70–312 CE


NEITHER ITS ANTIQUITY, nor its deep wealth, nor its people spread over the whole habitable world, nor yet the great glory of its religious rites, were sufficient to prevent its ruin.” So Josephus laments the destruction of the Temple. It would be hard to overestimate the impact of this cataclysmic event on all Jews, wherever they lived. In practical terms those most affected were the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and especially the priests who had served in the sanctuary, but the religious significance of what had happened was equally great for diaspora Jews who had never had an opportunity to visit the Temple while it stood. In the last century of its existence the Temple had been at its most magnificent, a symbol of God's glory and protective care for Israel. If God, ruler of the universe, had allowed his Temple to be destroyed, the explanation must lie in the sins of the Jews. There could not be clearer evidence of the withdrawal of divine favour. In retrospect, it was obvious that God had announced his intention not just in private dreams to the prophet Josephus but by public portents, when “a star, resembling a sword, stood over the city, and a comet which continued for a year,” or “at the ninth hour of the night, so brilliant a light shone round the altar and the sanctuary that it seemed to be broad daylight; and this continued for half an hour,” or “a cow that had been brought by someone for sacrifice gave birth to a lamb in the midst of the court of the Temple,” or “the eastern gate of the inner court … was observed at the sixth hour of the night to have opened of its own accord,” or “before sunset throughout all parts of the country chariots were seen in the air and armed battalions hurtling through the clouds and encompassing the cities,” or “at the feast which is called Pentecost, the priests on entering the inner court of the Temple by night … reported that they were conscious, first of a commotion and a din, and after that of a voice as of a host, ‘We are departing hence.’” Tacitus, too, knew about the most dramatic of these divine signs: “Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed and suddenly the Temple was illuminated with fire from the clouds. Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: ‘The gods are departing.’ At the same moment the mighty stir of their going was heard.”1

In the fortress of Masada down by the Dead Sea one Jew, a certain Joseph son of Nakson, was still behaving in 71 as if all was not lost. The divorce document he wrote for his wife Miriam was dated to “the first of Marheshvan, year six.” The period that had begun so bravely in 66 could no longer be described as the era of the liberation of Israel, but perhaps hope lingered for the future of the nation as Joseph set his wife free “to become the wife of any Jewish man you wish.” But for most Jews, misery, despair and gloom were the natural reactions. It would take time, a long time, for any Jew to find any positive lesson from the disaster.

O Lord, my Lord … from all the cities that have been built you have consecrated Zion for yourself… and from all the multitude of people you have gotten for yourself one people; and on this people, whom you have loved, you have bestowed the Law which is approved by all. And now, O Lord, why have you delivered up the one to the many, and dishonoured the one root beyond the others, and scattered your only one among the multitude? And why have those who opposed your promises trodden down on those who believed your covenants? If you really hate your people, they should have been punished at your own hands.

The comfort offered, probably in the 80s, by the author of 4 Ezra to himself and his fellow Jews in response to this lament was eschatological. In contrast to present miseries, in a new age all will be well: “And it shall be that whoever survives after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world.”2

The only Jewish author whose writings composed between 70 and 100 survive extensively was Josephus. He wrote mainly, of course, about events before 70, but he also had something to say about the immediate aftermath of the war, and his apologetic treatiseAgainst Apion reflected his views in the 90s. In none of these works does Josephus give any hint that a new and different Judaism had arisen from the ashes of the old, nor that such change could or should occur. In his frequent references to the varieties of Judaism which had flourished before 70—especially the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes—nothing suggests that these “philosophies” had ceased to attract Jews just because the Temple was in ruins. Most strikingly, when he comes to describe the Jewish religion as a whole in Against Apion, it is the Temple that he emphasizes: “One Temple of one God, for like is dear to like, common to all, of God common to all. Him the priests constantly worship, under the leadership of him who for the time is head of the line. He with his fellow priests will sacrifice to God.” The use of the present and future tenses in referring to a sanctuary that had been destroyed a quarter of a century before was surely deliberate. Josephus was a Jerusalem priest and thus had a special interest in the Jerusalem sanctuary, but it is unlikely that his attitude was wholly different from that of Jews who were less personally concerned. The book of Deuteronomy in the Torah stated clearly enough that Jews suffered when they failed to keep the law as they should. The same Torah stated unequivocally that God required sacrifices in the sanctuary where he had chosen to be worshipped. If the Lord of the universe had temporarily made this impossible, it must be as punishment for sin. Pharisees would feel guilty at having failed to be good enough Pharisees, Essenes for their failings as Essenes, Sadducees for not fulfilling the laws as the Sadducaic philosophy required. All three schools of Judaism could continue without difficulty without the Temple cult—it would be possible to be a Pharisee, Sadducee or Essene even today, although to be an Essene one would need fellow Jews prepared to enter into a dedicated community—and each could provide a quite coherent, if depressing, explanation of the disaster on Deuteronomic lines. There was no need to seek for a novel theology. In any case, theological and philosophical reflection about a disaster of this magnitude can take many years. Only some decades after 1945 did Jewish theologians seriously begin to seek new theodicies to explain the Holocaust in twentieth-century Europe. Some Jews in 70, like some Holocaust survivors, will have lost their faith in a powerful, caring God. Others will have seen all the more reason to commit themselves to their earlier faith, just as after 1945 adherents of the different shades of Jewry—secular, religious, socialists, Zionists—affirmed that fuller commitment to their creed would have saved the communities that had perished.3

In due course a new Judaism was to emerge that preached forms of worship that might, at least partially, take the place of Temple sacrifices. Later rabbinic tradition portrayed the rabbinic sages at Yavneh (Jamnia), a small town on the Judaean coastal plain, as devising under the leadership of Yohanan ben Zakkai a new Judaism in which good deeds and prayer would take the place, at least in terms of theological efficacy, of the Temple cult. That such a new Judaism was eventually advocated by the rabbis in late antiquity, by the fourth century CE, is well attested; but that it was devised immediately following the destruction is deeply implausible. The changes attributed to Yohanan in the Mishnah are modest, and mostly concerned with liturgy: “Before time the palm branch was carried seven days in the Temple [on the feast of Tabernacles] but in the [rest of] the country for one day only. After the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai ordained that in the country it should be carried seven days in memory of the Temple.” In fact, the detailed prescriptions for the sacrifices to be found in the Mishnah, redacted around 200 CE, presuppose that even at that date rabbis expected, or at least hoped, that the Temple could and would be rebuilt. The hope was entirely reasonable. Jerusalem had lost one Temple in 587 BCE only to see it restored. The more Josephus pointed out the parallels between the two destructions, which had taken place in both cases on the same day of the month of Ab (in late July), the more plausible was a parallel rebuilding. The efforts need not have been onerous. The sacrificial cult did not require a building as magnificent as Herod's famous edifice. A small building for the Holy of Holies, an altar, and markers to delineate the perimeters of sacred ground, would suffice, provided that they were all in the correct place in Jerusalem. The most onerous task would be to clear the site of rubble. There were plenty of priests of good pedigree still alive able to fulfil their functions—of whom not the least well known was Josephus himself. The detailed instructions for the procedures of the Temple cult found in the Mishnah and in Josephus' histories show that people still knew what to do. At least according to later rabbinic tradition, there was still a supply of the ashes of the red heifer which alone could purify the severely defiled and ensure that the Temple cult was carried on in an appropriate state free from pollution. There is not a shred of evidence that any ordinary Jew at this time thought of the cessation of sacrifices as desirable. On the contrary, all Jews were waiting impatiently for God to be worshipped properly again, “speedily, in our days.”4

In the context of normal practice in the Roman empire, the Jews' hopes should not have been idle. Temples burned down through accident quite frequently in the ancient world. Romans took for granted that the obvious response was to rebuild. The great temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome was burned down during the civil strife between Vespasian's supporters and those of Vitellius in 69; the moving of the Terminus stone, the religious ceremony which marked the first step towards the temple's restoration, took place on 21 June 70. But the Roman state was not to allow the Jerusalem Temple to be rebuilt in the same way, a refusal which may reasonably be seen as a major cause of the sixty-five years of conflict to come. It is worthwhile emphasizing the enormity of this refusal in the context of ancient religious practice, and the extent to which it revealed a special prejudice against the Jews. Not just in their own eyes but also in the eyes of Romans, Jews were unable to bring offerings to their ancestral god in the fashion standard throughout the Roman world.


JOSEPHUS' extraordinarily vivid eyewitness account of the Flavian triumphal procession in June 71 is the fullest extant ancient description of any Roman triumph:

Previous notice having been given of the day on which the pageant of victory would take place, not a soul among that countless host in the city was left at home: all issued forth and occupied every position where it was possible to stand, leaving only room for the necessary passage of those upon whom they were to gaze. The military, while night still reigned, had all marched out in companies and divisions, under their commanders, and been drawn up, not round the doors of the upper palace, but near the temple of Isis; for there the victorious generals reposed that night. At the break of dawn, Vespasian and Titus issued forth, crowned with laurel and clad in the traditional purple robes, and proceeded to the Octavian walks; for here the senate and the chief magistrates and those of equestrian rank were awaiting their coming. A tribunal had been erected in front of the porticoes, with chairs of ivory placed for them upon it; to these they mounted and took their seats. Instantly acclamations rose from the troops, all bearing ample testimony to their valour: the princes were unarmed, in silk robes and crowned with bays. Vespasian, having acknowledged their acclamations, which they wished to prolong, made the signal for silence; then amidst profound and universal stillness he rose and, covering most of his head with his mantle, recited the customary prayers, Titus also praying in like manner.

After a celebratory breakfast, Vespasian and Titus put on their triumphal robes, sacrificed to the gods and sent off the procession.

It is impossible adequately to describe the multitude of those spectacles and their magnificence under every conceivable aspect, whether in works of art or diversity of riches or natural rarities; for almost all the objects which men who have ever been blessed by fortune have acquired one by one—the wonderful and precious productions of various nations—by their collective exhibition on that day displayed the majesty of the Roman empire. Silver and gold and ivory in masses, wrought into all manner of forms, might be seen, not as if carried in procession, but flowing, so to speak, like a river … But nothing in the procession excited so much astonishment as the structure of the moving stages; indeed, their massiveness afforded ground for alarm and misgiving as to their stability, many of them being three or four storeys high, while the magnificence of the fabric was a source at once of delight and amazement. For many were enveloped in tapestries interwoven with gold, and all had a framework of gold and wrought ivory. The war was shown by numerous representations, in separate sections, affording a very vivid picture of its episodes. Here was to be seen a prosperous country devastated, there whole battalions of the enemy slaughtered; here a party in flight, there others led into captivity; walls of surpassing compass demolished by engines, strong fortresses overpowered, cities with well-manned defences completely mastered and an army pouring within the ramparts, an area all deluged with blood, the hands of those incapable of resistance raised in supplication, temples set on fire, houses pulled down over their owners' heads, and after general desolation and woe, rivers flowing, not over a cultivated land, nor supplying drink to man and beast, but across a country still on every side in flames. For to such sufferings were the Jews destined when they plunged into the war; and the art and magnificent workmanship of these structures now portrayed the incidents to those who had not witnessed them, as though they were happening before their eyes. On each of the stages was stationed the general of one of the captured cities in the attitude in which he was taken. A number of ships also followed.

Josephus notes the extraordinary quantity of booty on display:

The spoils in general were borne in promiscuous heaps; but conspicuous above all stood out those captured in the Temple at Jerusalem. These consisted of a golden table, many talents in weight, and a lamp stand, likewise made of gold, but constructed on a different pattern from those which we use in ordinary life. Affixed to a pedestal was a central shaft, from which there extended slender branches, arranged trident-fashion, a wrought lamp being attached to the extremity of each branch; of these there were seven, indicating the honour paid to that number among the Jews. After these, and last of all the spoils, was carried a copy of the Jewish Law. Then followed a large party carrying images of victory, all made of ivory and gold. Behind them drove Vespasian, followed by Titus; while Domitian rode beside them, in magnificent apparel and mounted on a steed that was itself a sight. The triumphal procession ended at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, on reaching which they halted; for it was a time-honoured custom to wait there until the execution of the enemy's general was announced. This was Simon, son of Gioras, who had just figured in the pageant among the prisoners, and then, with a halter thrown over him and scourged meanwhile by his conductors, had been haled to the spot abutting on the Forum, where Roman law requires that malefactors condemned to death should be executed. After the announcement that Simon was no more and the shouts of universal applause which greeted it, the princes began the sacrifices, which having been duly offered with the customary prayers, they withdrew to the palace. Some they entertained at a feast at their own table: for all the rest provision had already been made for banquets in their several homes. For the city of Rome kept festival that day for her victory in the campaign against her enemies, for the termination of her civil dissensions, and for her dawning hopes of felicity.

Josephus may have touched up this highly coloured narrative in later editions to give a more prominent role to Domitian after Titus died in 81, but there is no reason to doubt that the text which survives represents fairly closely what he wrote just ten years or so after the fall of the Temple. In the light of his heartfelt comments elsewhere in his histories about the disaster which had befallen the Jews, the description of the ceremony is remarkable for its consistently Roman viewpoint. The triumph was to set the tone of the dynasty until its demise on the death of Domitian a quarter of a century later, and the relations of Rome to the Jews for the rest of antiquity.5

It must have been very soon after Titus became aware that the Jerusalem Temple could not be saved from the flames that he also realized that its destruction must be presented to the Roman world not as a disastrous accident but as a great achievement and a cause for Roman celebration. The logic of his campaign, seeking a rapid victory regardless of his losses in order to reap the propaganda benefit, required its culmination to be portrayed as glorious. It was not standard Roman practice to glory in the destruction of enemy temples. On the contrary, the ritual of evocatio, through which a Roman general offered to the patron deity of the enemy a better form of worship in Rome if the deity consented to cross to the Roman side, seems still to have been practised by Roman generals in Asia Minor in the wars of the first century BCE. The ritual presupposed that war was waged against human communities, not against their gods. Foreign gods had long been incorporated into the pantheon of deities worshipped in Rome. If in 205 BCE the cult of Cybele and in 218 CE the worship of the sacred black stone of Elagabal could both be incorporated into the religious rites of the Roman elite, the same could have been done in 70 CE for the God of Jerusalem. But that was emphatically not the stance of Vespasian and Titus, as the triumphal procession showed all too starkly. The most prominent objects exhibited among the spoils were the golden candelabrum, incense shovels and other paraphernalia of the Jerusalem Temple. These, perhaps, were selected for their ostentatious magnificence, to delight the spectators, but there was no mistaking the symbolic significance of the last of all the spoils of victory: “a copy of the Jewish Law,” that is, a scroll of the Torah. There could not be a clearer demonstration that the conquest was being celebrated not just over Judaea but over Judaism. No one in Rome could have been unaware of the likely Jewish reaction. It was after all only thirty years since Jews from many different parts of the Roman world had joined in protest at the much less serious desecration of the Temple envisaged by Gaius when he wanted his statue inserted in its precincts. It is unlikely, too, that Vespasian and Titus were insensitive to more subtle indications of the new status of Jewish religious susceptibilities: one of the insignia of the Tenth Legion (known as “Fretensis,” or “of the strait”), now stationed permanently on the site of Jerusalem, was the wild boar, whose image is still to be found on many of the artefacts they produced. Of all aspects of Judaism, one of those best known to ordinary Romans was their abhorrence of pigs.6

