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Antiochus Strategos: The Persian Conquest of Jerusalem in 614

Mamila Burial Cave, site of bones of countless Christians who were massacred at the hands of the PersiansThis description of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 C.E. shows that by this time, most of the inhabitants of the city were Christians. The terrible destruction wreaked by the Persians did not secure the city for them, and it soon fell again to Byzantine rule. Palestinian Jewry looked upon the Persian conquest as an opportunity for deliverance from anti-Semitic Byzantine rule. Some even saw it as the sign that messianic redemption was soon to come.

The beginning of the struggle of the Persians with the Christians of Jerusalem was on the fifteenth of April, in the second Indiction, in the fourth year of Emperor Heraclius (113). They spent twenty days in the struggle. And they shot from their ballistas with such violence that on the twenty-first day they broke down the city wall. Thereupon the evil foemen entered the city in great fury, like infuriated wild beasts and irritated serpents- The men however who defended the city wall fled and hid themselves in caverns, fosses, and cisterns in order to save themselves; and the people in crowds fled into churches and altars; and there they destroyed them. For the enemy entered in mighty wrath, gnashing their teeth in violent fury; like evil beasts they roared, bellowed like lions, hissed like ferocious serpents, and slew all whom they found. Like mad dogs they tore with their teeth the flesh of the faithful, and respected none at all, neither male nor female, neither young nor old, neither child nor baby, neither priest nor monk, neither virgin nor widow….

Trans. F. Conybeare, “Antiochus Strategos’ Account of the Sack of Jerusalem in A.D. 614,” English Historical Review 25 (1910), pp. 506-13.

113. Ruled 610-41 C.E.

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