Jewish Encyclopedia - Hyrcanus, John (Johanan)
by Richard Gottheil and Meyer Keyserling High priest; prince of the Hasmonean family; born about 175; died 104 (SchÃ¼rer). He was a wise and just ruler and a skilful warrior. As a young man he distinguished himself as a general in the war against the Syrian general Cendebeus, whom he defeated. That John was given the surname "Hyrcanus" on account of this victory, is a tradition to which GrÃ¤tz and others attribute historical significance. When his father, Simon Maccabeus, was assassinated at Jericho by his son-in-law Ptolemy, John succeeded in escaping from those sent by Ptolemy to murder him also. From Gadara, where he at that time lived, John hastened to Jerusalem, where the people gladly received him as Simon's successor (135). He never assumed the title of king, being content with that of high priest. The beginning of his reign was not happy. He could not avenge the murder of his father, for Ptolemy, whom he had shut up in the fort Dagon, subjected Hyrcanus' mother to cruel tortures on the walls of the fort whenever her son attempted to attack it. Hyrcanus, therefore, raised the siege after several months, although his mother bore the tortures with heroic determination, and encouraged him to punish the murderer. Finally, however, she was put to death, as was, presumably, an imprisoned brother also; while Ptolemy himself fled to Rabbath Ammon (Philadelphia; 135 B.C. ).