Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 5: Rebellion against the Empire: The Jewish-Roman Wars

Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 5: Rebellion against the Empire: The Jewish-Roman Wars

Ancient Warfare VIII Issue 5: Rebellion against the Empire: The Jewish-Roman Wars

Between 66 and 135 AD there were three major Jewish revolts, each of which began with a period of dramatic success and ended with a crushing if costly Roman victory and increasingly draconian punishments for the Jews. By the end of the third revolt the Temple had been destroyed, the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas and many of the survivors had been impoverished.

The first article looks at Josephus, the main historian of the first Jewish revolt, and asked what were his aims and his point of view and how were they reflected in his language. This is an interesting approach and the author suggests that Josephus was aiming his work at his fellow Jews just as much as at the victorious Romans.

Next is a look at the role of the Third Gallica Legion in the revolt. This legion was moved to Judea in 44 AD and had been there for twenty years by the start of the revolt. During this time it appears to have built up quite a lot of resentment, and its actions played a major part in triggering the revolt. The legion then suffered heavily in the early parts of the revolt, before playing a part in the Roman fight-back, ending with the siege of Gomala.

There is a look at the possibility of a naval campaign associated with the first revolt, hinted at by surviving Roman coins.

This is followed by a good article on the crucial siege of Jerusalem, led by Tutus after his father returned to Rome to successfully bid for the Imperial throne.

The final article on the first revolt looks at possible roles for the Roman Legionary cavalry in the fighting, a type of troop often overlooked.

Two articles look at the second and third revolts. The second revolt, of 116-117, took place in the Jewish Diaspora, with particular success in Cyprus and Egypt. Like in the first initial Jewish successes were only temporary and the Romans were able to regain control. The rebels are described as especially brutal in most of our sources, although we only have hostile sources. Nevertheless a significant amount of rebuilding can be dated to the period after the revolt, suggesting that there was quite a bit of destruction.

The third revolt, or Bar Kochba Revolt, was similar to the first in that the Jews were initially successful, gaining control of the area around Jerusalem, but eventually lost that control and were forced into making a futile last stand in besieged cities. This revolt ended with the Jews exiled from the areas around Jerusalem, starting their long period of exile. This revolt also revealed problems in the Roman system, which struggled to deal with revolts in far-flung parts of the Empire.

Away from the main theme there are two articles, one using artistic and historical sources (including ancient works on animals) to try and work out if the Greeks used dogs in warfare. Finally there is a look at Alexander the Great's conquest of the coastal satrapies of the Persian Empire, carried out in order to destroy Persian naval power. 


A history of victors? Josephus' account of the First Jewish War
Soldiers of the Empire: The Third Gallica during the Judean Revolt of AD 66
A war at sea? The Victoria navalis
Titus ante portas The Siege of Jerusalem, AD 70
Roman solder in Judea: A Roman imperial legionary cavalryman
Rebellion in the Diaspora: The Second Jewish Revolt, AD 116-117
Judea's last bid for freedom: The Bar-Kochba Revolt
Let slip the dogs of war: Dogs in ancient Greek warfare
Conquering the sea from the land: Alexander's antidote to overwhelming Persian sea power

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