Judaea was a province* of the Roman Empire, which included southern Palestine (the ancient homeland of the Jews) and the holy city of Jerusalem. Judaea was located between the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea to the east, Samaria to the north, and the Sinai Desert to the southwest. The name Judaea evolved from the Greek name for the same region, which was Ioudaia.

Several conquerors ruled over early Judaea. The Macedonian warrior-king Alexander the Great added the land to his empire in 332 B.C. After his death in 323 B.C., it was added to the empire of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt in the 200s b.c„ and then, in the 100s B.C., to the territory controlled by the Seleucid dynasty of Syria. A revolt by the Jewish leader Judah Maccabee in 167 B.C. led to a period of self-rule for Jerusalem. For about 80 years, the Hasmonean high priests and kings ruled Jerusalem and Judaea and expanded its borders. In 63 B.C., the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem. This led to the reorganization of Judaea into five districts, and the region came under Roman control.

Under the kingship of Herod the Great, Judaea grew and prospered. A group of high priests and noble families controlled most of the land and wealth. Herod built harbors and fortress-palaces, but his most important work was the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. In A.D. 6, Judaea officially became a province of Rome. Internal tensions among the Jews contributed to much unrest, which Rome dealt with harshly. Revolts by Jewish rebels led to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the emperor Titus. Jews were dispersed from the city and from the province. (The term Diaspora refers to the settlement of the Jews away from their homeland in Judaea.) After that, Judaea was assigned a permanent garrison of Roman legions. Another Jewish revolt in A.D. 135 brought severe suppression, and the Jewish population dwindled. Jews became a minority in their own land.

* province overseas area controlled by Rome

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