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Rome's Failure with Masada
The main victory of taking over Jerusalem was what Vaspasian marched into Rome in celebration of. He and his son had let the world know that no one could revolt against Rome. Masada was a minor nuisance in the final cleanup.
To the Jews, it was a battle cry that Rome might conquer them physically but would never take their souls. It was a signal to all other cultures that Rome would not always be the one to carry out justice. The rebels within the walls of Masada did not die by Roman hand. They took justice from Rome and let their own God administer it.
Rome had never faced such massive failure in dealing with a province that was not tied directly to would-be emperors vying for the throne. This was the first time that direct dealings with a province led to bloodshed. Masada showed Rome that there was more to come. The end of the Empire was in the works. To Rome, the Jewish revolt failed. To history, it was a sign that the decline of Rome was not over though it would have many plateaus.
To come behind the Jewish revolt were confrontations with the Dacians, Parthians, Germanic tribes, and Britains to name a few. Persia rose back up and caused problems along with others such as the Goths. Trouble was arising everywhere for Rome during the next few centuries. The Jews revolted one more time in A.D. 115 and managed to drain some of Rome’s resources for two years. Rome would be fighting for the remainder of its existence. The battles would be over Rome conquering new nations, preventing invasions of foreign powers, or to battle within itself with various civil wars. When the Jewish revolt and the siege of Masada occurred, it opened the door for more rebellion. In approximately A.D. 131, Simon Bar Kokhba rose up within the Jews as a messianic figure. Under his leadership, the Jews took back Judaea for a few years before Rome was able to re-conquer the area and ban all Jews from entering their religious city.
Rome was a great and powerful nation that had gone further than any other empire in history. What they saw, they conquered. Challenges were taken up by Rome with enthusiasm. They were used to nations eventually giving in and accepting the Roman way of life. To face a culture that would rather die than do that, was something that they could not understand. The land of Judaea was full of customs and beliefs that Rome could not comprehend. Their lack of understanding helped lead to the siege of Masada and the deaths of many. Rome finally met a culture that was not afraid of them.
The siege of Masada was a sign to Rome that the Empire ignored like so many other signs that were presented to them. They considered themselves invincible and the best of all civilizations. The fact that a small country was not envious of them was beyond their understanding. It took this small revolutionary country to show Rome that they were not what they thought they were. Not everyone craved Roman rule or culture. In the eyes of many, there was more to life than that. The Masada incident has been glossed over throughout history, but it was this last act of the Jewish rebellion that rang a bell that history would hear even though Rome would not.
- Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1995.
- Cappelletti, Silvia. The Jewish Community of Rome: From the Second Century B.C. to the Third Century C.E. Boston: Brill, 2006.
- Gibbon, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Volume I . Public Domain Books, 2006, Kindle edition.
- Josephus, Flavius. Translated by William Whiston. “The Works of Flavius Josephus.” Sacred Texts, accessed 11/9/2010, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/index.htm.
- Mackay, Christopher S. Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History. New York: Cambridge, 2007.
- “Masada: Desert Fortress Overlooking the Dead Sea,” Israeli Ministry of Tourism, accessed 11/9/2010, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Archaeology/Masada1.html.
- Rashba, Gary L. “Masada, Israel.” Military History 24, Issue 7, 2007.
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