The Jewish War is one of the most interesting pages in the history of Ancient Rome and Israel. A conflict that deserves more than one book and even a film adaptation. One of the most striking, dramatic and at the same time indicative moments of this dramatic story is the siege of Masada (not to be confused with the Mossad), which lasted almost three years. For a long time, the Israeli fortress was considered impregnable. The Romans were able to prove that this was not the case.
“Have you ever heard of Masada? For two years, 900 Jews held out against 15,000 Roman soldiers. They preferred death to slavery … And what about the Romans? Where are they now? " - TV series "The Sopranos", 1999-2007.
Masada is an ancient mountain fortress in the Judean Desert near the city of Arad, in Israel. The walls of Masada are at an altitude of 450 meters above the Dead Sea level. For a long time its unique location made it one of the most serious ancient fortifications. The fortification was built in 25 BC by order of the Jewish king Herod I the Great, who conceived Masada as a residence and refuge for the royal family in case of war. The fortress had huge warehouses, a well-thought-out water supply system. Inside, a luxurious residence was also equipped, which included baths built according to the Roman model. The engineering and fortification complex of the fortress made it possible to consider it impregnable.
For a long time, Palestine was under the protectorate of Rome. The ruling elite supported the empire. However, in the ancient Jewish kingdom, contradictions ripened, which resulted in a civil war and an uprising against Roman patronage. In 66 BC, the First Jewish War broke out, which would last until 73 BC. the war began with a massacre at the fortress of Masada, where the Zealot religious fanatics destroyed the stationed Roman garrison.
Rome, in turn, which was deeply interested in the control of the future Holy Land for reasons of trade with the East, sent additional forces to the region and by 72 BC already captured the entire territory of the future Israel, including Jerusalem. The remaining rioters of the Sicarii took refuge in Masada, reclaimed at the beginning of the uprising, believing that the Romans would not be able to take the fortress.
The 10th legion under the leadership of Flavius Silva was entrusted to besiege Masada. Since the Romans already controlled almost the entire country, they were in no hurry to siege the fortress. And most importantly, unlike the Jews, the invaders did not at all consider the fortification impregnable. First, the Romans took Masada in a ring, erected a line of isolating fortifications around it. After that, almost 9 thousand slaves from the local population were herded to the place of the siege. Under the leadership of the Roman siege engineers, the slaves began the erection of the earthen rampart. Its height was 100 meters, and its length reached almost 3 km. The engineers strengthened the earth shaft with logs. Protective shields and throwing machines were installed throughout the embankment. After many months of construction, the Romans were able to drag siege engines up the mountain under the very walls of Masada, after which they began to break the wall. A few weeks later, a breach formed in the fortification.
Seeing what was happening and realizing that the end was near, the defenders of Masada preferred death to slavery and torture. First, the Sicarii killed their children and wives to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Romans as slaves, and then almost all of them committed suicide. When the Roman legionaries entered the fortress through the breach, almost all of its defenders were dead. Only a few chose to surrender, relying on the mercy of the invaders. The Romans treated the rioters as they always did: the few survivors were doomed to slow death on crosses. The surviving women and children were sold into slavery by the Romans. For the Sicarii, it all ended sadly, but quickly. But Palestine, who dared to rebel against Roman rule, was waiting for many months of bloody massacre.
If you want to know even more interesting things, then you should read about why men in ancient Rome boots and long trousers were not allowed.