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The Jewish–Roman wars were a series of large-scale revolts by the Jews of Judea against the Roman Empire between 66 and 136 CE. The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) and the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE) were nationalist rebellions, striving to restore an independent Judean state, while the Kitos War was mostly fought outside the Judea.

Losing these wars made the Jews stateless so they became a scattered and persecuted minority in other countries. It also also had a major impact on Judaism. Central worship in Jerusalem ended with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans.  Although having a sort of autonomy in the Galilee until the 4th century such as the Council of Jamnia (or Yavne), and later a limited success in establishing the short-lived Sasanian Jewish autonomy in Jerusalem in 614–617 CE.  Jewish statehood was only re-established with the founding Israel in 1948 CE.


The First Jewish–Roman War, 66 - 70 CE,

originating in the Greek and Jewish religious tensions, and later escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens. In response to the Roman plunder of the Second Jewish Temple and the execution of up to 6,000 Jews in Jerusalem, a full-scale rebellion erupted. The Roman military garrison of Judaea was quickly overrun by rebels, while the pro-Roman king Agrippa II together with Roman officials fled Jerusalem. As it became clear the rebellion was getting out of control, Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought the Syrian army, based on XII Fulminata and reinforced by auxiliary troops, to restore order and quell the revolt. Despite initial advances, the Syrian Legion was ambushed and defeated by Jewish rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon with 6,000 Romans massacred and the Legio aquila lost – a result that shocked the Roman leadership.

The experienced and unassuming general Vespasian was then tasked with crushing the rebellion in Judaea province. His son Titus was appointed second-in-command. Vespasian was given four legions and assisted by forces of King Agrippa II. In 67 CE he invaded Galilee. While avoiding a direct attack on the reinforced city of Jerusalem which was packed with the main rebel force, Titus' forces launched a persistent campaign to eradicate rebel strongholds and punish the population. Within several months Vespasian and Titus took over the major Jewish strongholds of Galilee and finally overran Jotapata under command of Yosef ben Matitiyahu, following a 47-day siege. Meantime in Jerusalem, an attempt by Sicarii leader Menahem to take control of the city failed, resulting in his execution. A peasant leader Simon Bar-Giora was ousted from the city by the new moderate Judean government and Ananus ben Ananus began reinforcing the city.[citation needed]

Driven from Galilee, Zealot rebels and thousands of refugees arrived in Judea, creating political turmoil in Jerusalem. Zealots were at first sealed in the Temple compound. However, confrontation between the mainly Sadducee Jerusalemites and the mainly Zealot factions of the Northern Revolt under the command of John of Giscala and Eleazar ben Simon became evident. With Edomites entering the city and fighting on the side of the Zealots, Ananus ben Ananus was killed and his forces suffered severe casualties. Simon Bar Giora, commanding 15,000 troops, was then invited into Jerusalem by the Sadducee leaders to stand against the Zealots, and quickly took control over much of the city. Bitter infighting between factions of Bar Giora, John and Elazar followed through the year 69 CE.[citation needed]

After a lull in the military operations, owing to civil war and political turmoil in Rome, Vespasian returned to Rome and was accepted as the new Emperor in 69 CE. With Vespasian's departure, Titus besieged the center of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in early 70 CE. While the first two walls of Jerusalem were breached within three weeks, a stubborn stand prevented the Roman Army from breaking the third and thickest wall. Following a brutal seven-month siege, in which Zealot infighting resulted in the burning of the entire food supply of the city to enhance "fighting to the end", the Romans finally succeeded in breaching the weakened Jewish forces in the summer of 70 CE. Following the fall of Jerusalem, Titus left for Rome, while Legion X Fretensis defeated the remaining Jewish strongholds later on, finalizing the Roman campaign in Masada in 73/74 CE.

THE KITOS WAR (115–117 CE)

The Kitos War, also known as mered ha'galuyot or mered ha'tfutzot (Rebellion of the exile), is the name given to the second of the Jewish–Roman wars. The Kitos War consisted of major revolts by diasporic Jews in Cyrene (Cyrenaica), Cyprus, Mesopotamia and Aegyptus, which spiraled out of control, resulting in a widespread slaughter of Roman citizens and others (200,000 in Cyrene, 240,000 in Cyprus according to Cassius Dio) by the Jewish rebels. The rebellions were finally crushed by Roman legionary forces, chiefly by the Roman general Lusius Quietus, whose nomen later gave the conflict its title, as "Kitos" is a later corruption of Quietus.

