Sunday, February 8, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 14-16: There, the murderers, / steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers / unmannerly breech'd with gore

Chapter 14

More alliance-forming. This time Demetrius is trying to head off Tryphon, but gets kidnapped by the king of Persia. By contrast, Simon is enjoying a period of peace and sets up a welfare state. He renews the peace treaty with Rome and their pen pal relationship. To celebrate, the people make a plaque listing all his deeds, including his love of purple robes, and mount it on a temple pillar on Mount Sion. They also nominate him general for life and make it illegal to question his wisdom or wear your own purple robes. Even Demetrius is somehow able to make peace from him, though the book seems to forget that he's still in prison.

Chapter 15

Antiochus is in exile on an island, but he manages to get a letter to Simon in which he lays out his plans for revenge. In addition, he grants Simon the power to mint his own money and forgives his back taxes.

He manages to get free and goes back to reclaim his crown from Tryphon. Most of the people join his side, so Tryphon flees to a place called Dora. Antiochus besieges him and while he's waiting him out, he receives ambassadors from all of his old ally-enemies, including a gold shield that weighs a thousand pounds, which seems both stupid and impractical.

As the siege goes on, Simon tries to send reinforcements and money, but Antiochus refuses them, then sends an envoy to complain that the Jews have taken over two cities that he considers rightfully his. He wants them back along with their property taxes. Simon basically tells him to fuck off, but does offer him a small tribute. The envoy returns and repeats the conversation in a rage.

While this not so intriguing intrigue is going on outside the walls, Tryphon manages to flee by ship. Antiochus sends a raiding party to Judea while he chases after Tryphon.

Chapter 16

Simon's son John reports on the coastal raids. Simon sets his two sons, Judas and John in charge of the armed forces and sends them down the coast to fight the invaders. They go and find the invading army is in a field with a stream running through it. Their army is afraid to go across the stream until they themselves do it and show them it's safe. Judas is wounded in the ensuing fight, but John chases the raiders off and burns the survivors.

In Jericho, Ptolemeus, who I think is a new character, but there have been so many names starting with Ptole- that I have no idea, is fomenting his own rebellion. He's the high priest's son in law, if that is supposed to help, but I'm pretty sure the only marriage we've heard anything about was Cleopatra's, and she was Egyptian. Best not overthink this, I suspect, because clearly the authors haven't.

Anyway, Simon comes to visit with Judas and another of his sons, Mattathias, and Ptolemeus invites them for dinner, and when everybody's good and drunk, he kills them all, à la Macbeth. Ptolemee writes to the king for more men, and sends some of his forces to hunt for John. They manage to surprise him, but he still kills them all. His adventures will be in the next, blessedly last, book.

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