The Maccabees Project resumed programming in 2023-24 with a series of hybrid (in-person/Zoom) discussions under the broad title From Rebels to Rulers: The Hasmoneans and their Kingdom. The intent is to move forward in time, from the initial formation of the Hasmonean Kingdom c. 142 BCE, as detailed in the book The Middle Maccabees, to the later second-early first centuries BCE, when the Hasmonean Kingdom was an established presence in the region.

All discussions are at Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies and on zoom.


To What End? Fortifications along the Margins of the Hasmonean Kingdom

Oct. 4, 2023

Speakers: Roi Sabar (Boston University)

The Hasmonean rise to political legitimacy following the Maccabean revolt went hand-in-hand with territorial expansion. As narrated in both 1 Maccabees and the Antiquities of Josephus, this was a gradual process that, over some two generations, turned a small local power into a regional kingdom by the end of the second century BCE. In this discussion Doctor Sabar focused on Two Galilean fortresses whose locations, viewsheds, and chronology have the potential to clarify the line of – and rationale for – the kingdom’s northern margins.


Idumea and the Hasmoneans

Jan. 31, 2024

Speakers: Ian Stern (University of Haifa) and Debóra Sandhaus (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Idumea is the region that lies between Judea, the Dead Sea, the Negev and the Mediterranean Coast. Josephus lists it among those regions taken by the expansionist Hasmonean polity. His narrative describes a brutal campaign under John Hyrcanus I, in which the cities of Maresha and Adora were taken and the locals were forced to be circumcised. This discussion will focus on the archaeological evidence for the fate of Idumea in the time of the Hasmoneans. Doctor Stern discussed the archaeological evidence from the city of Maresha itself before and after the conquest of John Hyrcanus I. Doctor Sandhaus presented a perspective of the larger region, from the fall the Seleucids to the reign of Herod.


The Coast and the Jezreel Valley in the time of the Hasmoneans

Feb. 28, 2024

Speakers: Alexander Fantalkin (Tel Aviv University) and Matthew Adams (University of Hawai’i)

According to historical narratives the coastal plain between Gaza and the outskirts of ‘Akko-Ptolemais (excluding Ascalon) was gradually annexed by the Hasmoneans, starting already with the takeover of Jaffa by Simon, while the Jezreel Valley, a pivotal region for transportation and agriculture, was taken by the sons of John Hyrcanus I by the end of the second century BCE. Professors Fantalkin and Adams presented overviews of the archaeological evidence and asked if that evidence affirms, modifies, or undermines those narratives, and how it expands our view of wider social and geopolitical shifts.


The Northern Coast and the Hasmoneans

Apr. 3, 2024

Speakers: Becky Martin (Boston University) and Rotem Avneri Meir (University of Helsinki)

Professor Martin presented archaeological evidence from Tel Dor dating from the late second – early first centuries BCE, and considered that evidence in light of the historical narrative of Josephus. The former indicates stable and continuous occupation; the latter states that the city was taken by Alexander Jannaeus. Doctor Avneri Meir offered concluding reflections on what the combination of archaeological evidence and the historical record tells us about political geography in the southern Levant in the time of the Hasmonean state.