Home › Forums › Ancient Civilizations › The Roman Siege at Masada
- This topic has 7 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 1 month, 1 week ago by Phideas.
I saw yet another fascinating show on the History Channel last night on Roman weaponry and engineering. One of the things discussed was the Roman battle against the Jews at the plateau fortress of Masada. My question deals with how we are able to know about what went on in the fortress right before the Jews commit mass suicide to prevent the Romans from capturing them. After a lengthy siege, the Romans built a long ramp made out of earth that stretched up to the fortress and allowed them to bring their battering ramps to smash the doors. But when the Romans do this, they enter a dead city as they discover the bodies of the Jewish warriors. We get our information on what happened the night before they entered from the writer Josephus, who says that the Jews chose 10 people kill the others (I think after picking straws), who in turn had one of them chosen to kill the other nine before committing suicide. But unless Josephus was inside, how could he know exactly how this took place?
One thing mentioned on the show was that it is believed that a few women and their children survived Masada by hiding in a water cistern. Does anyone know anything about them? Are they the link to how Josephus got his insider information of Masada?DonaldBakerParticipant
Just like with all ancient historians, we have to take their histories with a grain of salt. They were not objective and scientific about what they wrote. They had a singular purpose for writing their histories….for Thucydides he thought he was writing about the most momentus war in history, for Polybius; he was writing about the most prolific empire that ever was, and for Josephus, he was writing for the legacy of his people in the wake of Roman oppression. We just cannot verify all of the details these old historians jotted down. What we can do is recapture the imagery and emotion from their writings, which arguably was more important to them in the first place. 😉
True, and a good thing to remember. The History Channel program made it seem like Josephus’ account was factual, though I suppose it could have been more representational.
It's possibly Josephus' source could have been from written testimony that the Jews wrote down before they killed themselves, though that might be likely or unlikely, depending on the way you look at it. If they only had one night between the time they decided to kill themselves and the time the Romans broke through the gate, would they have written down the procedure of their sad deaths?DonaldBakerParticipant
A bigger question in my mind is whether or not Titus and the Roman Legions destroyed the evidence to cover up their barbarity in order to squash the Masada defenders’ legacy? It would have been in Rome’s interest to kill the heroicism that Masada represented. I’m sure they didn’t want a future Joseph Maccabeus to arise from the ruins of Masada.
Interesting question. Plutarch discussed how religion was used in Rome not out of belief in some deity, but because it was known how powerful and unifying of a force it could be for the masses. Likewise, it would have been known to the Romans how religion – and religious persecution – could be a rallying cry or a call to arms for more of the religious. Because of the difficulty that a small band (~990) of Jews posed at Masada (the siege lasted 6 months or more), the Romans wouldn’t have wanted to repeat those events. A cover up would be a natural political move, even though I know of no evidence that supports it.inputinkParticipant
This is not my field of interest but if people want to find out more information on this then they may want to look up Yigael Yadin who excataved the site in the 1960s: –
I found this out on the Encarta Encylcopedia...
"Excavated by the Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin from 1963 to 1965, Masada is both a popular tourist attraction and an Israeli national shrine. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001."
…for Josephus, he was writing for the legacy of his people in the wake of Roman oppression.
Apparently, Josephus had a double angle. While a Jew, he was also writing his account of the siege of Jerusalem at the behest of the Flavian family (he became sponsored by the family) which wanted to establish legitimacy in the wake of this new dynasty (Vespasian was the first after Nero’s death ended the Julio-Claudian dynasty). Making the Roman war against the Jews as monumental as possible would have enhanced the might of the Flavians in the eyes of Roman readers.PhideasParticipant
The Masada Siege, considered a symbol of Jewish resistance against Roman oppression, resulted in the tragic death of hundreds of Jews who chose to commit suicide rather than surrendering to the Roman army. However, not all Jews who were present at Masada met such a fate. In this article, we explore the aftermath of the Masada Siege and the fate of the Jewish survivors.
The Aftermath of the Masada Siege
The siege of Masada took place between 73-74 CE, during the First Jewish-Roman War. After a long siege, the Roman army breached the walls of the fortress and found that the Jews had committed mass suicide. According to Roman historian Josephus, only two women and five children survived the siege by hiding in a cistern. The Romans spared their lives and they were taken as slaves.
Following the siege, the Roman army destroyed the fortress and left the area. It is believed that some Jews who were not present at the siege, or who managed to escape the fortress before the Roman army arrived, may have survived. However, there is no historical evidence to suggest what happened to them, and it is unclear if any Jews who survived the siege continued to live in the area.
The Fate of Jewish Survivors
The fate of the two women and five children who survived the siege is documented by Josephus. According to his account, the survivors were taken as slaves to Rome. However, they were later set free by the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who was impressed by their bravery and the courage of the Jews who chose to die rather than surrender.
It is unclear what happened to the survivors after they were set free by the Romans. Some historians believe that they may have returned to Judea, while others suggest that they may have decided to stay in Rome. Regardless of their fate, the survivors of the Masada Siege are a reminder of the courage and resilience of the Jewish people during a time of great hardship.
The Masada Siege remains a significant event in Jewish history, symbolizing the struggle of the Jewish people against oppression and tyranny. While the fate of the survivors of the siege may never be fully known, their story serves as a testament to the human spirit and the will to survive even in the face of overwhelming odds. The legacy of Masada lives on as a reminder of the importance of courage, resilience, and faith in the face of adversity.