Alexander Jannaeus

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Alexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai; Hebrew: אלכסנדר ינאי) was king of Judea from 103 BC to 76 BC. The son of John Hyrcanus, he inherited the throne from his brother Aristobulus I, and appears to have married his brother's widow, Shlomtzion or "Shelomit", also known as Salome Alexandra, according to the Biblical law of Yibum ("levirate marriage"), although Josephus is inexplicit on that point.

His likely full Hebrew name was Jonathan; he may have been the High Priest Jonathan, rather than his great-uncle of the same name, who established the Masada fortress. Under the name King Yannai, he appears as a wicked tyrant in the Talmud, reflecting his conflict with the Pharisee party. He is among the more colorful historical figures, despite being little known outside specialized history. He and his widow (who became queen regnant after his death) had substantial impact on the subsequent development of Judaism.[1]

Jannaeus expanded the Hasmonean Kingdom and established the city of Gamla in 81 BCE as the capital for what is now the Golan Heights.

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Conquests of Alexander Jannaeus

During the twenty-seven year reign of Alexander Jannaeus, he was almost constantly involved in military conflict. Primarily, international factors at the time created an environment suitable for Jannaeus’ conquests. First of all, Jannaeus received support from Cleopatra III of Egypt. She was probably swayed to support Jannaeus through two Jewish commanders in her military. This support was particularly crucial during the war with Ptolemy Lathyrus (discussed later). Ultimately, conflict in the Roman Empire was the greatest outside influence on Judean military campaigns. Political instability in Rome led to a Civil War beginning in 88 BCE. With Rome chiefly concerned with a tumultuous domestic predicament, Jannaeus was free to expand the Judean state. Finally, a weak Seleucid Empire was unable to help Hellenistic cities near Judea.

With a mercenary army similar to that of his father, Jannaeus led a Judean army that conquered the entire coastal plain except for Ashkelon. Jannaeus toppled Western Samaria, the Galilee and the Northern Transjordan. The coastal ports of Dor and Caesarea were also taken after Jannaeus was defeated at Acre. Elsewhere on the Mediterranean coast, the Judeans triumphed over the cities of Raffah and Antedon. Finally, Jannaeus outlasted the inhabitants of Gaza in a year long siege. This impressive victory gained Judean control over the Mediterranean outlet for the Nabatean trade routes.

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