By January 15, 2008 Read More →

Dio Cassius, Historia Romana LXVI, 47: A Roman Account of the Revolt

Coin of TitusThe Roman historian Dio Cassius (ca. 164-after 229 C.E.) gives an account which in the  main agrees with that of Josephus, except that he sees Titus as encouraging the destruction of the Temple, as did Tacitus.

(4-1) Titus, who had been assigned to the war against the Jews, undertook to win them over by certain representations and promises; but, as they would not yield, he now proceeded to wage war upon them. The first battles fought were indecisive; then he got the upper hand and proceeded to besiege Jerusalem. This city had three walls, including the one that surrounded the temple.

(2) The Romans, accordingly, heaped up mounds against the outer wall, brought up their engines, joined battle with all who sallied forth to fight and repulsed them, and with their slings and arrows kept back all the defenders of the wall; for they had many slingers and bowmen who had been sent by some of the barbarian kings.

(3) The Jews also were assisted by many of their countrymen from the region round about and by many who professed the same religion, not only from the Roman Empire but also from beyond the Euphrates; and these, also, kept hurling missiles and stones with (4) no little force on account of their higher position, some being flung by the hand and some hurled by means of engines. They also made sallies both night and day, whenever occasion offered, set fire to the siege engines, slew many of their assailants, and undermined the Romans’ mounds byremoving the earth through tunnels driven under the wall. As for the battering rams, sometimes they threw ropes around them and broke them off, sometimes they pulled them up with hooks, and again they used thick planks fastened together and strengthened with iron, which they let down in front of the wall and thus fended off the blows of still others.

(5) But the Romans suffered most hardship from the lack of water; for their supply was of poor quality and had to be brought from a distance. The Jews found in their underground passages a source of strength; for they had these tunnels dug from inside the city and extending out under the walls to distant points in the country, and going out though them, they would attack the Romans’ water carriers and harass any scattered detachments. But Titus stopped up all these passages.

(5-1) In the course of these operations many on both sides were wounded and killed. Titus himself was struck on the left shoulder by a stone, and as a result of this accident that arm was always weaker.

(2) In time, however, the Romans scaled the outside wall, and then, pitching their camp between this and the second circuit, 52 proceeded to assault the latter. But here they found the conditions of fighting different; for now that all the besieged had retired behind the second wall, its defense proved an easier matter because its circuit was shorter.

(3) Titus therefore once more made a proclamation offering them immunity. But even then they held out, and those of them who were taken captive or deserted kept secretly destroying the Romans’ water supply and slaying any troops whom they could isolate and cut off from the rest; hence Titus would no longer receive any Jewish deserters.

(4) Meanwhile some of the Romans, too, becoming disheartened, as often happens in a protracted siege, and suspecting, furthermore, that the city really was impregnable, as was commonly reported, went over to the other side. The Jews, even though theywere short of food, treated these recruits kindly, in order to be able to show that there were deserters to their side also.

(6-1) Though a breach was made in the wall by means of engines, nevertheless, the capture of the place did not immediately follow even then. On the contrary, the defenders killed great numbers who tried to crowd through the opening, and they also set fire to some of the buildings near by, hoping thus to check the further progress of the Romans.

(2) Nevertheless, the soldiers, because of their superstition, did not immediately rush in; but at last, under compulsion from Titus, they made their way inside. Then the Jews defended themselves much more vigorously than before, as if they had discovered a piece of rare good fortune in being able to fight near the temple and fall in its defense. The populace was stationed below in the court, the senators on the steps, and the priests in the sanctuary itself.

(3) And though they were but a handful fighting against a far superior force, they were not conquered until a part of the temple was set on fire. Then they met death willingly, some throwing themselves on the swords of the Romans, some slaying one another, others taking their own lives, and still others leaping into the flames. And it seemed to everybody, and especially to them, that so far from being destruction, it was victory and salvation and happiness to them that they perished along with the temple.

(7-1) Yet even under these conditions many captives were taken, among them Bargiora, 53 their leader; and he was the only one to be executed in connection with the triumphal celebration.

(2) Thus was Jerusalem destroyed on the very day of Saturn, 54 the day which even now the Jews reverence most. From that time forth it was ordered that the Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs should pay an annual tribute of two denarii to Jupiter Capitolinus. In consequence of this success both generals 55 received the title of imperator, but neither got that of Judaicus, although all the other honors that were fitting on the occasion of so magnificent a victory, including triumphal arches, were voted to them.

51. Trans. E. Cary, Dio’s Roman History (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge- Harvard University Press, 1925), vol. 8, pp. 264-70.

52. The second set of walls.

53. Simon bar Giora, leader of one of the revolutionary factions.

54. Saturday, the Sabbath.

55. Vespasian and Titus

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