HANDOUT FOR THE FIRST JEWISH REVOLT AGAINST ROME (66-70 C.E)
The revolt broke out in Caesarea, as a result of conflict between Jews and Gentiles.
Because the Jews had fallen behind in their payment of tribute to the emperor, Florus (the
procurator) took money from the Temple treasury.
When the people protested, he had
some beaten and crucified. Agrippa II and his sister attempted to calm the situation, but
Gangs and rebel groups began to take over the countryside. Masada was taken by
Menahem, a son or grandson of Judas the Galilean (fourth philosophy). Jewish rebels
also took over Cypros and Machaerus.
In Jerusalem, the traditional sacrifices offered in the Temple on behalf of the Roman state
and the emperor were brought to a halt by a priestly movement under the leadership of a
captain of the Temple, Eleazar son of Ananias. However, the high priestly families and
the Pharisees opposed this move (they were the "peace party"). Florus and Agrippa II
sent troops to Jerusalem. The sicarii managed to take the Temple and the Upper City,
including the Antonia fortress.
Menahem and his followers arrived from Masada and took over command of the siege of
Herod's palace. Conflict developed between Eleazar and Menahem (who killed Eleazar's
father Ananias, the ex-high priest, and his brother, Ezechias). Eleazar and his supporters
killed Menahem, but some of his followers escaped to Masada (including Eleazar son of
After some days under siege, the Roman commander asked for terms of capitulation. But
once the Romans were let out of the palace, Eleazar's party massacred them.
Hostilities between Jews and Gentiles led to the outbreak of massacres all over the
country. Cestius Gallus, the Roman legate in Syria, entered the field in September 66.
He was in charge of 4 legions: III Gallica, VI Ferrata, X Fretensis, and XII Fulminata.
Agrippa II supplied about 15,000 additional troops. The Romans moved down the coast
and took Joppa. They sent a contingent to Galilee, and took Sepphoris. Cestius set out
for Jerusalem in mid-October, during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). On the way,
they were attacked by the Jews, who were joined by the rebel Simon bar Giora of Gerasa.
Cestius regrouped and set up his camp on Mount Scopus. Cestius attacked the city but
ended up retreating in defeat.
With Cestius's defeat, all-out war became inevitable. Strongly pro-Roman Jews fled
Jerusalem, and the moderates had to cast their lot with the anti-Roman rebels. Two men
were elected to control in Jerusalem: Joseph son of Gorion and Ananus the son of Ananus
the high priest. The most radical element (including Eleazar the son of Simon) failed to
gain official prominence in the city. Six other districts were set up and generals placed in
charge: Idumaea, Jericho, Peraea, western Judea, northeast Juda, and Galilee (under
Josephus son of Mattathias). Most of the leaders appointed were moderates and from
mportant Jewish families. Samaria was not under Jewish control, and Galilee was not