September 7, 70 The Jewish-Roman Wars

Built under the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BC, Solomon’s Temple was the first holy temple in ancient Jerusalem.  According to Rabbinic sources the temple stood on part of the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Zion, for 410 years, before being sacked and burned to the ground by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, in 587 BC.

Built under the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BC, Solomon’s Temple was the first holy temple in ancient Jerusalem.  According to Rabbinic sources the temple stood on part of the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Zion, for 410 years, before being sacked and burned to the ground by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, in 587 BC.Solomons TempleSo important is this event to the Jewish people that it is commemorated still as the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.  A day of fasting and mourning known as Tisha B’Av.

A second temple was built on the site in 516BC, and expanded during the reign of Herod the Great. This second temple stood until the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70AD, according to Jewish tradition falling on the same day as the first temple.

The first Roman involvement with the Kingdom of Judea came in 67BC.  The client Kingdom of the Herodian Dynasty became a Roman Province in the year 6AD.

Long standing religious disputes erupted into a full scale Jewish revolt in 66. Thousands of Jews were executed in Jerusalem and the second temple plundered, resulting in the Battle of Beth Horon, in which a Syrian Legion was destroyed by Jewish rebels. The future emperor Vespasian appointed his son Titus as second in command, entering Judea in 67 at the head of four legions of Roman troops.

Arch_of_Titus_Menorah
“Depiction of the Roman triumph celebrating the Sack of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The procession features the Menorah and other vessels taken from the Second Temple”. H/T Wikipedia

A three year off and on siege followed, with Vespasian being recalled to Rome in 69 to become Emperor. The Great Jewish Revolt was now Titus’ war.

The Jewish historian Josephus acted as intermediary throughout much of the siege, though his impartiality has been questioned since he was both friend and adviser to Titus. At one point Josephus entered the city to negotiate, but later fled, wounded by an arrow in a surprise attack which almost caught Titus himself.

Roberts_Siege_and_Destruction_of_Jerusalem
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, Oil on canvas by David Roberts, 1850

A brutal siege of Jerusalem followed through most of the year 70, in which Jewish Zealots burned their own food supply, forcing defenders to “Fight to the End”. During the final stages, Zealots following John of Giscala still held the Temple, while a splinter group called the Sicarii (literally, “Dagger Men”), led by Simon Bar Giora, held the upper part of the city. The Second Temple, one of the last fortified bastions of the rebellion, was destroyed on Tisha B’Av, July 29 or 30, 70AD. By September 7 the Roman army under Titus had fully occupied and plundered all of Jerusalem.

Masada
Mountain fortress of Masada. Note the siege ramp to the right, by which the besieging force gained access to the top. The Romans built that.

The first Jewish-Roman war would last for three more years, culminating in the Roman siege of the mountain fortress of Masada, in which defenders committed mass suicide in April of 73 rather than being conquered by the Romans.

There would be two more Jewish-Roman wars:  Kitos War (115–117), sometimes called the “Rebellion of the Exile”, and the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132 through 135. The wars had a cataclysmic impact on the Jewish people, the resulting diaspora changing them from a major Eastern Mediterranean population into a scattered and persecuted minority. The Jewish people would not reestablish a major presence in the Levant until the constitution of the State of Israel, in 1948.

Emperor Justinian built a Christian church in the 530s on the ruins of the Second Temple, which was burned to the ground by Sassanid Emperor Khosrau II early in the 7th century. The Umayyad Caliphate built the “Farthest”, or “al-Aqsa” mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site, following the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in 637.  Islamic authorities have ruled over the city ever since, with the exception of an 88-year period following the First Crusade, 1099-1187.

The Jerusalem Islamic “Waqf”, a religious trust acting as civil administrators for the old-city“Haram esh-Sharif” ( “The Noble Sanctuary”), or “Temple Mount” to Christians and Jews.  The Waqf has held administrative authority over the holy sites of Jerusalem since the Muslim reconquest of the city in 1187.  The most recent Waqf was established by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, following the 1948 war.  Israel recaptured the old city after the 6-day war in 1967, when they informed Waqf authorities that it would be allowed ongoing control over the old parts of the city.

An uneasy status quo remains to this day, with Israel maintaining “overall sovereignty” and the Muslim authorities maintaining “religious sovereignty”, over the Old City of Jerusalem.  .9 square kilometers walled up within the modern city, the Old City is home to some of the most religiously significant sites, on the planet: the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

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Author: capecodcurmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a husband, father and grandfather, a history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. Four years ago, I began writing a daily "Today in History" story, as sort of a self-guided history course.  At some point I committed to myself to write 365.  The leap year changed that to 366. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but Lord knows I'm as good at being wrong as the next guy. I offer these "Today in History" stories, in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them as much as I have in writing them. Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share. Rick Long

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