Saturday, December 06, 2008

Masada

Left: The Masada Rock - view from the west

How does one explain the siege at Masada (according to mainstream history materials) by the Romans? A solid wall was built surrounding Masada that featured a connection of 8 Roman military encampments. The wall was 6 feet thick and 7 miles long and built to prevent escaping.

One of the better primary sources for this period is Josephus Flavius, (c. 37-100 CE) the roman name of Joseph Ben-Matityahu, the Jewish military leader that was captured by Romans during the Jewish Revolt, who later became a historian. His works constitute the best available source for the study of the Israelites of that period. His work is the more valuable because he is to some extent considered a traitor of the current "Jewish" people, and his historical tracts are not always deemed "objective."

Moreover, the then Israel was occupied by the Romans. The archetype sword mentioned was the very sword used by the Zealots, of which Jesus and hundreds of disciples composed; which was used to ambush Roman soldiers. This is not to say that "Israelites" were not assailed by these weapons too. However, it's deadly usage cannot be said to have been limited to Israelites.

Left: One of the Roman siege camps at Masada. Recent archaeological discovery suggests that this ramp was mostly natural and only the top 26 feet was added by the Romans (with slave labor).

The Zealots Were a group of anti-Roman rebels of the first century CE. Their movement started in the year 6 CE, but became pronounced and active in the period of Israelite revolt. Their most basic belief system entailed all means were justified to attain political and religious liberty.

Furthermore, those who are in a position of political and social power will have the luxury of naming dissenters and opposition factions as they deem fit. Case in point, "Jesus" and his fellow revolutionaries were dubbed a group of brigands, terrorists and thieves by both the collaborating Jewish elite and their ruling occupiers, the Romans.

For certain, the Masada episode is overblown in its historical significance as it pertains to successful resistance against the Roman Empire, as is most religious and folk lore. Nevertheless, Masada did occur. While there were competing forces among the then existing Israelite commmunity a viable source of the rebellion was the Roman occupation as well as Messianic religious upheaval.

The Romans proceeded to destroy most of Israel including the revered Second Temple in 70 CE. This sort of interplay among Israelite groups would continue for some time in the face of Roman influence. For example those who followed Jesus refused to Join a subsequent Israelite uprising against the Romans on the basis that the leader of the revolt could not be the Messiah, because Christ ("Jesus") was already the revealed Messiah. One can correctly assert this sort of maneuvering and "counting coup" between interest groups continue to play out even today among those who now call themselves Jews--despite the stolen legacy.

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