See also Wikipedia


(Hebrew: מרד בר כוכבא‎‎ or mered bar kokhba), was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea Province and Eastern Mediterranean against the Roman Empire and the last of the Jewish–Roman Wars. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for more than two years, but a Roman army made up of six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions finally crushed it. The Romans then barred Jews from Jerusalem, except to attend Tisha B'Av. Although Jewish Christians hailed Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba, they were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jews.[citation needed] The war and its aftermath helped differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism (see also Split of early Christianity and Judaism). The rebellion is also known as The Third Jewish–Roman War or The Third Jewish Revolt, though some historians relate it as Second Jewish Revolt, not counting the Kitos War, 115–117 CE.


The defeat of the Jewish revolt altered the Jewish diaspora, as many of the Jewish rebels were scattered or sold into slavery. Before Vespasian's departure, the Pharisaic sage and Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai obtained his permission to establish a Judaic school at Yavne. Zakkai was smuggled away from Jerusalem in a coffin by his students. This school later became a major center of Talmudic study (see Mishnah).

Hadrian (emperor 117-138 CE) attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions. He prohibited the Torah and the Hebrew calendar and executed Judaic scholars. The sacred scroll was ceremonially burned on the Temple Mount. At the former Temple sanctuary he installed two statues, one of Jupiter, another of himself. In an attempt to erase any memory of Judea or Ancient Israel, he wiped the name off the map and replaced it with Syria Palaestina, supplanting earlier terms, such as Judaea. Similarly, he re-established Jerusalem, this time as the Roman polis of Aelia Capitolina, and Jews were barred from entering the city, except on the fast day of Tisha B'Av.

Rabbinic Judaism became a religion centered around synagogues, and the Jews themselves dispersed throughout the Roman world and beyond. With the destruction of Jerusalem, important centers of Jewish culture developed in the area of Galilee and in Babylonia and work on the Talmud continued in these locations.

The Bar Kochba Revolt: A Disaster Celebrated by Zionists on Lag Ba'Omer

On Lag Ba'Omer, Israeli children celebrate the Jewish rebels' victory over the Romans 2,000 years ago. Yet as victories go, Simon Bar Kochba's was a Pyrrhic one. Elon Gilad May 06, 2015

On Lag Ba'Omer, Israeli children light bonfires across Israel, supposedly in celebration of the heroic victory of Simon Bar Kochba over the Roman Empire. This is a modern-day contrivance - earlier generations weren’t inclined to celebrate what amounted to the destruction of Jewish life in Judea for over a millennium.

While many view the Bar Kochba Revolt as a tale of heroism, - it is equally a case study in the folly of religious and nationalistic fanaticism. Either way, it is a seminal moment in Jewish history.

The late Second Temple Period and the century following the destruction of the Temple (from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE) were a time of apocalyptic fervor for the Jewish people. The lessons of Jewish history had taught – at least, so many believed - that God would intervene on the side of the Jews. Had God not ended the Babylonian Exile and restored the Jerusalem Temple? Had the prophets not promised that a messiah would come and lead the Jews to a new age of righteousness?

These expectations led to a steady stream of would-be messiahs. A partial list includes the Essenes’ Teacher of Righteousness, Hezekiah “the chief bandit,” Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Judas the Galilean, and most famously, Jesus of Nazareth.

Usually, the death of the charismatic leader by the Romans was held as proof that the would-be savior had not been a true messiah, though in some of these cases, followers continued to assert the slain leader's supernatural nature even after his death.

The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD did not allay these expectations, but according to the beliefs at the time, rather served to demonstrate that the time was nigh. And a new crop of would-be messiahs came about, of whom Menahem ben Hezekiah was the most famous, until Simon of Kosevah came along – the man who would become "Bar Kochba".

Son of a Star

We know little personally about Simon-to-be-Bar Kochba, despite the fact that a number of his letters were discovered in 1960. These teach us that he was a strong-willed, charismatic leader, but not much else.

In 132 CE, Simon led a revolt against the Romans. It was not a spontaneous uprising - as the Great Revolt 70 years before had been - but rather a well-planned civil war fought in the Judean hills.

The Jews didn’t need much reason to revolt against their Roman overlords, but the immediate cause for this outbreak of violence seems to have been a pledge by Roman Emperor Hadrian to have the Temple rebuilt, only to change his mind - and order a temple to Jupiter be erected on the Temple Mount instead. Hadrian apparently also prohibited circumcision, never a popular measure among Jews. Banning it, that is.