That this war on Judaism was not to be only a temporary feature of Flavian propaganda is clear from the building projects into which it was incorporated. One of the first to be completed was the magnificent Temple of Peace, erected to the south-east of the Forum Romanum and dedicated in 75. Trumping the Altar of Peace set up by Augustus after the cessation of the civil wars of his day, Vespasian, who also in 71 closed the temple of Janus to symbolize the attainment of peace through Roman arms, celebrated the end of bloodshed in the same ambiguous fashion, avoiding reference to the slaughter of Roman by Roman and to the part played by his own partisans, and instead embellishing the new shrine with masterpieces of painting and sculpture culled from all over the inhabited world, including the gold vessels from the Jerusalem Temple. Josephus reports, but does not explain, that the Torah scroll (“their law”) and the purple hangings of the Temple sanctuary Vespasian kept safeguarded in the imperial palace. Over the fifteen years or so following the conquest of Judaea the centre of the city of Rome was remodelled to reflect the victory, with two triumphal arches dominating the traditional route of all triumphal processions. The relief sculpture showing the table of shewbread, incense cups, trumpets and candelabrum, is still visible on the arch of Titus above the Forum at the top of the Sacred Way (the arch was restored in 1824); the Colosseum, the great Flavian amphitheatre completed in 80, was built on the proceeds of sale of booty. Numerous coins, issued both in Rome and in Judaea, proclaimed judaea capta, with an image of a bound female captive beneath a date-palm tree. Not that all this propaganda stressed the religious defeat of the Jews: the inscription which adorned the arch erected in early 81 by the Senate and People at the south-east end of the Circus Max-imus, one of the largest arenas ever created for watching sporting events and able to seat about a hundred and fifty thousand spectators, honoured Titus with the untrue flattery that “with the instruction and advice of his father he subdued the race of the Jews and destroyed the city of Jerusalem which had either been attacked in vain by all leaders, kings and people before him or had not been attempted at all.” But wholly religious were the impact and symbolism of the new tax imposed by Vespasian on all Jews, wherever they lived. Josephus' report in the Jewish War, thus written before 81, is brief: “On all Jews, wheresoever they be, he placed a tax, ordering each to pay two drachmas every year to the Capitol as before they contributed to the Temple at Jerusalem.” Cassius Dio, in the early third century, recorded that “from that time forth [i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem] it was ordered that the Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs should pay an annual tribute of two drachmas to Jupiter Capitoli-nus.” The tax was thus portrayed both as a substitute for the voluntary contributions previously made by adult male Jews for the maintenance of the regular communal sacrifices in Jerusalem, and as a payment, not to the Roman state in general, but specifically for the rebuilding of the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol which had accidentally burned down in 69. Not only were Jews to be denied the right to rebuild their own shrine, they were to be required instead to pay for the upkeep of the main pagan cult of Rome. The extraction of this new and unprecedented tax seems to have begun immediately. Already in 70 enthusiastic bureaucrats in Egypt were extracting back tax for the previous year. Women and children were compelled to pay as well as men. And, as Josephus explicitly notes, the Jews of the diaspora wheresoever they be, including those of Rome, were caught up in the collective punishment of their nation for the failed uprising in Jerusalem.7

IN JUDAEA itself after the fall of Jerusalem, Titus and his successors in command extinguished, with extraordinary thoroughness, all possible resistance. The captives from the city suffered terrible fates: Josephus records that the old and feeble were slaughtered indiscriminately by the rampaging soldiers, those younger than seventeen sold into slavery, fit adult males sent to work in the quarries or mines in Egypt or presented to the provinces “for destruction in the theatres by sword and wild beasts.” Thousands died of starvation or ill-treatment while in holding camps inside the Temple compound. Josephus claims that “the total number of prisoners taken throughout the entire war amounted to ninety-seven thousand, and of those who perished during the siege, from first to last, to one million one hundred thousand.” He clearly expected his readers to be incredulous at the numbers, since he proceeds to give reasons for their plausibility. In fact he may have taken the figures from Roman military records. In his autobiography he describes his own invidious role, as a friend (of sorts) of Titus, in using his influence to rescue his friends and relatives from the masses doomed to punishment:

I made petition for my brother and fifty friends, and my request was granted. Again, by permission of Titus, I entered the Temple, where a great multitude of captive women and children had been imprisoned, and liberated all the friends and acquaintances whom I recognized, in number about a hundred and ninety … Once more, when I … saw many prisoners who had been crucified, and recognized three of my acquaintances among them, I was cut to the heart and came and told Titus with tears what I had seen. He gave orders immediately that they should be taken down and receive the most careful treatment. Two of them died in the physicians' hands; the third survived.8

Such ruthlessness provided good reason for Jews in the rest of Judaea to surrender all other strongholds without a fight, but a show of force was still needed. The Jewish garrison of the fortress of Herodium, near Bethlehem, surrendered to Lucilius Bassus, who had been sent out as the new governor of Judaea evidently with a brief to pacify the rest of the countryside. The fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, “it was absolutely necessary to eradicate, lest its strength should induce many to revolt,” and Bassus concentrated against it all his military force, including the Tenth Legion, beginning the massive earthworks necessary for the siege, but, in the event, a full-scale siege proved unnecessary: in return for the life of a captured youth, and permission for themselves to depart unharmed, they surrendered the fortress to the Romans.

The capture by Bassus' successor, Flavius Silva, of Herod's fortress palace on the rock of Masada, to the west of the Dead Sea, was to take longer. It will be recalled that the site had been occupied since 66 by sicarii, who took refuge there after failing to gain control in Jerusalem at the start of the revolt. Its natural defences, as described by Josephus, made it very hard to capture: it was “a rock of no slight circumference and high from end to end, abruptly terminated on every side by deep ravines, the precipices rising sheer from an invisible base and being inaccessible to the foot of any living creature, save in two places where the rock permits of no easy ascent.” Herod had built for his own protection an impressive palace on the summit and stored there masses of corn, wine, oil, pulses and dates, all remarkably well preserved in 66, even after the passage of nearly a century, because of the dry climate. Huge cisterns efficiently preserved rainwater from sparse winter downpours. There was also a large supply of weapons and of iron, brass and lead, all hoarded by the king many decades before but left for the sicarii now to put to use against the Roman forces.

Josephus records how Flavius Silva encircled the fortress with a wall and encamped close by in order to prevent any escape by the besieged. For the Roman forces the isolation of the site created supply difficulties, for water as well as food, but there were plenty of Jewish slaves to provide the necessary manpower for transport. Silva set to work to throw up an embankment on the west side as a platform for siege engines, and a huge battering ram was used to break down the stone wall on that side of the defences. The sicarii threw up at speed a second wall inside the first, using huge wooden beams packed with earth, but that wall succumbed when set on fire—an uncertain weapon for the Romans to use, since at first a north wind directed the flames towards their own siege engines, until the wind veered “as if from divine providence” (so writes Josephus), and the wall was consumed. The fortress now lay wide open to attack, but before the final assault could take place the defenders were dead, killed by each other to avoid falling into Roman hands.9

This long description of the siege by Josephus has given Masada iconic status, although without Josephus' narrative the whole episode would be known only from the archaeological evidence, especially the siege ramp and the traces of Roman camps erected around the base of the rock on which the fortress was built; the elder Pliny, who mentions Masada as “a fortress on a rock, itself not far from the Dead Sea,” was writing between 70 and 79 but makes no mention of any military campaign at the site.10

Josephus failed to note what is in some ways the most peculiar aspect of the Roman operations at Masada, and the most obvious explanation of the reticence about them in Roman sources: why the Romans bothered at all to spend such time, resources and effort in the capture of a rock in the wilderness of the Judaean desert. What was at stake was nothing more (or less) than a desire for total victory: “Flavius Silva … seeing the whole country now subdued in the war, but one fortress alone still rebelling, brought together all the forces in the regions and marched against it.” Presumably, in the eyes of the Romans it was economically desirable after 70 to ensure that no bandits based in Masada attacked the lucrative balsam groves at En Gedi, since these were state property, but that only partly explains the huge expenditure of time and resources on the capture of the isolated rock fortress. Large numbers of troops camped out for months in inhospitable terrain, gradually building the siege ramp which eventually, inexorably, would bring the defenders to defeat. Roman determination that this war was to be concluded without compromise could not have been more clearly illustrated. The highly effective rhetoric of the philosophical platitudes on the justification for suicide which Josephus in his history puts into the mouth of Eleazar, the leader of the defenders, fails to mention the most obvious rationale for seeking death at the hands of friends rather than surrender to Rome. The real alternatives were not either a quick death from a slit throat or enslavement, as Eleazar was made to claim, enhancing the apparent heroism of those who made the former choice. If Eleazar and his colleagues fell into Roman hands they could expect to suffer death by crucifixion or some other method inflicted with exceptional cruelty. Instead, on the first day of Passover in April 74 nine hundred and sixty of them, including women and children, died at the hands of each other: ten were chosen to kill the rest, then one of the ten killed the nine others, and finally he committed suicide. The palace was set on fire. According to Josephus, just two women and five children escaped alive to tell the Romans what had happened.11

The thoroughness of the Roman victory in Masada and throughout the country left a political vacuum in Judaea. Despite the death and devastation, there were still many Jews left living in the region of Jerusalem, but the old ruling elite, led by the families of the High Priests, through which Rome had once ruled, simply vanished from sight. Josephus, who had once belonged to that elite, was relieved of his landholdings in Jerusalem: “When Titus had quelled the disturbances in Judaea, conjecturing that the field which I held in Jerusalem would be unprofitable to me because of the Roman garrison which was about to be settled there, he gave me another tract of ground on the plain [presumably near the Mediterranean coast].” Already in 70, before he set sail for Rome and his triumph, Titus was assuming that there would no longer be a ruling class of Jewish landowners in the city.12

Who else, then, could now mediate between the cowed Jews and their Roman masters? If Titus sought a single, powerful Jewish individual with a strong tradition of loyalty to Rome, the obvious choice was Agrippa II, who, at least according to Josephus, had tried so hard to keep Jerusalem at peace in the months before the war and had then, once it was too late to avoid conflict, committed both his troops and his expertise to speed a Roman victory. Agrippa's personal links with the new imperial regime were exceptionally close. Vespasian had stayed for a while in Agrippa's palace in Caesarea Philippi by the source of the river Jordan in 67 to rest his army after the campaign in Galilee, and (although Josephus does not say so) the king was presumably there again in the autumn of 70, when Titus visited him and “remained for a considerable time, exhibiting all kinds of spectacles. Here many of the prisoners perished, some being thrown to wild beasts, others compelled in opposing masses to engage one another in combat.” The victors were recuperating in appropriate fashion now that the fighting was over. It would have been easy for Vespasian and Titus to claim to be following precedent if Agrippa, like his father, became king of Judaea. The possibility had indeed been mooted over a quarter of a century earlier by Claudius. The reason why it did not happen in 70 may lie as much in the wishes and desires of Agrippa as those of the Roman administration. To take over a kingdom in ruins was hardly enticing—indeed, people recalled that Agrippa's great-grandfather Herod had bribed the Roman general Sosius to call off his troops from looting Jerusalem in 37 BCE for precisely that reason. And Agrippa may well have had plans for a political career on a larger stage. The friendship of his sister Berenice with Titus was a source of gossip and scandal in Rome throughout the 70s, when, as Cas-sius Dio later recorded, “Berenice was at the very height of her power and consequently came to Rome along with her brother Agrippa. The latter was given the rank of praetor, while she dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife.” It was not unreasonable of Agrippa to hope to win, through his connections with the imperial family, a position of influence and power in Rome such as his father had once, briefly, wielded in the courts of Gaius and Claudius.13

Since the Roman state did not give authority in Judaea after 70 either to the former ruling class or to Agrippa, it was not to be expected that any other Jewish leaders would be deemed appropriate for the task. Later Jewish tradition assumed that the role of rabbis such as Yohanan ben Zakkai as religious leaders inevitably led to their recognition by Rome as political spokesmen for the Jews, but the Romans were hardly likely now to give secular authority to a religious leader in Judaea when they did not follow such a practice anywhere else in their empire. The only special and different aspect of Roman attitudes to Judaism compared to other provincial religions was the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, a reason for Rome to avoid giving any power to Jewish religious leaders rather than to encourage such a policy.14

In fact, it seems that Vespasian and Titus chose to rule Judaea not through Jewish intermediaries of any kind but by direct Roman control. Jerusalem after 70, in marked contrast to the general freedom from Roman interference enjoyed by the Jewish population before the war, became an occupied city. The Tenth Legion was “entrusted with its custody” and permanently garrisoned on or near the site, able to respond immediately to any potential trouble. Some land in the surrounding countryside, including fields belonging to Josephus, seems to have been assigned to the legion. In 72 or 73 a new and distinctively pagan town was founded in Samaria, near the sites of Shechem and Mount Gerizim, presumably to control the Samaritans after their abortive revolt in 67. The town, given the unimaginative name “New City” (Flavia Neapolis, hence Nablus), was to flourish over the coming centuries, and between 244 and 249 was granted the status of a Roman colony. Already in the immediate aftermath of 70 a new Roman colony was founded in Caesarea Maritima, which had long been the centre of Roman administration of the province. Now it was repopu-lated, in place of the former Jewish residents, with retired Roman soldiers. Thus Latin was used for private inscriptions in Caesarea in the late first century CE as well as for public proclamations in the city: Caesarea became a Latin-speaking island in an Aramaic- and Greek-speaking world. Eight hundred other veterans were assigned a place to live at a site thirty stades from Jerusalem, in a settlement probably to be identified (despite the difference in the alleged distance from Jerusalem) with the Emmaus mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. These former soldiers were available for military operations when called upon in a crisis. The pattern of foundation of veteran colonies in the provinces in the Julio-Claudian period suggests that they were expected to play an important role in enhancing the security of the region. Judaea was now under military rule, and Jerusalem lay at the centre of the militarized zone.15

JEWS IN the Mediterranean diaspora had tried to avoid engagement with the dangerous politics of Jerusalem while the war continued, but they found this option closed to them after 70. The universal imposition of the special tax on Jews throughout the empire affected the eirenic communities in Asia Minor and Greece as much as the militants in the homeland. The Jews of the city of Rome must have felt their dual loyalties under intolerable strain as the sacred relics of the Temple they revered were carried in mocking triumph through the streets of their adopted city, their pride at being Roman in direct conflict with the propaganda of the new imperial regime which, through the tax, suggested their responsibility for the costly and dangerous war in distant Jerusalem.16

For some diaspora Jews living closer to Judaea the dilemma was made even more acute in the immediate aftermath of the war by the need to respond to refugees from it who sought their help against Rome. Josephus reports that the Jews of Alexandria did their best to keep their distance when

certain of the faction of the sicarii who had succeeded in fleeing to that country … sought to induce many of their hosts to assert their independence, to look upon the Romans as no better than themselves and to esteem God alone as their lord … The leaders of the council of elders … convened a general assembly of the Jews and exposed the madness of the sicarii, proving them to have been responsible for all their troubles … They advised the assembly to beware of the ruin with which they were menaced by these men and, by delivering them up, to make their peace with the Romans. Realizing the gravity of the danger, the people complied with this advice, and rushed furiously upon the sicarii to seize them. Six hundred of them were caught on the spot; and all who escaped into Egypt and the Egyptian Thebes were before long arrested and brought back.

