First Jewish–Roman War
|First Jewish-Roman War|
|Part of the Jewish-Roman wars|
Judaea and Galilee in the first century
|Roman Empire||Judean rebels:||Radical factions:|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Eliezar ben Hanania
Yosef ben Matityahu
|Yohanan of Gush Halav
Eleazar ben Simon
Eleazer ben Ya'ir
|1 Legion & reinforements (30,000) in Beth Horon;
5 Legions (60,000–80,000) at Jerusalem siege
|25,000+ Jewish militiamen
Few hundred Adiabene warriors
|Casualties and losses|
|20,000 soldiers killed||tens of thousands||thousands|
|Total killed: 250,000 – 1.1 million Jewish militants and civilians killed;97,000 enslaved|
The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), sometimes called The Great Revolt (Hebrew: המרד הגדול, ha-Mered Ha-Gadol, Latin: Primum Iudæorum Romani Bellum.), was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province (Iudaea), against the Roman Empire. The second was the Kitos War in 115–117 CE; the third was Bar Kokhba's revolt of 132–135 CE).
The Great Revolt began in the year 66 CE, originated in the Greek and Jewish religious tensions, later escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens. The Roman military garrison of Judaea was quickly overrun by rebels and the pro-Roman king Agrippa II fled Jerusalem, together with Roman officials to Galilee. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought the Syrian army, based on XII Fulminata, reinforced by auxiliary troops, to restore order and quell the revolt. The legion, however, was ambushed and defeated by Jewish rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman leadership.
The experienced and unassuming general Vespasian was then tasked with crushing the rebellion. His second-in-command was to be his son Titus. Vespasian was given four legions and in 67 CE invaded Galilee, working his way towards Jerusalem and destroying the rebel forces on the way.
After a lull in the military operations, owing to civil war and political turmoil in Rome, Titus besieged and destroyed the center of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, and defeated the remaining Jewish strongholds later on.
Outbreak of the rebellion 
According to Josephus, the violence, which began at Caesarea in 66, was provoked by Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. The Roman garrison did not intervene and the long-standing Hellenistic and Jewish religious tensions took a downward spiral. In reaction, one of the Jewish Temple clerks Eliezar ben Hanania ceased prayers and sacrifices for the Roman Emperor at the Temple. Protests over taxation joined the list of grievances and random attacks on Roman citizens and perceived 'traitors' occurred in Jerusalem. The Jewish Temple was then breached by Roman troops at the order of Roman governor Gessius Florus, having seventeen talents removed from the treasury of the Temple, claiming the money was for the Emperor. In response to this action, the city fell into unrest and some of the Jewish population began to openly mock Florus by passing a basket around to collect money as if Florus was poor. Florus reacted to the unrest by sending soldiers into Jerusalem the next day to raid the city and arrest a number of the city leaders, who were later whipped and crucified, despite many of them being Roman citizens. Shortly, outraged Judean nationalist factions took up arms and the Roman military garrison of Jerusalem was quickly overrun by rebels. Fearing the worst, the pro-Roman king Agrippa II and his sister Berenice fled Jerusalem to Galilee. Judean militias later moved upon Roman citizens of Judaea and pro-Roman officials, cleansing the country of any Roman symbols.
In response to the unrest in Judaea, Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, assembled the Syrian legion XII Fulminata and auxiliary troops as reinforcements, a total of 30,000 troops, to restore order in the neighbouring province. Gallus first reached Acre in Galilee, and then marched on Caesarea and Jaffa, where he massacred some 8,400 people. The Syrian legion captured Narbata and also took Sipporis, which surrendered with no fight. The Judean rebels, who withdrew from Sipporis, took refuge at Atzmon hill, but were defeated following a short siege. Continuing his military campaign, Gallus took Lydda and Afeq and engaged Jerusalemite rebels in Geva, where he lost 500 Roman troops to Judean rebels under Simon bar Giora, reinforced by ally volunteers from Adiabene.
The Syrian legion then invested Jerusalem, but for uncertain reasons and despite initial gains, withdrew back towards the coast, where it was ambushed and defeated by Judean rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman Empire leadership. The defeat of the Romans in Beth Horon is considered one of the worst military defeats of the Roman Empire by a rebel province throughout its history. Some 6,000 Roman troops were killed and many more wounded in the battle with Legio XII Fulminata losing its aquila, as Gallus abandoned his troops in disarray fleeing to Syria.