This was an asymmetric conflict. Simon’s forces could not best the Roman legions in open battle, so they employed guerrilla tactics. The Jewish fighters would hide in the vast, complex tunnel system carved into the soft, chalky bedrock in the build-up to the war, emerge to ambush and raid the regular Roman army, then escape back into their underground labyrinths.

With the support of the Judean populace, Simon and his men succeeded in hitting the Romans hard and recapturing much of Judea.

Whether or not the Judean rebels were able to capture Jerusalem is disputed. In any case, their early success and the establishment of an independent Jewish state led many to proclaim Simon as the messiah.

That is how he got the name Bar Kochba - “son of a star” - a reference to a prophecy in the Book of Numbers: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth" (24:17). His letters however were signed with the name “Simon the Prince” (“HaNasi”).

The Romans: Not star-struck

The Romans responded with characteristic brutality, marshaling reinforcements from throughout the empire to crush the Jewish revolt.

The war ensuing was massive, even by the Roman scale of doing things: the Romans wielded 12 legions, probably close to 100,000 men, against the rebellious Jews.

Though not as well equipped or trained as the Romans, the Jews of Judea (there is some question whether Jews in the Galilee also participated) had a fighting force more than twice that size. The grueling war would last four brutal years, with massive casualties on both sides.

Eventually the Roman war machine ground down the Jewish resistance, systematically destroying the Jewish towns.

In 136 CE, the beleaguered rebels pulled back to a stronghold southwest of Jerusalem, called Betar.

That is where the revolt, and its leader Simon Bar Kochba, would meet their end.

After a siege, the Roman forces seized the stronghold and slaughtered all they found inside. According to rabbinic sources, the Roman war horses were nostril-deep in rebel blood.

Judea was completely devastated. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were put to the sword, and many more died of famine. Hundreds of towns were destroyed, never to arise anew. Those who survived were sold on the Roman slave market: they numbered so many that the price of a Jewish slave dropped to the price of a horse.

In fact, few Jews remained in Judea at all, and the Roman province was reconstituted into the new province "Syria Palaestina."

Bar Kochba's defeat would have a profound effect on the Jewish people.

Judea found itself practically depopulated of Jews, crushing any hope of Jewish independence for nearly 2,000 years. In fact, Jews in the Diaspora did not exactly celebrate Bar Kochba’s heroism: he was instead viewed as a progenitor of the calamity that caused all Jews to be displaced persons for millennia.

Only recently, with the advent of Zionism, had his memory been exhumed as a Jewish hero, a dogged freedom fighter who against all odds, founded a Jewish state. And he did achieve that. But not for very long.

 From New World Encyclopedia

Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kokhva or Bar Kochba) was a messianic Jewish leader who led a major revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 C.E., establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("prince," or "president"). His state was conquered by the Romans in late 135 C.E. following a bloody two-year war.

Originally named ben Kosiba (בן כוזיבא), he was given the surname Bar Kokhba, meaning "Son of the Star," by the leading Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva, who believed him to be the promised Messiah.

The eventual failure of Bar Kokhba’s revolt resulted in the deaths of possibly hundreds of thousands of Jews, the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish intellectual center at Jamnia. Henceforth, Babylon would be the primary center of Talmudic scholarship until the rise of European Jewry in the late Middle Ages. Judaism would not become a political force in Palestine again until the emergence of Zionism in the twentieth century.

In an ironic way, Bar Kokhba could be seen as the most successful would-be Messiah in Jewish history. Despite the folly and self-defeating outcome of a violence-based project, he can be described as the only messianic claimant to have actually established an independent Jewish nation (fleeting though it was).[1]


The first Jewish Revolt of 66-73 C.E. had left the population and countryside in ruins. The Temple of Jerusalem had been destroyed, tens of thousands of Jews in Jerusalem had been killed, and most of the remainder were driven from the city by the future Emperor Titus.

Emperor Hadrian ascended to the throne in 118 C.E. in the aftermath of continuing Jewish unrest in Egypt, Cyrene and Cyprus. However, he sought to mollify the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem, where a substantial Jewish population had now resettled. He even seems to have ordered the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem, though on terms that outraged pious Jews, in that it was to be constructed on a new site.

A potential rebellion was averted through the intervention of Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah (Gen. R. 64). Secret anti-Rome factions, however, began to prepare for war, reportedly stockpiling weapons and converting caves in the mountains into hidden fortifications, connected by subterranean passages.