Such demonstration of their loyalty to Rome was not, however, altogether successful. The emperor, “suspicious of the interminable tendency of the Jews to revolution,” took precautionary steps to avoid an uprising of Jews in Egypt like that in Jerusalem and closed down the Jewish temple at Leontopolis in the delta. In Cyrene (modern Libya), the refugee sicarii were led by a weaver called Jonathan, who seems to have captured the imagination of some of the poorer local Jews by taking them out into the desert and promising “signs and apparitions,” much as various pseudo-prophets had done in Judaea earlier in the century. The unarmed crowd was easily enough suppressed by the troops sent by the Roman governor of the province, Catullus, but Jonathan's impact was much increased by his allegation to Catullus that he had been instructed in his actions by “the wealthiest of the Jews,” giving the governor an opportunity to kill all three thousand well-to-do Jews and confiscate their property to the imperial exchequer. Josephus alleges that the charges were entirely fraudulent, and that Catullus was motivated by a desire that “he too might seem to have won a Jewish war.” But Josephus' reliability in this particular part of his narrative is suspect, since, among the others of “the most respectable of the Jews in Alexandria and Rome” charged with sedition by Jonathan and his accomplices, was Josephus himself. In his autobiography Josephus reports that the accusation, which specified that he had provided Jonathan with weapons and money, came before the emperor Vespasian himself in Rome, but that the emperor dismissed the allegation as fabricated. In the Jewish War the intercession of Titus on behalf of the accused was said to have been decisive. The whole episode had clearly been traumatic. If even a Jew like Josephus, whose interests were so closely bound up with those of the new emperor, could be plausibly accused of plotting sedition, no Jew was safe from suspicion. It is significant that the governor Catullus, who according to Josephus had corruptly put to death thousands of respectable Jews of Cyrene, suffered nothing worse than a reprimand.17

All Jews in the Roman empire might now feel under threat. In Antioch the resident Jews were accused in 70 by their gentile neighbours of incendiarism when a fire burned down part of the centre of the city. They were rescued from a pogrom only by the firm action of the Roman authorities on the spot. It emerged on investigation that the fire had been started by debtors seeking to destroy the evidence of what they owed by setting fire to the marketplace and public records. In Antioch, as in Rome, the constant fear that a backlash against Jews would be directed at them must have been intensified by the presence in the city of large numbers of captives from Judaea sold in the slave market. When Titus visited the city after the fall of Jerusalem he was met by massed crowds demanding that the local Jews be expelled, to which he replied (all too accurately), that this was impossible because “their own country to which, as Jews, they ought to be expelled, has been destroyed, and no other place would receive them.” A further request that at least the privileges of the Jews of Antioch, inscribed on bronze tablets, should be revoked, was similarly turned down. Josephus tells the story of these events in order to demonstrate the good will of Titus, but the story also reveals the vulnerability of these Jews to local hostility, expressed both by mass meetings and by the official council of the city.18

About the vulnerability of Jews in the city of Rome Josephus is less explicit. Perhaps it seemed unwise to remind his Roman readers of his own problems of dual loyalty. But the tensions which had emerged so chillingly in Antioch in 70 will have been at least as bad in the capital city. Just a hint of the anger can be glimpsed in Josephus' brief reference to his own tribulations once he had been installed in a lodging in the house in Rome which Vespasian had occupied before he became emperor. “My privileged position [as beneficiary of Vespasian's kindness] exacted envy and brought danger … Numerous accusations against me were fabricated by persons who envied me my good fortune.” In the time of Domitian, the emperor showed his favour to Josephus by punishing the Jews who accused him— Josephus does not say of what, but he does add that among these enemies was his son's tutor, about whom he reveals only that he was a slave and a eunuch. Clearly, one should not imagine Josephus or any other Jew managing to live in peaceful comfort in the prickly atmosphere of Flavian Rome. For a government seeking to justify the seizure and retention of power by claiming to have defeated a dangerous enemy, it might seem a positive advantage that representatives of the defeated enemy were identifiable not just on the distant frontiers of the empire but spread throughout the civilized world, including the capital city itself, able through their subjection to testify to the achievements of the new emperor. In the late fourth century CE St. Augustine was to argue on similar lines that Jews should be allowed to remain in their mistaken faith within Christendom, but in a state of misery, to testify to the truth of the Church.19


VESPASIAN AND TITUS had treated Jews as enemies of the state and Judaism as a religion no longer worthy of a Temple after 70, for propaganda reasons specific to their rule, but one might have thought that everything should have changed for the Jews once those emperors were dead. The hostility towards Egypt in the propaganda of Augustus after the battle of Actium did not continue under his successors, and even the most bitter of enemies can in time come to an accommodation, particularly if they can remember a period when they were once at peace. But not in this case. Vespasian died in 79 and Titus, still quite young, in 81, but there was no diminution in public hostility towards the Jews. Most blatant was the continuing refusal of the new emperor, Domitian, to contemplate the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. Later theological apologeticism, even enthusiasm, for worship without sacrifices, and simply the passing of time, have deadened the responses of modern historians to this ban. In antiquity, it was outrageous. All over the empire there were myriads of shrines and altars to myriads of gods. There was nothing peculiar in Roman eyes about the sacrificial service in the Jerusalem Temple except the lack of a cult image. As the pagan emperor Julian was to expostulate in the mid-fourth century CE in his tirade Against the Galileans (as he called Christians), “the Jews agree with the gentiles except that they believe in only one God … since all the rest we have more or less in common with them—temples, sanctuaries, altars, purifications and certain precepts. For as to these we differ from one another either not at all or in trivial matters.” Everyone else in the empire was free to continue to worship in the ways hallowed by their ancestors. It would be understandable if the Romans took greater care than they had before 66 to prevent the crowds at the great pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem getting out of hand, but that precaution would hardly require the Temple site to be left altogether in ruins. Treatment so harsh and unusual must have another explanation.20

It seems most likely that after 81, just as much as in 70, the explanation lay in the need of the emperor to manipulate his public image in order to ensure support for his regime; indeed, this may have been the prime cause of the maltreatment of the Jews down to the defeat of Bar Kokhba in 135. It was as much in the interest of Domitian to portray the Jews and Judaism as marginal as it had suited Vespasian and Titus, and, apart from a brief interlude in 96 on the accession of Nerva, glorification of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple remained integral to the public persona of each emperor in the following decades. Such glorification may have led, more or less directly, to the Jewish frustration which erupted in violent uprisings in 115 and 132. If this was the case, the result for Jews and Judaism was to be catastrophic, but the cause will have had less to do with the Jews themselves than with politics at the centre of imperial power in Rome.

When Jerusalem was razed in August 70, Domitian was less than nineteen years old, so his public career had (unsurprisingly) been negligible when, a year earlier, his father in distant Judaea was acclaimed as emperor by his troops. Unlike his much older brother Titus, who won military glory as commander of one of the three legions in the Judaean campaign, Domitian had remained in Rome throughout the changes of regime following the death of Nero. The bid for power by his father engendered both danger and opportunity. When troops loyal to Vitellius captured the prefect of the city, Vespasian's brother, Flavius Sabinus, on the Capitol, Domitian escaped dressed as a devotee of Isis and stayed in hiding until the Vitellian party was defeated, although Flavius Sabinus was hacked to death by the mob. When Domitian later became emperor, he commemorated his avoidance of the same fate by dedicating a great temple to Jupiter the Guardian, with his own effigy in the lap of the god. When the Flavian army arrived in Rome in the last days of 69, fresh from victory in the battle of Cremona, Domitian was immediately saluted as an important scion of the new imperial family and on 9 January 70 he presided over a meeting of the Senate. Real power in Rome, until the arrival of Vespasian from Alexandria, was vested with Vespasian's close ally Mucianus, who was supported by the large army he had brought from Syria, but the teenaged Domitian was allowed, for a few months, to enjoy the limelight, until Vespasian and Titus returned to the capital and overshadowed him. The later traditions composed after Domitian's death were universally hostile to his memory because the dynasty which replaced him needed to portray him as a tyrant, and, according to that tradition, Domitian was treated with disdain by his father and brother. But Vespasian could hardly have made clearer the importance of his younger son in his dynastic plans than by including him in the triumph in 71 which celebrated the victory over Judaea. Vespasian had good political reasons for such generosity. His bid for power had received backing from other senators like Mucianus in good part because, in Titus, he had a son suitable to succeed him as emperor, so that the state might avoid the danger of a succession crisis such as had proven the downfall of Galba. But Titus himself had produced no son, so only by signalling the worthiness of Domitian to rule could Vespasian ensure that the regime would be seen as stable for the years ahead.

The honours for the young prince had to be carefully calibrated: his imperial role would not be taken up, Vespasian might reasonably hope, for many years, since Titus was still in the prime of life, so Domitian had to be encouraged, but not too much. Where Titus was elevated in July 71 to share tribunician power with his father and was appointed as censor, Domitian was honoured in a markedly more restrained fashion, although he too held repeated consulships and became, along with Titus, princeps iuventutis,“leader of the young men.” It would not be helpful if he came to be seen as rival to Titus rather than prospective successor. Above all, he was to be given no opportunity to demonstrate his own military capacity. In contrast to the stories, faithfully relayed by Josephus, of the impressive personal bravery of Titus in the war against the Jews, Domitian's supporters could point to no such achievement. Suetonius records that the restriction chafed. Domitian in 70 “began an unnecessary expedition against Gaul and the Germanies … merely so that he might make himself equal to his brother in power and rank,” but his father's friends dissuaded him, and “when Vologaesus, king of the Parthians, had asked for auxiliaries against the Alani and for one of Vespasian's sons as their leader, Domitian used every effort to have himself sent rather than Titus, and because the affair came to nothing, he tried by gifts and promises to induce other eastern kings to make the same request,” but without success. Throughout his reign Vespasian denied military glory to his younger son, and the manipulation of the young prince's image seems to have been successful. When Vespasian died in 79 the succession of Titus as sole ruler was seamless, and Titus could show his confidence in his brother in 80 by appointing him ordinary consul for the year. When Titus died prematurely on 13 September 81 Domitian in turn moved smoothly into power as the new emperor.21

In the course of the next eleven years, Domitian went on campaign four times—to Germany in 83, to the Danube in 85 and in 92, and to the Rhine and Danube in 89. He contrived twenty-three imperial salutations and at least two triumphs, taking the title “Germanicus” in 83 for his victory over the Chatti, and setting up a plethora of triumphal arches. His need for military prestige to justify his rule could not have been more starkly demonstrated, but in 81 these campaigns still lay in the future. When he came to power Domitian had no victories to his personal credit apart from his spurious participation, riding on a white horse, in the triumph over Judaea. Thus it is less surprising than it might seem that the Jewish war continued to loom large, more than ten years after its end, during the early years of Domitian's reign. The Arch of Titus, unique among extant Roman triumphal arches in representing a triumphal procession, was finally dedicated not by Titus but by Domitian, and Domitian was still in 85 issuing coins with the caption JUDAEA CAPTA. According to his biographer Suetonius, writing in the 120s, in Domitian's time the treasury for Judaean affairs, which collected the special Jewish tax, operated “very fiercely,” illustrated by a personal reminiscence of an evidently horrific incident which may strike the modern reader as similar to the behaviour of more recent totalitarian states enforcing a policy of racial discrimination: “I recall being present in my youth when the person of a man ninety years old was examined before the procurator and a very crowded court, to see whether he was circumcised.” The story suggests that Jews in Rome who reacted to the hostility pervading their society by denying their Jewishness were not allowed to escape detection and branding as members of this alien group.22

Towards the end of Domitian's reign the emperor became increasingly tyrannical and, partly as a result, justifiably paranoid, executing at least twelve former consuls on charges of dissent or alleged conspiracy. Most prominent of these, Flavius Clemens, the consul of 95, grandson of Domitian's uncle Flavius Sabinus and husband of Domitian's niece Domi-tilla, was convicted of atheism because like “many others,” he was “drifting into Jewish ways,” according to Cassius Dio in the early third century. Some historians have taken the fate of Flavius Clemens as evidence that some upper-class Romans found attachment to Judaism attractive during these years, but the idea is implausible when the destruction of the Temple of the Jewish God had so dramatically put in question his power. In a polytheistic system which judged divine approval by material success, abject political defeat was evidence of religious failure. The Temple, with its aweinspiring rituals which had encouraged Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa to make extravagant obeisance to the Jewish God in the time of Augustus, was now in ruins. It was hardly likely that Flavius Clemens would be attracted to the peculiar customs of a people so reviled or the cultivation of a God so transparently powerless. A better explanation of the charge reported by Cassius Dio may be that an accusation of “drifting into Jewish ways” had become a general term of opprobrium for enemies of the imperial regime or, perhaps, that defiant adoption of a “Jewish” lifestyle had become for members of the Roman elite a symbolic way to demonstrate republican independence of spirit, like the ostentatious Stoic virtues of other senatorial “martyrs” celebrated by Tacitus and the younger Pliny. If the latter was the case, the failure of Tacitus and Pliny to express sympathy with, or even mention, such “Judaizers” among the elite will have been the result of self-censorship, for, by the time they were writing under the rule of Trajan, Jews, Judaism and Judaizers were all once more in disfavour.23

Before hostility to Jews and Judaism returned in Trajan's time, there was a brief hiatus of tolerance after the murder of Domitian on 18 September 96 in a coup by a small group of those closest to him, including the praetorian prefects and, it was alleged, his own wife. The plan was put into operation by humble minions of the palace staff. Domitian had been a conscientious emperor, adopting a stance of moral uprightness and ensuring competent administration of the provinces, but he was fatally arrogant and unwilling to hide his absolute power as more tactful emperors had done since the time of Augustus. As a result he was so hated by the Roman elite that, when he died, his memory was damned by the Senate, so that his statues and votive shields were torn down and a decree was passed that his inscriptions should everywhere be erased: “all memory of him should be obliterated.” Accordingly, his successor, the elderly aristocrat Marcus Coc-ceius Nerva, immediately set out to rule in a way that contrasted to the previous reign of terror. His coins advertised “salvation,” “equity,” “public freedom.” Those on trial for treason were released. No one was tactless enough to mention it, but Nerva had done quite well through Domitian's favour, having enjoyed the special privilege of holding the ordinary consulship with him in 90—all the more reason strenuously to distance himself now from his predecessor. Nerva's legitimacy depended on denigration of Domitian's rule.24

Among the policies of the state Nerva chose to change right from the start of his reign was the treatment of the Jews. He himself had played no part in the campaign of 66—70, and had nothing political to gain from continued vilification of Jews and Judaism. The slogan inscribed on a series of bronze coins, issued in Rome by the new regime in mid-autumn and in December 96, with a third issue in the first half of 97, proclaimed a fresh start. The coins were adorned with an image of a palm tree, a type commonly found on Roman currency in or referring to Judaea. The inscription proclaimed FISCI IUDAICI CALUMNIA SUBLATA, a Latin phrase too compressed for its precise meaning now to be transparent, although, like advertising slogans nowadays, its import was doubtless clear enough at the time. The most probable translation is: “The malicious accusation [brought by] the treasury for Jewish affairs has been removed.” Such a slogan makes best sense if the reform advertised by Nerva was an end to the collection of a tax, the two-denarii tax imposed since 70 on every Jew as punishment for the rebellion in Judaea more than twenty-five years before, which constituted by its very existence a malicious slur on the loyalty to Rome of the whole Jewish people. The repeated issues of the slogan on low-denomination coins calculated to get into the hands of many of his subjects suggest an important change of policy which Nerva expected his subjects to greet with enthusiasm.25

Distribution of Nerva's coins advertising his reform seems to have been limited to the city of Rome, where manipulation of the emperor's image for the security of his regime was most urgent, but it will not have taken long for Jews elsewhere in the empire to become aware of this effect of the regime change and their new freedom from the demeaning tax. It is easy enough to imagine their reaction to this dramatic improvement in their fortunes. After a quarter of a century of being pilloried as enemies of the state, Jews had suffered enough. It was time for the Temple to be restored. Priests like Josephus, who had served in the Temple when young, were ready and willing to play their parts again. It is probable that Josephus' treatise Against Apion, which so eloquently describes the essence of Judaism in unitary terms—one God, one Law, one Temple, one High Priest—was completed during this interlude of restored tolerance towards Jews and Judaism. Hence the confident bravado of his final encomium of his people:

I would therefore boldly maintain that we have introduced to the rest of the world a very large number of very beautiful ideas. What greater beauty than inviolable piety? What higher justice than obedience to the laws? What more beneficial than to be in harmony with one another, to be a prey neither to disunion in adversity, nor to arrogance and faction in prosperity; in war to despise death, in peace to devote oneself to crafts or agriculture; and to be convinced that everything in the whole universe is under the eye and direction of God?

