– Jewish War – Destruction of Jerusalem
accession to the Roman throne left the war against the Jews to his son Titus.
- He was
assisted by Tiberius Julius Alexander, who had been governor of Judaea in 46-48
and knew how to fight a war.
quality was that the new emperor, his father, could trust him.
father's strategy, to allow the Jews in Jerusalem to destroy themselves, had
the Zealots of Eleaser son of Simon and the private army of John of Gischala, a
new leader had come to power.
- He was
Simon bar Giora ("son of the proselyte"?).
supported by men from Idumea, the southern part of Judaea that the Romans had
reconquered only recently.
- John and
Simon had different agendas.
strove only for political freedom and minted (produced) silver coins with the
legend "Freedom of Zion".
stood at the head of a messianic movement and minted copper coins with the
legend "Redemption of Zion".
- On 14
April 70, during Passover, Titus laid siege to Jerusalem.
- To the
northeast of the old city, on Mount Scopus, the legions XII Fulminata and XV
Apollinaris shared a large camp
Macedonica was camped at a short distance.
Fretensis arrived from Syria, it occupied the Mount of Olives, in front of the
soldiers of this legion wanted revenge after they had been defeated by the
Zealots in 66.
had been sent by two petty kingdoms on the Upper Euphrates, Commagene and
Arabian sheik, who felt a deep hatred for the Jews, had joined the Romans with
Italy arrived many adventurers - veterans from the defeated armies of Galba and
besieged did not stand a chance against this army.
this same Passover, Eleaser allowed all inhabitants to perform their religious
duties in the Temple.
festival, however, was spoilt by John's men, who took swords with them and
forced Eleaser's Zealots into surrender
this success, John wanted to launch a preemptive strike at the Romans, who were
building new camps to the west
city, one for the legions XII Fulminata and XV Apollinaris and one for legion V
was afraid that Simon would close the city gates behind his back, and did not
attack the new camps.
catapults from the camps started to throw heavy stones into the city.
cover of this artillery fire, the Roman soldiers could start to bash the
northern wall with their battering-rams.
- The Roman
attack served to unite the Jews, who started to make sorties.
failed to destroy the new weapon that the Romans had prepared: siege towers.
were taller than the walls and enabled the legionaries to throw missiles on the
defenders of the walls.
latter tried to evade the missiles, the battering-rams could do their work.
days, the wall collapsed, and the Jews withdrew from Bezetha to their second
ordered an all-out attack on this wall, where the defenses were still
of John and Simon were able to ward off the danger for four days.
the fifth day the second wall yielded to the violence of the battering-rams.
continued in the streets of the New Town, where the defenders inflicted heavy
losses upon the Romans, who
forced to retire through the breach to Bezetha.
four days of heavy fighting, the latter again managed to drive away the Jews
from the second wall, which was
- Titus now
decided upon a show of strength, and staged an army parade, which lasted for
his adviser Flavius Josephus was to talk to the men on the walls, trying to
induce them to surrender.
Jewish leaders were not impressed by the arguments of the turncoat, and on the
fifth day, the Romans continued.
started to build four large siege dams, aimed at the Antonia fortress which had
large stores and two great cisterns.
- The Roman
sappers (combat engineers) undermined one of the dams and managed to raise a
fire on a second on.
soldiers destroyed the remaining dams two days later.
this, Titus decided to starve the defenders into surrender since there were
signs of their supplies running low.
tried to find food in the valleys in front of the walls and some 500 every day
were caught and crucified.
soldiers had amused themselves by nailing their victims in different postures.
- In three
days, Jerusalem was surrounded with an eight kilometer long palisade.
within fifteen kilometres of the city were cut down.
of the legions V Macedonica, XII Fulminata and XV Apollinaris were demolished
and transferred to
- The death
rate among the besieged increased.
Kidron valley and the Valley of Hinnom were filled with corpses.
defector told Titus that their number was estimated at 115,880.
people tried to leave Jerusalem.
had succeeded in passing their own lines and had not been killed by Roman
patrols, they reached the
Here they surrendered: as prisoners, they were at last entitled to some bread.
them ate so much, that they could not stomach it and died.
case, their bodies were cut open by the Syrian and Arabian warders, who knew
that some of these people had
coins before they started their ill fated expedition.
the defectors was the famous teacher Yohanan ben Zakkai, who escaped in a coffin
and saved his life by
Titus that he, too, would be an emperor.
there was no wood, the construction of new siege dams to attack the Antonia
took three weeks.
of weakened Jewish warriors had no success.
sound of the battering-rams was to be heard, and one night, a wall of the
legionaries discovered that a new wall had been build behind the breach.
Antonia had to be taken by other means.
- During a
dark night at the beginning of July, twenty-four Roman soldiers climbed the
walls of the castle, killed the
and sounded a trumpet.
garrison of the Antonia overestimated the number of enemies; many fled to the
same time, Titus ordered his men to enter the mine that John's sappers had
o' clock in the morning, these men entered the fortress; after ten hours of
fighting, they had driven John's men
- A couple
of days later, on 14 July, prisoners told them that the priests in the Temple
had been forced to interrupt the
sacrifices, which had greatly demoralized the defenders of Jerusalem.
Antonia was demolished.
stones were used to build a new dam, this time towards the Temple terrace.
Romans used the dam to set fire to the porticoes on the northern and western
side of the terrace, but it was
to bash trough the walls.
tenth of August, the Temple itself was burning.
thousand women and children were taken prisoner at the Court of the Gentiles,
while the legionaries sacrificed to
standards in the Holy of Holies.
Temple was intentionally set in fire. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus
writes in his Jewish War 6.220-270 that
soldiers took the initiative, but this is not true. A fourth-century writer,
Sulpicius Severus, states that Titus
the destruction of the sanctuary, and this piece of information almost
certainly stems from the Roman historian
(Histories, fr.2). It is more probable that Flavius Josephus invented his story
to absolve his friend Titus from
responsibility of this war crime, than that Tacitus was slandering.
the next few days, the Romans destroyed the archives, the quarter immediately
south of the Temple, and the
where the Sanhedrin convened.
they descended into the Old Town.
dams had been prepared to attack the palace.
Titus' men had taken it, the last defenders managed to hide themselves in the
among them, and was among the first to surrender.
remained in hiding for some time, but finally made a dramatic appearance on the
place where the Temple had
dressed in a white priestly tunic and his royal, purple mantle.
- On 8
September, Titus was master of what was left of the city.
- On his
return in Rome, Vespasian, Titus and their soldiers celebrated a triumph.
paraded through the streets of their capital in a beautiful procession.
culminated in the punishment of the Jewish leaders.
of Giora was executed.
Gischala was sentenced to life imprisonment.
sacred vessels, the table on which the Bread of God's Presence had been put,
the Menorah, the curtain and all the
objects that nobody except the high priest was allowed to see, were carried
through the Roman streets.
riches were used to strike coins with the legend JUDAEA CAPTA ('Judaea
were forced to pay an additional tax (fiscus Judaicus).
the four years of war, the Romans had taken 97,000 prisoners.
forced to become gladiators.
criminals were burned alive.
were employed at Seleucia, where they had to dig a tunnel.
brought to Rome to build the Forum of Peace (a park in the heart of Rome) and
Menorah and the Table were exhibited in the temple of Peace.