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(3760 - 2080 BCE)

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(1240 - 400 BCE)

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The siege of Jerusalem by Titus
(3830 AM - 70 CE)

The Romans penetrate the city

The final assault

The fall of Jerusalem
(3830 AM - 70 CE)

Destruction of the Second Temple
(3830 AM - 70 CE)

The chronology of the Temples by Josephus

Assault on the Upper City
(3830 AM - 70 CE)

Chase after the last fighters

The Western Wall
(3830 AM - 70 CE)

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Hebrew years 3720 to 3840 (40 BCE - 80 CE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~ Part III ~~~ Part IV ~~~ Part V ~~~

Titus (Louvre, Paris)

Year 3830 – 70 CE – The siege of Jerusalem

Before heading to Rome, Vespasian gave the command of the army of Judea to his son Titus, who was only 30 years old but had a lot of experience of warfare command gained alongside his father in their previous campaigns. Vespasian also placed Tiberius Alexander, the governor of Alexandria and previous procurator of Judea, to second his son Titus. Tiberius Alexander was of Jewish origin, whose family had assimilated to Roman culture and gained Roman citizenship. He was a friend of Agrippa II as both of them came to rule over Judea at the same time in about 45 CE. Both Tiberius Alexander and Agrippa witnessed, at the side of the Romans, the events that unfolded in this last phase of the Judeo-Roman war.

By the time his father reached Rome, Titus was besieging Jerusalem with four legions.[5] The city was in great disorder and in the control of two armed factions fighting one against the other: on one side the Zealots had the hand on the Temple Mount and on the other side the Sicarii led by Simon and his son Eleazar. The latter had the initial support of the population, who had enough of the terror previously imposed by the Zealots, but had now to suffer their supposed liberators. Josephus recalled that the population was eager to see the Romans deliver them from these factions (but such statement, aimed at the Roman readership, would be expected to come from Josephus):

And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseries.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,1,5

Titus pitched his command post on the Mount Scopus as Cestius had done before him. He had the existing three legions (the 5th Macedonica, the 10th Fretensis and the 15th Apollinaris), but Vespasian also added the 12th legion Fulminata who had previously been defeated in Judea during the campaign of Cestius. With the addition of the cavalry, Syrian and Arabian foreign auxiliairies, his army exceeded 30000 fighters. As for the Jews, they had 24000 fighters composed of the Sicarii, the Zealots and also the Idumeans (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,6,1). But the civilian population is said to have been in excess of 1 million people in the city (mainly due to the refugees who flocked in the city during Vespasian's campaign).

The Second Temple
The Second Temple, viewed from the East, with Antonia towers on the right
(model of the city of Jerusalem in 70 CE)

Titus decided to force the walls from the "New City", located at the north-west side of the city, where the natural defenses where not so difficult and the walls lower. The legionaires of the 12th were eager to get a revenge of their previous defeat and fought harder against the exits that the Jews made from time to time in their attempts to break down the works of the Roman engineers against the walls or to destroy the war machines that threw stones and darts at the city:

So this fight about the machines was very hot, while the one side tried hard to set them on fire, and the other side to prevent it; on both sides there was a confused cry made, and many of those in the forefront of the battle were slain. However, the Jews were now too hard for the Romans, by the furious assaults they made like madmen; and the fire caught hold of the works, and both all those works, and the engines themselves, had been in danger of being burnt, had not many of these select soldiers that came from Alexandria opposed themselves to prevent it, and had they not behaved themselves with greater courage than they themselves supposed they could have done; for they outdid those in this fight that had greater reputation than themselves before.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,6,5

Then Titus ordered to build moveable towers that were higher than the walls. They were to be used for archers to reduce the defense of the outer walls and also to protect the works to be carried by his soldiers underneath to weaken and break the wall. Ultimately the Romans made a breach in the north-west part of the outer wall (the so-called Third Wall, initially started by Agrippa I and completed in haste during the present revolt) and the Jews retreated to the next middle (second) wall (so-called Herodian Wall, as built by that king). Archaeologists found evidence of the Roman siege on the north-west side of the city  (in the so-called Russian Compound of nowadays) with remains of catapults and scores of rounded rocks used to breach this third wall.[6]  The outer 9third) wall was then entirely taken by the Romans after 15 days of siege, in the 7th of Iyar (May-June) of 70, and almost entirely demolished.