The situation came to a head when Hadrian forbade the circumcision of infants, which the Jews found intolerable.[2] The fact that nearly every living Jew in Judea must have had relatives who had been killed in the earlier revolt added fuel to the revolutionary fire, as did the Roman policy of insisting that pagan sacrifice be offered in the holy city. Although Bar Kokhba himself is not yet heard from, it is likely that he was already one of the organizers of this movement. [3]

Bar Kokhba’s Israel

There is little historical information about the early stages of the revolt. It apparently began in 132, when the rebuilding of Jerusalem as a Roman city damaged the supposed tomb of Solomon. According to the ancient historian Cassius Dio, (Roman history 69.13:1-2):

Soon, the whole of Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by open acts; many others, too, from other peoples, were joining them from eagerness for profit, in fact one might almost say that the whole world was being stirred up by this business.

In this situation Simon ben Kosiba emerged as a decisive and effective military and political leader. His surviving letters make it clear that he was in a position of authority among the revolutionary forces by April 132 until early November 135.

Israel’s Messiah?

Rabbi Akiva, who proclaimed Bar Kokhba to be the Messiah.

According to Eusebius of Ceasaria (c.260-c.340), Bar Kokhba claimed to have been sent to the Jews from heaven (Church History 4.6.2). However, Simon’s own letters show him to be of a pragmatic military and political mind. There is indeed evidence, however, that the Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva considered him to be the deliverer. Akiva reportedly said of him, "This is the King Messiah" (Yer. Ta'anit iv. 68d).

On some of his coins and in his letters, Bar Kokhba calls himself "Prince" (Nasi), a word that some believe had strong messianic connotations. However, it should be noted that presidents of the Sanhedrin were also called Nasi, with no hint of messianic allusion. The name Bar Kochba itself has messianic connotations, however. It could be that Bar Kokhba accepted the messianic role, conceived as essentially political, even if he did not think of it in apocalyptic terms. The common Jewish expectation, it should be remembered, was that the Messiah was a deliverer from foreign rule, indeed sent by God, but not a supernatural being.

Coin of the Bar Kokhba era. Obverse: the Temple in Jerusalem with the rising star above it. Reverse: "Year one of the redemption of Israel."

Akiva was joined by at least two other prominent rabbis—Gershom and Aha—in recognizing Bar Kokhba as the Messiah. However, others disagreed, having already soured on opposition to Rome or wanting more certain confirmation from God before supporting any messianic candidate.

The new Jewish state minted its own coins and was called "Israel." Although Bar Kokhba’s forces apparently never succeeded in taking Jerusalem, their control of Judea was extensive, as evidenced by the fact that coins minted by the new Jewish state have been found throughout the rest of the area. Legal documents show that former Roman imperial lands were confiscated by the state of Israel and leased to Jews for farming.

Roman reaction

As a result of Bar Kokhba’s success, Hadrian was forced to send several of his most able commanders to deal with the rebellion, among them Julius Severus, had previously been governor of Britain, Publicius Marcellus end Haterius Nepos, the governors of Syria and Arabia, respectively. Hadrian himself eventually arrived on the scene as well.

The Romans committed no less than 12 legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to re-conquer this now independent state. Outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, but confident nevertheless of their long-term military superiority, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which decimated the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war.

Jewish sources report terrible atrocities by the Romans, including children being wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive (Bab. Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b). The absolute devotion of the rebels to their leader and his cause resulted in very few of them surrendering, and in the end very few survived.

Some Jews began to regret the rebellion. The fourth century Christian writer Hieronymus reported that the “citizens of Judea came to such distress that they, together with their wives, children, gold and silver remained in underground tunnels and in the deepest caves.” (Commentary on Isaiah 2.15). His claim has been confirmed by archaeologists who found human remains, cooking utensils, and letters it digs at caves at Wadi Murabba at and Nahal Hever.

A Fallen Star

Eventually the Romans succeeded in taking one after another of the Jewish strongholds. Bar Kokhba took his final stand at Bethar, possibly located a short march southwest of Jerusalem.[4] The siege continued until the winter of 135-136. When the fortress was finally taken, Bar Kokhba’s body was among the corpses. Most of the dead succumbed to disease and starvation, not battle wounds. Hadrian reportedly stated, upon being presented with the would-be Messiah’s head: “If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?”

