Syrian general; friend of the Syrian king Demetrius; and "ruler in the country beyond the river"—Euphrates. Demetrius sent him in 161 B.C. to Judea with a large army, in order to invest the recreant Alcimus with the office of high priest (I Macc. vii. 8, 9). The peaceable Assideans credulously expected friendship from him; but, contrary to oath and covenant, he cruelly slew sixty of them (ib. vii. 16). Leaving Jerusalem, he made a slaughter-house of Bezeth (Bethzecha), and after handing the country over to Alcimus, returned to the king (ib. vii. 19, 20). When, however, another Syrian army under Nicanor suffered defeat at the hands of Judas Maccabeus (ib. vii. 26-50), Demetrius again sent Bacchides and Alcimus to Judea, this time with an army of twenty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry. At Eleasa (Laisa) he met Judas, whose three thousand soldiers had dwindled to eight hundred. Judas, though he put to flight the right wing of the Syrian army commanded by Bacchides himself, and pursued it to Azotus, was totally defeated by the left wing, and killed (ib. ix. 1-18). Bacchides now established the Hellenists as rulers in Judea; and the persecuted patriots (ib. ix. 25-27), under Jonathan, brother of Judas, fled beyond the Jordan. Bacchides came upon them there on a Sabbath, and again suffered defeat, losing one thousand men (ib. ix. 43-49). He returned to Jerusalem, and, in order to subdue the Jews, fortified not only the Acro, but also Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Beth-el, Thamnata (Timnatha), Pharathon, Tephon, Beth-zur, and Gazara (ib. ix. 50-52). Soon after Alcimus died, and Bacchides, having made a fruitless attack upon Jonathan, returned to the king. At the instigation of the Hellenists, he moved a third time against the Jews. Only after he had been defeated several times by Simon, brother of Judas and Jonathan, did he conclude an enforced treaty of peace with Jonathan, and depart into his own land (ib. ix. 58-73; Josephus, "Ant." xii. 10, § 13; xiii. 1).
The representation of Bacchides by Josephus ("B. J." i. 1, §§ 2, 3) as barbarous by nature, and the statement that he was slain by Mattathias, are both erroneous. In the Syriac translation of the Book of the Maccabees, Bacchides, through an error in transcription, is called "Bicrius" instead of "Bacdius"; and in the Jewish version of the Ḥanukkah story ("Megillat Antiochus") he is called Bagris, or Bogores (see Gaster's edition of the Megillah); forms corrupted, according to Bacher, from V02p416001.jpg.
Bibliography:G. S. Kr.
- Schürer, Gesch. i. 168, 169 et al.;
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, 4th ed., iii. 2, 7, 13, 15;
- Jellinek, B. H. i. 142, vi 4;
- Payne-Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, col. 518;
- Rev. Et. Juives, xxx. 218, note 6.