The reign of Queen Shelamzion Alexandra (ca. 79-67 B.C.E.), commonly known as Salome Alexandra, marks a unique period in the history of the Hasmonean dynasty. She is not only the sole Hasmonean queen regnant, but a person whose reign is difficult to reconstruct. Josephus’ two accounts of her time in power in his War and Antiquities often differ. The latter of the two, moreover, is consistently more negative than the former work. Although the Rabbinic literature generally describes her in a favorable light, this material is quite late and is therefore of dubious historical value. Although some scholars have tried to isolate the work of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus within Josephus’ books in an effort to separate his opinion from his sources, such reconstructions are largely hypothetical in nature since we do not possess the original history of Nicolaus. Such efforts often fail to recognize Josephus’ creativity as a writer: he tended to rework his sources to integrate them into his narrative and often mixed this material with his own opinions. The resulting product, therefore, should be considered the work of Josephus and no longer that of his sources. For these reasons, any additional source regarding the reigns of Shelamzion and her sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, is to be welcomed by historians of Second Temple Judaism. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide a wealth of material about her reign that are largely neglected in histories of the Hasmonean period. These texts, although often fragmentary, nevertheless contain much new historical information about her time in power as well as the brief tenures of her sons and the end of Hasmonean monarchy.
Department of History
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Atkinson, Kenneth, "Shelamzion Alexander, Hyrcanus II, and Aristobulus II in the Dead Sea Scrolls" (2014). Faculty Publications. 5537.