The same spirit of optimism is reflected in the description of Nerva in the coded list of emperors which prefaces the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles, composed by a Jew early in Hadrian's reign: of all the emperors, Nerva alone is described in glowing terms—in contrast to “cursed” Domitian, Nerva was “a mortal of reverend bearing.” These Jewish hopes for the rebuilding of the Temple are reflected with markedly less enthusiasm in the polemic of the strongly anti-Jewish Christian author of the Epistle of Barnabas,whose composition has been dated by some to the time of Nerva for precisely this reason: “ ‘See, those who have destroyed this temple will themselves build it.’ This is happening. For because they waged war, it was destroyed by their enemies. And now [they and] the servants of their enemies will [themselves] rebuild it.”26

The Jews could not know how brief the interlude of hope was to be. The series of coins proclaiming the abolition of the tax came to an end in the middle of 97. In theory, of course, this might have been the result of chance. Nerva may have felt that he had already sufficiently advertised his enlightened new policy—the minting pattern was the same as that which proclaimed annona august.: “the grain supply [ensured by Nerva] Augustus.” Later coin issues might have been minted but left no trace, although that is unlikely. But the most plausible explanation is a reversal of imperial policy in November 97 caused by Nerva's adoption of Marcus Ulpius Traianus, destined to become, in January 98, the emperor Trajan.27

Before his adoption, Trajan seems to have had little contact with the elderly emperor, and selection of an heir was a necessity imposed on the childless Nerva by his political weakness. Nerva had been chosen to rule by the Senate because of his high birth, and the loyalty of the soldiers could not be guaranteed: on Domitian's death they “were greatly grieved and at once attempted to refer to him as divine, while they were prepared also to avenge him, if they had not lacked leaders.” The chaos of civil war in 69 was still frighteningly fresh in the memories of the older generation, including Nerva himself, whose coins asserted optimistically CONCORDIA EXERCITUUM, “the agreement of the armies,” with images of clasped hands. A year after Nerva's accession, in the autumn of 97, the praetorian guard and its commander mutinied, demanding the execution of Domi-tian's murderers. Nerva resisted the demand, but in vain. He looked fright-eningly vulnerable, like Galba in the days before Otho's coup in January 69. His solution was to select as a successor and heir a general who would be sufficiently plausible to appeal to the armies but not so popular that he would try to oust Nerva himself. Marcus Ulpius Traianus was general in command of the three legions of Upper Germany. Aged forty-four, he had control of large numbers of troops close to Rome and he had demonstrated his capacity for loyalty by marching the legion he commanded in Spain to help Domitian suppress the revolt of Saturninus in 89. He was not related by blood to any former emperor; there was thus a fair chance that he would be content to wait for Nerva to die naturally and that he would proceed peacefully to the glorious future which now beckoned. As the younger Pliny noted in his panegyric of Trajan three years later, Nerva had “sought counsel not only of men but also of the gods,” thus avoiding the disaster which had accompanied Galba's adoption of Piso in 69, which “not only failed to check an outbreak of rebellion but actually began it.” The availability of so perfect a candidate was probably not the result of chance. Trajan's career before 97 had not included the military experience standard for a legionary command of such importance. A senatorial conspiracy to block the ambitions of Domitian's most prestigious general, Cornelius Nigrinus, governor of Syria, has been plausibly surmised. The senators in question were handsomely rewarded with consulships in the early years of Trajan's reign.28

But the choice of an heir so beneficial both to Nerva's rule and to the avoidance of civil strife in Rome entailed a return to the glorification of the Judaean campaign which had characterized the Flavian dynasty. Trajan's natural father, the elder Marcus Ulpius Traianus, came from the obscure municipality of Italica (modern Santiponce, near Seville) in Spain. The first of his family to enter the Roman Senate, he owed his eventual prominence entirely to his services to Rome in the war against the Jews, in which he commanded the Tenth Legion, the Fretensis, from 67 to 69. Traianus' link to the Flavian campaign could hardly have been closer. Of the two other legions deployed against the rebels in Jerusalem, one had been commanded by Titus. The close relationship between the two generals, and Traianus' tact in dealing with Vespasian, emerged in the course of the siege of a town in Galilee called Iapha in mid-67. Traianus had already more or less captured the place, with huge losses (“twelve thousand”) on the Jewish side, but

judging that the city was bereft of combatants or that any who still remained within would be paralysed by fear, he decided to reserve for his general the capture of the place. He accordingly dispatched messengers to Vespasian, requesting him to send his son Titus to complete the victory. The general, conjecturing that some work still remained to be done, sent with his son reinforcements consisting of five hundred cavalry and a thousand infantry. Titus rapidly marched to the city, drew up his troops for battle, posting Traianus on the left wing, and, himself taking command of the right, led them to the assault … For six hours the contest was maintained; the more efficient combatants were at length exterminated, and the rest of the population was then massacred in the open or in their houses, young and old alike. For no males were spared, except infants; these, along with the women, the Romans sold as slaves. The slain, whether in the city or in the previous action, amounted in all to fifteen thousand; the captives numbered two thousand one hundred and thirty.

If Josephus paid special attention to the narrative of this engagement, it may be because at the time he was writing, in the mid-70s, Traianus was at the height of his impressive career under Flavian patronage. He could not, of course, have guessed the glorious future which awaited Traianus' son.29

Traianus would have been one of the generals who urged Vespasian to march against Jerusalem in 68, since he was still in command of the Tenth Legion in 69, when he was involved in constructing a road from Caesarea to Scythopolis: he put up a milestone in the name of Vespasian some time in the second half of this year. Why he was no longer in post in Judaea in 70 and had been replaced by a new general is unknown. His fellow general, the commander of the Fifth Legion, Sextus Vettulenus Cerealis, served from 67 until the completion of the siege and even remained in Jerusalem after Titus' departure in 70 as commander of the garrison troops (as we have seen, Traianus' old unit, the Tenth Legion). Perhaps Traianus was ill or otherwise incapacitated. In any case, his loyalty to the new Flavian regime was not in doubt, for he was granted a consulship, probably in 70, and patrician rank, and from 73 to 77 or 78 he was an energetic governor of Syria, receiving triumphal ornaments for his success against the Parthians. It seems very likely from these marks of high favour that Traianus' support was vital in Vespasian's successful bid for imperial power in mid-69. The “spontaneous” proclamation of Vespasian as emperor in July by his troops in Judaea had been the result of gatherings of his officers as well as the junior ranks. Of the three legionary commanders, Titus was obviously an interested party, but the willingness of Cerealis and Traianus to risk their lives for Vespasian could not at all be taken for granted, and deserved reward when it proved successful. It is curious that Tacitus, composing the narrative of the civil war in his Histories during the first decade of Trajan's reign, does not mention Traianus by name in his account of the vital role played by Vespasian's officers and friends in strengthening Vespasian's resolve, but Traianus' contribution may have been largely passive, allowing himself to be carried along by the ambitions of his troops and his commander-in-chief, and, for Tacitus, the complex relationship between Vespasian and his main supporter and erstwhile rival, Mucianus, governor of Syria, allowed the portrayal of more dramatic tensions.30

It is not certain whether Traianus was still alive when Trajan was adopted by Nerva in November 97. If he was, he would have been very old. More certain is Trajan's emphasis on his natural father's achievements as justification of his own elevation to the principate. Unlike previously adopted emperors, Trajan did not upon adoption transfer to Nerva's gens, preferring to retain his Ulpian lineage—hence the name of the Basilica Ulpia in Trajan's forum in Rome. The frequent references to the elder Traianus in the carefully crafted panegyric of the emperor delivered by the younger Pliny in 100 must reflect the image that Trajan wished to project: “Posterity may find it hard to believe that one whose father was a patrician and of consular rank and won a triumph, who was himself in command of a mighty army of brave soldiers devoted to their general” would wait meekly for his obedience to Nerva's orders to enable him to become emperor rather than seize power for himself. Trajan had been too modest to decline a third consulship as urged by the Senate: “Can a third consulship really be promotion for the son of a consular father granted a triumph? Is it not rather his due, his proper reward, if only as a member of a distinguished family?” Near the end of the speech, Pliny apostrophizes first the deceased “divine Nerva”—“what happiness you must feel today, on beholding him whom you judged the best candidate for your choice proving that he is best”—and then “father Traianus”: “for you too, though not raised to the stars, must surely occupy the nearest place [and] must know such delight when you see [from heaven?] your son who was tribune and soldier under you now risen to be supreme commander and emperor, when you enter into friendly rivalry with his adopter so as to determine where the greater glory must be assigned—to his begetter or to the one who made him his choice.” In evoking military glory Trajan could more easily boast about his real than his adoptive father, since Nerva had achieved little of his own to impress. Nor could Trajan claim victories of his own, since he had as yet done little—the frantic campaigning which marked his rule may illustrate his need to establish, like the emperor Claudius before him, a military reputation to justify his hold on power. The glorification of Traianus, already conspicuous in these early years of Trajan's rule, was to increase rather than diminish with the passage of time, as Trajan turned his close relatives, including his wife, sister, niece and even great-nieces into a new royal family celebrated on coins and sculptures. In 112 Trajan sealed the significance of his natural father to the new regime by his deification.31

Thus it was in the interest of Trajan that the Flavian view of the Jewish war as a great triumph for Rome, and of the Jews as the natural enemies of the Roman state, should be quietly resumed: this was one alleged aberration of Domitian which it had been unwise of Nerva to repudiate. Certainly, if the collection of the Jewish tax at Edfu had indeed stopped in the reign of Nerva, it had recommenced within months of Trajan taking power. Nerva succumbed to fever on 27 January 98. On 28 June of the same year a Jew named Dosarion son of Iesous was given a receipt for nine drachmai two obols “in respect of the Jewish tax for the 1st year of our lord Trajan.”32

The tax receipts from Edfu can reveal no more than the bald fact that Jews continued to pay this poll tax in the years following. What they thought about Rome after their hopes had been raised by Nerva, only to be so crushed so soon, can only be imagined. They could hardly appreciate the nuances of the new emperor's public image. For them, the dashing of expectations after so brief a glimpse of future felicity, or at least normality, without Jews anywhere having acted against Rome, must have seemed arbitrary, monstrous and tyrannical. What could they do? So far as is known, all that the Jews did at first was to wait and hope, and grow more despairing with the passing years. None of the extant Jewish writings preserved by either Christians or rabbinic Jews can be shown to have been written while Trajan was emperor, so Jewish sentiment can only be surmised from the violence of the uprising when it came, in 115 or 116. There is no particular reason to suppose that Jews stopped writing in the first decade of the second century CE, or seeking for a theological explanation of their uniquely demeaning state of subjection; that what they wrote does not now survive is the result only of the hazards of preservation. The earliest extant rabbinic compilations were put together a whole century later, providing only scanty testimony to the disputes among rabbinic sages in this period. And Christians, who had up to c. 100 CE used and copied religious writings in Greek by non-Christian Jews, from around this date ceased to treat with reverence texts composed by non-Christians, now that the Church had expanded sufficiently to produce its own literature.

There is no particular reason to suppose that Trajan took any further action against the Jews after the tax had been reinstated, and the principle thus implicitly confirmed that the Jerusalem Temple would not be rebuilt—it will be recalled that the tax had been instituted as a means to transfer to Jupiter in Rome funds which would once have been paid for the upkeep of the Temple of the Jewish God. Trajan was fully engaged in establishing a great military reputation for himself, both in order to ensure the support of his “excellent and most loyal fellow soldiers” and to celebrate his achievements in public monuments in Rome, most blatantly the honorific column, dedicated in 113 as part of his new forum, on the frieze of which the emperor's victorious campaigns were depicted in impressive, if stylized, detail. The invasion of Dacia beyond the Danube ended eventually, after two wars, in the creation of a new Roman province in 106. On 22 March of the same year the old kingdom of the Nabataeans was turned into a new province of Arabia, without apparent opposition, although the governor of Syria was given triumphal ornaments for the achievement. The new military road built from the Red Sea to Damascus may well have been connected to plans for further expansion to the east. In 114 Trajan picked a quarrel with the Parthians over control of Armenia and in 115 he attacked Parthia itself through Mesopotamia. Coins proclaimed that “Armenia and Mesopotamia have been brought into the power of the Roman people.” Cassius Dio, commenting caustically on these campaigns a century later, asserts that Trajan's conquests to the east were prompted by a desire for glory. He was almost certainly right.33

Throughout these events the Jews, already a conquered people, seem to have been ignored. When their resentment and fury finally broke out with ferocious violence in different parts of the eastern Mediterranean, the uprising caught the Romans by surprise. Cassius Dio describes it thus:

The Jews in the region of Cyrene had put a certain Andreas at their head, and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would eat the flesh of their victims, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood and wear their skins for clothing; many they sawed in two, from the head downwards; others they gave to wild beasts, and still others they forced to fight as gladiators. In all two hundred and twenty thousand persons perished. In Egypt, too, they perpetrated many similar outrages, and in Cyprus under the leadership of a certain Artemion. There, also, two hundred and forty thousand perished.

