Chapter 4 (II. Maccabees)

The Simon mentioned above as the informer against the funds and against his country began slandering Onias, insinuating that the latter had been responsible for the assault on Heliodorus and himself had contrived this misfortune. 2 Simon now had the effrontery to name this benefactor of the city, this protector of his compatriots, this zealot for the laws, as an enemy of the public good. 3 This hostility reached such proportions that murders were actually committed by some of Simon's agents, 4 and at this point Onias, recognising how mischievous this rivalry was, and aware that Apollonius son of Menestheus, the general commanding Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, was encouraging Simon in his malice, 5 went to see the king, not to play the accuser of his fellow-citizens, but having the public and private welfare of the entire people at heart.

6 He saw that, without some intervention by the king, an orderly administration would no longer be possible, nor would Simon put a stop to his folly. 7 When Seleucus had departed this life and Antiochus styled Epiphanes had succeeded to the kingdom, Jason, brother of Onias, usurped the high priesthood: 8 he approached the king with a promise of three hundred and sixty talents of silver, with eighty talents to come from some other source of revenue. 9 He further committed himself to paying another hundred and fifty, if the king would empower him to set up a gymnasium and youth centre, and to register the Antiochists of Jerusalem. 10 When the king gave his assent, Jason, as soon as he had seized power, imposed the Greek way of life on his fellow-countrymen.

11 He suppressed the liberties which the kings had graciously granted to the Jews at the instance of John, father of that Eupolemus who was later to be sent on an embassy to negotiate a treaty of friendship and alliance with the Romans and, overthrowing the lawful institutions, introduced new usages contrary to the Law. 12 He went so far as to found a gymnasium at the very foot of the Citadel, and to fit out the noblest of his young men in the petasos. 13 Godless wretch that he was and no true high priest, Jason set no bounds to his impiety; indeed the hellenising process reached such a pitch 14 that the priests ceased to show any interest in serving the altar; but, scorning the Temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they would hurry, on the stroke of the gong, to take part in the distribution, forbidden by the Law, of the oil on the exercise ground; 15 setting no store by the honours of their fatherland, they esteemed hellenic glories best of all.

16 But all this brought its own retribution; the very people whose way of life they envied, whom they sought to resemble in everything, proved to be their enemies and executioners. 17 It is no small thing to violate the divine laws, as the period that followed will demonstrate. 18 On the occasion of the quadrennial games at Tyre in the presence of the king, 19 the vile Jason sent an embassy of Antiochists from Jerusalem, taking with them three hundred silver drachmas for the sacrifice to Hercules. But even those who brought the money did not think it would be right to spend it on the sacrifice and decided to reserve it for some other item of expenditure; 20 and so what the sender had intended for the sacrifice to Hercules was in fact applied, at the suggestion of those who brought it, to the construction of triremes.

21 Apollonius son of Menestheus had been sent to Egypt to attend the wedding of King Philometor. Antiochus, having learnt that the latter had become hostile to his affairs, began thinking about his own safety: that was why he had come to Joppa. He then moved to Jerusalem, 22 where he was given a magnificent welcome by Jason and the city, and escorted in by torchlight with acclamation. After which, he marched his army into Phoenicia. 23 When three years had passed, Jason sent Menelaus, brother of the Simon mentioned above, to convey the money to the king and to complete negotiations on various essential matters. 24 But Menelaus, on being presented to the king, flattered him by his own appearance of authority, and so secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. 25 He returned with the royal mandate, bringing nothing worthy of the high priesthood and supported only by the fury of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage beast.

26 Thus Jason, who had supplanted his own brother, was in turn supplanted by a third, and obliged to take refuge in Ammanitis. 27 As for Menelaus, he secured the office, but defaulted altogether on the sums promised to the king, 28 although Sostratus, the commandant of the Citadel, whose business it was to collect the revenue, kept demanding payment. The pair of them in consequence were summoned before the king, 29 Menelaus leaving his brother Lysimachus as deputy high priest, while Sostratus left Crates, the commander of the Cypriots, to act for him. 30 While all this was going on, it happened that the people of Tarsus and Mallus revolted, because their towns had been given as a present to Antiochis, the king's concubine.

31 The king therefore hurried off to settle the affair, leaving Andronicus, one of his dignitaries, to act as his deputy. 32 Thinking he had found a favourable opportunity, Menelaus abstracted a number of golden vessels from the Temple and presented them to Andronicus, and managed to sell others to Tyre and the surrounding cities. 33 On receiving clear evidence to this effect, Onias retired to a place of sanctuary at Daphne near Antioch and then taxed him with it. 34 Menelaus then had a quiet word with Andronicus, urging him to get rid of Onias. Andronicus sought out Onias and, resorting to the trick of offering him his right hand on oath, succeeded in persuading him, despite the latter's lingering suspicions, to leave sanctuary; whereupon, in defiance of all justice, he immediately put him to death. 35 The result was that not only Jews but many people of other nationalities were appalled and outraged by the unjust murder of this man.

36 On the king's return from the region of Cilicia, the Jews of the capital, and those Greeks who shared their hatred of the crime, appealed to him about the unjustified murder of Onias. 37 Antiochus was profoundly grieved and filled with pity, and he wept for the prudence and moderation of the dead man. 38 Burning with indignation, he immediately stripped Andronicus of the purple, tore his garments off him and, parading him through the length of the city, rid the world of the assassin on the very spot where he had laid impious hands on Onias, the Lord dealing out to him the punishment he deserved. 39 Now Lysimachus with the connivance of Menelaus had committed many sacrilegious thefts in the city, and when the facts became widely known, the populace rose against Lysimachus, who had already disposed of many pieces of gold plate. 40 The infuriated mob was becoming menacing, and Lysimachus armed nearly three thousand men and took aggressive action; the troops were led by a certain Auranus, a man advanced in years and no less in folly.

41 Recognising this act of aggression as the work of Lysimachus, some snatched up stones, others cudgels, while others scooped up handfuls of ashes lying at hand, and all hurled everything indiscriminately at Lysimachus' men, 42 to such effect that they wounded many of them, even killing a few, and routed them all; the sacrilegious thief himself they killed near the Treasury. 43 As a result of this, legal proceedings were taken against Menelaus. 44 When the king came down to Tyre, three men deputed by the Senate pleaded their case before him. 45 Menelaus, seeing the case had gone against him, promised a substantial sum to Ptolemy son of Dorymenes if he would influence the king in his favour.

46 Ptolemy then took the king aside into a colonnade, as though for a breath of fresh air, and persuaded him to change his mind; 47 the king then dismissed the charges against Menelaus, the cause of all this evil, while he condemned to death the other poor wretches who, had they pleaded even before Scythians, would have been let off scot-free. 48 No time was lost in carrying out this unjust punishment on those who had championed the cause of the city, the townships and the sacred vessels. 49 Some Tyrians even were so outraged by the crime that they provided sumptuously for their funeral, 50 while, as a result of the greed of the powerful, Menelaus remained in power, growing more wicked than ever and establishing himself as the chief enemy of his fellow-citizens.

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