POMPEY THE GREAT (Latin, Cneius Pompeius Magnus):

Roman general who subjected Judea to Rome. In the year 65 B.C., during his victorious campaign through Asia Minor, he sent to Syria his legate Scaurus, who was soon obliged to interfere in the quarrels of the two brothers Aristobulus II. and Hyrcanus II. When Pompey himself came to Syria, two years later, the rivals, knowing that the Romans were as rapacious as they were brave, hastened to send presents. Pompey gradually approached Judea, however; and in the spring of 63, at the Lebanon, he subdued the petty rulers, including the Jew Silas (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 3, § 2) and a certain Bacchius Judæus, whose subjugation is represented on a coin (Reinach, "Les Monnaies Juives," p. 28). Pompey then came to Damascus, where the claims of the three parties to the strife were presented for his consideration—those of Hyrcanus and Aristobulus in person, since the haughty Roman thus exacted homage from the Judean princes, while a third claimant represented the people, who desired not a ruler but a theocratic republic (Josephus, § 2; Diodorus, xl. 2). Pompey, however, deferred his decision until he should have subdued the Nabatæans.

The warlike Aristobulus, who suspected the designs of the Romans, retired to the fortress of Alexandrium and resolved to offer armed resistance; but at the demand of Pompey he surrendered the fortress and went to Jerusalem, intending to continue his opposition there (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 3, § 4; idem, "B. J." i. 6, §§ 4, 5). Pompey followed him by way of Jericho, and as Aristobulus again deemed it advisable to surrender to the Romans, Pompey sent his legate Gabinius to take possession of the city of Jerusalem.

This lieutenant found, however, that there were other defenders there besides Aristobulus, whereupon Pompey declared Aristobulus a prisoner and began to besiege the city. Although the party of Hyrcanus opened the gates to the Romans, the Temple mount, which was garrisoned by the people's party, had to be taken by means of rams brought from Tyre; and it was stormed only after a siege of three months, and then on a Sabbath, when the Jews were not defending the walls. Josephus calls the day of the fall of Jerusalem "the day of the fast" (νηστείας ἡμέρα; "Ant." xiv. 4, § 3); but in this he merely followed the phraseology of his Gentile sources, which regarded the Sabbath as a fast-day, according to the current Greco-Roman view. Dio Cassius says (xxxvii. 16) correctly that it was on a "Cronos day," this term likewise denoting the Sabbath.

The capture of the Temple mount was accompanied by great slaughter. The priests who were officiating despite the battle were massacred by the Roman soldiers, and many committed suicide; while 12,000 people besides were killed. Pompey himself entered the Temple, but he was so awed by its sanctity that he left the treasure and the costly vessels untouched ("Ant." xiv. 4, § 4; "B. J." i. 7, § 6; Cicero, "Pro Flacco," § 67). The leaders of the war party were executed, and the city and country were laid under tribute. A deadly blow was struck at the Jews when Pompey separated from Judea the coast cities from Raphia to Dora, as well as all the Hellenic cities in the east-Jordan country, and the so-called Decapolis, besides Scythopolis and Samaria, all of which were incorporated in the new province of Syria. These cities, without exception, became autonomous, and dated their coins from the era of their "liberation" by Pompey. The small territory of Judea he assigned to Hyrcanus, with the title of "ethnarch" ("Ant." l.c.; "B. J." l.c.; comp. "Ant." xx. 10, § 4). Aristobulus, together with his two sons Alexander and Antigonus, and his two daughters, was carried captive to Rome to march in Pompey's triumph, while many other Jewish prisoners were taken to the same city, this circumstance probably having much to do with the subsequent prosperity of the Roman community. Pompey's conquest of Jerusalem is generally believed to form the historical background of the Psalms of Solomon.

  • Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, 5th ed., iii. 113-154;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 157, 172;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 294-301;
  • Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 5, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1893 (who denies that the Jewish community of Rome was founded by Pompey, asserting that the fall of Jerusalem merely increased its numbers;
  • comp. Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 5, Berlin, 1896).
G. S. Kr.
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