Titus moved his camp inside the city between the outer wall and the middle wall, and displaced his line of defense (earthwall) there as well. This move encouraged his soldiers to fight more bravely under his personal and closer watch. The middle wall was breached 5 days after the outer wall by taking the Antonia Tower which was in fact a 4 towers fortress built by Herod when he built the middle (Second) wall and named at the time after his protector, Mark Antony.

Jerusalem and its three walls
Jerusalem and its three walls (source: Ancient Bible Study)

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Now the fight moved towards the city, with its dense population and narrow alleys:

And then [the Jews] attacked those Romans that were come within the wall. Some of them they met in the narrow streets, and some they fought against from their houses, while they made a sudden sally out at the upper gates, and assaulted such Romans as were beyond the wall, till those that guarded the wall were so aftrighted, that they leaped down from their towers, and retired to their several camps: upon which a great noise was made by the Romans that were within, because they were encompassed round on every side by their enemies; as also by them that were without, because they were in fear for those that were left in the city. Thus did the Jews grow more numerous perpetually, and had great advantages over the Romans, by their full knowledge of those narrow lanes; and they wounded a great many of them, and fell upon them, and drove them out of the city.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,8,1

The first attack in the breach was thus repulsed by the Jews but the Romans succeeded to take control after 3 days of fighting. Then Titus ordered the destruction of the middle wall and now faced the first and inner wall, giving access to the upper and lower cities and the flanks of the Temple preccinct.

Five days later, on the 12th of Iyar, Titus started the works to prepare the assault of the inner wall. Josephus also mentioned that he endeavoured to leave time for the Jews to think of their situation and give up the siege to save their city. Even Josephus tried to exhort the fighters to give up the doomed fight:

So Josephus went round about the wall, and tried to find a place that was out of the reach of their darts, and yet within their hearing, and besought them, in many words, to spare themselves, to spare their country and their temple, and not to be more obdurate in these cases than foreigners themselves.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,9,3

The point was that the strongest walls of the city had already been destroyed and thus the attack on the last wall would mean the destruction of the Temple. Besides, even without leading any final assault, the cut of supplies and famine in the city would eventually kill its inhabitants. At the contrary, without surrender, a final assault would mean that the city would be delivered to the hands of the soldiers for several days, as the rules of war dictated. The situation of the Jews was thus desperate unless a divine miracle would come. But there was no expectation to this, as the Temple had long been profanated by unworthy men, battles, murders, and other calamities. Josephus continued his exhortation, and mentioned a detail about the water that was now in want for Jerusalem:

And as for Titus, those springs [outside the city walls] that were formerly almost dried up when they were under your power since he is come, run more plentifully than they did before; accordingly, you know that Siloam, as well as all the other springs that were without [sic. within] the city, did so far fail, that water was sold by distinct measures [by rationing]; whereas they now have such a great quantity of water for your enemies, as is sufficient not only for drink both for themselves and their cattle, but for watering their gardens also. The same wonderful sign you had also experience of formerly, when the forementioned king of Babylon made war against us, and when he took the city, and burnt the temple; while yet I believe the Jews of that age were not so impious as you are. Wherefore I cannot but suppose that God is fled out of his sanctuary, and stands on the side of those against whom you fight.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,9,4

These efforts did not stop the fighters from the war but convinced some civilians to escape from the city. Titus encouraged this movement and let those who escaped to go free and leave the area. Yet, when the armed rebellious groups saw this happening, they killed whoever attempted to escape. According to Josephus, they killed many of the richer people who were eager to leave, although the famine was on the increase and that it was not possible for all the population to feed:

Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten; some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the want they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them: a table was no where laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half-baked, and ate it very hastily.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,10,2

Some people managed to get out of the inner walls to try find food in the valleys that surrounded the other (South-Eastern) side of the city. But the Romans ambushed them and crucified any one they captured, in hope that the dreadful sight would convince the fighters to surrender out of fear of what would await for them:

They were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures, before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more: yet it did not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way, and to set a guard over so many he saw would be to make such as great deal them useless to him. The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this, that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterwards be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,11,1

And when the valleys were filled with crucified corpses, with no more room to apply the same torment to the newcomers, Titus ordered to cut off the hands of the latter ones and send them back inside the city so that they would not be able to participate in the fighting and could serve as examples for those who remained.