The Roman response 
Emperor Nero appointed general Vespasian, instead of Gallus to crush the rebellion. Vespasian, along with legions X Fretensis and V Macedonica, landed at Ptolemais in April 67. There he was joined by his son Titus, who arrived from Alexandria at the head of Legio XV Apollinaris, as well as by the armies of various local allies including that of king Agrippa II. Fielding more than 60,000 soldiers, Vespasian began operations by subjugating Galilee. Many towns gave up without a fight, although others had to be taken by force. Of these, Josephus provides detailed accounts of the sieges of Yodfat and Gamla. By the year 68, Jewish resistance in the north had been crushed, and Vespasian made Caesarea Maritima his headquarters and methodically proceeded to cleanse the coastline of the country, avoiding direct confrontation with the rebels at Jerusalem.
Jews, who were driven out of Galilee rebuilt Joppa (Jaffa), which had been destroyed earlier by Cestius Gallus. Surrounded and cut off by the Romans, they rebuilt the city walls, and used a light flotilla to demoralize commerce and interrupt the grain supply to Rome from Alexandria.
In his The Jewish War Josephus wrote:
They also built themselves a great many piratical ships, and turned pirates upon the seas near to Syria, and Phoenicia, and Egypt, and made those seas unnavigable to all men.
The leaders of the collapsed Northern revolt, John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora, managed to escape to Jerusalem. Packed with militants of many factions and largely cut off by Roman forces, Jerusalem quickly descended into anarchy, with the radicals taking control of large parts of the fortified city. Brutal civil war then erupted, with the Zealots and the fanatical Sicarii executing anyone advocating surrender, and by 68 CE the entire leadership of the southern revolt was assassinated in the infighting, some at the notorious Zealot Temple Siege.
New Emperor 
While the war in Judea was in progress, great events were occurring in Rome. In the middle of 68 CE, the emperor Nero's increasingly erratic behaviour finally lost him all support for his position. The Roman Senate, the praetorian guard and several prominent army commanders conspired for his removal. When the senate declared Nero an Enemy of the people, he fled Rome and committed suicide with the help of a secretary. The newly installed emperor, the former Governor of Spain Galba, was murdered after just a few months by Otho - a rival, triggering a civil war that came to be known as the Year of the Four Emperors. In 69 CE, though previously uninvolved, the popular Vespasian was also hailed emperor by the legions under his command. He decided, upon gaining further widespread support, to return to Rome to claim the throne from the usurper Vitellius, Otho having killed himself, leaving his son Titus to finish the war in Judea.
With departure of Vespasian, who had opposed an open siege upon Jerusalem, fearing to lose many troops against the fortified city, Titus advanced Roman legions upon the capital of the rebellious province. Conquering town after town, Titus quickly advanced on the hill country, while the outcry of the brutal suppression created an immense wave of Judean refugees, seeking shelter in fortified Jerusalem. The Judean rebels avoided direct confrontation with the Roman troops, as multiple factions were mostly interested in their own control and survival, rather than Roman defeat. Weakened by the brutal civil war within the city, the victorious Zealot factions could still field a significant number of troops to oppose an immediate Roman conquest of the capital.
Fall of Jerusalem 
The siege of Jerusalem, the fortified capital city of the province, quickly turned into a stalemate. Unable to breach the city's defences, the Roman armies established a permanent camp just outside the city, digging a trench around the circumference of its walls and building a wall as high as the city walls themselves around Jerusalem. Anyone caught in the trench, attempting to flee the city would be captured, crucified, and placed in lines on top of the dirt wall facing into Jerusalem. The two Zealot leaders, John of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora, only ceased hostilities and joined forces to defend the city when the Romans began to construct ramparts for the siege. Those attempting to escape the city were crucified, with as many as five hundred crucifixions occurring in a day.
During the infighting inside the city walls, a stockpiled supply of dry food was intentionally burned by the Sicarii to induce the defenders to fight against the siege, instead of negotiating peace; as a result many city dwellers and soldiers died of starvation during the siege. Tacitus, a historian of the time, notes that those, who were besieged in Jerusalem amounted to no fewer than six hundred thousand, that men and women alike and every age engaged in armed resistance, everyone who could pick up a weapon did, both sexes showed equal determination, preferring death to a life that involved expulsion from their country. Josephus puts the number of the besieged at near 1 million.
Following a seven-month siege, Titus Flavius, Vespasian's son, eventually used the collapse of several of the city walls to breach Jerusalem. By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city. The Romans began by attacking the weakest spot: the third wall. It was built shortly before the siege so it did not have as much time invested in its protection. They succeeded towards the end of May and shortly afterwards broke through the more important second wall. During the final stages of the Roman attack, Zealots under Eleazar ben Simon still held the Temple, while the Sicarii, led by Simon Bar Giora, held the upper city. The Second Temple (the renovated Herod's Temple), one of the last fortified bastions of the rebellion, was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (29 or 30 July 70).
