Before Antigonus, the power struggle among the Hasmonaeans eventually allowed the great Roman general Pompey to lay siege to Jerusalem and take the city. After Simon Maccabbeus came his son John Hyrcanus I and a time of relative prosperity followed. He was succeeded by his eldest son Aristobulus, a cruel and despotic leader. He had his mother tortured and killed and his brothers imprisoned but died suddenly after a very short reign. He was succeeded by his widow and one of his brothers Alexander Jannaeus.
It seemed no one had learnt any lessons and this ruler was just as cruel, if not more so than Aristobulus. His rule was so despotic that the Pharisees and others asked the Seleucid king for help. The battle against Alexander Jannaeus was almost won when most of his opponents switched sides, thereby handing him an easy victory. What followed in terms of the terrible revenge he exacted on his enemies is not difficult to imagine.
Alexandra Salome, his wife succeeded him as political ruler and appointed her son John Hyrcanus II as high priest. When she died, however, the power struggles started all over again, now in the form of two brothers; John Hyrcanus II and Judas Aristobulus II his younger brother. After many a battle Judas Aristobulus II defeated John Hyrcanus II and installed himself as the king of the Jews and high priest.
Antipater, the Idumaean king was not happy with this and plotted with John Hyrcanus II and some outside forces to depose Judas Aristobulus II, which they promptly did. Pompey, the great Roman general happened to have been in the area at the time. He, also like Antipater supported John Hyrcanus II against Aristobulus II laying siege to the Temple of Jerusalem in the process. John Hyrcanus II was reinstated as high priest. Even after the Roman civil war, which saw the defeat of Pompey by Julius Caesar, his position was again confirmed as high priest and leader of the Jewish people.
Judas Aristobulus’ son Antigonus was, however, not happy and sought to take revenge for the deposition of his father. In collusion with the Parthians, he invaded the country and installed himself as high priest. As mentioned earlier, he later fell out with Antipater’s son Herod. By this time, Judaea had become a vassal state to Rome. The position of high priest could only be maintained with the help of Rome through Herod the Great who was a client of Rome.