On the 29 Iyar, the Romans completed the ground works to prepare for the final assault. This consisted of raising four banks, one for each legion, as ramps for the war machines and the assault in four different places of the inner wall. At this time, the defenders threw all sorts of materials over the wall, with bitumen, and set them on fire so that it would destroy the works done by the Romans. The tactics worked and the Romans retrieved what could be saved of their war machines and rams:

However, seeing the banks of the Romans were demolished, these Romans were very much east down upon the loss of what had cost them so long pains, and this in one hour's time. And many indeed despaired of taking the city with their usual engines of war only.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,11,6

Titus could have just surrounded the city and wait for the famine to do its work, as Caesar did to the Gauls besieged in Alesia. But the Roman commander didn’t want to win a war without action. So the ground works resumed, this time in building an earthwall that would encompass the city and prevent anyone to escape from it. Then the famine continued to take its toll and the robbers ruled over the ghastly city:

A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what metal they were made of they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand and their sword to despatch them, they were too proud to grant their requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,12,3

Titus was fully aware that the city was held by the seditious factions and that the civilians were the ones paying the human cost of the siege, so he ordered the banks and the ramps to be built again, hoping to end the war at the soonest. Some of these citizens were Josephus’ parents themselves who were put in a prison by Simon, the leader of the Sicarii (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,13,1).

One of the Jewish defenders caught on the 1 Tammuz, when the general attack started, declared to Titus that, through the gate he was in charge of, they carried no less than 115,000 dead bodies out of the city since the 14th of the previous month (Sivan) (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 5,13,7).

On that night, one of the towers of the Antonia fortress collapsed from the hammering of the walls. This was an important milestone, and unexpected result too, because the Antonia towers stood higher than the floor of the Temple Mount which was adjacent. Climbing on top of these towers meant that the Romans would then be able to slip into the Temple courts below.

Antonia Tower
The collapse of one of the Antonia towers
(source Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War)

On the 3rd day of Tammuz, the first Romans climbed up the ruins of the collapsed tower but met with the resistance of the defenders. On the 5th day, a night expedition of a few Romans managed to take control of the tower. Now all the Romans followed shortly after signal was made that the passage was taken, and the Jews fled towards the Temple to protect the passage to its courts. And they fought dearly during all the night hand to hand against the Romans for the control of the narrow passage:

At length the Jews' violent zeal was too hard for the Romans' skill, and the battle already inclined entirely that way; for the fight had lasted from the ninth hour of the night till the seventh hour of the day, While the Jews came on in crowds, and had the danger the temple was in for their motive; the Romans having no more here than a part of their army; for those legions, on which the soldiers on that side depended, were not come up to them. So it was at present thought sufficient by the Romans to take possession of the tower of Antonia.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,1,7

On the 7th of Tammuz, the daily sacrifices of the Temple were stopped, probably due to the lack of animals to sacrifice.

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Year 3830 – 70 CE – The fall of Jerusalem

On the 17th of Tammuz, Titus gave orders to dig under the foundations of the broken tower of Antonia to make a broader passage for his army. It was a day of Jewish bad omen because it was on that day, after 40 days, that Moses came down from Mount Sinai, saw the Hebrews dancing around the Golden Calf and broke the two tablets where God had inscribed the Ten Commandments. That day will be a day of fast for future Jewish generations, as the commencement of the three weeks period until the destruction of the Second Temple. The destruction of the First Temple also followed a breach in its walls that the Babylonians did in Tammuz:

In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and besieged it; in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city.
--- Jeremiah 39:1-2

According to Josephus, Titus tried to save the Temple and proposed to the seditious factions to choose another place of fighting than the courts of the Temple which he promised to preserve. But the Zealots wouldn’t hear it, or saw it as a sign of weakness from their enemy, and preferred to defile the sanctuary with the dead bodies of their fighters and of their enemies, instead of leaving the preccinct of the Temple (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,2,4).

