-275)
?Eleazar (ca. 275-260?)
?Manasseh (ca. 260-245?)
Onias II (ca. 245-220)
Simon II "The Righteous" (ca. 220-198)
Onias III (ca. 198-174)
[No high priest in Jerusalem, 159-152]
Jonathan Maccabeus (152-142)
Simon Maccabeus (142-135)
John Hyrcanus (135-104)
Alexander Jannaeus (103-76)
[Alexandra Salome ruled 76-67;
with son Hyrcanus II as high priest]
Aristobulus II (67-63)
Hyrcanus II (63-40)
Ptolemaic Rulers (in Egypt): Ptolemy I "Soter" (305-282; a.k.a. Ptolemy Lagi)
Ptolemy II "Philadelphus" (282-246)
Ptolemy V "Epiphanes" (204-180)
Cleopatra I (180-176) Ptolemy VI "Philometor" (180-145) Cleopatra II (175-116)
Ptolemy VII "Neos Philopator" (145) Ptolemy VIII "Euergetes II Physcon" (145-116)
Cleopatra III (116-101)
Ptolemy IX "Soter II Lathyrus" (116-107, 88-80)
Ptolemy X "Alexander I" (107-88)
Cleopatra Berenice (101-88)
Ptolemy XI "Alexander II" (80)
Ptolemy XII "Auletes" (80-59, 55-51)
Cleopatra VII (51-30)
Ptolemy XIII (51-47)
Ptolemy XIV (47-44)
Rulers (in Syria):
Seleucus I "Nicator" (312-281)
Antiochus I "Soter" (281-261)
Antiochus II "Theos" (261-246)
Seleucus II "Callinicus" (246-225)
Seleucus III "Soter Ceraunos" (225-223) Antiochus III "the Great" (223-187)
[descendants of Demetrius II and Antiochus VII
fight for control, with many different rulers and some
rival claimants until the Romans come in 65 BCE]
PTOLEMIES (rulers in Egypt) mentioned in the Bible (including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books):
Ptolemy I "Soter" (a.k.a. Ptolemy Lagi) - one of the Greek generals who fought each other in the Wars of the Diodochi (not directly named, but alluded to in the dreams and visions of Daniel 2:3, 41-43; 7:20a, 24a; 8:8, 22); founder of the dynasty that rules Egypt and surrounding territories for most of the three centuries before Christ; founded the famous library of Alexandria.
[Ptolemy II "Philadelphus" - advanced the Hellenization of Egypt and the prominence of Alexandria; had the Septuagint (LXX) translated;
not mentioned in the Bible]
[Ptolemy III "Euergetes" - not mentioned in the Bible]
Ptolemy IV "Philopator" - the entire book called 3 Maccabees deals with three episodes during his reign in Egypt, 221-204 BCE; he is mentioned as "Philopator" in 3 Macc 1:1; as "Ptolemy" in 1:2, 6; and as "Ptolemy Philopator" in 3 Macc 3:12; 7:1;
[Ptolemy V "Epiphanes" - his crowning is commemorated on the Rosetta Stone; not mentioned in the Bible]
Ptolemy VI "Philometor" - his armies are defeated when Antiochus IV Epiphanes invades Egypt (1 Macc 1:16-19); he agrees to an alliance through the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra II with Alexander Balas (10:51-66); he attempts to take over the Seleucid territories, which ends in his own death and that of Alexander Balas (11:1-19); one of his teachers was the Jewish priest Aristobulus (2 Macc 1:10); his territory provided refuge for people fleeing from the Seleucids (2 Macc 9:29, explicitly names him "Ptolemy Philometor"; see also 2 Macc 4:21; 10:13; and 4 Macc 4:22); he is probably also the one mentioned, along with his wife Cleopatra, in the postscript to Esther (11:1; addition F), but several other Ptolemies were also married to women named Cleopatra.
