Salome Alexandra, Queen of Judaea

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Salome Alexandra Maccabaeus Hasmoen (Shatach), , Queen of Judaea

Hebrew: המלכה שלומציון אלכסנדרה Maccabaeus Hasmoen (Shatach), , Queen of Judaea, Dutch: Salome Alexandra Maccabaeus Hasmoen (Shatach), Queen of Judah
Birthplace: Judea
Death: Died in Judea
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Yohanan (John) I Hyrcanus, I Hyrcanus
Wife of Judas Arisobulus 1 of Judea; Judas Aristobulus I I Arisobulus I, King & High Priest of Judea and Alexander Jannaeus Maccabaeus, King and High Priest
Mother of Salome of Jerusalem, “The Proselyte"; Hyrcanus II Maccabaeus, High Priest & King and Aristobalbus II King of Judea
Sister of Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach

Occupation: Reyne de Judée
Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About Salome Alexandra, Queen of Judaea

Salome Alexandra or Alexandra of Jerusalem (139–67 BCE), (Hebrew: שְׁלוֹמְצִיּוֹן אלכסנדרה‎‎, Shelomtzion or Shlom Tzion) was the only Jewish regnant queen, with the exception of her own husband's mother whom he had prevented from ruling as his dying father had wished, and of the much earlier usurper Athaliah. The wife of Aristobulus I, and afterward of Alexander Jannaeus, she was the last woman ruler of Judaea, and the last ruler of ancient Judaea to die as the ruler of an independent kingdom.


Her personal genealogy is not given by Josephus. Rabbinical sources designate the Sage Simeon b. Shetah as her brother. If this is meant literally and true, she was the daughter of Setah Bar Yossei Rabbi and granddaughter of Yossei Bar Yochanan. Salome Alexandra's oldest son by Alexander Jannaeus was Hyrcanus II who fought his younger brother Aristobulus II in the 60's BC over the Jewish High Preisthood. Hyrcanus II was eventually successful after enlisting the help of the Nabataean king, Aretas III; bribing Roman officials, including Scaurus; and gaining the favour of Pompey the Great who defeated his brother and took him away to Rome.


On Aristobulus' death (103 BCE), Aristobulus' wife liberated his brother Alexander Jannaeus, who had been held in prison. During the reign of Alexander, who (according to the historian Josephus) apparently married her shortly after his accession, Alexandra seemed to have wielded only slight political influence, as evidenced by the hostile attitude of the king to the Pharisees. Regent

Alexandra received the reins of government (76 or 75 BCE) at Jannaeus' camp before Ragaba, and concealed the king's death until the fortress had fallen, in order that the rigor of the siege might be maintained. She succeeded for a time in quieting the vexatious internal dissensions of the kingdom that existed at the time of Alexander's death; and she did this peacefully and without detriment to the political relations of the Jewish state to the outside world. Alexandra managed to secure assent to a Hasmonean monarchy from the Pharisees, who had suffered intense misery under Alexander and became Judea's ruling class.

Political ability

The frequent visits to the palace of the chief of the Pharisaic party, Simeon ben Shetach, who was said to be the queen's brother must have occurred in the early years of Alexander's reign, before Alexander had openly broken with the Pharisees. Alexandra does not seem to have been able to prevent the cruel persecution of that sect by her husband. Nevertheless, the married life of the royal pair seems to have ended cordially; on his deathbed Alexander entrusted the government, not to his sons, but to his wife.

Her next concern was to open negotiations with the leaders of the Pharisees, whose places of concealment she knew. Having been given assurances as to her future policy, they declared themselves ready to give Alexander's remains the obsequies due to a monarch. By this step she avoided any public affront to the dead king, which, owing to the embitterment of the people, would certainly have found expression at the interment. This might have been attended with dangerous results to the Hasmonean dynasty.

Reestablishment of the Sanhedrin

The Pharisees, who had suffered intense misery under Alexander, now became not only a tolerated section of the community, but actually the ruling class. Alexandra installed as high priest her eldest son, Hyrcanus II a man wholly after the heart of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin was reorganized according to their wishes. This body had hitherto been, as it were, a "house of lords," the members of which belonged to the highest rabbinical court. From this time it became a "supreme court" for the administration of justice and religious matters, the guidance of which was placed in the hands of the Pharisees.

Internal and external policy

The Sadducees were moved to petition the queen for protection against the ruling party. Alexandra, who desired to avoid all party conflict, removed the Sadducees from Jerusalem, assigning certain fortified towns for their residence.

Alexandra increased the size of the army and carefully provisioned the numerous fortified places so that neighbouring monarchs were duly impressed by the number of protected towns and castles which bordered the Judean frontier. As well, she did not abstain from actual warfare; she sent her son Aristobulus with an army to besiege Damascus, then beleaguered by Ptolemy Menneus. The expedition was reportedly without result. Nevertheless the last days of her reign were tumultuous. Her son Aristobulus endeavored to seize the government, and succeeded her after her death.


Rabbinical sources still further magnify the prosperity which Judea enjoyed under Alexandra. The Haggadah (Ta'anit, 23a; Sifra, ḤuḲḲat, i. 110) relates that during her rule, as a reward for her piety, rain fell only on Sabbath (Friday) nights; so that the working class suffered no loss of pay through the rain falling during their work-time. The fertility of the soil was so great that the grains of wheat grew as large as kidney-beans; oats as large as olives; and lentils as large as gold denarii. The sages collected specimens of these grains and preserved them to show future generations the reward of obedience to the Law, and what piety can achieve.


