The Hellenistic Syrians had defiled the Jewish people's Temple in Jerusalem by offering pigs to their gods angering the Jewish population. Judah the Maccabee leading the first Hasmoneans re-dedicated the Temple, and established the rule of his family over a liberated land of Judah. The Jewish festival of Hanukah celebrates the Maccabees' victories during these events.
The family name of the Hasmonean dynasty originates with the ancestor of the house, Ασαμωναῖος, Asamonaios (Josephus, "Ant." xii. 6, § 1; xiv. 16, § 4; xvi. 7, § 1.)
The leadershop of the Hasmoneans was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BCE, at a large assembly "of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet" (I Macc. xiv. 41).
Recognition of the new dynasty by the Romans was accorded by the Senate about 139 BCE when the delegation of Simon was in Rome.
When Jonathan the Maccabee fell into the power of Tryphon, Simon, his brother, assumed the leadership (142 BCE), and after the murder of Jonathan took the latter's place. Simon, who had made the Jewish people independent of the Syrians, reigned from 142 to 135 BCE. In Feb., 135 BCE, he was assassinated at the instigation of his son-in-law Ptolemy.
Simon was followed by his third son, John Hyrcanus, whose two elder brothers, Mattathias and Judah, had been murdered, together with their father. John Hyrcanus ruled from 135 to 104 BCE. According to his directions, the government of the country after his death was to be placed in the hands of his wife, and Aristobulus, the eldest of his five sons, was to receive only the high-priesthood. Aristobulus, who was not satisfied with this, cast his mother into prison and allowed her to starve there. By this means he came into the possession of the throne, which, however, he did not long enjoy, as after a year's reign he died of a painful illness (103 BCE).
Aristobulus' successor was his eldest brother, Alexander Jannĉus, who, together with his two brothers, was freed from prison by the widow of Aristobulus. Alexander reigned from 103 to 76 BCE, and died during the siege of the fortress Ragaba.
Alexander was followed by his wife Alexandra, who reigned from 76 to 67. Against her wishes, she was succeeded by her son Aristobulus II. (67-63 BCE), who during the illness of his mother had risen against her, in order to prevent the succession of the elder son, Hyrcanus.
During the reign of Alexandra, Hyrcanus had held the office of high priest, and the rivalry between him and Aristobulus brought about a civil war, which ended with the forfeiture of the freedom of the Jewish people. Palestine had to pay tribute to Rome and was placed under the supervision of the Roman governor of Syria. From 63 to 40 BCE the government was in the hands of Hyrcanus II.
After the capture of Hyrcanus by the Parthians, Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus, became king (40-37). His Hebrew name was Mattathias, and he bore the double title of king and high priest.
After the victory of Herod over Antigonus and the execution in Antioch of the latter by order of Antony, Herod the Great (37-4) became king of the Jews, and the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty was ended.