After 7 days of work, on the 24th of Tammuz, the foundations of the tower of Antonia were overthrown and a broad passage was made for the Roman army. Soon the Romans penetrated to the edge of the Court of the Gentiles, in the preccinct. A fire started in the Antonia area and spread towards the Temple closeby.

At this point, it seems that some of the fighters attempted an exit and rushed to the Roman camp on the Mount of the Olives, opposite the Temple Mount. But the attempt was stopped against the Roman forticications that encompassed the city.

On the 27th of Tammuz, the Jews set the cloisters of the Court of Gentiles on fire to stop the Roman advance. The Romans had not anticipated such move and the passage was crowded, so many of them died in the fire or were cut off from their rear and killed by the Jews inside. The next day, the Romans burned the rest of the Northern cloister over its entire length up to the Kidron valley on the Eastern side.

At about this time, the news spread in the city and in the Roman camp that one woman killed her own child out of despair and hunger, and ate him. Josephus recorded Titus’ thoughts at this horror that justified in his eyes the destruction of the city:

And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind, after they had endured those very sufferings, for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,3,5

This horror of the war, and the thought that the holy city was destined to be destroyed, may have fuelled the legend that some historians later recorded, as having happened before the final assault, maybe in a goal to exonerate the Romans, or Titus, from the destruction that was about to take place:

A sudden lightning flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure. Few people placed a sinister interpretation upon this. The majority were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judea would go forth men destined to rule the world.[1] This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this mighty destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.
--- Tacitus, Histories, 5:13

On the 8th of the month of Av, two legions were ready for the final assault, and Titus ordered the rams to be brought in. But these machines proved useless against the size of the stones that were used by Herod to build the Temple. So the assault was attempted by climbing the walls of its court with ladders. But the Jews fought back and prevented the attack. Titus, worried by a greater loss of his men if he continued to try preserve the Temple, gave orders to burn the doors in order to access the inner court, the last refuge of the Zealots. The fire then spread to the cloisters that surrounded the inner court.

The siege and destruction of Jerusalem
The siege and destruction of Jerusalem (David Roberts, 1850)

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Titus gathered a council to decide what was to be done with the Temple. Although opinions were expressed that the Temple ought to be burned, Titus argue to the contrary:

But Titus said, that "although the Jews should get upon that holy house, and fight us thence, yet ought we not to revenge ourselves on things that are inanimate, instead of the men themselves;" and that he was not in any case for burning down so vast a work as that was, because this would be a mischief to the Romans themselves, as it would be an ornament to their government while it continued.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,4,3

So he ordered to extinguish the fire and not let it spread further, according to Josephus. But later Historians contradicted his version and made it obvious that Titus was rather in favour of destroying the Temple, as did Sulpitius Severus in about 400 CE:

Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish. Thus, according to the divine will, the minds of all being inflamed, the temple was destroyed, three hundred and thirty-one years ago.
--- Sulpitius Severus, The Sacred History, book II, chapter 30

But, on the 9th of Av, the Jews gathered their last forces again and fought in the court at the first hours of the night, repulsed the guards who stood there, penetrated the inner court of the Temple and shut themselves up in it. Titus planned to attack them on the early hours of the morning. But during the night, one of the Romans took a torch and threw it inside the inner cloisters through a window, and the fire started.

In the tumult that ensued, the orders of Titus to quench this fire were not heard. Instead the soldiers, in their enthousiasm to finally conquer the last stand, had already penetrated in the inner court and slew every Jewish fighter they could find in there. But the fire had not reached the holy house yet, but was burning its cloisters around. So Titus rushed to the place to endeavour to get the soldiers to quench the fire. But the view of the silver, gold and treasures that adorned the holy house was too much for the soldiers’ desire to plunder the place after such a long and exhausting siege.

