2,000 Years of Money and Politics




Huffington Post: Koch Brothers, Allies Pledge $100 Million At Private Meeting To Beat Obama

 Money has been talking for thousands of years. Even Jonathan, the brother of the Jewish freedom fighter Judah Maccabee, starting in 152 BCE, was persuaded by promises of military honors, government power and the high priesthood, to use his guerilla troops to back three different claimants to the Syrian throne. Jonathan switched sides three times, depending on who offered the better deal.
Yet Queen Shalom-Zion eventually outwitted the wealthy nobles and priests who had been trying even before the war of the Maccabees to Hellenize Judea and turn government policy to their advantage. Can we do the same?
How can liberals compensate for the power of right-wing money? Do we have anything to learn from the maneuvering of this ancient queen?
You can post your own opinions (as well as relevant items from books, newspapers, and blogs — with links) even if you haven’t yet read Shalom-Zion’s story.

Next week: Join us for a discussion of women in power.
In two weeks, the topic will be assimilation: Is there any virtue in separating, rather than adapting?

In Queen of the Jews, Chapter 6, we see wealth at work attempting to win political advantage.

A servant opened the carved wood-and-bronze door to the home of Diogenes, Judea’s ambassador to Rome. Wearing a Roman-style brocaded toga laced with gold, Diogenes left me at the door and swept Yannai into the room. There were vaulted ceilings and paneled gold-framed walls inset with mosaics of flowers and leaves. More expensive than the cedar walls of the audience chamber in the palace. Before I could stop him, Diogenes offered Yannai an engraved golden goblet. “Welcome, King Alexander. I have been saving my best Roman wine for your return. Is it not excellent?”

Diogenes escorted Yannai to the head of a long table. The silk-clad merchant-priest Phiabi swished forward, reeking perfume. “Esteemed King Alexander, we have a wedding present for you. A sword of the finest steel – imported from India.”

Phiabi’s servant presented the sword to Yannai on a silk pillow. Yannai grabbed it. He sliced the air so fiercely the metal whistled.

“And, Your Highness, we would like to present you with a suit of the best bronze armor,” said black-browed Hanin. Hanin had acquired the monopoly on sacred oil for the Temple. He could afford to buy the gaudiest and best of everything. Servants displayed the gleaming, clanking metal.

The barrel-bellied priest Boethus waddled forward in his embroidered gown, purring, “King Alexander, please let me adjust your pillows.”

Yannai grimaced. “I am not much of a pillow-sitter,” he said.

“King Alexander, I am sure you would rather be in the saddle,” said Hanin. “You are the finest horseman I have ever seen.”

Yannai smiled. “You like to ride?”

“Your Majesty, Hanin would rather bet on the chariot races in Syria,” said Phiabi. “But now that we have a warrior king, I can think of better uses for chariots.”

A servant set before Yannai a silver platter of roasted lamb, encircled by a diadem of grapes and pomegranates. The meat oozed juices. Yannai speared a slice of lamb and tore into it.

“Your Highness, we have all heard about your talent as a soldier,” said Diogenes. “We are happy to have you as our general.”

“I’ve been in some pretty good fights,” said Yannai, his mouth full of lamb.

“Akko!” shouted Phiabi, waving his knife enthusiastically. “That is the place we should go after! The Phoenicians are completely focused on the sea. They do not know how to fight a land battle. Attack them from the rear, and in a few weeks, we will control the city. Great place for trade. Great place for import and export duties. And a gorgeous harbor. Build a palace on those hills and you could see almost all the way to Rome.”

“The Sanhedrin has to approve any plans for war,” I objected.

“King Alexander,” said Diogenes, “let us retire to my study, so that we can talk strategy without distressing the women.”


“This should amuse you,” said Yannai on our way back to the palace. “The fat fellow in the fancy shirt wanted to make me a trade.”


“That is the one. He accuses you of murdering my two older brothers. He said if I would hang you, he would give me his daughter Martha and a whole lot of land and money besides.”

My stomach clenched. “You refused his offer?” I said.

“I have seen his daughter,” said Yannai. “Looks just like him.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him it takes a real bitch to murder two men. That’s the kind of bitch who can keep him at bay while I am laying siege to Akko.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” I said.


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