According to Jewish tradition, Bethar fell on July 25, 136. However, the fact that Hadrian assumed the title of Conqueror late in 135 leads historians to assume an earlier date of November or December of that year.[5]

Cassius Dio stated 580,000 Jews were killed in the war against Bar Kokhba, with 50 fortified towns and 985 villages being razed. Jerusalem also was destroyed, and the new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was built in its place, this time with no accommodation to Jewish sensibilities whatsoever.

Yet so costly was the Roman victory over Bar Kokhba’s state that Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting "I and my army are well," and is 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 Judea, Galilee, and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine), a name that has since passed into most European languages as well as into Arabic. The new provincial designation, derived from the ancient sea-faring Philistine people who occupied the coastal plain around the first millennium B.C.E.


Expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in 135 C.E.

Bar Kokhba’s defeat was followed by a persecution of Jews by Hadrian, who now saw the religion itself as incompatible with Roman order. Prisoners from the war were sold as slaves and Jews were forbidden to teach the Mosaic law or to own Torah scrolls. The Palestinian center of Jewish learning at Jamnia came to an end, resulting in the ascendancy of the Babylonian Talmud, rather than the Palestinian version, in later Jewish tradition.

In Jerusalem, a temple to Jupiter was built on the site of the Temple of Yahweh, and a sanctuary devoted to goddess Aphrodite was built where the Christians—-viewed by Hadrian as a Jewish sect—venerated the tomb of Jesus. Jews were banned both from living in and even visiting Jerusalem. Rabbi Akiva violated this law, becoming a martyr for his act, along with nine of his colleagues.

In the aftermath, rabbinical tradition turned strongly against messianic claims in general, an attitude that persists to this day. Talmudic sources began to call the Messiah of Rabbi Akiva “bar Kozeva',” meaning “son of lies.”[6]

Judaism as a political force suffered a defeat from which it would not recover until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Bar Kokhba became a hero among some of the Zionists, and is remembered by many during the Israeli holiday of Lag BaOmer, which had previously been associated with Akiva and his colleague Simon Ben Yochai.


↑ Jesus of Nazareth would be recognized as more successful than Bar Kokhba in Christian tradition, as well as in Islam, which also accepts Jesus as the Messiah. However, from the Jewish perspective, Jesus was not a successful messianic claimant, for he did not restore an independent Jewish state.

↑ Jews are commanded to circumcise their son on the eighth day after birth. Hadrian's edict also banned castration and did not affect voluntary circumcision by legally adult males.

↑ Bar Kokba Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 15, 2007.

↑ Some hold that Bethar must have been in Samaritan territory, basing their opinion on a Talmudic tradition (Yer. Ta'anit 68d; Lam. R. to chap. ii. 2) that blames the fall of Bethar on Samaritan treachery.

↑ A letter from Bar Kokhba himself dated Oct/November 135 is accepted as evidence that Bethar could not have fallen earlier than this.

↑ Akiva himself remains highly revered in Jewish tradition and liturgy, however.


From ‘A History of the Jews’ by Paul Johnson pp137 et seq

The Great Revolt of
66 AD and the siege of Jerusalem constitute one of the most important and horrifying events in Jewish history. Unfortunately it is badly recorded. Tacitus left a long account of the war but only fragments survive. Rabbinic accounts are made up of anecdotes with no clear historical context, or of sheer fantasy. There is very little epigraphical or archaeological evidence. Virtually our only authority for the war is Josephus, and he is tendentious, contradictory and thoroughly unreliable. The broad outline of events is as follows. After the massacre of the garrison in Jerusalem, the legate in Syria, Cestius Gallus, assembled a large force in Acre and marched on the city. When he reached the outskirts he was dismayed by the strength of the Jewish resistance and ordered a retreat which turned into a rout. Rome then took charge and reacted with enormous force, no fewer than four legions, the v, x, xii and xv, being concentrated on Judaea, and one of the empire’s most experienced generals, Titus Flavius Vespasian, being given the command.  He took command, leaving Jerusalem severely alone until he had cleared the coast and secured his communications, reduced most of the fortresses held by Jews and settled the countryside. In 69 CE Vespasian was named emperor, and at the end of the year he left for Rome, leaving his eldest son, the twenty-nine-year-old Titus, in charge of the final phase of the campaign, the siege and capture of Jerusalem, which lasted from April to September 70 CE.