While the holy house was on fire, every thing was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity, but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went round all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction, and as well those that made supplication for their lives, as those that defended themselves by fighting. The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain; and because this hill was high, and the works at the temple were very great, one would have thought the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine any thing either greater or more terrible than this noise; for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamor of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword. The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy, and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with those that were upon the hill. And besides, many of those that were worn away by the famine, and their mouths almost closed, when they saw the fire of the holy house, they exerted their utmost strength, and brake out into groans and outcries again.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,5,1

Some of the account given by Josephus is suspicious as he wrote his book War of the Jews as a mean to glorify Vespasian and Titus. But there are accounts in the Talmud that proved Josephus wrong, for example the following anecdote after the Romans finally took control of the Temple:

Vespasian sent Titus [to complete the siege of Jerusalem] who said, Where is their God, the rock in whom they trusted? [Deuteronomy 32:37] 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. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain himself.
--- Talmud, Gittin, 56b

Besides, some Roman historians also disproved Josephus:
Besides his cruelty, he [Titus] lay under the suspicion of giving way to habits of luxury, as he often prolonged his revels till midnight with the most riotous of his acquaintance. Nor was he unsuspected of lewdness, on account of the swarms of catamites and eunuchs about him, and his well-known attachment to queen Berenice, who received from him, as it is reported, a promise of marriage. He was supposed, besides, to be of a rapacious disposition; for it is certain, that, in causes which came before his father, he used to offer his interest for sale, and take bribes. In short, people publicly expressed an unfavourable opinion of him, and said he would prove another Nero.
--- Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Titus, VII, 468-469; for the text online, click here

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In another of his books, Josephus gave a description of the Temple. One detail refers to he size of the pillars (columns)that stood in the royal cloister:

This cloister had pillars that stood in four rows one over against the other all along, for the fourth row was interwoven into the wall, which [also was built of stone]; and the thickness of each pillar was such, that three men might, with their arms extended, fathom it round, and join their hands again, while its length was twenty-seven feet, with a double spiral at its basis; and the number of all the pillars [in that court] was a hundred and sixty-two.
--- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 15, chapter 410 (full text available online by clicking here)

The base of these massive pillars can still be seen today in Jerusalem  on the Temple Mount and near where was the Byzantine Nea Church.

Josephus-described pillar
Josephus-described pillar from the Second Temple

Josephus also gave an account of the numbers of years that the Temple stood:

Now the number of years that passed from its first foundation, which was laid by king Solomon, till this its destruction, which happened in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, are collected to be one thousand one hundred and thirty, besides seven months and fifteen days; and from the second building of it, which was done by Haggai, in the second year of Cyrus the king, till its destruction under Vespasian, there were six hundred and thirty-nine years and forty-five days.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,4,8

Solomon started to build the First Temple in Hebrew year 2745, 1015 BCE. So until the year 70 CE, there have been 1085 years, instead of 1130 years assessed by Josephus, an error of 45 years, or barely 4% error. As for the duration of the Second Temple, Josephus got it wrong too but not by a big difference either: he assessed 639 years from the second year of Cyrus. But, since the Persian conquest of Babylon took place in 540 BCE and since the first foundations of the Temple were laid in year 539 BCE, there were 609 years until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Thus Josephus made a small error of about 4% in his second assessment too.

We have previously seen that Jewish tradition says that the Second Temple was destroyed after 420 years. How to conciliate this tradition with the 609 years? It is because, as before for the First Temple, tradition only counts the years when a proper divine service was operated. As we know, the service was not always divine during these 609 years when the Second Temple stood because this service was interrupted at the beginning, due to the complaint from the Samaritans to the king of Persia, then the service was often broken during the Seleucid kingdom when high priests were elected according to their allegiance to the ruler rather than tradition. The service was then greatly affected in the years of the Herodian dynasty when the High Priests were chosen by the foreign rulers according to power and wealth from the cooperative Saduccees. And last, the service was interrupted during the war against Rome from about the time when Vespasian left for Rome. Some may say that the last 40 years before the Temple was destroyed were already doomed because the Sanhedrin moved away from the Temple precinct in 30 CE. 