[Ptolemy VII "Neos Philopator" - not mentioned in the Bible]
Ptolemy VIII "Euergetes II" or "Physcon" - receives a letter from Roman consul Lucius (1 Macc 15:15-21)
Note 1: The Books of the Maccabees mention several other people named "Ptolemy," apart from the above rulers:
Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes (1 Macc 3:38); adviser to king Antiochus IV (2 Macc 4:45-46; 6:8); later becomes governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia (2 Macc
8:8); probably the same person as:
Ptolemy, who was called Macron (2 Macc 10:12) - supports Antiochus IV during his invasion of Cyprus 168 BCE.
Ptolemy, son of Abubu (1 Macc 16:11); son-in-law of Simon Maccabeus; he kills Simon and his sons Judas and Mattathias in 134 BC near Jericho (1 Lacc
Ptolemy, son of Dositheus (Esther 11:1) - father and son together deliver a letter about the events of Purim to people in Egypt.
Ptolemy, father of Lysimachus (Esther 11:1 - a resident of Jerusalem whose son (Lysimachus) translated the aforementioned letter.
Note 2: There is also a city called "Ptolemais" (ancient Acco), renamed after the Ptolemies in the 3rd cent. BCE; an important port on the Mediterranean (just north of modern Haifa); citizens of Ptolemais fought against the Maccabees and were generally hostile against the Jews (see 1 Macc 5:15, 22, 55; 10:1, 39, 56-60; 11:22-24; 12:45-48; 13:21; 2 Macc 6:8[var.]; 13:24-25); in the mid-first century CE, Paul visits Ptolemais, where there are already some
Christians (Acts 21:7).
SELEUCIDS (rulers in Syria) mentioned in the Bible (Deuterocanonical books) and Apocrypha:
Antiochus III "the Great" - mentioned only indirectly in 1 Macc 1:10, when Antiochus IV is introduced as "son of King Antiochus."
Seleucus IV "Philopator" - son of Antiochus III; ruler during the events of 2 Macc 3:1—4:6; at his death, his brother Antiochus IV
succeeds to the throne (2 Macc 4:7); later, Demetrius I Soter is also introduced as the "son of Seleucus" (1 Macc 7:1).
Antiochus IV "Epiphanes" - another son of Antiochus III; mentioned often throughout 1 & 2 Maccabees; also alluded to in the visions of the Book of Daniel (7:8, 20-25; 8:9-14, 23-25); in 167 BC he installs a pagan statue in the Jerusalem Temple, referred to as a "desolating sacrilege" (1 Macc 1:54; cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mark 13:14; Matt 24:15).
Antiochus V "Eupator" - son and successor of Antiochus IV (1 Macc 6:17); overthrown and killed by his cousin Demetrius I Soter in 162 BC (1 Macc 7:2).
Demetrius I "Soter" - son of Seleucus IV Philopator; nephew of Antiochus IV; overthrows his cousin Antiochus V (1 Macc 7:1-7; 2 Macc 14:1-14); his armies fight but are defeated by Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 7—8); he fights Alexander Epiphanes "Balas" for control of Syria, but is defeated and killed (1 Macc 10:1-53).
Alexander Epiphanes "Balas" - claimed to be another son of Antiochus IV (1 Macc 10:1); ruled in Syria 150-145 BC; defeated Demetrius I (1 Macc 10:1-54), and later battles with Demetrius II (1 Macc 10:67-89).
Demetrius II "Nicator" - son of Demetrius I; fights against Alexander Balas for the throne, later also battles against Antiochus VI and Trypho; makes an alliance with Ptolemy VI of Egypt (1 Macc 10:67—15:22).
Antiochus VI "Epiphanes Dionysius" - a young boy made king through Trypho's influence, but killed by the same Trypho three years later (1 Macc 11:39—13:31).