Josephus took a prominent part in these events (the Jewish Wars) and left two different accounts of them. His Jewish War, describing the years 66-70 CE in detail and preceded by a history of the Jews in Palestine from the •Macabees onwards, was largely written while Titus, who succeeded Vespasian, was still alive. Then, about twenty years later, Josephus •finished his Antiquities of the Jews, giving the entire history from the Creation onwards (based mainly on the Bible), ending in 66, but including an autobiographical Vita as an appendix. There are discrepancies between the War and the Vita.1Most historians of antiquity wrote from tendentious motives. The trouble with Josephus is that his motives changed between writing the two works. In his Vita he was responding, for instance, to an attack on his character by the Jewish writer Justus of Tiberias.114 But the main reason for his change of viewpoint was that he was an example of a Jewish phenomenon which became very common over the centuries: a clever young man who, in his youth, accepted the modernity and sophistication of the day and then, late in middle age, returned to his Jewish roots. He began his writing career as a Roman apologist and ended it close to being a Jewish nationalist.  

The overwhelming impression is that Jews were throughout irreconcilably divided into many factions. The original massacre of the garrison was the work of a small minority.  Only when Cestius Gallus was driven back and his force destroyed did the aristocratic element decide to raise troops, and even then it mixed motives. Its object seems to have been to carry on government and await events. So bronze coins — shekels, half-shekels and small change - were minted. Josephus, a senior priest attached to the house of one of the aristocrats, Eleazar ben Ananias, was sent to the Galilee with two other priests to prepare the population for the conflict. He found most of the population opposed to the war. The farmers hated brigands (including the ultra-Jewish nationalists) and hated the cities too. They did not like the Romans either but were not anxious to fight them. Of the cities, Sephoris was pro-Roman; Tiberias was divided Gabara favoured John of Giscala, one of the insurgent leaders.  Josephus says he tried to unite the cities, the peasants and the brigands but failed; the peasants would not join up and when conscripted soon deserted. So he retired on Herod’s old fortress of Jotapata and, after a token resistance, surrendered to Vespasian. Thereafter he served Romans, first as an interpreter at the siege of Jerusalem, later as a propagandist. He took the same line as Jeremiah at the first fall Jerusalem: it was all God’s will, and the Romans were His instruments; to fight the Romans was therefore not only foolish but wicked.

Josephus was probably correct to see this long, savage disastrous war as the work of small, malignant minorities on both sides. Later, he came to see the force of the Jewish demand for religious and political rights, to have some respect for the Maccabees, and to take pride and pleasure in Jewish particularism. Yet his original contention, that the resistance of Jerusalem was unconscionable, remains valid. Titus had 60,000 men and the latest siege equipment, He could rely on starvation and Jewish divisions to do their work. The defenders had about 25,000 fighters, split into groups: the Zealots, under Eleazar ben Simon, held the Antonia and the Temple; the extremist Simeon ben Giora and his Sicarii ran the upper city; and there were Idumeans and other partisans under John of Giscala. The mass of the citizens and refugees were the helpless prisoners of these militants. Josephus described the final stages of the siege in horrifying detail. The Romans had to fight all the way. They stormed the Antonia, then took the Temple, which was burned, then Herod’s under a month later. The people were sold as slaves, or massacred, or saved to die in the arenas of Caesarea, Antioch and Rome. Simeon ben Giora was captured alive, taken to Rome for Titus’ triumphal process, then executed in the Forum. Titus’ arch still stands there, the Temple monoorah he captured carved on its stone. He also preserved, in his palace, the curtain which screened the Holy of Holies and a copy of the scriptures — would that it had survived!

by Frederic Raphael  Pantheon, 336 pages

Opinions of JOSEPHUS vary when History Is Written by the Loser

Captured by the Romans, the Jewish soldier-historian Flavius Josephus became a counselor to the commanders who sacked Jerusalem.
By Benjamin Balint Jan. 18, 2013 Wall Street Journal


Until recently, no ancient historian was more widely read than the first-century soldier-statesman Flavius Josephus, the greatest source of our knowledge of the Holy Land "between the Testaments." In many a Victorian home and American Sunday-school library, a copy of William Whiston's translation of Josephus' works, first published in 1737 and reprinted more than 200 times since, held pride of place next to the Scriptures.

Yet to his own people Josephus remained a pariah—a man who betrayed them in the hour of their greatest crisis. Voicing the view of many, Israeli archaeologist and general Yigael Yadin called Josephus "a great historian and a bad Jew."