A century after Dio, Eusebius of Caesarea provided a Christian interpretation of the same disastrous conflicts, linking the uprisings in the Mediterranean diaspora also to the despair of the Jews of Mesopotamia, who might with some justice view with horror the extension of Roman power to include the lands where they had lived under tolerant Parthian rule for centuries:

While the teaching of our Saviour and the Church were flourishing daily and moving on to further progress the tragedy of the Jews was reaching the climax of successive woes. In the course of the eighteenth year of the reign of the emperor a movement of Jews again broke out and destroyed a great multitude of them. For both in Alexandria and in the rest of Egypt and especially in Cyrene, as though they had been seized by some terrible spirit of rebellion, they rushed into sedition against their Greek fellow inhabitants, and increasing the scope of the rebellion in the following year started not a small war while Lupus was governor of all Egypt. In the first engagement they happened to overcome the Greeks, who fled to Alexandria and captured and killed the Jews in the city, but though thus losing the help of these Jews, the Jews of Cyrene continued to plunder the country of Egypt and to ravage the districts in it under their leader Lucuas. The emperor sent against them Marcius Turbo with both land and sea forces, and even cavalry. He waged war vigorously against them in many battles for a considerable time and killed many thousands of Jews, not only those of Cyrene but also those of Egypt who had rallied to Lucuas, their king. The emperor suspected that the Jews in Mesopotamia would also attack the inhabitants and ordered Lusius Quietus to clean them out of the province. He organized a force and slaughtered a great multitude of the Jews there, for which success he was appointed by the emperor governor of Judaea.34

By no means everything in these brief but highly coloured narratives is to be trusted. Atrocity stories of cannibalism are a regular feature of the depiction of savage enemies. The appalling casualty figures may well be exaggerated. But comments by contemporaries confirm the extreme violence. In a papyrus letter found in Egypt, an unknown correspondent reports dramatically (in Greek) that “the one hope and expectation that was left was the push of the massed villagers from our district against the impious Jews; but now the opposite has happened … our forces fought and were beaten and many of them were killed.”35 On 28 November in (probably) 117, an official named Apollonius applied to the prefect of Egypt for leave of sixty days, complaining that “because of the attack of the impious Jews, practically everything I possess in the villages of the Hermopo-lite nome and in the metropolis needs my attention.”36 A number of Egyptian papyri deal with the confiscation and reallocation of Jewish property after the revolt had ended, and with issues which arose in dealing with property destroyed in the uprising. The contemporary historian Appian, himself from Alexandria, records a lucky escape which confirmed the Arabian power of divination:

When I was fleeing from the Jews during the war which was being waged in Egypt and I was passing through Arabia Petraea in the direction of the river, where a boat had been waiting in order to carry me over to Pelusium, an Arab served me as guide at night. When I believed us to be near the boat a crow croaked, just about day-break, and the troubled man said: “We have gone astray.” And when the crow croaked again, he said: “We have gone much astray.” Then I became disturbed and looked for some wayfarer. I saw none, since it was early morning and the country was in a state of war. When the Arab heard the crow a third time, he said rejoicing: “We have gone astray to our advantage and we have gained the road.” I only laughed, thinking we would gain the wrong path again, and despaired of myself as we were surrounded everywhere by enemies, and it was not possible for me to turn back because of those behind from whom I was fleeing. However, being at a loss, I followed and gave myself up to the augury. Being in such a state, unexpectedly I perceived another river very near to Pelusium and a trireme sailing to Pelusium. I embarked and was saved, while the boat which awaited me at the other river was captured by the Jews. So much I had good luck and marvelled at the augury.37

Such personal experience lends credence to Appian's chilling note, in passing, that Pompey's tomb near Alexandria had been devastated by the Jews “while the Roman emperor Trajan was destroying utterly the Jewish race in Egypt.” Another contemporary, the historian Arrian, who wrote an account of Parthian history which concentrated on the campaigns of Trajan in the East, seems to have been referring to the Jews when he recorded that “Trajan was determined above all, if it were possible, to destroy the nation utterly, but if not, at least to crush it and stop its presumptuous wickedness.” Inscriptions from Cyrenaica (modern Libya), using the Latin term tumultus (“disturbance”) to refer to the uprising, record that Hadrian “ordered the Caesareum [the temple of the imperial cult] which had been destroyed in the Jewish disturbance to be rebuilt for the city of the Cyre-neans,” and the restoration of a basilica, the temple of Zeus, baths and public roads which had been damaged enough to need major repairs. The disturbances were evidently directed not just against the Roman state but also against neighbouring gentiles—including, in Egypt, the native Egyptians as well as the Greeks whose hostility in Alexandria had been so longstanding. A papyrus records the celebration in 199 of an annual festival established by the Greek inhabitants of the Egyptian town of Oxyrhyn-chus to commemorate the suppression of the revolt some eighty-two years earlier. Cassius Dio explicitly refers to the consequences of the rebellion in his own day, a hundred years after it had ended: because of the huge death toll caused by the Jews in Cyprus, “no Jew may set foot on this island, but if one of them is driven upon its shores by a storm he is put to death.”38

The exceptional violence of the uprising and the devastating effects of its suppression are not in doubt, but neither Cassius Dio nor Eusebius in their brief narratives gives an explanation of its outbreak, although they agree, despite discrepancies in the detailed chronology and sequence of events, in assigning the rebellion to the last years of Trajan, during his Parthian campaign. It is left to modern historians to explain an uprising unprecedented not just in its savagery but in its geographic spread. Large numbers of Jews lived in Parthian territory, so the coincidence of the outbreak with Trajan's Parthian campaign is unlikely to be accidental, whether the rebellious Jews sought to free those in Mesopotamia from the Roman yoke Trajan was imposing, or to take advantage of the deployment of Roman forces in the frontier campaign to rebel within the empire. Some have suggested that the diaspora uprisings were coordinated with a strategic aim of attacking the Roman state at a moment of weakness, others that vague eschatological leanings were exploited by messianic leaders—in Cyrene, Andreas or Lucuas; in Cyprus, Artemion—hoping by violence to inaugurate a new and better age. A more mundane explanation would be a gradual escalation of violence, with unintended consequences, fuelled by Roman over-reaction to Jewish unrest. As Trajan extended his military capabilities to their limit in the search for conquest, he will have known that the Jews within the empire were potentially friendly to Parthia because they maintained contact with their co-religionists in Parthian territory—after all, Jews from Adiabene had joined in the defence of Jerusalem in 70, so it was reasonable for Romans to suspect the possibility of reciprocity.

All such explanations are possible and certainly none can be disproved, but all rest on the primary assumption that Jews in the Roman empire hated Roman rule. For that hate, taken for granted by Dio and Eusebius and by contemporary observers, the history of the past forty-five years was to blame, and especially the frustration of hopes that had been raised, all too briefly, by Nerva. In contrast to the Parthians, who had allowed the Jews in their empire to worship as they liked without interference, the Romans had burned down the Temple and gloried in its demise. Every year, when the tax collectors called, Jews were reminded that this heinous act had present consequences and that Rome continued its war against Judaism by refusing to allow Jews the freedom, permitted to all ordinary subjects of the emperor, to rebuild their destroyed sanctuary. During the disturbances the temples of Apollo, Zeus, Demeter, Artemis and Isis in the city of Cyrene were all destroyed or damaged. The evidence for this destruction, all either archaeological or epigraphic, cannot reveal whether it resulted from deliberate action by the Jewish rebels against pagan cult centres as well as against their gentile neighbours, or simply as an unintended consequence of conflict. But it would be unsurprising if Jewish frustration at Roman attacks on Judaism manifested itself in a war against the religion of the oppressive state.39

Judaea was affected by these upheavals only indirectly. Alongside their co-religionists in Rome, Asia Minor and Greece, the Jews of the homeland seem to have remained quiescent despite the bloodshed, although their non-participation should not be taken to indicate lack of sympathy, but only a reluctance to risk all in what proved to be a hopeless cause. Indeed the reluctance of these other communities to be involved itself argues against the notion that the uprising was coordinated rather than a spontaneous outburst of rage, but the passivity of the Jews in Judaea did not free them from Roman suspicion. Eusebius records that Lusius Quietus, the Moorish chieftain who had cleared out the Jews of Mesopotamia with great savagery, was appointed governor of Judaea by the emperor in 117. Quietus commanded an independent cavalry unit of Moors which had fought with distinction alongside regular Roman forces both in Trajan's Dacian campaign and in the invasion of Parthia and, as a reward for his services, was enrolled in the Senate, becoming consul probably in the same year that he went to Judaea. An ex-consul with a fine military record could expect to command at least two legions, and a milestone from Galilee confirms that a second permanent legion was stationed in the province at least from early in Hadrian's reign and probably while Trajan was still alive. As far as the Romans were concerned, disaffection among Jews in one part of the empire necessarily threw under suspicion those in another, as they had shown consistently ever since Vespasian adopted his policy of hostility to Judaism in 70.40

Precisely when the last traces of the diaspora revolt flickered out is uncertain, and violence may well have continued in some places during the first months of Hadrian's rule. But the circumstances of Hadrian's accession, following the death of Trajan while he was with his troops in Cilicia during the Mesopotamia campaign on 8 August 117, discouraged the new emperor from adopting any clear policy towards the Jews until his own position was secure, which took considerable time. Aelius Hadrianus was a cousin of Trajan and his ward, but his adoption as Trajan's son and heir was announced only the day after the emperor had died. There was a plausible rumour that the succession had been stage-managed by Plotina, Trajan's wife, who championed Hadrian's interests and contrived the support of the army. Hadrian was faced by a distinct lack of enthusiasm among his fellow senators. In order to concentrate on ridding himself of political opposition in Rome and among the elite, he relinquished Trajan's hard-won new provinces of Mesopotamia and Armenia. Among the powerful and influential senators to be dismissed from their posts was Trajan's favourite, Lusius Quietus; in 118 he was executed, along with three other ex-consuls, on a charge of conspiracy. Hadrian evidently set his own political security above the need for a strong military commander in the Jewish homeland. He had no opportunity in such an atmosphere to draw up comprehensive plans to deal with the Jews. In any case some of the Jewish rebels, where not already violently suppressed, may have been pacified by the unexpected withdrawal of Roman forces from Mesopotamia—to the Jews of that region, at least, the Roman retreat may well have looked like vindication of the uprising, since they can have known little about the nuances of political intrigue at the heart of imperial rule which seem in fact to have been responsible for the reversal of Roman policy.

The solution to the Jewish problem would have to wait. In the year after Trajan's death Hadrian was confronted by provincial disturbances as far apart as Britain and Mauretania, where an uprising was probably inspired by support for Lusius Quietus after his abrupt dismissal from his command in Judaea. By the time Hadrian arrived in Rome on 9 July 118 he was keen to promote an image of settled normality. A posthumous triumph was held to celebrate Trajan's victories over Parthia, despite the abandonment of the territory he had conquered. There were lavish gladiatorial games and generous gifts to the plebs of the city and bankrupt senators. In the face of much hostility from his fellow senators, Hadrian sought to consolidate his power, establishing a distinctive atmosphere in his court through the patronage of Greek culture. He prided himself on his own expertise in Greek rhetoric as well as other arts, including architecture, poetry and music. The new regime was celebrated by the inauguration, probably on 21 April 121, of a huge new temple near the Colosseum dedicated to Venus and the goddess Roma. The largest temple ever built in the city, and designed by Hadrian himself, the building evoked the image of Rome as eternal and divine. This was the first time that the goddess Roma, long worshipped in the Greek world, had received the honour of a cult in the city of Rome itself.41

Once his position in Rome was consolidated, Hadrian set out, as other emperors had done, for the provinces, but with different aims in mind. Further conquests were to be eschewed. Instead, Hadrian set out to reorganize the government of the empire, adopting the name Hadrianus Augustus as indication of his ambitions to impose his personality on the Roman world as decisively as Augustus had once done. There followed a series of financial, military, administrative and legal changes on a scale that had not been seen for a century and a half. The new policy of security within fixed frontiers was advertised in some places in concrete form. A continuous palisade was erected in Upper Germany and Raetia, forming the first artificial frontier to be erected to limit the exercise of Roman power. From 122 a great wall, running for eighty Roman miles and far more elaborate than anything elsewhere, was built “to separate Romans and barbarians” on the northern edge of the province of Britannia. Hadrian himself went in person to each province, strengthening military discipline but also advertising his beneficence by the foundation of new cities and other similarly magnificent gestures. His contributions to Athens, favoured especially as the fount of Greek culture, were so extensive that a great arch was erected on which inscriptions proclaimed on one side “This is the city of Solon,” on the other, “This is the city of Hadrian.” The arrival of the emperor in each province was commemorated by the issue of a coin series depicting the province in idealized form, with the legend ADVENTUS AUGUSTI, “the emperor's visit.” The demonstration of such a personal interest in the detailed administration of each part of the empire was entirely novel, as the issue of the distinctive ADVENTUS coins seems to acknowledge.42

In 128 Hadrian set off on his final tour, going to Africa and Mauretania, then Greece and, the following year, Asia Minor and Syria, where he spent the winter in Antioch. A bilingual honorific inscription from Palmyra in the Syrian desert records the services provided by a local man called Males for looking after Hadrian's troops when he visited that city. A triumphal arch was dedicated in 130 by the city of Gerasa (Jerash) in Trans-jordan, now in the province of Arabia. Finally, on the way south to Egypt, Hadrian came to Judaea. The (by now) standard coins were issued to celebrate the emperor's presence, recording ADVENTUS AUG IUDAEAE. Fragments of a large Latin inscription from Tel Shalem, close to Scythopolis, suggest that the legion installed at the nearby camp set up an impressive arch to commemorate his visit. A massive cuirassed bronze statue of Hadrian, accidentally unearthed in the same area, was also probably manufactured as part of the celebrations of the emperor's arrival. There was every reason, given his record in other provinces, for the inhabitants of Judaea to expect the visit to have momentous results. So, indeed, it did—but not those that Hadrian intended.43

The main types of ADVENTUS coins for Judaea show Hadrian facing a female image representing Judaea. She holds a cup or some similar object in her left hand. The coins depict next to her two children, each holding a palm, the standard symbol on Roman coins as an attribute of Judaea. Minted in Rome, these coins, like others in the ADVENTUS series, portray the emperor in the act of sacrificing a bull at an altar. Judaea is to become a normal part of the pagan world. The Judaea that Hadrian had in mind was not to be Jewish at all: “At Jerusalem, he [Hadrian] founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground, naming it Aelia Capitolina, and on the site of the temple of the god he raised anew temple to Jupiter.” So, succinctly, Cassius Dio as condensed by Xiphilinus. Hadrian's reformed province was to have at its heart not a rebuilt Jewish Temple but a Roman colony, named “Aelia” in recognition of his own family and himself and “Capitolina” in honour of Jupiter Capitolinus, whose cult was to be of central importance in the new city. The creation of a pagan city on the site most sacred to the Jews seems an act so provocative that some scholars have been tempted to explain it not as a cause of the ensuing revolt but as a response to it, following the remarks of Eusebius that work on building the new city was carried out after the revolt had ended; but finds of coins produced by the new colony in hoards alongside coins produced by the rebels strongly suggest that the sequence of events as given by Dio is correct: “This [the foundation of Aelia Capitolina] brought on a war of no slight importance.”44

Hadrian was presumably happy with his reform of Judaea, for he did not stay long. By the summer he was in Egypt, where he was distracted by personal tragedy: he had fallen totally in love with a young Bithynian boy named Antinous, and the boy's death by drowning in October 130 was devastating. The foundation of a new city, Antinoopolis, to commemorate his beloved, and declaring him a god, provided small consolation. Hadrian went to Lycia, and by the winter of 131 was again in Athens, where he seems to have been happiest, setting up the Panhellenion, an organization of Greek cities which celebrated the culture of the Greeks and their loyalty to Rome, and especially to the Panhellenion's founder, Hadrian himself. Hadrian's consistent philhellenism, which led him to promote Greek cultural traits even when, as in his extravagant love affair with Antinous, it rather embarrassed fellow Romans, might encourage the view that his mission in Judaea was, like Antiochus Epiphanes' three hundred years before, to bring the Jews to Greek culture. At Athens, Hadrian had revived a project, the completion of the great temple to Olympian Zeus, which Antiochus Epiphanes had intended but not achieved. The author in the late fourth century CE of the biography of Hadrian preserved in the so-called Augustan History asserts that “the Jews began the war because they were forbidden to mutilate the genitals,” and there is considerable evidence that Hadrian did indeed ban circumcision of males throughout the empire as inimical to what he considered civilized behaviour, just as castration had been banned by Domitian in the previous century. However, it is quite clear from the account in Cassius Dio that Aelia Capitolina was not to be a haven for Hellenized Jews who had accepted Greek culture. The war broke out because “the Jews deemed it intolerable that foreign races should be settled in their city and foreign religious rites planted there.” Aelia Capitolina was not to be refounded as a Greek city in which Jews might settle and be “civilized,” but as a Roman colony, inhabited by gentiles, from which Jews were to be excluded.45

The most obvious explanation of Hadrian's decisive action is that it was intended as the definitive solution to the problems which had led to the appalling uprising of diaspora Jews in 115—17. Hadrian seems to have liked to deal with one province at a time and then to sort it out once and for all, most grandiosely in the erection of the frontier wall in Britain. By planting a Roman colony on the site where the Jewish Temple had once stood, he made it crystal clear that the Temple was not to be rebuilt. Leaving the site of Jerusalem empty for sixty years had proven an invitation to the Jews to agitate for a return to their former glories. To expect Rome to disband a Roman colony would be so obviously ridiculous that agitation would evaporate.

