Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135)Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135) - The Bar Kokhba revolt was the conclusion of the wars between the Romans and the Jews. In between the first one (see Jerusalem Destroyed) and this one, there was a little known conflict called the Kitos War, which was fought primarily outside Judea. But the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba revolt were fought wholly within the Jewish homeland. After the siege at Masada ended the first war, the Romans deployed a full legion to Judea instead of a small garrison in order to prevent a similar uprising. The Jews who were left tried to return to as normal a life as possible. But tensions remained high and the Kitos War broke out in 115 and lasted until 117. It was significant in that it took place at the very end of Trajan's reign and gave the future emperor, Hadrian, a taste of what he might have to contend with. However, Hadrian himself is widely viewed as the one who instigated the final war. As a widely traveled emperor, he went to Judea in 130 and visited the ruins of the Jewish temple. He expressed sympathy for the plight of the Jews and made a promise to rebuild their temple. This raised the hopes of the Jewish people initially. But their hope quickly turned to disdain when they discovered he intended to dedicate the new temple to the chief Roman god, Jupiter. And disdain turned to outrage when Hadrian, a well known Hellenist, outlawed circumcision the following year in 131, which he viewed as mutilation. The stage was set for another confrontation.


Hostilities broke out in 132. There were several differences though between this fight and the first war. The Jews had the first one from which to learn and they were determined to do things differently. But more importantly, this movement had a leader. A man by the name of Simon bar Kokhba. More than just a leader, a well respected rabbi, Akiva ben Yosef posited the possibility that bar Kokhba was the Jewish messiah. This gave the Jews a purpose they did not have in the first war. Bar Kokhba embraced this possibility and took the title Nasi Israel (prince of Israel). However, bar Kokhba obviously was not the messiah because things didn't turn out any better for the Jews in this war than in the first. Initially, the they took the Romans by surprise and scored some early successes. Hadrian wasted little time though in transferring his best general, Sextus Julius Severus, from Britain to Judea, along with twelve legions (about three times as many as were sent during the first revolt). Severus arrived in 133. Fighting was brutal and losses were heavy on both sides. The Romans lost as many as two legions. But they killed about 500,000. The end came at the fortress of Betar. Bar Kokhba and his followers barricaded themselves within. The Romans breached the fort and slaughtered everyone inside, including Bar Kokhba. The remaining Jews who survived were driven out of the region and forbidden from returning. Hadrian renamed the region Syria Palaestina (Palestine today) in an attempt to dissuade future generations of Jews from reclaiming it. The Jerusalem Talmud, compiled over the next couple centuries, is a primary source for the Bar Kokhba revolt. Dio Cassius also records the events in his Historia Romana.