Antiochus III CoinBy 201 B.C.E. the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III the Great conquered the Land of Israel. He immediately restored to Jews the rights of living under their laws and practicing their religion as well as providing for the enforcement of their laws regarding entry to the temple of forbidden animals and the maintenance of ritual purity.

(129) In the reign of Antiochus the Great 44 who ruled over all Asia, the Jews as well as the inhabitants of Celesyria, suffered greatly, and their land was greatly devastated. (130) For while he was at war with Ptolemy Philopater 45 and with his son, who was called Epiphanes, 46 it turned out that these nations suffered equally, both when he was defeated
and when he was victorious. They were very much like a ship in a storm which is tossed by the waves on both sides, for they found themselves in the middle between Antiochus’s successes and the change to adversity. (131) But at length, when Antiochus had beaten Ptolemy, he seized Judea. When Philopater was dead, 47 his son sent out a great army under Scopas, the general of his forces, against the inhabitants of Celesyria. He took many of their cities, and in particular our nation, (132) which, when he attacked it, went over to him. Yet was it not long afterward that Antiochus overcame Scopas, in a battle fought at the sources of the Jordan (River), and destroyed a great part of his army. (133) But afterward, when Antiochus subdued those cities of Celesyria which Scopas had gotten into his possession, including Samaria, the Jews, of their own accord, went over to him and received him into the city [Jerusalem], and gave plentiful provision to all his army and to his elephants, and readily assisted him when he besieged the garrison which was in the citadel of Jerusalem. (134) For this reason, Antiochus thought it but just to
reward the Jews’ diligence and zeal in his service. So he wrote to the generals of his armies and to his friends, gave testimony to the good behavior of the Jews towards him, and informed them what rewards he had resolved to bestow on them for their behavior.

(135) I will set down presently the epistles themselves which he wrote to the generals concerning them, but will first produce the testimony ofPolybius of Megalopolis 48 for thus does he speak, in the sixteenth book of his history- “Now Scopas, the general of Ptolemy’s army, went in haste to the upper parts of the country, 49 and in the wintertime overthrew the nation of the Jews.” (136) In the same book, he also says that “when Scopas was defeated by Antiochus, Antiochus received Batanea, Samaria, Abila, and Gadara. 50 A short time afterwards, there came over to him those Jews who lived near the temple called Jerusalem, 51 concerning which, although I have more to say, particularly concerning the presence of God connected with that temple, yet I put off that account until another opportunity.” (137) This it is which Polybius relates. But we will return to the main subject of the narrative after we have first produced the epistles of king Antiochus. King Antiochus to Ptolemy, 52 Sends Greeting.

(138) “Since the Jews, upon our first entrance into their country demonstrated their friendship towards us…. (140) …we have determined, on account of their piety towards God, to bestow on them a pension for their sacrifices of animals that are fit for sacrifice, for wine, oil, and frankincense, the value of twenty thousand pieces of silver, and sacred artabae 53 of fine flour, with one thousand four hundred and sixty medimni 54 of wheat and three hundred and seventy-five medimni of salt. (141) These payments I order to be fully paid to them, as I have sent orders to you. I also order the work on the temple and the porticoes finished and anything else that ought to be rebuilt. For the materials of wood, let them be brought out of Judea itself and out of the other countries and out of Lebanon tax free, and the same shall be done regarding those other materials which will be necessary in order to render the temple more glorious. (142) Let all of that nation live according to the laws of their own country. And let the senate, the priests, the scribes of the temple, and the sacred singers be relieved from the poll tax, the crown tax, and other
taxes also. (143) So that the city may recover its inhabitants sooner, I grant an exemption from taxes for three years to its present inhabitants and to whoever shall come to it until the month of Hyperberetus. 55 (144) We also exempt them for the future from a third part of their taxes so that the losses they have sustained may be repaired. As for all those citizens who have been carried away and have become slaves, we grant them and their children their freedom and order that their property be restored to them.”

(145) And these were the contents of this epistle. He also published a decree through all his kingdom in honor of the temple which contained what follows- “It shall be unlawful for any foreigner to come within the enclosure of the temple which is forbidden also to the Jews, except to those who, according to the laws of the country, have purified themselves. 56 (146) Nor let any flesh of horses, mules, or asses, be brought into the city, whether they be wild or tame, nor that of leopards, foxes, or hares; and, in general, that of any animal which is forbidden for the Jews to eat. Nor let their skins be brought into it; nor let any such animal be bred in this city. Let them only be permitted to use the sacrificial animals known to their forefathers with which they have been obligated to make acceptable atonements to God. And the person who transgresses any of these orders shall pay the priests three thousand drachmae of silver.”

44. 223-187 B.C.E.

45. Ptolemy IV Philopater, 221-203 B.C.E.

46. Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 203-181 B.C.E.

47. 203 B.C.E.

48. Greek historian. ca. 200-ca. 118 B.C.E., who chronicled the rise of the Roman Empire and its effects on the various nations it enveloped.

49. Northern Palestine.

50. Areas in northern Transjordan.

51. Because of the prominence of the Temple in the city, Polybius refers to the Temple as if it were named Jerusalem.

52. Probably Ptolemy, son of Thraseas, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia under Antiochus III.

53. Theartabawas an Egyptian measure equal to about 40 litres.

54. Themedimnus was equal to about 50 liters.

55. Corresponding to Hebrew Tishre, a month falling in September and October.

56. The same regulation was found on an inscription which was part of the wall of the Temple courtyard.