The priests of the Temple had been hiding in some secret chambers about the Temple but they were running out of water and necessities. So they decided to come out  after a few days, hoping for clemency from the conquerors once the rage seemed to have passed:

On the fifth day afterward, the priests that were pined with the famine came down, and when they were brought to Titus by the guards, they begged for their lives; but he replied, that the time of pardon was over as to them, and that this very holy house, on whose account only they could justly hope to be preserved, was destroyed; and that it was agreeable to their office that priests should perish with the house itself to which they belonged. So he ordered them to be put to death.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,6,1

It is unknown when and how the head of the Sanhedrin, the nassi Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, died but he was already very old at this time, and he died of natural causes during this siege or during the massacre that followed when the Romans penetrated the city. He had already passed the religious leadership to Johanan ben Zakkai at the time of the siege by Vespasian. When Jerusalem fell, the role of nassi was given to Johanan ben Zakkai who had established a religious school and tribunal in Yavneh.

As of the leaders of the sedition, they were not granted any safe passage nor surrender. So they continued the fight or hide inside the lower city, and also went under the ground where they knew were caves. But the Romans found out the escape routes and set fires in the caverns.

Drainage conduits under Jerusalem street
Drainage conduits under Jerusalem street that were used as escape passages,
with holes dug by Roman soldiers to capture the evaders
(courtesy: photograph by Vladimir Naychin, City of David)

On the 20th of Av, Titus started to attack the upper city where Simon and the Sicarii had found refuge. At that time, the Idumeans who had allied with the Sicarii decided to surrender. A battle thus broke between the two groups but this could not prevent the flow of them, and a number of the civilians, to escape to the Romans, who let them free to pass in exchange for a ransom for sparing their life.

Destruction of the Second Temple
Destruction of the Second Temple, Francesco Hayez, 1867
(Galleria dell'Academia, Venezia)

The above painting is not fully accurate concerning the candelabrum because, according to Josephus, two priests who had escaped the previous slaughter proposed to surrender to Titus in exchange of the precious items that had been deposited in the Temple and that had been spared from destruction:

But now at this time it was that one of the priests, the son of Thebuthus, whose name was Joshua, upon his having security given him, by the oath of Caesar [Titus], that he should be preserved, upon condition that he should deliver to him certain of the precious things that had been reposited in the temple came out of it, and delivered him from the wall of the holy house two candlesticks, like to those that lay in the holy house, with tables, and cisterns, and vials, all made of solid gold, and very heavy. He also delivered to him the veils and the garments, with the precious stones, and a great number of other precious vessels that belonged to their sacred worship. The treasurer of the temple also, whose name was Phineas, was seized on, and showed Titus the coats and girdles of the priests, with a great quantity of purple and scarlet, which were there reposited for the uses of the veil, as also a great deal of cinnamon and cassia, with a large quantity of other sweet spices, which used to be mixed together, and offered as incense to God every day. A great many other treasures were also delivered to him, with sacred ornaments of the temple not a few; which things thus delivered to Titus obtained of him for this man the same pardon that he had allowed to such as deserted of their own accord.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,8,3

These treasures from the Temple were taken by Titus and brought back to Rome.

The Arch of Titus in Rome
From the Arch of Titus in Rome

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On the 7th of the next month, Elul (about August), the ramps were ready for the assault against the upper city. When the walls started to shook by the battering of the rams, the fighters started to escape through underground tunnels and caves unto the Siloam valley. But they soon found themselves facing the fortifiations that Titus had raised around the city. Meanwhile the Romans penetrated the upper city only to find dead corpses and desolation:

But when they [the Romans] went in numbers into the lanes of the [upper] city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,8,5

On the 8th of Elul, Titus came to the upper city to see the awesome size of the towers that protected the walls, and decided to leave them as a testimonial of how difficult this city had been to conquer. Some of these structures still exist today, located near the Jaffa Gate in the old city of Jerusalem, and are now part of the Citadel.

