John of Giscala

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John of Giscala
Born Yohanan
Residence Judea
Nationality Jewish
Other names Yohanan me-Gush Halav, Johannes ben Levi
Ethnicity Jewish
Known for Participation in the Jewish Revolt
Home town Gush Halav
Political party Zealots
Opponent(s) Ananus, Simon Bar Giora, Eleazar ben Simon, Titus
Religion Jewish

John of Giscala (Hebrew: יוחנן מגוש חלבYohanan mi-Gush Halav or Yohanan ben Levi) (birth date unknown; death date after 70), was a leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War, and played a part in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70.

As part of the Roman campaign to put down the revolt in Judea, Titus marched on Gush Halav, called Giscala by the Romans. Giscala was the last town in Galilee not yet conquered. Outside the walls of the city, he called on them to surrender. John prevailed upon Titus not to enter the city that day, as it was Sabbath, "not so much out of regard to the seventh day as to his own preservation." John fled to Jerusalem that night, and "Titus was greatly displeased that he had not been able to bring this John, who had deluded him, to punishment."[1]

When John entered Jerusalem, it was in an uproar, and the people clamored for news.

John...went about among all the people, and persuaded them to go to war, by the hopes he gave them. He affirmed that the affairs of the Romans were in a weak condition, and extolled his own power. He also jested upon the ignorance of the unskillful, as if those Romans, although they should take to themselves wings, could never fly over the wall of Jerusalem, who found such great difficulties in taking the villages of Galilee, and had broken their engines of war against their walls. These harangues of John's corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war.[1]

Soon after his arrival in Jerusalem, he played an instrumental part in the outcome of the Zealot Temple Siege, handing the city over to control of the Zealots. He attempted to set himself up as ruler of Jerusalem, but was challenged in April 69 by Simon Bar Giora. They were both in turn challenged by a third faction led by Eleazar ben Simon. John and the Zealots fought in civil war with these two factions [2] until he was finally captured by Titus commanding the Romans during the Siege of Jerusalem. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and taken back to Rome.[3]He was paraded through the streets of Rome in chains[4]

John of Giscala in the Arts[edit]

John of Giscala was the subject of the Italian drama Giovanni di Giscala (1754) by Alfonso Varano. The work inspired the Italian opera Giovanni di Giscala (1855) by Giovanni Gaetano Rossi and Alfonso Cavagnar.[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Josephus (c. 75). "Book IV". The Jewish War.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Josephus (c. 75). "Book V". The Jewish War.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Josephus (c. 75). "Book VII". The Jewish War.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ The Other Side of the Coin
  5. ^ Gabriele Boccaccini, Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts (Turin: Zamorani, 1992)