Siege of Jerusalem (614)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011)|
|Siege of Jerusalem (614)|
|Part of the Jewish revolt against Heraclius (Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628)|
|Byzantine Empire||Sasanian Persian Empire,
|Commanders and leaders|
|Patriarch Zacharias (POW)||Shahrbaraz
Nehemiah ben Hushiel
Benjamin of Tiberias
|"Formidable" Greek contingent||Persian forces;
26,000 Jewish rebels
|Casualties and losses|
|4,518-66,509 Christians and thousands of Jews slain in the aftermath|
The Siege of Jerusalem in 614 was part of the final phase of the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars. The Persian Shah Khosrau II appointed his general Shahrbaraz to conquer the Byzantine controlled areas of the Near East, establishing a strategic alliance with the Jewish population of the Sasanian Persia. Following Persian advances into Syria in the previous year, Shahrbaraz's next target Palaestina Prima, first targeting its provincial center - Caesarea Maritima. Providing direct access to the Mediterranean Sea, the city would have also provided a strategic location for the Persian Empire to begin constructing a naval fleet, thereby threatening Byzantine hegemony in the Mediterranean. Reinforced by the Jewish army from Persia and local Jewish rebels under Benjamin of Tiberias, the Persian army later laid siege to Jerusalem. After 21 days of relentless siege warfare, Jerusalem's walls yielded and the decisive Persian victory resulted in the territorial annexation of Jerusalem, and eventually all of Palaestina Prima.[better source needed]
Following the victory in Antioch, a joint Sasanian-Jewish army, commanded by Shahrbaraz, arrived in Palaestina Prima and conquered Caesaria Maritima, the administrative capital of the province. Nehemiah's Jewish troops and the Sasanian Persians were joined by Benjamin of Tiberias (according to Jewish sources – a man of immense wealth), who enlisted and armed additional Jewish soldiers from Tiberias, Nazareth and the mountain cities of Galilee, and together with a band of Arabs and additional Jews from southern parts of the country they marched on Jerusalem. Some 26,000 Jewish rebels joined the war against the Byzantine Christians.
Siege and its aftermath
Customary to military tradition, when the Persian force arrived outside Jerusalem, Shahrbaraz offered a peaceful transition of power should the city surrender without resistance.[better source needed] The Sassanid general's offer was however rebuffed, and he consequently prepared his troops for a blockade. Shahrbaraz, alongside fellow general Shahin, prepared for what would they believed would be a long and fierce siege, given Jerusalem's powerful fortifications. For twenty days, the Persians army continually pounded the walls of Jerusalem with ballistas and other engines.[better source needed]
While the Byzantine city was composed primarily of civilians and the priesthood, there is mention of a formidable Greek force, which was gathered by monk Abba Modestus to assist Jerusalem.[better source needed] However, once the Greek troops caught sight of the overwhelming Persian army encamped outside the city walls, they fled, fearing a suicidal battle.[better source needed] After the twenty-first day of bombardment, the city's walls finally broke, and due notably to the Jewish allies' assistance to the Persian army, the interior was quickly overrun.
According to Jewish sources, Jerusalem was handed to the Jewish rebels, under the leadership of Nehemiah ben Hushiel and Benjamin of Tiberias, becoming the capital of short-lived Jewish-Sasanian Commonwealth.
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2013)|
Christian rebellion erupted just a few months after the July 614 capture of Jerusalem by Persians. Killing the new Jewish governor of Jerusalem. The, son of the, Exilarch Nehemiah ben Hushiel and his "council of the righteous" and dragging their bodies through the streets, prompted a full scale Christian rebellion against the new Jewish-Persian hegemony across Palaestina. Christians in this time period had allied themselves with the Byzantines, including Aramaic and Greek-speaking Greco-Romans, Nabatean and Ghassanid Christian Arabs and descendants of converted Judeo-Christians. Following the outburst of violence in Jerusalem, Christians were able to briefly retake the city for 19 days before the walls where breached by Persian and Jewish forces.
The siege resulted in an alleged massacre of the Christians in Jerusalem and destruction of Christian churches and other buildings, and notably the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcure. According to Antiochus, Shahrbaraz ordered a swift razing and looting of Jerusalem.[better source needed] Having recognized the assistance of the Jews in the significant capture, he even gave them the opportunity to personally massacre their Christian enemies.[better source needed] However, archaeological evidence does not support the report that churches were burnt. Christian sources may well have reason to exaggerate the extent of the massacre as they would later in 628 massacre, forcible convert and expel the Jews.