It is unlikely that Jews will have understood the reasons for the delay in inflicting this punishment thirteen years after 117. After 70 Roman retaliation had been instant and vicious. Now, by contrast, the years passed by and those Jews who had not suffered directly in the Trajanic revolt were no more ground down by the state than they had been before. The mixed emotions, of fury and despair at the bloody suppression of the rebellion and denial of the right of Jews to worship in their ancestral fashion, and relief and hope at the possibility of imminent felicity under the new emperor, are evident in the coded prophecies preserved in the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles. Certainty about the identity, religious orientation and place of origin of the authors of these pseudonymous oracles, and the time and unity of their composition, is elusive, but the author's continuing grief at the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple emerges clearly:

The desired house has long ago been extinguished by you, when I saw the second house cast headlong, soaked in fire by an impious hand, the ever-flourishing, watchful shrine of God made by holy people and hoped by their soul and body to be always imperishable … But now a certain insignificant and impious king has gone up, cast it down, and left it in ruins with a great horde and illustrious men. He himself perished at immortal hands [?] when he left the land, and no such sign has yet been performed among men that others should think it right to sack a great city.

The assertion that Titus had died “at immortal hands” parallels the later rabbinic traditions about his awful sufferings as punishment for his sacrilege; that he died through divine intervention may have proved tenable because he did at least die comparatively early, albeit a natural death. The Sibyl denounces Rome with exceptional bitterness: “You will be among evil mortals, suffering evils, but you will remain utterly desolate for all ages yet … With you are found adulteries and illicit intercourse with boys. Effeminate and unjust, evil city, ill-fated above all. Alas, city of the Latin land, unclean in all things, maenad, rejoicing in vipers, as a widow you will sit by the banks, and the river Tiber will weep for you, its consort.” The book opens with a survey of the “woeful history of the Latins,” in which the author condemns, among others, Nero, “a strange snake,” Vespasian, “a certain great destroyer of pious men,” and Trajan, “a Celtic mountain-walker, who, rushing to an eastern war, will not avoid an unseemly fate, but will die; foreign dust will cover him, a corpse.” All the more striking are the author's favourable judgements on Nerva, and, especially, on Hadrian, “a silver-headed man, who will have the name of a sea [the Adriatic]. He will also be a most excellent man and he will consider everything.” Such praise so lavishly poured by the author on Hadrian would be impossible for a Jew after 130. This passage provides, indeed, the main clue to the date of the composition of the text.46

In 130 this “most excellent” emperor turned the site of Jerusalem into a miniature Rome, devoted to Roman religious rites and settled by gentiles, probably by Italians. Among the deities later worshipped in the colony were Bacchus, Sarapis, Astarte and the Dioscuri, all of whom are represented on the city's coinage, but the main cult was that of Jupiter Capitoli-nus. The symbolic transfer of the Jews' annual tribute from the Temple of the Jewish God to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome had now gone one stage further. Now in Jerusalem, too, Jupiter Capitolinus was to dominate the new, Roman, city, ideologically, if not physically, displacing once and for all the cult of the Jews. Thus was the suppression of the revolt under Trajan linked to the foundation of Aelia Capitolina and, in turn, to the outbreak of a further terrible war in 132. The ancient writers explain none of these disasters, so modern historians must try to do so in the light of normal Roman imperial practice and the known idiosyncrasies of Hadrian. What happened next was described succinctly but coherently by Cassius Dio:

[The foundation of Aelia] brought on a war of no slight importance nor of brief duration … So long, indeed, as Hadrian was close by in Egypt and again in Syria, they remained quiet, save in so far as they purposely made of poor quality such weapons as they were called upon to furnish, in order that the Romans might reject them and that they themselves might thus have the use of them; but when he went farther away, they openly revolted. To be sure, they did not dare try conclusions with the Romans in the open field, but they occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, in order that they might have places of refuge whenever they should be hard pressed, and might meet together unobserved underground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light. At first the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts; many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter. Then, indeed, Hadrian sent against them his best generals. First of these was Julius Severus, who was dispatched from Britain, where he was governor, against the Jews. Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their desperation, but by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and his under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up, he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparatively little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them.47

All the other evidence for the revolt of 132—5 is less coherent than this story told by Cassius Dio, but it tends to confirm the general accuracy of his narrative. The rabbis commented mostly on the character of the Jewish leader of the revolt, Shimon bar Kosiba, on the siege of Bethar (about seven miles south-west of Jerusalem) which brought the uprising to an end, and on the persecution which ensued; their stories accreted more and more legendary elements over time, but, unlike the diaspora rebellion, this war was securely entrenched in the rabbinic historical consciousness, along with the great revolt of 66—70. On the non-Jewish side of the conflict, the contemporary historian Appian notes, in discussing Pompey's destruction of Jerusalem in 63 BCE, that it was afterwards rebuilt, but that “Vespasian destroyed it again, and Hadrian did the same in our time.” Appian notes also that, as a result of these rebellions, “the poll tax imposed upon all Jews is heavier than that imposed upon the surrounding peoples.” Thirty years after the war the orator and teacher Fronto tried to console the philosophical emperor Marcus Aurelius for Roman losses in a different campaign, against the Parthians, by reminding him “what a number of soldiers were killed by the Jews under the rule of your grandfather Hadrian.” Revealing of the ideology of the rebels are the images and slogans on the abundant and varied coinage they produced, and fragments of military documents and letters written by the insurgents which have been found in increasing quantities over the past half-century in Judaean desert caves. Revealing of their tactics are the excavations of many underground hiding complexes, with narrow tunnels leading to larger storage chambers and cisterns, which seem to confirm Cassius Dio's reference to their use of “places of refuge … underground” and “subterranean passages.”48

War broke out eventually in 132 after lengthy and organized preparation. The rebels must have been well aware of how the Romans would react: the bloody conflict under Trajan had ended only fifteen years before. A new Jewish government had to be created in secrecy and the population primed to accept its authority under war conditions. In contrast to the internal political struggles leading up to revolt in 66, the Jews in 132 were operating in almost a political vacuum, although some rabbinic sources presuppose, perhaps rightly, that rabbinic support was offered to the rebel leadership by at least one leading rabbinic sage, Akiva. In any case the minting of an impressive series of coins in the first year of the war suggests a new state firmly governed; coins of course served an important purpose in paying for military necessities for the war, but for an underground state without other means to disseminate its messages, the wide distribution of coinage also provided an excellent medium for that purpose. This impression of organized efficiency is confirmed by the tone of surviving documents issued by the rebel administration, from a series of rent agreements for what had previously been imperial property in En Gedi and was now assumed to be the property of the Jewish state, to peremptory orders to military subordinates: “Shimon bar Kosiba to Yehonatan and to Masa-bala … let all men from Tekoa and other places who are with you, be sent to me without delay. And if you shall not send them, let it be known to you, that you will be punished.” In the event these Jewish fighters were to maintain their independence for some three and a half years, inflicting heavy losses on the Roman force sent to suppress them, until in 135 they were finally overwhelmed.49

Historians have debated the size of the force sent by Hadrian to crush the Jews, but it is probable that it was very large. Hadrian took command in person, at least for a time, and his personal involvement drew in the best military minds of the age. The celebrated architect Apollodorus of Damascus sent him designs for new siege engines, although evidently at some distance from the field of battle. Gaius Iulius Severus, “first” of Hadrian's “best generals” according to Cassius Dio, was supported in the campaign by the governor of Syria and the governor of Arabia. Hadrian's imperial persona since he came to power had been far less militaristic than that of his predecessor—perforce, perhaps, because he had found it politically necessary to abandon Trajan's conquests in the East—but precisely the lack of military commitments elsewhere would have made it easier for him to concentrate all his efforts on the total crushing of the Jewish rebels. The geographical spread of the uprising faced by Hadrian is not clear. Judaea was certainly the main arena of the conflict, but Galilee may also have been caught up in the fighting, although the discovery of rebel coinage in Galilean underground complexes may reflect only the plight of refugees from Judaea after the war. The demise in the Judaean desert of one group of fugitives became gruesomely apparent when their skeletons, along with some of the precious documents they had taken with them for safekeeping, were found in the cave where they had died. The documents themselves show that some of these victims originated in the province of Arabia to the east, suggesting that Jews from outside Judaea were drawn into the uprising either as voluntary participants or through suspicion from gentile neighbours such as had caused the pogroms of 66. Cassius Dio states explicitly that not only “all Judaea had been stirred up,” but “the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans,” which suggests strongly that diaspora Jews were voluntarily involved, although due allowance must be made for rhetorical exaggeration: “Many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter.”50

The shape and weight of the coins issued by the rebel government, and the types and slogans chosen, suggest a direct ideological link to the Jewish state which had collapsed in 70. The new state, like the old, was named “Israel,” once again a significant choice because it was a name never used by the Roman state to refer to the Jews. Many of the same slogans (“freedom,” “redemption,” “Jerusalem”) and the same images (palm trees, lulavim) were found on the new coins, although the coins started a new era with the new leadership, and there were some other changes which are quite striking in contrast to the earlier types: thus, for instance, the coins make no reference to Zion (only Israel and Jerusalem). Even more than the coins of 66—70, the issues of 132—5 are remarkable for the extraordinary variety of types chosen, which include many images of buildings, some of them probably idealized versions of part of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. The slogan “For the freedom of Jerusalem,” found on undated coins probably to be assigned to Year Three of the rebellion, was presumably programmatic, since there is no evidence, apart from Appian's claim that Hadrian destroyed the city, that Jewish forces ever gained control of Jerusalem, which was, after all, the headquarters of the Tenth Legion. Certainly the rebels of 132—5 lacked the protection of the city walls which had given security for so long to their predecessors in 66—70: the defences of Jerusalem had been razed to the ground by Titus.51

Both Jewish and Christian sources are eloquent on the qualities of the rebel leader, Shimon bar Kosiba, known in the Christian sources, and occasionally by the rabbis, as Bar Kokhba, “son of the star,” presumably his preferred designation, but usually in the rabbinic sources as Bar Koziba, “son of the lie,” emphasizing his claim to messianic status and the ruthless dedication which, according to one legend, led him to test the courage of his soldiers by requiring each of them to cut off a finger. Some of the coins carry simply his name SHIMON. Others have the legend SHIMON NASI YIS-RAEL, “Simon, prince of Israel.” According to the Palestinian Talmud, “when Rabbi Akiva saw Bar Koziba, he cried out, ‘This is King Messiah.’ Thereupon Rabbi Yohanan son of Torta said to him, ‘Akiva, grass will grow out of your cheek-bones and the Son of David will still not have come.’ ” The vitriolic judgement of other rabbinic sages, that Shimon was “son of the lie,” is amply explained by the abject failure of a messianic leader whose uprising had promised so much.52

The bloodshed in this last war was as awful as anything that had gone before. Cassius Dio notes that

very few of them [the Jews] in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and nine hundred and eighty-five of their most famous villages were razed to the ground. Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate … Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war. Therefore Hadrian, in writing to the Senate, did not employ the opening phrase commonly used by the emperors, “If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the legions are in health.”

Neither the Roman legions nor the Jews were “in health.” After seventy years of tension and conflict, Jews could never again realistically hope to live in the Roman empire with the same freedom as other minorities to practise their ancestral customs and worship their God in their own land.53


THE PUBLIC presentation of Rome's victory over the Jews in 135 was different from the celebrations in 70. Neither the war itself nor its outcome, with such heavy casualties on the Roman as well as the Jewish side, fitted well with Hadrian's persona as proponent of peace and culture. He liked to be seen as omniscient, civilized, organized, poetic and romantic, and his achievements as the encouragement of architecture and art across the empire. He wished his subjects in Rome to admire his wisdom and foresight, not his conquest of distant lands. He stressed, of course, the military competence which was an essential requisite for the emperor, and he was not averse to being portrayed on many statues, particularly in the Greek East, as a cuirassed warrior, but, as he showed by the dispositions made during his provincial tours, under his rule military might was to be used for peace and security, not to win glorious campaigns. The necessity of fighting a war against the Jews cannot have been welcome. There was not, then, to be a triumphal procession or any glorification of the victory. Hadrian did not present himself as conqueror of Judaea as Vespasian and Titus had done, nor did he trumpet his achievements as Trajan had done after this campaigns in Dacia and Parthia. The iconography of the regime made no reference at all to the Jews. No coins celebrated the successful end of the campaign. It was a war that should not have happened.

The intensity of the conflict and the involvement both of the emperor in person and of so many troops made it politic to glory in Roman heroism even if not much could be said about the outcome of the war, much as modern states maintain war memorials to the dead of wars they would prefer to forget. Hadrian himself accepted acclamation as imperator by his troops, so that imperator II was inserted into his official title. His motivation for accepting the honour was probably the need to encourage military morale after a bruising encounter. The service of numerous ordinary soldiers was appropriately recognized by the presentation of military decorations, and triumphal ornaments were bestowed not just on Iulius Severus, who had taken primary responsibility for the campaign, but also on Haterius Nepos, governor of Arabia, and Publicius Marcellus, governor of Syria. If Roman soldiers were to continue to risk their lives for the emperor, public acknowledgement of their efforts was prudent, but it did not amount to glorification of the war.

