In this most recent installment of the A.D. History Podcast, Paul and Patrick discuss the dramatic destruction by Roman forces of Jerusalem’s Second Temple in 70AD, as well as the Siege of Masada Fortress in 73AD. The Romans also conversely play a part in epic construction, namely of the Flavian Amphitheater, better known today as the world famous Roman Colosseum completed in 80AD.
Second Temple of Jerusalem Destruction
In Judaism, the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman forces in 70AD is a seminal event in Jewish history. Under the command of the Roman general Titus, both the Second Temple and Jerusalem itself were sacked. Though not de jure, the event effectively signifies the beginning of the near 2,000 years long Jewish diaspora from the lands that were once the Israelite Kingdom.
With the Temple’s destruction, it also inadvertently ushered in a structural change to Judaism overall. When the Temple was no more, the hereditary Priests that served many roles in Judaism of the time, began to see their importance and influence lessen. Specifically in losing their singular role for the sacrifice during Passover.
Unlike many cut and dry descriptions of the process, the Priests influence and societal role did not evaporate overnight. Yet from 70AD, it began an extended process that lead to the rise of Rabbinical Judaism, which is the arrangement that exists to this day.
Siege of Masada Fortress
The immense Siege of Masada fortress in 72AD, while not the final gasp of Jewish resistance against Roman rule, was the final act of the First Jewish-Roman War. The 767 Sicarri zealots led by Eleazar ben Ya’ir, we’re laid siege upon by the forces of Lucius Flavius Silva. Silva enjoyed an advantage of at least 10:1 between his Roman legion X Fretensis, and auxiliaries provided by local allies.
Masada itself was originally a pair of palaces built by Herod the Great into the top of a mountain decades prior, which was further fortified in the 30’s AD. It served as ideal defensive infrastructure, especially when considering the treacherous “snake path” which gravely complicated the approach of any offensive.
To solve this problem, the besieging Romans built their own earthworks on the shallowest approach of the mountain leading up to the Masada fortress. Taking many months to complete, the Romans created the path for their battering ram. After which when they penetrated the meters thick outer wall, causing the defenders to retreat into the aforementioned palace. At which time, all but seven women and children, committed suicide rather than die by the sword of the Romans.
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Constructing the Roman Colosseum
The construction of the Roman Colosseum in most respects is the product of earlier Roman disarray. During the late 60’s/early 70’s AD, the Roman political landscape was in great upheaval. Nero’s suicide creates a political crisis leading to the period known as the time of the four emperors. This culminates in Vespasian emerging as the Princeps, and founding the Flavian dynasty. Yet after several years of minor civil wars to arrive at this juncture, Vespasian sought to rehabilitate the Empire in the eyes of its citizens.
In a massive civil works project, Vespasian commissioned the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Roman Colosseum. The Colosseum would require the better part of a decade to complete, and to this day is the most recognizable icon of the Western ancient world.
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