It is not known why and whether Shahrbaraz ordered the massacre. The Christian accounts of the massacre vary in their estimations. Historian Elliot Horowitz considers the common modern writing about the destruction to be "historiographical stonewalling".
Persia's most devastating crime in the eyes of the Byzantines was the capture of the True Cross and its removal to Ctesiphon as a battle-captured holy relic.[better source needed] The conquered city and the Holy Cross would remain in Sasaniian hands for some fifteen years until Heraclius recovered them in 629.
The Armenian bishop and historian Sebeos wrote an account of the fall of Jerusalem. Sebeos’ account does not use the polemical language of Antiochus. Sebeos writes that at first the inhabitance of Jerusalem voluntarily submitted to the Jews and Persians, however after a few months the ostikan appointed by Khosrau II to rule Jerusalem was killed in a Christian revolt.
Various dates for the revolt exist they are 9 April 614, 19 May 614 and 25 June 615. Sebeos writes that during the revolt many Jews were killed. Some throwing themselves off the city walls to escape. The remaining Jews fled to the Sasanian general. Different names are given for this general Khoream, Erazmiozan, and Xorheam However they are all thought to reference Shahrbaraz. Shahrbaraz was known to Armenian sources as Khoream. Shahrbaraz’s campaigns are well documented by other sources helping to put time constraints on the siege. Shahrbaraz assembled his troops and went and encamped around Jerusalem and besieged it for 19 days. The walls where breached by undermining the foundations. The Christian death toll of 17,000 was later corrupted to 57,000. 35,000 people including the patriarch Zacharias where deported to Mesopotamia. For three days the Persian forces slaughtered and plundered the inhabitants of the city. The city was burn down. The Jews where then driven from the city and an archpriest named Modestos was appointed over the city.
Antiochus Strategos was a 7th-century Byzantine Greek monk living in Palestine. Again dates for the start of the siege vary. Dates given are April 13 614, April 15 614, May 3 614 or May 5 614. On the twenty day or according to the Georgian text the twenty-first day the walls where breached. Ballistae where used to bring down the walls. According to Antiochus, shortly after the Persian army entered Jerusalem, an "unprecedented looting and sacrilege" took place. In his words "church after church was burned down alongside the innumerable Christian artifacts, which were stolen or damaged by the ensuing arson". Antiochus Strategos further claimed that captive Christians were gathered near Mamilla reservoir and the Jews offered to help them escape death if they "become Jews and deny Christ". The Christian captives refused, and the Jews in anger purchased the Christians from the Persians and massacred them on the spot. Antiochus wrote:
Then the Jews... as of old they bought the Lord from the Jews with silver, so they purchased Christians out of the reservoir; for they gave the Persians silver, and they bought a Christian and slew him like a sheep.
Some versions of Antiochus’ manuscript record a total Christian death tolls as high as 66,509. The greatest number where found at Mamilla 24,518 corpses; many more than were found anywhere else in the city. Other copies of Strategos's manuscripts report fewer corpses where found at Mamilla, 4518 or 4618 corpses. Antiochus' work was originally written in Greek. Only Arabic and Georgian translations survive.
The Sefer Zerubbabel is a medieval Hebrew apocalypse written in the style of biblical visions (e.g. Daniel, Ezekiel) placed into the mouth of Zerubbabel. It is thought to have been written at least partially during the beginning of the 7th century.
In the Sefer Zerubbabel Aaron's rod, Elijah and Nehemiah ben Hushiel will be hidden in the city of Tiberias. After Nehemiah ben Hushiel takes' possession of Jerusalem he proceeds to sorts out Israel’s genealogical lists according to their families. He is killed in the fifth year which would be 619 during the month of Av (July - August). The Sefer Zerubbabel states that Kavadh II will stab Nehemiah ben Hushiel and Israel. His thoroughly crushed corpse will be thrown down before the gates of Jerusalem. And sixteen of the righteous shall be killed with him. Armilus enters Jerusalem on the 14th day of the new year during the month of Nisan. Assuming the year is 628. This would coincide to March 28 628.