Roman burial of memories of the conflict had an impact on the Jews even more disastrous than the triumphalism of 70. It was to be as if the Jews had never been in Jerusalem. In his apologetic address to Antoninus Pius and his sons, the Christian Justin, “the son of Priscus and grandson of Bac-chius, natives of Flavia Neapolis [Nablus] in Palestine,” informed the emperor, a decade or so after the defeat of Bar Kokhba, that the desolation of the land of the Jews had been known to Isaiah, whose prophecy, as paraphrased by Justin, had foretold that “the house of our sanctuary has become a curse, and the glory which our fathers blessed is burned up with fire, and all its glorious things are laid waste.” Justin added for the emperor's benefit that “concerning its desolation, and that no one should be permitted to inhabit it, there was the following prophecy by Isaiah [again, paraphrased]: ‘Their land is desolate, their enemies consume it before them, and none of them shall dwell therein.’ And that it is guarded by you lest any one dwell in it, and that death is decreed against any Jew apprehended entering it, you know very well.” When addressing, in a different treatise, the Jew Trypho, the same Christian writer blames Jews' observance of the law of circumcision for their exile. “For the circumcision according to the flesh, which is from Abraham, was given for a sign, that you may be separated from other nations, and from us, and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer; and that your lands may be desolate and your cities burned with fire, and that strangers may eat your fruit in your presence, and that no one of you may go up to Jerusalem.” Writing in the early fourth century CE, Eusebius quotes a certain Ariston of Pella who had recorded that “Hadrian commanded that by a legal decree and ordinances the whole nation should be absolutely prevented from entering thenceforth even the district around Jerusalem, so that not even from a distance could it see its ancestral soil.” “Thus,” notes Eusebius, “when the city came to be bereft of the nation of the Jews, and its ancient inhabitants had completely perished, it was colonized by foreigners.” The name of Jerusalem had already ceased to exist officially in 130. Now the name of the whole province was changed to Syria Palaestina, resurrecting an ancient Greek designation of the region, which referred not to the Jews but to their ancient enemies, the Philistines.54

Such a response to rebellion was unique in Roman history, both before and after 135. For a province to change its name for administrative purposes was not unusual, but not, as in Judaea, as punishment of the natives for their uprising. Despite revolts in Pannonia, Germany and Britain, the Romans continued to call each province after the name of its native people. Only the Iudaei ceased to have a homeland because of what they had done. Nor was transfer of populations a standard Roman procedure. Under Augustus, some of the inhabitants of the Spanish highlands were compelled to move down into the coastal plains as a precaution against insurrection, and more generally the Celtic peoples of northern Europe who had sought security in hill-top forts were moved after Roman conquest into urban centres on lower ground less easily fortified against Rome by the disaffected; but these precautionary measures were quite different from the mass punishment to which the Jews of Judaea were subjected. In the eyes of Rome and at the behest of Hadrian, the Jews had ceased to exist as a nation in their own land.

To what extent the hostility of the state was reflected in the attitude of ordinary Romans towards the Jews can be surmised only from occasional hints in the extant literature, and from plausibility. Violent terminology occasionally surfaces. Under Domitian, the great authority on rhetoric Quintilian wrote of Jews as a baleful nation (pernitiosa gens). For Tacitus in the reign of Trajan, most Jewish customs are base, abominable and depraved, so that “the Jews regard as profane all that we hold sacred, while they permit all that we abhor”; to Florus, a younger contemporary, Jews were an “impious nation.” In the distant city of Oenoanda in what is now Turkey, the Epicurean philosopher Diogenes had inscribed, probably during the reign of Hadrian, in large letters for the benefit of his fellow citizens advice to seek contentment by not behaving credulously like the Jews: “A clear indication of the complete inability of the gods to prevent wrongdoings is provided by the nations of the Jews and Egyptians, who, while being the most superstitious of all peoples, are the vilest of all peoples.” Whether such hostile attitudes became standard in the city of Rome or elsewhere in the empire after 135 cannot now be determined, but they are unlikely to have evaporated quickly.55

Nothing in the comparatively settled elite politics of Rome over the next hundred years encouraged succeeding emperors to dispense with the policy so clearly established in 135. Just as Hadrian's legitimacy as ruler of the Roman world derived from his alleged adoption by Trajan, so every emperor down to 193 owed his position to adoption by Hadrian or his adopted successors. By the mid-second century CE the prestige of imperial adoption was so fully accepted that an emperor's choice could not safely be set aside even when it might seem to everyone in authority potentially disastrous for the empire. When Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius died in March 161, the new emperor Marcus Aurelius insisted that the Senate confer the rank of Augustus on his adoptive brother Lucius, implying an equal share of power, despite his lack of political and military experience or competence, and despite Marcus Aurelius' own popularity. The only justification was the fulfilment of Hadrian's wishes as expressed just before his death twenty-three years earlier. Even when the strict line of adoptive succession, continuous since 96, came to an end with the murder of the deranged Commodus in 193, the desire to justify current rule by appeal to the past did not vanish. Commodus was succeeded by a series of generals, each seeking supreme power for himself, much as had occurred in 68 on the death of Nero. Septimius Severus, who emerged as sole victor only in February 197, came from Africa and was of Punic descent. He had no connection to the regime of Commodus, except as a competent senator; he had become emperor because in 193 he was governor of Upper Pannonia and won the support of the legions stationed on the Rhine and Danube, and because in the ensuing wars against rival claimants the crucial battles went his way. But even in the midst of such blatant realpolitik, image mattered, and in 195 Severus proclaimed himself a son of Marcus Aurelius and thus brother of Commodus; for this relationship to bring the prestige desired, Commodus' memory, which had been enthusiastically condemned by the Senate following his assassination, was restored, and he was declared to be a god. Severus' son, the future emperor nicknamed Caracalla, was given the name “Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.” By such means, artificially but effectively, the political heritage of Hadrian was carried through into the Se-veran dynasty, which was to last, in somewhat indirect form, to the death of Severus Alexander in 235. Thus, for a hundred years after the defeat of Bar Kokhba, there was no incentive for any Roman ruler to challenge the ethos of the empire created by Hadrian. The marginalization of the Jews was to remain in force.

Continuation of the policy of hostility to the Jews is less easy to demonstrate from the surviving evidence than its original imposition. The coins issued by the colony of Aelia Capitolina show that it flourished as a pagan city on the site where Jerusalem had once been. The earliest coin types show the emperors as founders of the colony, ploughing its boundaries, the she-wolf with the twins Romulus and Remus, the legionary standards, the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus and the Capitoline Triad. Three coin types from the time of Marcus Aurelius depict Rome as a goddess, armed and seated, with her left arm resting on a spear and in the palm of her extended right hand the figure of a winged victory. Later coins, in the third century, exhibit less distinctively Roman traits, with images most often of the goddess Astarte and the god Sarapis, but they are still defiantly pagan. The Tenth Legion, whose camp continued to occupy the southwestern hill of Jerusalem, near what is now the Jaffa Gate, advertised its presence on ceramic roof tiles, bricks and pipes, each stamped LEG X PRE (sometimes just LXF) and often bearing the legion's insignia of a galley and a wild boar. The wide distribution of roof tiles produced by the legion shows that they were used extensively for purely civilian purposes, and it is reasonable to assume that the soldiers were well integrated into the life of the colony. The main centre of the civilian colony seems to have been sited to the north of the legionary camp, in what is now the northern quarter of the Old City, where the modern street plan still follows in part its rectangular layout. The arched gate leading onto the main colonnaded north-south street is still visible below the Damascus Gate built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid-sixteenth century. This and other arched gates, such as the so-called Ecce Homo arch on the Via Dolorosa, fulfilled a propaganda rather than defensive function. Impressive arches of this sort were a common feature of cities in the Roman Near East in the second and third centuries CE. Aelia Capitolina does not seem to have been walled. The inhabitants could be confident that, despite all that their city represented to the Jews, they would be secure. In c. 201 CE a memorial medallion was struck in Aelia Capitolina bearing the heads of the emperor Septimius

Severus and his wife Julia Domna on one side and the figures of their sons, Geta and Caracalla, on the other, apparently to commemorate a visit to the colony by the emperor. This public affirmation of the status of Aelia Capi-tolina by Septimius Severus was echoed by permission to add the names Pia and Felix (“Pious” and “Happy”) as soubriquets to the name of the city. There is no sign of any doubt in the Roman state about the wisdom of the policy inaugurated by Hadrian. The gradual move of the Tenth Legion to a new base at Aela on the Red Sea in the second half of the third century CE did not reflect any shift in attitude to Aelia Capitolina by emperors but the strategic unimportance of the site now that the Jews were no longer a threat to the peace of the empire.56

Without a Jewish state during the one hundred and seventy-five years between Bar Kokhba's defeat and the accession to power in 312 CE of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, Jews feature only rarely in the historical narratives composed by Romans. The fourth-century pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus notes in passing, during his discussion of a quip attributed to the emperor Julian in the mid-fourth century, that Julian believed his own witticism to be related to one uttered two centuries earlier by Marcus Aurelius: “as he was passing through Palestine on his way to Egypt, being often disgusted with the malodorous and disorderly Jews, [Marcus] is reported to have cried with sorrow: ‘O Marcomanni, O Quadi, O Sarmatians, at last I have found a people more unruly than you.’ ” The author of the strange emperor biographies included in the Augustan History, probably a pagan writing in the 390s, writes that Antoninus Pius “through legates and governors, crushed the Germans and the Dacians and many other tribes, and also the Jews, who were rebelling,” and that the Senate decreed to Caracalla (at the age of twelve!) a triumph over Judaea, Iudaicus triumphus, because of the successes achieved by Severus in Syria. Writing at the same time, in the late fourth century, the Christian Jerome noted in his Chronicle for the year 197 CE that “a Jewish and Samaritan war broke out,” which could refer either to a revolt by both peoples against Rome or to a war between the two groups. But there is a striking lack of contemporary literary, archaeological, epigraphic or any other sort of evidence from the second and third centuries to support these stories, composed in the fourth century, about conflict two hundred years earlier. It is just possible that this apparent contemporary silence is the result of chance, and that these conflicts did indeed take place in one way or another, but more probably these stories show only that, even in later generations and even when they were at peace, Jews retained their reputation as rebels and as a disruptive element in the empire.57

It would be unsurprising, of course, if Roman hostility to Jews diminished gradually as memories of the violence between 70 and 135 faded; but no emperor did anything at all about the main complaint of the Jews against Rome, that the state prevented them from worshipping God in their Temple. The Jews' desire for the rebuilding of the sanctuary, so evident in Josephus' description of Jewish worship in Against Apion, written at the end of the first century, was not in any way diminished by the early third century, for a large proportion of the Mishnah, redacted at just this time, concerned the rituals to be performed in a restored Jerusalem sanctuary: of the six divisions, one, on “Hallowed Things,” was entirely devoted to the topic, and references to the Temple cult permeate the other five divisions also. Severus Alexander could hardly have been unaware of what the Jews wanted. He himself came on the maternal line from a family which had for generations dominated as priests the worship of the sun-god of Emesa, modern Homs, on the Syrian Orontes. His cousin and predecessor as emperor, nicknamed Elagabalus, after the sun-god himself, had not only promoted this cult in his home city but had brought his ancestral forms of worship to Rome. Compared to such innovation, to permit the restoration of the famed Temple of the Jews might have seemed uncontroversial, if prejudice against the Jewish cult had not been so deeply entrenched in Roman minds by this time.

That this failure to rebuild the Jewish shrine was the result of Roman policy, and not of any insuperable physical or other problem, became clear in 361, over two centuries after Bar Kokhba had been defeated, when the Roman state inaugurated precisely such a rebuilding. The emperor Julian, an apostate to paganism from Christianity, ordered the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple not so much to please the Jews as in order to spite his erstwhile Christian co-religionists: he knew that Christians believed that the destruction of the Temple was a sign of the veracity of their version of the religious tradition they shared with Jews, and that if the Temple was restored it would undermine this argument. In any case, Julian believed that encouraging traditional worship through sacrifices was in itself a good thing. Julian's contemporary and admirer, Ammianus Marcellinus, records with approval the commencement of the “great work” which Julian planned “to extend the memory of his reign,” and the practical difficulties faced in its execution. Julian, writes Ammianus,

planned at vast cost to restore the once splendid temple at Jerusalem, which after many mortal combats during the siege by Vespasian and later by Titus, had only with difficulty been stormed. He had entrusted the speedy performance of this work to Alypius of Antioch, who had once been vice-prefect of Britain. But, though this Alypius pushed the work on with vigour, aided by the governor of the province, terrifying balls of flame kept bursting forth near the foundations of the temple, and made the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and since in this way the element persistently repelled them, the enterprise halted.

What obstructed rapid rebuilding was evidently not the presence on the site of other buildings or any such problem, but natural phenomena, perhaps earthquakes. The contemporary Christian writer, the bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, who had been at school with Julian, claimed that the sacrilegious attempt to foil the divine will had been subverted by a miracle. Such Christian considerations will have carried no weight for the pagan emperors before Constantine. If they did not try to rebuild the Jewish Temple, it was not through fear of divine retribution, or the practical difficulties of the site, but out of a continuing belief that the Jewish cult was dangerous in the Roman world.58


MANY, perhaps most, of those Jews who survived in the new province of Syria Palaestina must have reacted to the defeat of Bar Kokhba by ceasing to think of themselves as Jews. The rabbinic texts of the third century CE and later contain recollections of a period during or immediately after the revolt when displaying any outward sign of Judaism could be fatal and some Jews even underwent an operation to reverse the mark of circumcision; the rabbis laid down a general rule for ordinary Jews that, because of the overwhelming preciousness of life, in such times of persecution any part of the Torah can be contravened to save one's life except the cardinal sins of idolatry, killing another person, and adultery or incest.59 The archaeological and epigraphic remains from the land of Israel for the two centuries after 135 contain little that is clearly related to Judaism. Public buildings lacked any of the Jewish iconography which was to become standard on the mosaic floors of Palestinian synagogues in the late fourth to sixth centuries, when a repertoire of Jewish images (the ram's horn, palm branch, and especially the candelabrum from the Temple) was ubiquitous. Since the Roman state had always accepted without quibble the validity of apostasy from Judaism, as Tiberius Julius Alexander had demonstrated by the success of his public career in the first century, it might seem sensible for Jews to respond to Roman hostility to their religion by choosing to abandon it, particularly since their God seemed to have abandoned them. This may indeed be the best way to understand the assertion in Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr in the mid-second century, that Jews were forbidden after Bar Kokhba to live in their homeland. It would not have benefited the settlers in Aelia Capitolina to find the lands they were allotted in the new colony deprived of a local workforce. Doubtless they could employ slave labour to some extent, particularly when slave prices were low in the aftermath of the war, but much farm work must have been done by descendants of the original Jewish inhabitants who had given up Jewish customs and elected to merge into the wider gentile population of the region.60

At least some of those Jews who remained faithful to their ancestral religion developed a deep loathing for the Roman state because the Romans prevented them from worshipping God as laid down in the Torah. How general such loathing was is unknown. Hostility to the state was not of course an attitude that it would be prudent to express in public display of any kind, so the evidence is confined to the surviving Jewish literary texts from this period, of which the vast majority were produced by and for rabbinic sages. Whether many other Jews shared the rabbinic viewpoint can only be guessed, but that some rabbis came to see Rome as wicked and malevolent, and “good” Romans as the exception, is clear. The rabbis, as recorded both in legal texts like the Mishnah and in more discursive works of Bible interpretation, saw Rome as an instrument of war, and Rome was frequently equated by them with the hereditary enemy of Israel, Edom, which had been identified already in the biblical book of Genesis with the descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob, so that relations between Israelite and Edomite had the bitterness of fraternal hatred.61 They elaborated traditions about pious martyrs in the revolt of 132–5, and especially about Rabbi Akiva, who, arrested because “the wicked kingdom made a decree that people should not be occupied with Torah, and anyone who occupies himself with Torah will be stabbed with a sword,” was said to have died smiling because martyrdom allowed him to fulfil the injunction in Deuteronomy to “love the Lord, your God, with all your soul.”62 The rabbis' hope for the final defeat of the evil empire of Rome was rooted for the rabbis not just in general speculation about the end times but in the more specific expectation of a cycle of four empires to precede the last days and the belief that the fourth of these empires was Rome. The cycle of empires had been described in the biblical book of Daniel and was applied to the future of Rome already by Josephus in his Antiquities, but the rabbis, composing an esoteric literature in Hebrew and Aramaic for Jewish readers, could afford to be less circumspect than Josephus, who felt constrained to be tactful for his Roman audience.63

The rabbis demonstrated no great knowledge of the intricacies of Roman politics—indeed, it would be impossible to write even the most schematic coherent account of the political and military history of the Roman world if it was necessary to rely on the rabbinic texts alone. They made comparatively frequent reference only to a few specific emperors: Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, Hadrian, Diocletian. Allusions to other political events, including the intensive campaigns by third-century Roman emperors in the Near East over territory in Syria and Mesopotamia where large numbers of Jews lived, campaigns in which emperors themselves were often personally involved, are sparse and often elliptical, and are comprehensible only in the light of non-rabbinic evidence. “Antoninus” was used as a generic name for a good emperor prepared to talk to, and take lessons from, rabbinic sages. Other emperors lacked a distinct personality in the rabbinic imagination, apart from Titus, the archetype of evil, about whom a whole folklore grew up, with enthusiastic speculation about the tortures he experienced before he died:

This was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it … Titus further took the curtain and shaped it like a basket and brought all the vessels of the Sanctuary and put them in it, and then put them on board ship to go and triumph with them in his city … A gale sprang up at sea which threatened to wreck him. He said: “Apparently the power of the God of these people is only over water. When Pharaoh came He drowned him in water, when Sisera came He drowned him in water. He is also trying to drown me in water. If he is really mighty, let him come up on the dry land and fight with me.” A voice went forth from heaven saying: “Sinner, son of sinner, descendant of Esau the sinner, I have a tiny creature in my world called a gnat. Go up on the dry land and make war with it.” When he landed the gnat came and entered his nose, and it knocked against his brain for seven years. One day, as he was passing a blacksmith's, it heard the noise of the hammer and stopped. He said: “I see there is a remedy.” So every day they brought a blacksmith who hammered before him. If he was a non-Jew they gave him four zuz, if he was a Jew they said, “It is enough that you see the suffering of your enemy …” When he died he said: “Burn me and scatter my ashes over the seven seas so that the God of the Jews should not find me and bring me to trial.”