Trypho - a supporter of Alexander Balas, after whose death he initially supports young King Antiochus VI (against Demetrius II), but later kills Antiochus VI and usurps the kingship for himself; he invaded Israel and fought Jonathan, Simon, and the Maccabees several times; he is eventually defeated by Antiochus VII (1 Macc 11:38—15:39).
Antiochus VII "Sidetes" - son of Demetrius II (or or Demetrius I?); also fights the Maccabees, and eventually overthrows Trypho (1 Macc 15:1-39).
JEWISH HIGH PRIESTS of the early Hellenistic Era mentioned in the Bible (including the Deuterocanonical books):
Jaddua (ca. 350-320 BCE) - son of Jonathan, last mentioned high priest (Neh 12:11) around the time of the Persian king Darius III Commannus (Neh 12:22).
Onias I (ca. 320-290) - son of Jaddua, became priest after death of his father (Josephus Ant. 11.8.7); concluded a treaty with Arius, King of Sparta (1 Macc 12:7-8, 19-23).
Simon I (ca. 290-275) - according to Josephus, he succeeded his father Onias I in the high priesthood during the reign of Ptolemy I; other evidence suggests reference was to Simon II.
?Eleazar (ca. 275-260?) - uncertain reference; caution: since Eleazar was the priest/successor to Aaron (in the days of Moses), the name was fairly common throughout the history of Israel, esp. among priestly families.
?Manasseh (ca. 260-245?) - uncertain reference; caution: Manasseh was one of the sons of the Patriarch Joseph, so this was a fairly common name in ancient Israel.
Onias II (ca. 245-220) - son of Simon I and grandson of Onias I; high priest during Ptolemaic rule of Palestine; mentioned as the father of Simon II in Sirach 50:1; he and his son politically supported the Seleucids against the Ptolemies, reflecting the struggle between the Oniads and Tobiads.
Simon II "The Righteous" (ca. 220-198) - high priest and son of Onias II; led the repair of the temple and the fortification of Jerusalem; survivor of the Great Assembly; highly praised in Sirach 50:1-21.
ONIAS III (ca. 198-174) - son of Simon II and grandson of Onias II; high priest during reign of Seleucus IV Philopator; known for his piety and "hatred of wickedness" (2 Macc 3:1-40); while dealing with conflict with Toniads and Seleucids, his brother Jason bought the high priesthood (2 Macc 4:1-7); Onias was murdered around 170 BCE (2 Macc 4:30-38); he is perhaps the one referred to as the "Teacher of Righteousness" in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
[Onias IV - son of Onias III; not mentioned in the OT and never held the high priesthood; fled to Egypt during the Maccabean period; received permission from Ptolemy Philometor ca. 143 BCE to build a temple to Yahweh at Leontopolis.]
JASON (174-171) - brother of Onias III; became high priest by bribing Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2 Macc 4:7); responsible for introducing Hellenistic institutions and practices in Jerusalem, such as building a Greek-style gymnasium and schools, adopting Greek clothing, and sending envoys to athletic contests and Greek religious sacrifices (4:7-22); lost the high priesthood and fled into exile in 171 when Menelaus offered a larger bribe to Antiochus IV (4:23-26); attempted to regain power in Jerusalem, but failed and went to Egypt and Sparta, where he died exile (2 Macc 5:5-10; Josephus AJ 12.1).
Menelaus (171-161) - brother of a certain Simon, who had been a rival of Onias III (2 Macc 3:4-6; 4:1-6); sent by Jason as envoy to Antiochus IV, but then secured the high priesthood for himself by offering Antiochus a larger bribe (4:23-29); continued the Hellenization of the Jews; responsible for the death of former high priest Onias III (4:30-50); continuing power struggles with Jason (5:1-23); mentioned in letter of Antiochus IV to the Jews in 164 BC (11:29, 32); ultimately executed in a cruel/unusual way (13:1-8). Caution: Josephus claims that Menelaus was the brother of Onias and Jason, but this is likely a confusion of names.