All three walls of Jerusalem were eventually destroyed as well as the Temple and the citadels; the city was then put to the torch, with most survivors taken into slavery; some of those overturned stones and their place of impact can still be seen. John of Giscala surrendered at Agrippa II's fortress of Jotapata and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The famous Arch of Titus in Rome depicts Roman legionaries carrying the Temple of Jerusalem's treasuries, including the Menorah, during Titus's triumphal procession in Rome. With the fall of Jerusalem, some insurrection still continued in isolated locations in Judea, lasting as long as 73 CE.
Fall of Masada 
During the spring of 71, Titus set sail for Rome. A new military governor was then appointed from Rome, Lucilius Bassus, whose assigned task was to undertake the "mopping-up" operations in Judea. He used X Fretensis to besiege and capture the few remaining fortresses that still resisted. Bassus took Herodium, and then crossed the Jordan to capture the fortress of Machaerus on the shore of the Dead Sea. Because of illness, Bassus did not live to complete his mission. Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Judean stronghold, Masada, in the autumn of 72. He used Legio X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Jewish prisoners, for a total of 10,000 soldiers. After his orders for surrender were rejected, Silva established several base camps and circumvallated the fortress. According to Josephus, when the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel in 73, they discovered that 960 of the 967 defenders had committed suicide.
The outcome 
The defeat of the Jewish revolt altered the Jewish diaspora, as many of the Jewish rebels were scattered or sold into slavery. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, a sizeable portion of these were at Jewish hands and due to illnesses brought about by hunger. "A pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine, as destroyed them more suddenly." On the order of[vague] 97,000 were captured and enslaved and many others fled to areas around the Mediterranean.
The Jewish Encyclopedia article on the Hebrew Alphabet states: "Not until the revolts against Nero and against Hadrian did the Jews return to the use of the old Hebrew script on their coins, which they did from motives similar to those which had governed them two or three centuries previously; both times, it is true, only for a brief period."
Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, claiming that he had "lent his arms to God."
Before Vespasian's departure, the Pharisaic sage and Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai obtained his permission to establish a Judaic school at Yavne. Zakkai was smuggled away from Jerusalem in a coffin by his students. Later this school became a major center of Talmudic study (see Mishnah).
The main account of the revolt comes from Josephus, the former Jewish commander of Galilee who, after capture by the Romans after the Siege of Yodfat, attempted to end the rebellion by negotiating with the Judeans on Titus's behalf. Josephus and Titus became close friends, and later Josephus was granted Roman citizenship and a pension. He never returned to his homeland after the fall of Jerusalem, living in Rome as a historian under the patronage of Vespasian and Titus.
He wrote two works, The Jewish War (c. 75) and Jewish Antiquities (c. 94) which, on occasion, are contradictory. These are the only surviving source materials containing information on specific events occurring during the fighting. But the material has been questioned because of claims that cannot be verified by secondary sources and because of Josephus' potential bias as a client of the Romans and defender of the Roman cause. Only since the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls has some solid confirmation been given to the events he describes.
See also 
- Rivka Shpak Lissak, The Roman Policy: Elimination of the Jewish National-Cultural Entity and the Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel. Retrieved 15 Jan 2011.
- Josephus, War of the Jews VI.9.3
- Josephus, War of the Jews II.8.11, II.13.7, II.14.4, II.14.5
- Josephus, War of the Jews II.14.5
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 14, Section 6
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 14, Section 9
- Rocca S. 2008. The Forts of Judea 168 BC – AD 73. Osprey, Wellingborough, pp. 37–39, 47–48.
- Malkin, Irad; Hohlfelder, Robert L. (1 September 1988). Mediterranean Cities: Historical Perspectives. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7146-3353-4. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- Flavius Josephus. "The Wars Of The Jews Or The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem Book III". Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- Dimont, Max (2004-06) [1962 for first ed.]. "The Sealed Coffin". Jews, God, and History (2nd ed.). New York, New York 10014, USA: Signet Classic. p. 101. ISBN 0-451-62866-7. Retrieved 29 September 2009. "To make sure that no food or water supply would reach the city from the outside, Titus completely sealed off Jerusalem from the rest of the world with a wall of earth as high as the stone wall around Jerusalem itself. Anyone not a Roman soldier caught anywhere in this vast dry moat was crucified on the top of the earthen wall in sight of the Jews of the city. It was not uncommon for as many as five hundred people a day to be so executed. The air was redolent with the stench of rotting flesh and rent by the cries and agony of the crucified. But the Jews held out for still another year, the fourth year of the war, to the discomfiture of Titus."
- Tacitus, Cornelius (1844) . "Book 5". The works of Cornelius Tacitus: with an essay on his life and genius, notes, supplements. Philadelphia, PA USA: Thomas Wardle. p. 504. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- Titus' Triumphal Arch
- "Silver Shekel from the First Jewish Revolt, 66–70 CE". The Center for Online Judaic Studies. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
- Alphabet, the Hebrew. Coins, and Bibliography 6
- Philostratus, Vita Apollonii
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