(d. 67 BCE), queen of Judea from 76 to 67 BCE, the wife of Aristobulus I and, after his death, the wife of Alexander Jannaeus. Salome (her Hebrew name) supported the Pharisees and made their leaders her principal advisers on internal policy. Her life and reign ended just before the outbreak of civil war between her sons Hyrcanus II (who was supported by the Pharisees) and Aristobulus II.

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Death: 67 BC

Marriage: 1 Alexander Jannai Maccabeus of Judea


Aristobalbus II Maccabeus of Judea
Hyrcanus II of Judea


Queen 76-67 BC

Shelamziyyon Alexandra by Tal Ilan

Shelamziyyon Alexandra, Hasmonean Queen (76–67 B.C.E.), wife and successor of King Alexander Yannai (Jannaeus) (c. 126–76 B.C.E.). Our knowledge of her is principally derived from the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, but she is also mentioned in rabbinic literature and in the Dead Sea scrolls. Her Hebrew name—Shelamziyyon—is a unique Second Temple invention, meaning peace of Zion, or wholeness of Zion. It is never recorded by Josephus, who only knows the queen by her Greek name—Alexandra—and it is usually preserved in odd ways in rabbinic literature (Shelamzi; Shelamzo; Shel Ziyyon). Only in the Dead Sea scrolls is the queen’s original Hebrew name preserved.

In the past it was assumed that Shelamziyyon Alexandra was also the widow of Alexander Yannai’s brother and predecessor King Judas Aristobulus I I (104–103 B.C.E.), and that Alexander had taken her in levirate marriage after his brother, the king, had died childless. However, there is no ancient evidence for this assertion.

The queen’s most important and memorable internal political act was deposing the Sadducee ruling party, which had supported her husband, and appointing the Pharisees instead. Being a woman, and thus barred from officiating herself (as her predecessors had done) Shelamziyyon appointed her eldest son, Hyrcanus II (c. 103–30 B.C.E.), high priest and successor, but this appointment was contested, even during her lifetime, by her other son, Aristobulus II (d. 49 B.C.E.). After her death civil rivalry broke out between the two, followed by the arrival of Roman rule in Palestine and the end of Jewish independence. The queen’s foreign policies were unimpressive; she supported a failed Jewish attempt to take Damascus, and corresponded with the Armenian king, Tigranes, when his armies approached the borders of her kingdom.

Shelamziyyon was the only Jewish queen to hold power during the Second Temple period. An earlier attempt, by her father-in-law, John Hyrcanus (reigned 135–104 B.C.E.), to nominate his wife as his successor in a similar fashion, had failed, but his action may suggest that in the Hasmonean dynasty a wife succeeding her husband to the throne was the rule rather than the exception.

Twice Josephus relates the details of her rule. Once in his earlier version, in The Jewish War, he describes her positively: “Alexander bequeathed the kingdom to his wife Alexandra, being convinced that the Jews would bow to her authority as they would to no other, because by her utter lack of his brutality and by her opposition to his crimes she had won the affections of the populace.” However, in his later Jewish Antiquities he describes her negatively: “She was a woman who showed none of the weakness of her sex … being one of those inordinately desirous of power to rule. … For she valued the present more than the future, and … she had … no consideration for either decency or justice. … Matters turned out so unfortunately for her house that the sovereign power was not long afterward taken from it because of her desire of things unbecoming a woman. … Even after her death she caused the palace to be filled with misfortunes and disturbances, which arose from the public measures taken during her lifetime.” (Ant.13:430–432). This latter approach Josephus probably took over from King Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus, who did everything in his power to denigrate the Hasmoneans in order to aggrandize his master, and used gender-specific rhetoric in the process.

Because Shelamziyyon put the Pharisees in power it should come as no surprise that the queen is greatly praised in rabbinic literature, apparently composed by the heirs of the Pharisees. They claim that she was the sister of Simeon ben Shetah, the leading Pharisee of her day, and they maintain that the days of her reign were blessed with rain in its season and a plentiful harvest, fulfilling God’s promise to reward his people if they kept his commandment (Sifrei Deut. 42).

Queen Shelamziyyon is mentioned by name twice in the Dead Sea scrolls, in an astrological fragment (4Q322–4Q324). Reference to her reign is probably also found in Pesher Nahum. These allow a glimpse into the Dead Sea Sect’s attitudes to the queen. Pesher Nahum first describes the reign of her husband, during which the Pharisees were crucified, referring to a well-known event in the days of King Alexander Yannai (88 B.C.E.) described in the writings of Josephus (Ant. 13:380). It then goes on to describe the rule of the Pharisees, obviously during the queen’s reign. Jerusalem under the rule of the new queen is described as “the bloody city” and the queen herself is described in the words of the prophet Nahum: “Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot, the winsome mistress of sorcery, who ensnared nations with her harlotries and peoples with her sorcery.” (Nahum 3:4). For the sectarians of Qumran the queen’s change of policy in Jerusalem did not seem to make much difference. They hated the Sadducee rule of Alexander Yannai, and they detested his heiress’s Pharisee rule no less.

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