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Noble Death and Dynasty: A Popular Tradition from the Hasmonean Period in Josephus

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image of Journal for the Study of Judaism

The First Book of Maccabees ends its historical narrative with the murder of Simon at the hands of his son-in-law, Ptolemy. Flavius Josephus offers a more elaborate narrative of the same event. According to his account, Ptolemy took Simon’s wife and two of his sons as hostages and tormented them when John Hyrcanus besieged him in the fortress of Doq. Josephus praises Simon’s wife for taking a heroic stance and stresses her willingness to die for the dynasty. A close analysis of the story suggests that Josephus drew on a popular tradition that emerged shortly after the historical events and adopted stylistic and narratological elements commonly associated with martyrdom stories. The story thus offers insights into dynastic representation in the early Hasmonean period and indicates that the wife of Simon played a prominent role in the propaganda and self-fashioning of the new ruling house.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania 201 Cohen Hall, Philadelphia, pa 19104USA


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