It is interesting to see the Roman practice of cremation, still standard in the first century CE, interpreted in a Jewish text as a means to avoid punishment by God.64

Hostility to the Roman state did not preclude the rabbis in Palestine between the second and fifth centuries CE adopting many of the cultural traits of the Roman world, but acculturation did not necessarily imply accommodation, either for them or for the non-rabbinic Jews who were their contemporaries, about most of whom knowledge can only be derived from inscriptions and archaeology. No one was likely to express hostility to the state on a recognizable permanent monument, and if some Jews vented their rage in graffiti none has been recognized. But it may be worth noting that, in the privacy of the interior of the Dura-Europus synagogue, built by the Euphrates in the mid-third century CE, the artist felt free to display on the wall frescoes the violent destruction of a pagan shrine, albeit as illustration of the dramatic biblical scene in the book of Samuel, when the Philistines took the ark of the Lord into the house of Dagon “and set it by Dagon”:

And when the people of Ashdod arose early the next day, behold, Dagon was fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter into Dagon's house do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumours, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god.”

The same artist at Dura framed the main panel of his painting of the west wall of the prayer room around a depiction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which dominated the Torah niche in the centre of the fresco and was surrounded by other reminders of the Jerusalem cult, including a huge depiction of the Temple menorah. The Temple was as important to the Jews of Dura and the rest of the diaspora as it was to the Jews of Palestine. They had not forgotten what the wicked kingdom of Edom had done.65


IN 197 CE, a dedicatory inscription in Greek was set up in Kasyoun in Upper Galilee “for the safety of our lords, emperors, Caesars, Lucius Sep-timius Severus Eusebes Pertinax Augustus and Marcus Aurelius [Anton]-inus … [and G]eta, his sons … [by] vow [prayer?] of Jews.” Whether the inscription was set up in a synagogue or on a pagan site is uncertain, as is any connection with any specific event in imperial history, but the stone testifies to enthusiasm in public for the Severan dynasty by at least some Jews in the Galilee region in the late second century. The terminology may reflect no more than cautious obeisance, but it may reflect Jewish hopes, as a century earlier in 96, that the new regime, which had come to power after four years of intermittent civil war, would return the Jews to the status they had enjoyed before 70, at least with regard to the practice of their religion. Certainly fourth-century sources record the Severan dynasty, which ruled in the early third century, as more favourably disposed towards the Jews than their Antonine predecessors. Thus Jerome (c. 347—420) reports that some of the “Hebrews” in his day understood the passage in the biblical book of Daniel, “When they fall, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery,” to refer to the emperors Severus and Antoninus (Caracalla), “who loved the Jews very much” (although others took the text as a reference to the emperor Julian). The biographer in the Augustan History of the emperor Severus Alexander, who ruled from 222 to 235, portrayed this emperor as particularly friendly: he “kept the privileges for the Jews” and “used often to exclaim what he had heard from someone, either a Jew or a Christian, and always hung on to, and he also had it announced by a herald whenever he was disciplining anyone: ‘What you do not wish to be done to you, do not do to another.’” How seriously to take such a story in the Augustan History is hard to judge. To some extent these frivolous and unreliable biographies seem to have been composed to amuse, and the author evidently found Jews and Jewish customs funny, but some confirmation of a more friendly attitude to Jews in Severan times may also be read in a law cited in the Digest, the great compilation of jurists' opinions compiled in the mid-sixth century CE at the behest of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, in which the opinion of the prolific lawyer Ulpian was recorded, that “the Divine Severus and Antoninus permitted those that follow the Jewish superstitio to acquire honours, but also imposed upon them duties such as should not harm their superstitio.”66

A change in Roman attitudes may also explain rabbinic traditions about the high status in Palestine in the early third century CE of Judah haNasi, “Judah the Patriarch,” the compiler of the Mishnah. According to later rabbinic tradition, Judah haNasi was an immensely wealthy aristocrat who was also a rabbinic sage: “from the time of Moses until Rabbi [Judah] we have not found Torah and greatness in one place.”67 Hence the historical significance of the rash of stories in rabbinic texts about a close relationship between Judah haNasi and a Roman emperor called “Antoninus,” culminating in the implausible tradition that Antoninus converted to Judaism. The stories themselves belong to the same genre of moralizing folk tales as other rabbinic narratives about gentiles (governors, philosophers, “matrons”) being instructed in the truth by rabbinic sages.

Antoninus made a candelabrum for the synagogue. Rabbi [Judah haNasi] heard about it and said, “Blessed be God, who moved him to make a candelabrum for the synagogue.” Rabbi Samuel son of Rabbi Isaac, “Why did Rabbi say, ‘Blessed be God’? Should he not say, ‘Blessed be our God’? If he said, ‘Blessed be God,’ it indicates that Antoninus never in fact converted to Judaism. If he said, ‘Blessed be our God,’ it indicates that Antoninus in fact converted to Judaism.” There are some things that indicate that Antoninus was converted, and there are some things that indicate that Antoninus was not converted.

In all these tales the culmination is the demonstration of his superior wisdom by the rabbi, who often brings the discussion to an end by citation of an appropriate biblical proof text. In most cases there is no reason to imagine any real historical dialogue as having given rise to the rabbinic story. But since the traditions about “Antoninus” and Judah haNasi are not generally paralleled for other sages and emperors, it is likely, at the least, that Judah haNasi did indeed have a closer relationship to the Roman government than his predecessors and successors in the rabbinic community, a relationship characteristically expressed in terms of patronage and gifts: “Antoninus gave Rabbi two thousand fine fields [in the area of Yabluna in the northern Golan] as a tenancy.” To which emperor the name “Antoninus” in the rabbinic texts refers is unknown, but if Judah haNasi flourished in the early third century it is reasonable to link these traditions to an improvement in the attitude of some rabbis towards the Roman state in the Severan period and perhaps to accommodation by at least some Jews to Roman rule.68

On the other hand there is no evidence that rabbis ever thought of themselves, at this or any date, as “Romans of the Jewish faith” even when, in legal terms, they were fully entitled to do so. Rabbinic sources never refer to the single greatest innovation of the Severan dynasty which, in theory, might in one stroke have ended the Jews' perception of themselves as a persecuted minority in a hostile empire, when, in 212, the emperor Caracalla by edict bestowed Roman citizenship on all the inhabitants of the Roman world, including Jews. In a formal sense, the Mishnah, and later rabbinic texts such as the Palestinian Talmud, can be described as products of Roman literature, and Judah haNasi could have used a Roman name, but in fact there is no hint in the Mishnah, or indeed in any of the Palestinian rabbinic texts, that any of these Jews identified themselves as Roman. Rome, for third-century Palestinian Jews, was a foreign power which had subdued Israel. It would not, it seems, have occurred to Judah haNasi to think of himself as Roman in the same way as “Antoninus” was, even though the Roman identity of Caracalla, whose father was of Punic origin from North Africa and whose mother came from Emesa in Syria, was no less genealogically fictive than was that of Judah haNasi (and, indeed, the Roman identity of almost all Romans in his day).69

Far from integrating Palestinian Jews into the Roman world, the effect of a more benign imperial regime in the third century CE seems to have been a licence to some Jews to manage their own affairs in self-imposed isolation from the heavy hand of the state, as the Christian Origen (c. 185— c. 254) describes: “Now that the Romans rule and the Jews pay the two drachmas to them, we, who have had experience of it, know how much power the ethnarch [“ruler of the people”] has among them and that he differs in little from a king of the nation. Trials are held according to the law, and some are condemned to death. And though there is not full permission for this, still it is not done without the knowledge of the ruler.” Origen, who was living in Caesarea Maritima on the coast, appealed to local knowledge about the condition of Jews in contemporary Palestine: “We found out about this to our certainty when we spent much time in the country of that people [the Jews].”70

The power of the ethnarch to put people to death as described by Origen was informal, derived from his local prestige among Jews rather than from authority delegated to him by Rome. “Ethnarch” does not seem to have been an official Roman title, but was used by Origen as a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew title nasi, “patriarch,” accorded to Judah haNasi and his descendants during the rest of the third century and on to the early fifth. The third-century nasi as described in rabbinic texts was a local leader who declared fast days, instituted and annulled bans, sent judges to serve communities, controlled the calendar, and, with his court, issued decrees about religious obligations such as the laws of sabbath, purity, tithing and the sabbatical year, but he was not described as involved in the standard tasks of a local authority that was delegated power by the Roman government, such as the collection of taxes on behalf of Rome. Rabbinic stories about the use of Gothic bodyguards by the patriarch Judah Nesiah, grandson of Judah haNasi, show him as more like a mafia boss or powerful patron than an appointee of the Roman state.71

In contrast to the self-isolation of the Jews of Palestine, one might imagine that to identify themselves with the Roman state would have come more naturally to Jews in the city of Rome itself. Those Jews in Rome in the third century CE, whose ancestors had first settled in the city and had become Roman citizens as long ago as the first century BCE, might reasonably have felt themselves to be Roman as well as Jewish, regardless of the current attitude of the state to the observance of their religion. It is not easy now to discover how they balanced these two aspects of their identity; arguments about how they described themselves can become dangerously circular. Thus the use of a full Roman name is rare in the (mostly funerary) extant inscriptions from Rome identified by scholars as Jewish, being found in fewer than ten out of six hundred or so, so that it might appear that, when it came to commemoration after death, Roman Jews preferred to stress their Jewish rather than their Roman status; but since the inscriptions of or about Jews are often identified in the first place by their Jewish name, the epitaph of a Jew who used a purely Roman name (like that of Tiberius Julius Alexander) and did not use Jewish iconography would not be identified now as Jewish even if the individual in question had in fact been a pious Jew.72

In late-first-century Rome, at least one Jew who was a Roman citizen, Flavius Josephus, seems never to have portrayed himself in his writings as Roman, despite his ability as a historian to describe the Judaean campaign and Titus' triumph from the Roman side.73But the same was not obviously true two centuries or so later of a certain Cresces Sinicerius, whose epitaph, inscribed in Latin on a plaque of coarse-grained grey-blue marble in the catacombs below the Villa Torlonia, records that “Cresces Sinicerius, Jewish proselyte, lived 35 years, took his sleep. His mother [had] made for her dearest son what he should have [had] made for me.” A convert to Judaism, Cresces had begun life as a Roman citizen and had only later become a Jew. He was entitled to think of himself, if anyone was, as a Roman of the Jewish faith rather than a Jewish outsider in Roman society. It is probably significant that this inscription is in Latin, unlike the great majority of Jewish epitaphs from Rome, which, as in the rest of the Mediterranean diaspora, were in Greek. The mother of Cresces Sinicerius expressed her mourning in terminology common on pagan tombstones (including the addition of the date: “ VIII K[a]l[endas] Ian[uarias],” 25 December), but of course she, unlike her son, may not have converted to Judaism.74

The number of such proselytes in the city of Rome in the second and third centuries CE is impossible to gauge since the surviving Jewish inscriptions from Rome record only a tiny fraction of the community, and there is no reason to assume that the relatives of all converts chose to include on their epitaphs the information that they had not always been Jewish. The practice is indeed rather odd, and could also be dangerous in the light of the periodic effort by the state to ban such conversions: the jurist Modestinus, discussing the rights of masters over their slaves, notes that “by a rescript of the divine Pius [Antoninus Pius]” Jews are permitted to circumcise only their own sons, and that “if anyone shall perform this act on one who is not of the same religion, he shall suffer the punishment of a castrator.” The unreliable Augustan History states baldly that Septimius Severus “forbade under heavy penalty [anyone] to become Jewish.” A text contained in the codification of Roman attitudes to circumcision included in theSententiae,attributed to the early-third-century jurist Paul but composed in the late third century, also lays the blame on the proselyte as well as on the Jews responsible for the conversion: “Roman citizens, who suffer that they themselves or their slaves be circumcised in accordance with the Jewish rite, are exiled perpetually to an island and their property confiscated; the doctors suffer capital punishment. If Jews shall circumcise purchased slaves of another nation, they shall either be banished or suffer capital punishment.” It is all the more striking that the relatives of Cresces Sinicerius and others were prepared to state so openly that they were indeed converts to Judaism.75 Whatever the attitude of the state, ordinary Roman attitudes to proselytes fluctuated. In the early second century CE Tacitus asserted that new converts to Judaism were immediately taught “to disown their fatherland.” By contrast Cassius Dio, writing a century later under the milder regime of the Severans, exhibited no such overt hostility to proselytes: “I do not know how this title [‘Jews’] came to be given to them, but it applies also to all the rest of mankind, although of alien race, who affect their customs. This class exists even among the Romans, and though often repressed has increased to a very great extent and has won its way to the right of freedom in its beliefs.”76

By the late third century CE there were still many Jews, both native and proselyte, in the Roman world. Many lived in the diaspora, but a good proportion still inhabited the land of Israel where, excluded from Jerusalem, they congregated primarily in Galilee and in the cities of the Mediterranean coast. To what extent those Jews not part of the rabbinic movement still thought of themselves as Jews since the disaster of 135 cannot be known, but it would be surprising if most of them lost all sense of their Jewish culture since, as Dio noted, the Romans allowed them to believe what they liked about the nature of the world.77

Jews could observe their dietary laws as their customs allowed. They could circumcise their sons and congregate to hear the Torah read. No one compelled them to break the rules of resting on the Sabbath or to participate against their conscience in the worship of other gods. But they were still deprived of the main focus of their religious piety. As Dio and all Romans knew, the Jews had once worshipped their God with sacrifices in an “extremely large and beautiful temple,” which continued to lie in ruins.78

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