To recalibrate Josephus' legacy in modern times, the screenwriter and novelist Frederic Raphael, who was trained in classics at Cambridge University, has written "A Jew Among Romans," an eloquent appraisal of Josephus. In the book's first part, he skillfully recounts the transformation of Joseph ben Mattathias, a descendant of priests, into Titus Flavius Josephus, confidant of emperors.

As a young man, Joseph acquainted himself with Jewish law and for three years lived as an ascetic in the Judean desert. In 66 A.D., at age 29, he was entrusted by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem with the commission of governor-general of Galilee. In that role, he overcame numerous plots and calumnies as he tried in vain to persuade the Jewish rebels against Rome, bent on war and inflamed by volatile messianic fantasies, to lay down their arms. He endeavored, as he put it, "to repress these promoters of sedition" in order to save his country from political suicide.

Captured by the Romans in the town of Jotapata, Josephus saved his skin by switching sides and predicting to Vespasian, the Roman commander, that he would soon become emperor. Like his biblical namesake, Josephus ventured an oracular prediction and when Two years later, in the year 70, Josephus accompanied Titus—Vespasian's son and his successor as Rome's commander in Judaea—to the fateful siege of Jerusalem. He faced a difficult position: "My life was frequently in danger," he wrote, "both from the Jews, who were eager to get me into their hands to gratify their revenge, and from the Romans, who attributed every reverse to some treachery on my part."

Again and again, the "embedded historian," as Mr. Raphael calls him, advocated the path of moderation in an attempt to avert what was sure to be a disastrous war. His appeals were met only with the derision of his former comrades. Summing up these efforts, Mr. Raphael writes: "If he was a coward because he had failed to die, he was also egregiously brave; if a traitor, it was to a reckless nationalism he never favored, not to Judaism."

Josephus had to hide his anguish as he witnessed thousands of Jews massacred, Jerusalem sacked, the Temple destroyed. His life, writes Mr. Raphael, was "broken in half by the war of which he supplied the sole extant account."

Returning to Rome with Titus and the loot from Jerusalem, Josephus was rewarded with Roman citizenship, the imperial family name (he was now Titus Flavius Josephus) and comfortable lodging in a former palace of Vespasian. He spent the last three decades of his life haunted by memories of Jewish humiliation and sovereignty lost, currying favor with the very men who had laid waste to his native land.

He also spent those years setting down the four remarkable works that have come down to us: "The Jewish Antiquities," in which he shows himself an adept exegete of the Bible; "The Jewish War," in which, with the imprimatur of Titus, he chronicled the death throes of his country; "Vita," the oldest autobiography that has come down to us from antiquity; and "Against Apion," a stirring polemic against anti-Jewish prejudices that joins a learned knowledge of Greek philosophy with a valiant defense of his people and his faith. Mr. Raphael describes him as "the first Jewish writer to advertise his people's merits and religion to an alien audience."

As Mr. Raphael's sharply etched account makes clear, the turncoat Josephus may have been a "sponsored propagandist," over-praising the virtues of his Roman benefactors; he may have been guilty of servility and opportunism in accepting the favors of emperors; but in the end he was not false to Jerusalem. Though cosmopolitan in his outlook, Josephus remained a faithful Jew to the end. Josephus died sometime around the year 100. A statue was erected in Rome in his honor.

In the second and bolder part of "A Jew Among Romans," Mr. Raphael casts Josephus as a prototype of the alienated "un-Jewish Jew" in the Diaspora. Josephus, he contends, was "the first of many exiles who, whatever their internal dissidence, impersonated conformity with a dominant culture." There follows a litany of solitaries that Mr. Raphael regards as prefigured by Josephus, from the poet Yehuda Halevi in 11th-century Andalusia to the philosopher Baruch Spinoza in 17th-century Holland, to Sigmund Freud in turn-of-the-century Vienna, to the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, director of "Shoah," who is likened to "some kind of modern Flavius Josephus, unflaggingly persistent in the retrieval and recording of painful memories." Torn between contradictory affinities, each bore something of the pathos so evident in Josephus, "a writer whose Sisyphean exercise was to retrieve what had been lost to his people and to himself."

Inevitably, with a list so wide-ranging, some of the comparisons are more tenuous than others. But in capturing Josephus' ambivalences and ambiguities, Mr. Raphael has with great subtlety shed light on the heirs of that fascinating figure: those memory-haunted thinkers, living on the borderlines of nations and religions, defined by the attempt to transcend the very tradition to which they were so richly indebted.


