Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE)
|Siege of Jerusalem|
|Part of the First Jewish-Roman War|
Progress of the Roman army during the siege.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Titus||Simon Bar Giora|
|70,000||20,000 - 30,000||10,000|
|Casualties and losses|
The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 was the decisive event of the First Jewish–Roman War. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by its Jewish defenders in 66.
The siege ended with the sacking of the city and the destruction of its famous Second Temple. The destruction of both the first and second temples is still mourned annually as the Jewish fast Tisha B'Av. The Arch of Titus, celebrating the Roman sack of Jerusalem and the Temple, still stands in Rome.
Despite early successes in repelling the Roman sieges, the Zealots fought amongst themselves, and they lacked proper leadership, resulting in poor discipline, training, and preparation for the battles that were to follow. At one point they destroyed the food stocks in the city, a drastic measure thought to have been undertaken perhaps in order to enlist a merciful God's intervention on behalf of the besieged Jews.
Titus began his siege a few days before Passover, surrounding the city, with three legions (V Macedonica, XII Fulminata, XV Apollinaris) on the western side and a fourth (X Fretensis) on the Mount of Olives to the east. If the reference in his Jewish War at 6:421 is to Titus's siege, though difficulties exist with its interpretation, then at the time, according to Josephus, Jerusalem was thronged with many people who had come to celebrate Passover. The thrust of the siege began in the west at the Third Wall, north of the Jaffa Gate. By May, this was breached and the Second Wall also was taken shortly afterwards, leaving the defenders in possession of the Temple and the upper and lower city. The Jewish defenders were split into factions: John of Gischala group murdered another faction leader, Eleazar ben Simon, whose men were entrenched in the forecourts of the Temple. The enmities between John of Gischala and Simon bar Giora were papered over only when the Roman siege engineers began to erect ramparts. Titus then had a wall built to girdle the city in order to starve out the population more effectively. After several failed attempts to breach or scale the walls of the Fortress of Antonia, the Romans finally launched a secret attack, overwhelming the sleeping Zealots and taking the fortress by late July.
After Jewish allies killed a number of Roman soldiers, Titus sent Josephus, the Jewish historian, to negotiate with the defenders; this ended with Jews wounding the negotiator with an arrow, and another sally was launched shortly after. Titus was almost captured during this sudden attack, but escaped.
Overlooking the Temple compound, the fortress provided a perfect point from which to attack the Temple itself. Battering rams made little progress, but the fighting itself eventually set the walls on fire; a Roman soldier threw a burning stick onto one of the Temple's walls. Destroying the Temple was not among Titus' goals, possibly due in large part to the massive expansions done by Herod the Great mere decades earlier. Titus had wanted to seize it and transform it into a temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor and the Roman pantheon. The fire spread quickly and was soon out of control. The Temple was capturedand destroyed on 9/10th of Tisha B'Av,at the end of August, and the flames spread into the residential sections of the city. Josephus described the scene:
As the legions charged in, neither persuasion nor threat could check their impetuosity: passion alone was in command. Crowded together around the entrances many were trampled by their friends, many fell among the still hot and smoking ruins of the colonnades and died as miserably as the defeated. As they neared the Sanctuary they pretended not even to hear Caesar's commands and urged the men in front to throw in more firebrands. The partisans were no longer in a position to help; everywhere was slaughter and flight. Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom.
The Roman legions quickly crushed the remaining Jewish resistance. Part of the remaining Jews escaped through hidden underground tunnels, while others made a final stand in the Upper City. This defence halted the Roman advance as they had to construct siege towers to assail the remaining Jews. The city was completely under Roman control by September 7 and the Romans continued to pursue those who had fled the city.
Destruction of Jerusalem
The account of Josephus described Titus as moderate in his approach and, after conferring with others, ordering that the 500-year-old Temple be spared. According to Josephus, the Roman soldiers grew furious with Jewish attacks and tactics and, against Titus' orders, set fire to an apartment adjacent to the Temple, which soon spread all throughout. However, Josephus may have written this in order to appease his coreligionists.
Josephus had acted as a mediator for the Romans and, when negotiations failed, witnessed the siege and aftermath. He wrote:
Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), [Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.
Josephus claims that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish, and that 97,000 were captured and enslaved, including Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala. His figures are rejected as impossible by modern scholarship, since around the time about a million a people lived in Palestine, probably about half of them were Jews, and sizable Jewish populations remained in the area after the war was over, even in the hard-hit region of Judea.
Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of God's wrath.
- Judaea Capta coinage: Judaea Capta coins were a series of commemorative coins originally issued by the Roman Emperor Vespasian to celebrate the capture of Judaea and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by his son Titus in 70 during the First Jewish Revolt.
- Temple of Peace: In 75, the Temple of Peace, also known as the Forum of Vespasian, was built under Emperor Vespasian in Rome. The monument was built to celebrate the conquest of Jerusalem and it is said to have housed the Menorah from Herod's Temple.
- Flavian Amphitheater: Otherwise known as the Colosseum built from 70 to 80. Archaeological discoveries have found a block of travertine that bears dowel holes that show the Jewish Wars financed the building of the Flavian Amphitheatre.
- Arch of Titus: In around c.82, Roman Emperor Domitian constructed the Arch of Titus on Via Sacra, Rome, to commemorate the capture and siege of Jerusalem in 70, which effectively ended the Great Jewish Revolt, although the Romans did not achieve complete victory until the fall of Masada in 73.
Perceptions and historical legacy
The destruction was an important point in the separation of Christianity from its Jewish roots: many Christians responded by distancing themselves from the rest of Judaism, as reflected in the Gospels (all written after 70), which portray Jesus as anti-Temple and the destruction as punishment for rejection of Jesus.:30–31
In later art
The war in Judaea, particularly the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, have inspired writers and artists through the centuries. The bas-relief in the Arch of Titus has been influential in establishing the Menorah as the most dramatic symbol of the looting of the Second Temple.
- Siege of Jerusalem A fourteenth century Middle English poem
- The Franks Casket. The back side of the casket depicts the Siege of 70.
- The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by Nicolas Poussin (1637). Oil on canvas, 147 x 198,5 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Depicts the destruction and looting of the Second Temple by the Roman army led by Titus.
- The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus by Wilhelm von Kaulbach (1846). Oil on canvas, 585 x 705 cm. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. An allegorical depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem, dramatically centered on the figure of the High Priest, with Titus entering from the right.
- The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, 70 by David Roberts (1850). Oil on canvas, 136 x 197 cm. Private collection. Depicts the burning and looting of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Titus.
- The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez (1867). Oil on canvas, 183 x 252 cm. Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Venice. Depicts the destruction and looting of the Second Temple by the Roman army.
- Council of Jamnia
- Flight to Pella
- Herod's Temple
- Jerusalem’s Model in the Late 2nd Temple Period
- Kamsa and Bar Kamsa
- Robinson's Arch
- Royal Stoa (Jerusalem)
- Siege of Jerusalem
- Solomon's Temple
- Nachman Ben-Yehuda Theocratic Democracy: The Social Construction of Religious and Secular Extremism , Oxford University Press, 2010 p.91.
- Peter Schäfer, The History of the Jews in the Greco-Roman World: The Jews of Palestine from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest, Routledge, 2003 pp.129-130.
- Si Sheppard, Peter Dennis, The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74, Osprey Publishing, 2013
- Barbara Levick, Vespasian, Routledge 1999, pp. 116–119.
- Frederico M. Colautti, Passover in the Works of Flavius Josephus, BRILL 2002 pp.115-131 pp.115ff.
- Peter Schäfer, The History of the Jews in Antiquity, Routledge (1995) 2013 pp.191-192.
- Flavius Josephus. The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. Containing The Interval Of About Three Years. From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus To The Sedition At Cyrene. Book VII. Chapter 1.1
- Flavius Josephus. The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. BOOK VI. Containing The Interval Of About One Month. From The Great Extremity To Which The Jews Were Reduced To The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus.. Book VI. Chapter 1.1
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.9.3
- Schwartz, Seth (1984). "Political, social and economic life in the land of Israel". In Davies, William David; Finkelstein, Louis; Katz, Steven T. The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period. Cambridge University Press. p. 24.
- Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6.29
- "Cornell.edu". Cals.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
- ALFÖLDY, GÉZA (1995). "Eine Bauinschrift Aus Dem Colosseum.". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 109: 195–226.
- Yoma, 9b
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Siege of Jerusalem (70).|
- Second Temple and Talmudic Era.[dead link] The Jewish History Resource Center: Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- The Temple Mount and Fort Antonia
- Map of the siege of Jerusalem