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the internal government was administered by the highpriests. After the return from exile Joshua, Joachim, and Eliashib successively filled the pontifical office. The government thus was not unlike that of the popes, abating their claims to universal spiritual dominion, although the office of high-priest was hereditary. Jehoiada, son of Eliashib, reigned from 413 to 373, and he was succeeded by his son Johanan, under whose administration important changes took place during the reign of Artaxerxes III., called Ochus, the last but two of the Persian monarchs before the conquest of Persia by Alexander.
The Persians had in the mean time greatly degenerated in their religious faith and observances. Magian rites became mingled with the purer religion of Zoroaster, and even the worship of Venus was not uncommon. Under Cyrus and Darius there was nothing peculiarly offensive to the Jews in the theism of Ormuzd, which was the old religion of the Persians; but when images of ancient divinities were set up by royal authority in Persepolis, Susa, Babylon, and Damascus, the allegiance of the Jews was weakened, and repughance took the place of sympathy. Moreover, a creatlire of Artaxerxes III., by the name of Bagoses, became Satrap of Syria, and presumed to appoint as the highpriest at Jerusalem Joshua, another son of Jehoiada, and severely taxed the Jews, and even forced his way
into the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the Temple, — a sacrilege hard to be endured. This Bagoses poisoned his master, and in the year 338 B. C. elevated to the throne of Persia his son Arses, who had a brief reign, being dethroned and murdered by his father. In 336 Darius III. became king, under whom the Persian monarchy collapsed before the victories of Alexander.
Judæa now came under the dominion of this great conqueror, who favored the Jews, and on his death, 323 B. C., it fell to the possession of Laomedon, one of his generals; while Egypt was assigned to Ptolemy Soter, son of Lagus. Between these princes a war soon broke out, and Laomedon was defeated by Nicanor, one of Ptolemy's generals; and Palestine refusing to submit to the king of Egypt, Ptolemy invaded Judæa, besieged Jerusalem, and took it by assault on the Sabbath, when the Jews refused to fight. A large number of Jews were sent to Alexandria, and the Jewish colony ultimately formed no small part of the population of the new capital. Some eighty thousand Jews, it is said, were settled in Alexandria when Palestine was governed by Greek generals and princes. But Judæa was wrested from Ptolemy Lagus by Antigonus, and again recovered by Ptolemy after the battle of Ipsus, in 301 B.C. Under Ptolemy Egypt became a powerful kingdoin, and still more so under his son Philadelphus, who made Alexandria the second capital of the world, - commercially, indeed, the first. It became also a great intellectual centre, and its famous library was the largest ever collected in classical antiquity. This city was the home of scholars and philosophers from all parts of the world. Under the auspices of an enlightened monarch, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, the version being called the Septuagint, -- an immense service to sacred literature. The Jews enjoyed great prosperity under this Grecian prince, and Palestine was at peace with powerful neighbors, protected by the great king who favored the Jews as the Persian monarchs had done. Under his successor, Ptolemy Energetes, a still more powerful king, the empire reached its culminating glory, and was extended as far as Antioch and Babylon. Under the next Ptolemy, -- Philopater, — degeneracy set in; but the empire was not diminished, and the Syrian monarch Antiochus III., called the Great, was defeated at the battle of Raphia, 217. Under the successor of the enervated Egyptian king, Ptolemy V., a child five years old, Antiochus the Great retrieved the disaster at Raphia, and in 199 won a victory over Scopas the Egyptian general, in consequence of which Judæa, with Phænicia and Coele-Syria, passed from the Ptolemies to the Seleucidæ.
Judæa now became the battle-ground for the contending Syrian and Egyptian armies, and after two hundred years of peace and prosperity her calamities began afresh. She was cruelly deceived and oppressed by the Syrian kings and their generals, for the “ kings of the North ” were more hostile to the Jews than the “kings of the South.” In consequence of the incessant wars between Syria and Egypt, many Jews emigrated, and became merchants, bankers, and artisans in all the great cities of the world, especially in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and Egypt, where all departments of industry were freely opened to them. In the time of Philo, there were more than a million of Jews in these various countries ; but they remained Jews, and tenaciously kept the laws and traditions of their nation. In every large city were Jewish synagogues.
It was under the reign of Antiochus IV., called Epiphanes, when Judæa was tributary to Syria, that those calamities and miseries befell the Jews which rendered it necessary for a deliverer to arise. Though enlightened and a lover of art, this monarch was one of the most cruel, rapacious, and tyrannical princes that have achieved an infamous immortality. He began his reign with usurpation and treachery. Being unsuccessful in his Egyptian campaigns, he vented his wrath upon the Jews, as if he were mad. Onias III. was the high-priest at the time. Antiochus dispossessed him of his great office and gave it to his brother Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who erected in Jerusalem a gymnasium after the Greek style. But the king, a zealot in paganism, bitterly and scornfully detested the Jewish religion, and resolved to root it out. His general, Apollonius, had orders to massacre the people in the observance of their rites, to abolish the Temple service and the Sabbath, to destroy the sacred books, and introduce idol worship. The altar on Mount Moriah was especially desecrated, and afterward dedicated to Jupiter. A herd of swine were driven into the Temple, and there sacrificed. This outrage was to the Jews “the abomination of desolation," which could never be forgotten or forgiven. The nation rallied and defied the power of a king who could thus wantonly trample on what was most sacred and venerable.
Two hundred years earlier, resistance would have been hopeless; but in the mean time the population had quietly increased, and in the practice of those virtues and labors which agricultural life called out, the people had been strengthened and prepared to rally and defend their lives and liberties. They were still unwarlike, without organization or military habits; but they were brave, hardy, and patriotic. Compared, however, with the forces which could be arrayed against them by the Syrian monarch, who was supreme