Eulogy of the Romans. 1* Judas had heard of the reputation of the Romans. They were valiant fighters and acted amiably to all who took their side. They established a friendly alliance with all who applied to them. 2He was also told of their battles and the brave deeds that they performed against the Gauls,* conquering them and forcing them to pay tribute; 3and what they did in Spain to get possession of the silver and gold mines there. 4By planning and persistence they subjugated the whole region, although it was very remote from their own. They also subjugated the kings who had come against them from the far corners of the earth until they crushed them and inflicted on them severe defeat. The rest paid tribute to them every year. 5Philip* and Perseus, king of the Macedonians, and the others who opposed them in battle they overwhelmed and subjugated. 6Antiochus* the Great, king of Asia, who fought against them with a hundred and twenty elephants and with cavalry and chariots and a very great army, was defeated by them. 7They took him alive and obliged him and the kings who succeeded him to pay a heavy tribute, to give hostages and to cede 8Lycia, Mysia, and Lydia* from among their best provinces. The Romans took these from him and gave them to King Eumenes. 9* When the Greeks planned to come and destroy them, 10the Romans discovered it, and sent against the Greeks a single general who made war on them. Many were wounded and fell, and the Romans took their wives and children captive. They plundered them, took possession of their land, tore down their strongholds and reduced them to slavery even to this day. 11All the other kingdoms and islands that had ever opposed them they destroyed and enslaved; with their friends, however, and those who relied on them, they maintained friendship. 12They subjugated kings both near and far, and all who heard of their fame were afraid of them. 13Those whom they wish to help and to make kings, they make kings; and those whom they wish, they depose; and they were greatly exalted. 14Yet with all this, none of them put on a diadem or wore purple as a display of grandeur. 15But they made for themselves a senate chamber, and every day three hundred and twenty men took counsel, deliberating on all that concerned the people and their well-being. 16They entrust their government to one man* every year, to rule over their entire land, and they all obey that one, and there is no envy or jealousy among them.
Treaty with the Romans. 17So Judas chose Eupolemus, son of John, son of Accos, and Jason, son of Eleazar, and sent them to Rome to establish friendship and alliance with them.a 18He did this to lift the yoke from Israel, for it was obvious that the kingdom of the Greeks was subjecting them to slavery. 19After making a very long journey to Rome, the envoys entered the senate chamber and spoke as follows: 20“Judas, called Maccabeus, and his brothers, with the Jewish people, have sent us to you to establish alliance and peace with you, and to be enrolled among your allies and friends.” 21The proposal pleased the Romans, 22and this is a copy of the reply they inscribed on bronze tablets and sent to Jerusalem,* to remain there with the Jews as a record of peace and alliance:b
23“May it be well with the Romans and the Jewish nation at sea and on land forever; may sword and enemy be far from them. 24But if war is first made on Rome, or any of its allies in any of their dominions, 25the Jewish nation will fight along with them wholeheartedly, as the occasion shall demand; 26and to those who wage war they shall not give or provide grain, weapons, money, or ships, as seems best to Rome. They shall fulfill their obligations without receiving any recompense. 27In the same way, if war is made first on the Jewish nation, the Romans will fight along with them willingly, as the occasion shall demand, 28and to those who attack them there shall not be given grain, weapons, money, or ships, as seems best to Rome. They shall fulfill their obligations without deception. 29On these terms the Romans have made an agreement with the Jewish people. 30But if both parties hereafter agree to add or take away anything, they shall do as they choose, and whatever they shall add or take away shall be valid.
31“Moreover, concerning the wrongs that King Demetrius is doing to them, we have written to him thus: ‘Why have you made your yoke heavy upon our friends and allies the Jews? 32If they petition against you again, we will enforce justice and make war on you by sea and land.’”
* [8:1] This chapter contains the account of the embassy which Judas sent to Rome, probably before the death of Nicanor, to conclude a treaty of alliance between Rome and the Jewish nation. Without precise chronology, the pertinent data are gathered into a unified theme.
The image of the Roman Republic greatly impressed the smaller Eastern peoples seeking support against their overlords (vv. 1–16), because of Roman success in war (vv. 2–11) and effective aid to their allies (vv. 12–13). Numerous interventions by Rome in the politics of the Near East bear witness to its power and prestige in the second century B.C. See 1:10; 7:2; 12:3; 15:15–24; 2 Mc 11:34. With the increased Roman control of Palestine after 63 B.C., the Republic and later the Empire became heartily detested. The eulogy of Rome in this chapter is one of the reasons why 1 Maccabees was not preserved by the Palestinian Jews of the century that followed.
* [8:2] Gauls: probably the Celts of northern Italy and southern France, subdued by the Romans in 222 B.C., and again in 200–191 B.C.; but also those in Asia Minor (the Galatians), whom the Romans defeated in 189 B.C.
* [8:5] Philip: Philip V of Macedonia, defeated by a Graeco-Roman alliance at Cynoscephalae in 197 B.C. Perseus, his son, was defeated at Pydna in 168 B.C., and died a prisoner. With this, the kingdom of Macedonia came to an end.
* [8:6] Antiochus: Antiochus III, greatest of the Seleucid kings. He was defeated at Magnesia in 190 B.C. By the Treaty of Apamea in 189 B.C., he was obliged to pay Rome a crushing indemnity of 15,000 talents. The weakening of Antiochene power and the growing military and economic influence of Rome may have led Antiochus IV to adopt the policy of political, religious, and cultural unification of Syria and Palestine.
* [8:8] Lycia, Mysia, and Lydia: regions in western Asia Minor. “Lycia” and “Mysia” are restored here by conjectural emendation; the Greek text has “India, Media,” most likely through scribal error. Eumenes: Eumenes II (197–158 B.C.), king of Pergamum, an ally of Rome who benefited greatly from Antiochus’ losses.
* [8:9–10] The revolt of the Achaean League, inserted here, occurred in 146 B.C., after Judas’ time. It was crushed by the Roman consul Lucius Mummius and marked the end of Greek independence.
* [8:16] They entrust their government to one man: actually the Roman Republic had two consuls chosen yearly as joint heads of the government.
* [8:22] The reply…on bronze tablets and sent to Jerusalem: the decree of the Senate would be inscribed on bronze and kept in the Roman Capitol, with only a copy in letter form sent to Jerusalem.
a. [8:17] 1 Mc 12:1–4; 15:15–22.
b. [8:22] 1 Mc 14:17–18.