Great Revolt (66-70 A.D.)The Great Revolt (66-70 A.D.) - Sometimes called the First Jewish-Roman War, it was an attempt by the Jews to boot the Romans out of Judea. The causes were very similar to the events which led to the Maccabean Revolt over two centuries earlier. The problem for the Jews is that the Roman Empire was much more powerful than the Seleucid Empire, despite the fact that the Jews themselves were more organized as well. It began with sporadic attacks on Roman citizens and institutions. The Roman garrison in Jerusalem responded by looting the temple and executing thousands of Jews, expecting that to quell the uprising. It did not. Instead, a full scale rebellion broke out that resulted in the defeat of Roman contingent. With no military presence left in Jerusalem, the pro-Roman king, Agrippa II fled the city. The next step was for Cestius Gallus, the Syrian legate to march his army into Jerusalem and end the rebellion once and for all. But the Jews had mobilized into a fighting force in the interim and defeated Gallus' army at the Battle of Beth Horon. Things had begun well for the rebels. But now news of the uprising had reached Rome, and Emperor Nero was determined to crush it quickly. He dispatched his best general, Vespasian along with four legions. Vespasian took along his son, Titus, and made him second in command. King Agrippa, along with a small army of his own, joined Vespasian and the large army invaded Galilee in 67. The conflict which ensued was the Battle of Jotapata in which Josephus participated (see Josephus above).


The rebels now faced overwhelming odds. Survivors and refugees from Galilee fled south into Judea and put a huge strain on the city of Jerusalem. This resulted in fighting among the Jews themselves, between rebels and those who did not want war with the empire. A temporary lull in the war occurred after Nero committed suicide and Rome was thrown into a civil war of its own (see Pax Romana left). That war ended when Vespasian became emperor in 69 and his son, Titus, took over command in Judea. Titus now looked to close things out by assaulting Jerusalem itself. After a seven month siege, the city fell. And the second temple, Herod's Temple, was destroyed. This was not the end hostilities though. The most famous conflict was yet to come. About a thousand rebels retreated to the mountain fortress of Masada and barricaded themselves inside. The fortress had formidable defenses which allowed the rebels to withstand a year-long siege by the Roman army. But in the end, a giant ramp was built from the base of the mountain all the way up to the fortress, and a battering ram was used to smash the fortress walls. The rebels knew the fate that awaited them, and instead of surrender, they committed mass suicide. The Jewish historian, Josephus, is the sole chronicler of the First Jewish-Roman War; however, other records, such as the Arch of Titus, verify the events.