The fall of Palaestina Prima to the Persians was mentioned as a contemporary event in the thirtieth sūrah of the Qur'an, Sūrat al-Rūm. It went on to predict the imminent defeat of the Persians by the Byzantines: "The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by, but after this defeat of theirs they will soon be victorious, within a few years" (Qur'an 30:2-4).
Historians have been able to piece together the events following the fall of Jerusalem based on other sources as well. A brief abridged list of the many relevant documents is given below.
The Chronicon Paschale is notable because it does not accuse the Jews of Anti-Christian violence or sedition during the fall of Jerusalem in 614. It is loosely dated to June 614. Another important document is Modestos' Letter.
Despite the claims of large scale destruction, the archaeological evidence do not reveal layers of destruction to be associated with Persian conquest. There was also no hard evidence found for the widespread destruction of churches.
A significant number of burial sites where allocated according to Strategius. A mass burial grave at Mamilla cave was discovered in 1989 by Israeli archeologist Ronny Reich. Near the site where Strategius reported the greatest number of corpses were found. The human remains were in poor condition containing a minimum of 526 individuals. Other mass burial sites have also been found although they cannot be accurately dated to the Persian conquest of Jerusalem. Yet, excavations of Jerusalem show a continuous habitation in Jerusalem neighborhoods and essentially little impact of population during the period of Persian governorship. As stated by archaeologist Gideon Avni:
- ... all excavated sites in Jerusalem show a clear pattern of continuity, with no evidence for destruction by the Persian conquest of 614 or the Arab conquest of 636.
Demographic continuity might have resulted from population exchange by the victorious Jewish rebels, but apparently also the Christian habitation remained relatively constant, despite the disturbance by the Persian conquest, and no significant impact on the population of Jerusalem was made during the following period of Sassanid-Jewish dominance.
- Abrahamson et. al. The Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 compared with Islamic conquest of 638. .
- The Persian Conquest of Jerusalem (614 CE) – an archeological assessment by Gideon Avni, Director of the Excavations and Surveys Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
- "The Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614CE compared with Islamic conquest of 638CE. Its Messianic nature and the role of the Jewish Exilarch" by Ben Abrahamson and Joseph Katz. Pages 19, 55, 56.
- Antiochus Strategos, The Capture of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614 AD, F. C. Conybeare, English Historical Review 25 (1910) pp. 502-517.
- "What We Choose to Remember: Jerusalem in World History" by Judith Mendelsohn Rood.
- Horowitz, Elliot. Reckless Rites. p. 235.
- R. W. THOMSON Historical commentary by JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON Assistance from TIM GREENWOOD. (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos. Liverpool University Press. p. 207. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Sebeos. "Sebeos chapter 24". Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- R. W. THOMSON Historical commentary by JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON Assistance from TIM GREENWOOD. (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos. Liverpool University Press. p. 69. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Philip Wood (2013). The Chronicle of Seert: Christian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq. Oxford University Press. p. 179. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- R. W. THOMSON Historical commentary by JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON Assistance from TIM GREENWOOD. (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos. Liverpool University Press. pp. 69–71. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- R. W. THOMSON Historical commentary by JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON Assistance from TIM GREENWOOD. (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos. Liverpool University Press. p. 195 and 207. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Silver, Abba Hillel (2003). "II The Mohammedan Period". History of Messianic Speculation in Israel. Kessinger Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 0-7661-3514-4.
- "Sefer Zerubbabel". Translated by John C. Reeves. University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
- Jewish Martyrs in the Pagan and Christian Worlds. Cambridge university press. Cambridge , New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo. 2006. p. 108-109. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
- Robert Bonfil, Oded Ishai, Guy G. Stroumsa, Rina Talgam, ed. (2012). Jews in Byzantium: Dialectics of Minority and Majority Cultures. Hotei Publishing the Netherlands. p. 790. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- R. W. THOMSON Historical commentary by JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON Assistance from TIM GREENWOOD. (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos. Liverpool University Press. pp. 207–210. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- "Human Skeletal Remains from the Mamilla cave, Jerusalem" by Yossi Nagar.
- Antiochus Strategos, The Capture of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614 AD, F. C. Conybeare, English Historical Review 25 (1910) pp. 502–517.
- Sebeos chapter 24, [Robert Bedrosian]
- Sefer Zerubbabel, [John C. Reeves. University of North Carolina at Charlotte.]