The reasons behind the successful Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids were more political

Assur, brick ruins
Assur, brick ruins

than religious. The Maccabees / Hasmoneans set up a Hellenistic state on Jewish soil that lost its political independence in the conflict with the Romans, but gained a new cultural identity under Herod and his successors.


The situation had changed by the time of Antipas, son of Herod, prince of Galilee (4 BC – 39 AD). Antipas had studied in Rome and

learned of the significance of written holy texts. He had also heard poetry readings by Roman poets and seen how important poetry was for the Romans’ self-image and self-confidence.

el Faiyum, pack donkey
el Faiyum, pack donkey

Antipas ruled in Galilee, where there was no great temple comparable with the temple in Jerusalem. During his rule, the Jews took over from the Romans for the first time the idea of writing down their great past in literary form, to give them a cultural identity based on a national literature.

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