Alcimus (161-159) - a leader of the Hellenizing faction during the Maccabean revolt; appointed high priest by Seleucid king Demetrius I Soter, and served under the protection of Bacchides (1 Macc 7:5-11); responsible for the death of 60 Hasideans who came seeking peace (7:12-18); fought with Bacchides in the battle that killed Judas Maccabeus (9:1-22); died after attempting to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary (9:54-57).
MACCABEAN/HASMONEAN RULERS (many of whom also served as High Priests):
Mattathias - a priest from Modin (NW of Jerusalem); patriarch of the family who began the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV "Ephiphanes" and his Seleucid successors in 167 BCE; had five sons: John "Gaddi", Simon "Thassi", Judas "Maccabeus", Eleazar "Avaran", and Jonathan "Apphus" (1 Macc 2).
Judas Maccabeus (died 160 BCE) - third son of Mattathias; succeeded his father as the main leader of the revolt against the Seleucid Greeks and the Hellenizing faction of Jews; rededicated the Temple of Jerusalem in 164 (1 Macc 3:1—9:22).
Jonathan Maccabeus (leader as of 160; high priest 152-142) - youngest son of Mattathias; succeeded his brother Judas in continuing the revolt (1 Macc 9:28—12:53); given the role and title of "high priest" of the Jews in 152 by Seleucid king Alexander Epiphanes (1 Macc 10:15-21).
Simon Maccabeus (142-135) - second-oldest but last surviving son of Mattathias; continued the revolt against the Seleucids; succeeded his brother Jonathan as high priest; established the Hasmonean dynasty after winning full independence for Judea; expanded Jewish territory and fortunes until he and several sons were murdered by his son-in-law Ptolemy (1 Macc 13:1—16:17).
John Hyrcanus (135-104) - surviving son of Simon Maccabeus; appointed high priest, ethnarch of Judea; mentioned briefly at the end of 1 Macc 16:18-24); enlarged the Judean lands, escaped to Jerusalem after his father's murder, while his mother and brothers were held captive and murdered by Ptolemy; conquered Medeba, Shechem, Mt. Gerizim, and Samaria; attributed with gift of prophecy; involved in conflicts between Pharisees and Sadducees.
Aristobulus (104-103) - Judas, son of John Hyrcanus; first in the dynasty to claim the title of "King"; seized the throne from his mother, imprisoning and starving her to death; imprisoned three brothers and killed one; coins inscribed with "Judah the High Priest..." may refer to him.
Alexander Jannaeus (103-76) - brother of Aristobulus, became Hasmonean King and high priest; aggressively expanded Judean kingdom by attacking Idumeans, Greek coastal cities, and Transjordan; people didn't think he was a worthy ruler, so he massacred 6000 people, which caused six years of civil war; died from excessive drinking; his wife Alexandra succeeds him.
Alexandra Salome (queen 76-67; with son Hyrcanus II serving as high priest) - wife of Alexander Jannaeus; rules over Israel for 10 years.
Aristobulus II (67-63) - younger son of Alexander Janneus and Alexandra Salome; proclaimed himself king after his mother dies; Roman General Pompey put him under arrest and took him captive to Rome.
Hyrcanus II (63-40) - elder son of Alexander Janneus and Alexandra Salome; appointed high priest by his mother; after his mother's death, his brother Aristobulus II seized power; he sought refuge from Nabatean King Aretas, who together defeated Aristobulus II; was then appointed high priest and ethnarch by Julius Caesar; ultimately executed by King Herod.
Antigonus (40-37) - son of Aristibulus II; overthrew Hyrcanus II and mutilated his ear so that he could never hold the priesthood again; was soon removed from the throne of Israel and beheaded by the Roman senate.
Note: These last generations of Maccabees are not mentioned in the Bible; the primary source for our knowledge about them is Josephus.
Caution: Other members of the extended Hasmonean family were also called Antigonus, Aristolulus, Alexander, and Alexandra.