Chronolgy of First Jewish War

Wars between the Jews and Romans: the War of 66-70 CE

Causes of the War Against the Romans  These excerpts are provided to give the general reader a knowledge of Josephus' writings on various subjects. I have added my own commentary to provide context.

The Works of Flavius Josephus,  William Whiston, Translator [1737]

The Times of the Roman War

Caves in which Jewish rebels hid from Romans 2,000 years ago found in Galilee

The Jewish Revolt against Rome,  Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Edited by Mladen Popović
Brill, 2012

The Last Days and Hours at Masada | The BAS Library




WikiAudio 2016 (12.23)



the Roman general Pompey subdued Judaea in 63 BCE (after which it became a client kingdom).  in 6 CE, the emperor Augustus deposed king Archelaus, and his governor of Syria, Quirinius, established the province of Judaea (which became a prefecture)

Three major wars were fought by the Jews for freedom from the Romans within 70 years, The First Jewish–Roman War, 66 - 70 CE, The Kitos War (115–117 CE), and finally The Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE).  They were wars the Romans had to win.  Defeat could have led to further uprisings and possibly the end of the Roman Empire. The table below shows this resulted in between 350,000 - 2,000,000+ fatalities. The first war was led by Vespasion who was to become the Roman Ceasar,  and then by his son Titus who would also be  Ceasar.  Its importance to the Romans can be seen by the Titus Arch in  Rome.

While there is dispute as to what happened there is no dispute about the result.  The enormous Jewish casualties and their expulsion, the disappearance of Judea from the map, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and change in the name of Jerusalem with entry forbidden to Jews and repopulated with Greeks

The Jews were now stateless and lived in other countries were they usually paid extra taxes and suffered massacres and sometimes expulsion and gradual resettlement in many other countries (the diaspora.). What happened to them and why it happened is the history of the next 2,000 years until they recovered their state which they called ‘Israel’.    Judaism evolved and changed from a Temple based religion to a ‘local’ one based on synagogues.  It also saw the creation and growth of Christianity and Islam

(Wikipedia - Sept 2016)


66–136 CE (70 years)


Roman Judea, Cyprus, Cyrenaica, Mesopotamia


Decisive Roman Empire victory:

Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple

Mass execution of Judean population
and diaspora of survivors

Schism between Judaism and early Christianity

Consolidation of non-messianic Jewish sects
into Rabbinic Judaism

Consolidation of Jewish center in Galilee



Roman Judea (Iudaea) remained under Roman control, renamed and merged into the Province of Syria Palaestina


Roman Empire

Jewish Zealots;

Jewish rebels;

Bar-Kokhba's army

Commanders and Leaders



 Marcus Lupus


Eleazar ben Hanania




Marcius Turbo

 Lusius Quietus



Julian and Pappus;


Julius Severus

Simon bar Kokhba

Eleazar of Modi'im


Great revolt: 30,000 (Beth Horon) – 60,000 (Siege of Jerusalem)

Great revolt: 25,000+ Jewish militias

20,000 Edomeans

Kitos War: forces of the eastern legions

Kitos War:
loosely organized tens of thousands

Bar Kokhba revolt:
7 full legions with cohorts and auxiliaries of
5 additional legions
– about 120,000 total.

Bar-Kokhba revolt:
200,000 – 400,000 (b) militia men

Casualties and Losses

Great revolt:
Legio XII Fulminata lost its aquila and Syrian contingent destroyed – about 20,000 casualties;

Great revolt:
250,000– 1.1 million (c) Jews killed;
enslavement of 97,000  (c);

Kitos War:
240,000 civilians
killed in Cyprusa,
 200,000 killed in Cyrenaica a

Kitos War:
annihilation of Jewish communities in
Cyprus, Cyrenaica and Alexandria;

Bar-Kokhba revolt: Legio XXII Deiotariana destroyed,

Legio IX Hispana possibly disbanded,[2]

Legio X Fretensis – sustained heavy casualties

Bar Kokhba revolt:
400,000[3] – 580,000a
civilians and militia massacred,

985 Judean villages razed (a).

350,000 - 2,000,000+ fatalities

[a] - per Cassius Dio

[b] - according to Rabbinic sources

[c] - per Josephus



Judas uprising (6 CE) Alexandria (38 CE) Jacob and Simon uprising (46 CE)

Major Conflicts

Great Revolt of Judea, Kitos War, Bar Kokhba revolt







First Jewish War 66 - 70 CE

The Kitos War (115–117 CE)

The Bar Kokhba Revolt
(132–136 CE)