Next came the issue of the prisoners. Titus sorted the ones who would be used as slaves or in various work sites in the Roman Empire, and slew all who were suspected of having been fighters, and the elderly and infirm ones as well:

So this Fronto [in charge of sorting the prisoners] slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who were impeached one by another; but of the young men he chose out the tallest and most beautiful, and reserved them for the triumph [in Rome]; and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines. Titus also sent a great number into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres, by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,9,2

The sending of slaves to the mines of Egypt may be the realization of Moses’ prophecy to the Hebrews before they entered Canaan. He said that, if they would not follow God’s commandments:

“And the Lord shall scatter you among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, which you have not known, you nor your fathers, even wood and stone.[3] And among these nations shall you have no repose, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot; but the Lord shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and languishing of soul. And your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say: 'who will give an evening!' and at evening you shall say: 'who will give a morning!' for the fear of your heart which you shall fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see.[4] And the Lord shall bring you back into Egypt in ships, by the way whereof I said unto you: 'You shall see it no more again'; and there you shall sell yourselves unto your enemies for bondmen and for bondwoman, and no man shall buy you.”
--- Deuteronomy 28:64-68

Josephus reckoned that the siege of Jerusalem had costed the life of 1,100,000 Jews, most of them having been trapped in the holy city from the time of Passover of that year, and that 97,000 were taken captives by Titus or sent to slavery in the Roman Empire. He made this assessment from the number of lambs that had been used in Jerusalem for the festival, and deducted the number of people being in the city at the time to about 2,700,000 people (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 6,9,3). Most of the dead people died of famine during the siege.

Simon, the leader of the Sicarii, who came out from underground caves after Titus left the city, was taken to Rome for the triumph and then executed. His son Eleazar managed to escape with a group of his followers back to Masada. As of John, the leader of the Zealots, he was condemned to life emprisonment.

Before leaving the city, Titus gave his last orders:

Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done,) Caesar [Titus] gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasael, Hippicus and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
--- Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 7,1,1

The three towers built by Herod, Phasael, Hippicus and Marianne, were left standing for some generations but today only the foundation of the Hippicus remains and forms the foundation of the Citadel in the Old City of Jerusalem. As of the wall of the Temple on the “west” side, it is now the famous Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Titus left the 10th Legion Fretensis in Jerusalem as a guard, but sent the 12th Legion, who had been defeated at the time of Cestius, to the limits of the Empire in Armenia. He took the 2 other legions with him back to Caesarea. He then moved to Caesarea Philippi (near Banyas, northern Israel). In both cities, he organised arene spectacles of gladiator fights with Jewish prisoners who, at times, were also thrown to wild beats. In total, Josephus reckoned that 2500 Jews died in these Roman games. Titus then moved to Berytus, an old Phoenician city, called Laodice in the time of the Greek, that became the most Roman city in the East at the time of the Herodian dynasty: it is now Beirut.

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[1] Without knowing about it, the author was mentioning the Jewish belief that these times were Messianic times 

[2] The early Christians, known as the first "Church of Jerusalem", had in fact already left the city after the execution of Jacques the Just, Jesus’ brother, and were established in Pella, a city of the Decapolis

[3] This must refer to worship after Antiquity, when all the gods were more or less the same with different names; the reference to ‘wood’ may be Christianity and ‘shall serve’ may refer to forced conversions during those times

[4] This is a depiction of the hardship that the Jews would go through in the next 2000 years of diaspora, either under Christian or Muslim nations, until emancipation and return the Sion would enable them a new choice

[5] The legions were: Legio V Macedonica (later sent to the borders north of Romania), Legio X Fretensis (the one which remained in Judea after the war), Legio XV Appolinaris (later sent to the borders in Central Europe), and Legio XII Fulminata (later sent to the border with Armenia)

[6] The findings were made in 2015 and confirmed in 2016; to read more about it, click here

Go to >> Part V

Next generation

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Copyright Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.