Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Israel Day 5 - Masada - Part 6 - The Zealots' Last Stand

Accordingly, he [Roman General Flavius Silva] got upon that part of the rock, and ordered the army to bring earth; and when they fell to that work with alacrity, and abundance of them together, the bank was raised, and became solid for two hundred cubits in height. Yet was not this bank thought sufficiently high for the use of the engines that were to be set upon it; but still another elevated work of great stones compacted together was raised upon that bank; this was fifty cubits, both in breadth and height. The other machines that were now got ready were like to those that had been first devised by Vespasian, and afterwards by Titus, for sieges. There was also a tower made of the height of sixty cubits, and all over plated with iron, out of which the Romans threw darts and stones from the engines, and soon made those that fought from the walls of the place to retire, and would not let them lift up their heads above the works. At the same time Silva ordered that great battering ram which he had made to be brought thither, and to be set against the wall, and to make frequent batteries against it, which with some difficulty broke down a part of the wall, and quite overthrew it.
- Josephus Wars Of The Jews Book 7

The breaching point where the Roman ramp reached the fortress wall, allowing a siege tower and ram to be brought close enough to breach the wall.

The Roman Ramp can be seen below the breach and you can use it to ascend to the summit.

After the Romans began to attack the wall, the Zealots built a second wall of wood behind it and packed earth in between to absorb the blows of the ram. The Romans then set that wooden wall on fire. By then it was near nightfall. The Romans left to resume their assault in the morning.

According to Josephus, the defenders, realizing they could not win in the face of such an assault decided to commit suicide, to prevent being massacred and enslaved. With ten of the Zealots being chosen by the drawing lots or ostracons with their names on pottery shards to first kill the rest and then decided again by lots who was to kill themselves in turn with the last one killing himself.

They then chose ten men by lot out of them to slay all the rest; every one of whom laid himself down by his wife and children on the ground, and threw his arms about them, and they offered their necks to the stroke of those who by lot executed that melancholy office; and when these ten had, without fear, slain them all, they made the same rule for casting lots for themselves, that he whose lot it was should first kill the other nine, and after all should kill himself.

In one of the rooms of the northern palace, archaeologist found pottery shards with the names on them, including that of Eleazar Ben Yair, the leader of the Zealots, providing archeological verification of Josephus' story.

Masada's story was retold in 1981 as a TV mini series, the DVDs of which can be purchased on Amazon or you can rent the DVDs from Netflix. Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss gave truly masterful and epic performances.

The story of Masada continues through the ages of sacrifice, resistance and defiance. It was incredible to walk and explore the fortress.


MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Aaron;

Thanks for all the pics of Masada, and you are right about the 1981 miniseries, that did a good job talking about the events. Seeing your pics really puts it on my "bucket List". Silly question, I know the area is arid and hot. When is it a "good" time to visit Masada weather-wise?

Aaron said...

MrGarabaldi: July was indeed hot but not intolerable so long as you wear a hat and remember to drink a lot of water. If you want to walk up the snake path you'd have to do it at 5am-6am or so to get started to make it doable.

Going around December to Masada is apparently quite pleasant at around 72 degrees, and November averages about 81 compared to July at 104 which was an experience, but I actually enjoyed the heat. The summer worked with the kids' school schedules so that was when we went. It wasn't bad, gave a real flavor of the place and true desert feel and then bathing in the Dead Sea was amazing.

Everyone seems to think October and November are great months to visit Israel temperature wise.

December, if you're a Christian can be a very awe-inspiring time to go, but expect the Christian holy sites to be extremely busy, as in expect hours in line to get into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Old NFO said...

Thanks for the reports. An amazing story.

OldAFSarge said...

Aaron, I've been meaning to comment on your photos of your trip to Israel but haven't had the chance until now. Great photos.

I've long known the story of Masada, your photos made the place even more real. Such a tale of heroism!

Beans said...

The costuming, arms and armor in that mini-series was pretty spot on, easily passing the 10' rule. (There were no wristwatches visible, unlike on that Boediccea movie (cough, cough))

Overall, one of the better mini-series ever made. Really captured both sides of the issue, and showed the heart-ache of both sides as they moved to the inevitable end.

Highly recommend anyone interested in Masada, or Romans in the Holy Lands.

Now I got a hankering to go watch it yet again.