Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus

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Jewish revolt against Gallus
Fourth Judean–Roman War
Part of the Jewish–Roman wars
Result Roman victory, destruction of several cities
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Roman Empire Jews of Palestine
Commanders and leaders
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Ursicinus Isaac of Diocesarea
Casualties and losses
Minimal Several thousand rebels killed

In 351–352 the Jews of Roman Palaestina revolted against the rule of Constantius Gallus, brother-in-law of Emperor Constantius II and Caesar of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. The revolt was crushed by Gallus' general Ursicinus.


The emperor Constantius II, like his father Constantine the Great before him, showed a preference for the Christian religion, which he favored over all others, including Judaism. Unlike his father, however, Constantius allowed Christians to persecute the pagans and the Jews. Some Christian clergy practiced intolerance toward non-Christians, both through the secular arm and in directing angry crowds, which attacked and destroyed synagogues and temples.[1]

Eventually, the Jews reacted, opposing Christian proselytism and showing intolerance toward Jewish Christians. Fiery sermons preached in synagogues against Edom were in fact directed against those Romans who, after removing the Jews' political independence, were now repressing their religion.[2]


In 350, Emperor Constantius II was engaged in a campaign in the East against the Sasanians. He was however forced to return to the West to counter the usurpation of Magnentius, who had murdered Constantius' brother and colleague, Constans. Constantius therefore appointed his cousin Gallus Caesar of the East, on March 15, 351 at Sirmium. Gallus arrived at Antioch,[3] his capital, on May 7 of that same year.[4] During the period between the passage of Constantius in the West and the arrival of Gallus in the East, or immediately after the arrival of the Caesar in Antioch, the Jews revolted in Palestine.

The rebellion was led by Isaac of Diocesarea (also known as Isaac of Sepphoris),[2] aided by a certain Patricius, also known as Natrona, a name with messianic connotations,[5] and had its epicentre in the town of Diocaesarea (the Greco-Roman referent for Sepphoris).[6][7] Jerome records that the revolt began with a night assault on the Roman garrison, which was destroyed, and allowed the Jews to procure the necessary weapons.[8] According to the 9th century author Theophanes the Confessor subsequently the rebels killed the people of different ethnicities, pagan Greek Hellenes and Samaritans.[9][10] He is the first author to make this claim.[11]

In 351 or 352, Gallus sent his magister equitum Ursicinus[12] to forcefully put down the revolt. Tiberias[13] and Diospolis,[14] two of the cities conquered by the rebels, were almost destroyed, while Diocaesarea was razed to the ground.[2] Ursicinus also ordered several thousand rebels killed.[10] According to Jerome, Gallus slew many thousands of people, including even those who were too young to fight.[15] Sozomen, when recalling these events, wrote: "The Jews of Diocæsarea (Sepphoris) also took up arms and invaded Palestine and the neighboring territories, with the design of shaking off the Roman yoke. On hearing of their insurrection, Gallus Caesar, who was then in Antioch, sent troops against them, defeated them, and destroyed Diocæsarea."[16] A midrash suggests that Patricius was killed in the battle.[17]


After the events, a permanent garrison occupied Galilee.[18]


  1. ^ Lazare, p. 46.
  2. ^ a b c Lazare, p. 47.
  3. ^ 36°12′N 36°09′E / 36.200°N 36.150°E / 36.200; 36.150 (Antioch)
  4. ^ Socrates Scholasticus, ii.28.2.
  5. ^ Yalkut Shemoni Shemot 191
  6. ^ Socrates Scholasticus, ii.33; Sozomen, iv.vii.
  7. ^ 32°45′8″N 35°16′52″E / 32.75222°N 35.28111°E / 32.75222; 35.28111 (Diocesarea)
  8. ^ Gunter Stemberger (1999). Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century. A&C Black. p. 162. ISBN 9783161478314.
  9. ^ Averil Cameron; Peter Garnsey, eds. (1998). The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 13. Cambridge University Press. p. 453. ISBN 9780521302005.
  10. ^ a b Chronica, 15–21; Theophanes, AM 5843.
  11. ^ David H. French; Chris S. Lightfoot, eds. (1989). The Eastern frontier of the Roman Empire: proceedings of a colloquium held at Ankara in September 1988, Volume 2. B.A.R.
  12. ^ Banchich
  13. ^ 32°47′23″N 35°31′29″E / 32.78972°N 35.52472°E / 32.78972; 35.52472 (Tiberias).
  14. ^ 31°56′54.59″N 34°53′20.4″E / 31.9484972°N 34.889000°E / 31.9484972; 34.889000 (Diospolis)
  15. ^ Philostorgius (2007). Philostorgius: Church History. Translated by Philip R. Amidan. Atlanta. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-58983-215-2.
  16. ^ Sozomen; Philostorgius (1855). The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen and The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius. Translated by Edward Walford. London: Henry G. Bohn. p. 153 (Book IV, chapter VII). OCLC 224145372.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Archived August 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine


Primary sources[edit]

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