The name Hasmonean is derived (according to Josephus, in The Antiquities of the Jews) from the name of their ancestor Hasmoneus (Hasmon), or Asamonaios. This is why they are known as the Hasmoneans rather than the Macabees.

The Jewish kingdom fell from World dominance after the death of Solomon but it took another 350 years for it to be completely destroyed.  The northern tribes of Israel were carried off by the Assyrians beginning in 745 BC.   The Jews of the southern kingdom were carried off to Babylon in 586 BC and allowed to return to rebuild in the time of Ezra-Nehamiah (370 BC).  They were not independent at that point although they were autonomous.   

As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece (332 BC), the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid (Greek) rulers. Political pressures in the empire caused an imposition of Greek culture brought pressure on the Jews.  When the Jews were prohibited from practicing Judaism and their Temple was desecrated as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on, the Jews rose in revolt (166 BC). First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BC), events commemorated each year by the festival we know as Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication.

Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BC and following), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BC), Jewish independence was achieved and lasted about 80 years. All told the Hasmonean dynasty lasted about 103 years and the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon's realm.

The various factions were allied with either Romans or Greeks. These were turbulent time with Judea at the frontier of the conflict. 

The map shows how the successive leaders expanded the territory. The history of this time is told in the books of the Maccabees. There are 2 such books in the Roman catholic cannon (there are 4 in the Orthodox Bible.) The period is also covered by Josephus in the first book of Jewish Wars.

Hasmonean kingdomList of the Hasmonean leaders:

Hasmonean Rebel Leaders (166–153 BC)

Mattathaias 170-167 BC

Judas Maccabeus 167–160 BC

Jonathan Maccabaeus 160–153 BC

Hasmonean High Priests, Ethnarchs and Kings (153–37 BC)

Jonathan Maccabaeus 153–142 BC

Simon Maccabaeus 142–134 BC

John Hyrcanus I 134–104 BC

Aristobulus I (also King) 104–103 BC

Alexander Jannaeus (also King) 103–76 BC

Alexandra Salome (Queen) 76–67 BC

John Hyrcanus II

  • High Priest 76–66 and 63–40 BC
  • Governor of the People 63–57 BC
  • Ethnarch of Judaea 47–4 BC

Aristobulus II 66–63 BC

Antigonus 40–37 BC

The Hasmoneans were followed by the Herodians. In 37 BC Herod the Great laid siege to Jerusalem, backed by the Romans, and when Herod was successful real control was passed to the Herodians, still under Roman Authority. The last Hasmonean ruler, Antigonus, was deposed and executed by the Romans under Mark Antony. 11/27/13 11/27/13 11/27/13 11/27/13