Simon bar Kokhba
Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא) (died 135 CE) was the Jewish leader of what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("Prince"). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two-year war.
Documents discovered in the modern era give us his original name, Simon ben Kosiba (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא). He was given the surname Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for "Son of a Star", referring to the Star Prophecy of Numbers 24:17, "there shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab") by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.
Bar Kokhba revolt
Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), which left the population and countryside in ruins, a series of laws passed by Roman Emperors provided the incentive for the second rebellion. The last straw was a series of laws enacted by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, including an attempt to prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem; a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was to be built in its place. The second Jewish rebellion took place 60 years after the first and re-established an independent state lasting three years. For many Jews of the time, this turn of events was heralded as the long hoped for Messianic Age. The excitement was short-lived, however; after a brief span of glory, the revolt was eventually crushed by the Roman legions.
Eusebius of Caesaraea wrote that Christians were killed and suffered "all kinds of persecutions" at the hands of Jews during the revolt.
The state minted its own coins, known today as Bar Kochba Revolt coinage. These were inscribed "the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel". Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of "Nasi". The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force. This presented a stark contrast to First Jewish-Roman War, during which Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem's walls and were fighting their way to the center.
A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no fewer than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which reduced and demoralized the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war.
Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting "If you and your children are well, all is well. For I and the army are all in good health." He was the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.
In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina, which is commonly interpreted as an attempt to complete the disassociation with Judaea
Over the past few decades, new information about the revolt has come to light, from the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the Cave of Letters overlooking the Dead Sea. These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum.
According to Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin, it was Simon Bar Kokhba who tried to restore Hebrew as the official language of Jews. Yigael Yadin also noticed the shift from Aramaic to Hebrew during the time of Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135 AD). In Yigael Yadin's book "Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome" Yadin notes, "It is interesting that the earlier documents are in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar-Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state" (p. 181). According to Book "Naming the Witch: Magic, Ideology, and Stereotype in the Ancient World" written by Kimberly B. Stratton (p. 232), Yigael Yadin suggests that Bar Kokhba was trying to revive Hebrew by decree as part of his messianic ideology.
In Edmon L. Gallagher's book "Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory: Canon, Language, Text (page 114), "While excavating the caves around Nahal Hever, Yigael Yadin uncovered a collection of fifteen letters, most of which were written in the name of Shimeon Bar Kosiba (better known as Bar Kokhba), the leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 AD). Of fifteen letters, nine are in Aramaic, four in Hebrew, and two in Greek. While those statistics favor Aramaic as the language commonly used, which accords with palestinian judaism generally for this period, Hannah Cotton argues that the presence of Hebrew documents, however few, is significant, because of the utter lack of any Hebrew documentary texts from the period prior to this revolt."
In popular culture
Since the end of the nineteenth century, Bar-Kochba has been the subject of numerous works of art (dramas, operas, novels, etc.), including:
- Harisot Betar: sipur `al dever gevurat Bar Kokhva ve-hurban Betar bi-yad Adriyanus kesar Roma (1858), a Hebrew novel by Kalman Schulman
- Bar Kokhba (1882), a Yiddish operetta by Abraham Goldfaden (mus. and libr.). The work was written in the wake of pogroms against Jews following the 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia.
- Bar Kokhba (1884), a Hebrew drama by Yehudah Loeb Landau
- The Son of a Star (1888), an English novel by Benjamin Ward Richardson
- Le fils de l’étoile (1903), a French opera by Camille Erlanger (mus.) and Catulle Mendes (libr.)
- Bar-Kochba (1905), a German opera by Stanislaus Suda (mus.) and Karl Jonas (libr.)
- Rabbi Aqiba und Bar-Kokhba (1910), a Yiddish novel by David Pinsky
- Bar-Kokhba (1929), a Hebrew drama by Saul Tchernichovski
- Bar-Kokhba (1939), a Hebrew drama by Shmuel Halkin
- Bar-Kokhba (1941), a Yiddish novel by Abraham Raphael Forsyth
- A csillag fia (1943), a Hungarian drama by Lajos Szabolcsi
- Steiersønne (1952), a Danish novel by Poul Borchsenius
- Prince of Israel (1952), an English novel by Elias Gilner
- Bar-Kokhba (1953), a Hebrew novel by Joseph Opatoshu
- Son of a Star (1969), an English novel by Andrew Meisels
- If I Forget Thee (1983), an English novel by Brenda Lesley Segal
- Kokav mi-mesilato. Haye Bar-Kokhba A Star in Its Course: The Life of Bar-Kokhba (1988), a Hebrew novel by S.J. Kreutner
- Ha-mered ha-midbar. Roman hstoriah mi-tequfat Bar-Kokhba (1988), a Hebrew novel by Yeroshua Perah
- My Husband, Bar Kokhba (2003), an English novel by Andrew Sanders
Another operetta on the subject of Bar Kokhba was written by the Russian-Jewish emigre composer Yaacov Bilansky Levanon in Palestine in the 1920s.
- Signatures on documents found in 1951 and later in caves near the Dead Sea indicate that Bar Kochba's true surname was Bar Kosba, the "son of Kosba" or the "man from Kosba."
- The Archaeology of the New Testament, E.M. Blaiklock, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, p. 186
- "When Palestine Meant Israel, David Jacobson, BAR 27:03, May/Jun 2001". Cojs.org. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- Lehmann, Clayton Miles (Summer 1998). "Palestine: History: 135–337: Syria Palaestina and the Tetrarchy". The On-line Encyclopedia of the Roman Provinces. University of South Dakota. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
- Sharon, 1998, p. 4. According to Moshe Sharon: "Eager to obliterate the name of the rebellious Judaea", the Roman authorities renamed it Palaestina or Syria Palaestina.
- "Diggers". Time (magazine). May 5, 1961. Retrieved 2009-08-20. "The Bar Kochba explorers—160 soldiers, students and kibbutz volunteers—had been led to the desert badlands just west of the Dead Sea by Archaeologist and former General Yigael Yadin. They found a treasure their first day at the diggings. In the same bat-infested, three-chambered Cave of Letters where he had discovered the rebel chieftain's papyri orders just a year ago. Archaeologist Yadin found some 60 more documents in a goatskin and a leather bag."
- Shimeon bar Kosiba. "Texts on Bar Kochba: Bar Kochba's letters". Livius.org. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- "Bar Kokhba". Israel Museum: Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- G. Boccaccini, Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts (Turin: Zamorani, 1992).
- W. Eck, 'The Bar Kokhba Revolt: the Roman point of view' in the Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999) 76ff.
- David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick and Daniel Schwartz: Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to the Bar Kohkba Revolt In Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Boston: Brill: 2001: ISBN 90-04-12007-6
- Richard Marks: The Image of Bar Kokhba in Traditional Jewish Literature: False Messiah and National Hero: University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press: 1994: ISBN 0-271-00939-X
- Leibel Reznick: The Mystery of Bar Kokhba: Northvale: J.Aronson: 1996: ISBN 1-56821-502-9
- Peter Schafer: The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: Tübingen: Mohr: 2003: ISBN 3-16-148076-7
- David Ussishkin: "Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba's Last Stronghold", in: Tel Aviv. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 20 (1993) 66ff.
- Yigael Yadin: Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome: London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson: 1971: ISBN 0-297-00345-3
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Barcochebas.|
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