Evan Tucker

Tales of Classical Perversion: The Friendship of Maccabee and Antiochus

Fall – 135 BC, 619 Ab urbe condita, 3627

1. Upon Rosh Hashana 3627, Greek King Antiochus VII Sedetes, “Antiochus the Pious”, heard of the massacre of Ptolemy and in retaliation prepared an army of 20,000 to sack Jerusalem. Upon Yom Kippur, John Hyrcanus entered the Holy of Holies and prayed for a solution, whereupon God the Father sent a sign to Hyrcanus to open the Sepulchre of King David, where was discovered 3000 ancient golden shekels; with which Hyrcanus could bribe Antiochus the Pious to stand his forces down.

2. Upon reaching Jerusalem’s gates, Antiochus the Pious was informed by messenger that it was the first day of Sukkot – Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles, during which Judeans cannot work. Antiochus knew well the humiliation of his grandfather, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and desired not to join his grandfather in disrepute. He therefore agreed to a week’s armistice.

3. Yet under cover of seventh night, more than ten messengers were seen leaving the Jerusalem gates, two of which were intercepted; one of whom carried a message to the Roman consul Flaccus, pleading for Rome’s assistance; one of whom to the Roman consul Piso. Under pain of torture, the messengers admitted there were twelve vassals in all, each carrying the same message. After a full day’s deliberation, Antiochus the Pious petitioned Hyrcanus for immediate meeting under flag of truce.

4. Hyrcanus: “I must protest so immediate a meeting. I am not supposed to work tonight but you called an emergency meeting so I might plea for the lives of two Jerusalemites, and here I am.” Antiochus: “I gave you an armistice because your vassal said it was a Festival Week during which your people cannot work, but your festival week is over and you sent out messengers during the week besides.” “It was our festival week.” “But you said you’re not allowed to work today.” “I’m not.” “But the festival week is over.” “It is, but I’m not allowed to work today.” “Why?” “Because it’s our three holidays in the days after the Festival Week.” “You’re not allowed to work for ten days?” “We are allowed to work during our Festival Week, just not in the days after.” “Then why did your messengers tell me you weren’t?” “Because your army came on the first day of the Festival, during which we’re not allowed to work.” “So you’re allowed to work for the other days of the Festival Week?” “Yes.” “Then why did you wait to send messengers until the seventh night when you couldn’t work?” “We can work on the seventh night.” “But you just said that there were three holidays after your Festival during which you can’t work.” “During the first holiday we can work, it’s the other two holidays we can’t. That’s why the messengers left when they did, so they could be past your forces by the time it was time to stop working.” “So your festival is six days long? Why did you tell us it was a week?” “It’s a week-long festival, but the last day is both the last day of the Festival and its own holida…” “ENOUGH OF THIS!”  
5. Antiochus: “Our intelligence tells us that twelve messengers left Jerusalem under cover of night. Was this at your permission?” “Yes.” “Our intelligence further tells us they were all carrying the same message. Is this true?” “No.” “Six of them were carrying the same message to Consul Flaccus, six of them were carrying the same message to Consul Piso, is this true?” “Yes.” “And why did you send twelve messengers?” “Because we thought you would intercept some of our messengers and kill them.” “Those days of the Antioch dynasty are over. I’m not my family.” “Your Majesty must excuse us for not knowing that.” “Even if I don’t kill them, Cleopatra’s intelligence men are all over the Levant, my intelligence men are all over the Levant, I have no way to reach them. They’re all on the lookout for travelers with messages, trying to intercept any message between Rome and Jerusalem. They may yet kill your messengers before they get to Rome.” “That’s why I sent a dozen messengers on the seventh night, so we could give you two day’s notice to call off your officers while we don’t wor…” “NO more about the seventh day of the festival please…”
6. “No gold was found on the messengers.” “No, it wouldn’t be.” “Then why would you think the Roman consuls would entertain your suit for their assistance?” “Why would we need to bribe Consuls Flaccus and Piso when our contacts in Rome helped finance all of the Punic Wars?” “I was under the impression that Judea was in debt from your wars with us.” “We are.” “Then how in Plutus’s name have you the money to finance Rome?” “Judea is not its Judeans, and Judean bankers in Rome may only leverage so much for us above tributes they pay to Rome.” “So if I’m surrounding you and you already owe money, then why should I grant you clemency?” “Because Rome will grant us assistance.” “Your friends in Rome must have paid a hefty tribute.” “They did.” “And you must know that Rome desires much of Greece and Syria for itself.” “I surely do.”  
7. “….It would appear this invasion was a folly of mine, and yet you’ll soon appreciate that we kings must always have something to show for our follies.” “I’m not a king.” “A High Priest who’s also his Party Secretary is far more powerful than a King. Any modest remuneration from you will do.” “I actually have something more than modest for you. We have a treasure just discovered in the Sepulchre of our most glorious royal ancestor. It will be entirely yours.” “And where is this treasure?” “It will come to you…” (Antiochus cuts him off) “When we can work again… (Antiochus rolls his eyes). And when is that?” “Sundown.” “No tricks this time?” “It wasn’t a trick.” “Speaking of trick, you’re right that a former King’s buried treasure is no modest thing, but if you have such a treasure, it stands to reason that you have far larger ones to which you are not granting me access.” “If I did, and I don’t, those treasures would obviously go to Rome.” “I still believe your people have more treasures laying in wait.” “Kings always do.” “Your better at this than your brothers.” “I know.”  
8. Antiochus: “Well, understanding that even the combined forces of Cleopatra the Third and Antiochus the Seventh couldn’t possibly face Rome, I must immediately cease hostilities and pledge myself as ally and friend to the Fourth Judean Liberator, John Hyrcanus. But I must warn him that my days grow short, and my children are not nearly so far sighted as its new Liberator seems to be.” “Well then, the new Liberator will learn at the King of Greece’s feet how to live peacefully.”
129 BC, 625 Ab urbe condita, 3632
9. Antiochus VII Sedetes was on his deathbed. Hyrcanus: “I have learned at your feet how to live peacefully.” Antiochus: “Consider your oath fulfilled.” “I took an oath not to invade Greek territory after your death.” “You won’t keep it.” “I will!” “I believe you would, but you know my children, they’d destroy our peace at a moment’s impulse.” “Surely your children are not as incompetent as that.” “A moment’s impulse caused my re-invasion of Judea.” “Has this region ever known peace like the one your impulse brought?” “The invasion was an old man’s folly, corrected the moment we met, but peace itself is an old man’s folly.”
10. “Certainly peace isn’t folly.” “It surely is. Mend your follies Hyrcanus. I’ve indulged mine blithely.” “What follies? You’re Antiochus the Pious, the only Greek who isn’t a hedonist.” “I have one folly above all.” “What?” “My children. The same as yours. Mind your own children Liberator. They can be as much a shame to the Maccabee line as mine to the Antiochs.”
11. And then Antiochus’s son smothered him with a pillow.
About the Author
Evan Tucker, alias A C Charlap, is a writer and musician residing in Baltimore. He is currently composing music for all 150 Biblical Tehillim. A Jewish Music Apollo Project - because "They have Messiah, we have I Have a Little Dreidel." He is currently on #17. Evan also has a podcast called 'It's Not Even Past - A History of the Distant Present' which is a way of relating current events to history and history to current events. Most importantly, he is also currently working on a podcast called Tales from the Old New Land, fictional stories from the whole of Jewish History. The podcast is currently being retooled, but it will return.
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