The Accession of King Demetrius I Soter, and Alcimus as High Priest   Leave a comment

Above:  Image of a Coin of King Demetrius I Soter

Image in the Public Domain





1 Maccabees 7:1-25

2 Maccabees 14:1-14


Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)


The political fragmentation of the Seleucid Empire was the backdrop for the accession of King Demetrius I Soter in 162 B.C.E.  Under the terms of the Treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.E.), Demetrius was a hostage in Rome, the capital city of the Roman Republic.  After the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164/163 B.C.E., the rivalry between Philip and Lysias, both of whom King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed regent, threatened the unity of the empire.  Lysias had the guardianship of King Antiochus V Eupator, seven years old at accession in 164/163 B.C.E., though.  Philip, having failed in his attempted coup d’état, fled to Egypt, and the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.).  Philip returned to Antioch, the capital city of the Seleucid Empire, in 162 B.C.E.  He held it briefly.

Demetrius Soter, seeking to return home, requested the Roman Senate’s permission to depart.  That body did not grant such permission.  So, he left anyway.  The prince, a nephew of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and a first cousin of King Antiochus V Eupator, landed at Tripolis in 162 B.C.E.  Demetrius’s forces captured Lysias and King Antiochus V Eupator.  Then Demetrius ordered the execution of Lysias and King Antiochus V.

When did Alcimus become the High Priest?  1 and 2 Maccabees are vague about that matter.  Alcimus seems to have been the High Priest under King Antiochus V Eupator–Regent Lysias, really.  The appointment to the High Priesthood came from the monarch, at least officially.  Therefore, if Alcimus were to continue as the High Priest, King Demetrius I Soter had to reappoint him.

1 and 2 Maccabees are clear about the political agenda and rotten character of Alcimus, a scoundrel and an opponent of Judas Maccabeus.  Why would a High Priest whose office depended on a royal appointment not to be an ally of the Seleucid monarch?  The most notable exception to that rule may have been Onias III, in 2 Maccabees 4.  Alcimus was a liar with blood on his hands.  He was unfit to be the High Priest.

This story reminds one of Jason and Menelaus, notoriously wicked High Priests.

The other major character was Bacchides, the governor of the province “Beyond the River.”  King Demetrius I Soter was in the East, suppressing the revolt of Timarchus.  (The Seleucid Empire had become politically unstable.)

Judas Maccabeus, recognizing the perfidious character of the lying and bloodthirsty Bacchides, disegarded the false offers of friendship.  Judas Maccabeus was also no fool.  The rebel leader, whose power was on the ascendancy, understood correctly that Alcimus and other apostate Jews had caused damage worse than that Gentiles had committed.

Meanwhile, Alcimus knew that Judas Maccabeus was winning.  The rebel leader’s forces, outnumbered by Seleucid forces, were winning.  Guerrilla warfare has frequently been an effective way of defeating a numerically superior military force.





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