The Roman Siege Of Jerusalem

Roman Siege Of Jerusalem

The Romans laid Siege to Jerusalem in order to end Jewish resistance to the Roman Imperial Cult.

The Roman Empire depended on the Imperial Cult which required that residents of the Empire worship the Roman Emperor as a God.

While the Romans readily tolerated Polytheism, it was required however that individuals place the Roman Emperor above any other God.

In many areas of the Empire, this particular policy didn’t present an issue but in a single corner, the Roman Empire would experience the most determined opposition to the Imperial Cult.

Probably the most prominent monotheistic group in the first Roman Empire had been the Jews.

Steadfast and driven by their Religion, the Province of Judea would prove to become a regular thorn in the side of the Roman Empire culminating in the Jewish Revolt of 66-74D which resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple and the capture of Jerusalem after the Romans laid Siege to Jerusalem in order to enforce the Imperial Cult in Judea.

Background To The Roman Siege Of Jerusalem

The seeds for the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in order to end Jewish resistance to the Imperial Cult were laid in 37 BC when Judea was securely under the command of the Roman Empire that installed Herod as a puppet King. 

In 4 BC Judea became a Roman province which established complete Roman Imperial Authority over the territory.

Oppressive Roman rule produced resentment amongst the Jewish population, and in 66 BC the Jewish Revolt started when Roman Procurator Gessius Florus collected heavy Taxes by plundering gold and silver from the Temple Treasury.

In response, Jewish sects publicly protested and engaged the Roman Army on the streets which failed to control the revolt as the Jewish Rebels proceeded to capture the Roman Fortress at Masada.

Initial attempts to crush the Rebellion by the Roman Proconsul of Syria, Cestius Gallus failed as he was not able to control Jerusalem and restore order.

On hearing news of the unexpected Roman troubles in Judea,  Emperor Nero appointed General Vespasian who’d be joined by his Son Titus to command the Roman Army at Judea.

In total, the Roman Empire mustered about 60,000 troops to crush the revolt using a scorched earth policy that saw no prisoners taken and whole villages reduced to ash as the Romans marched through the countryside through Galilee and towards Jerusalem.

In response, the 10,000 strong Jewish army initially fled in all directions as the Roman Campaign in Galilee during 67 AD destroyed and pillaged the whole region until it had been entirely subdued.

The fall of Galilee was an enormous blow to the Jewish resistance, accelarating inner divisions to the point where Jewish factions started fighting against one another rather than focusing on the Roman assault.

This allowed Vespasian to take full command of Judea and the countryside.

The Roman March On Jerusalem

Throughout 69 AD Vespasian marched on Jerusalem itself.

Nevertheless, chaos in the Roman Empire would delay the final assault following the unexpected death of the Emperor Nero.

Three new Emperors followed in rapid succession until Vespasian was proclaimed Caesar by the Prefect of Egypt.

Vespasian established his headquarters in Egypt while Titus went on to continue the Jewish campaign.

Titus resumed the march on Jerusalem in  70 AD, departing Alexandria and marching up the Mediterranean coast towards Caesarea along the main highway.

However, as he approached Jerusalem, a strong  Jewish militia attacked and killed a large number of Titus’ men. 

Jerusalem was well fortified and prepared for the Roman siege with a garrison of more than 20,000 well armed troops protecting it.

The City also had a reliable water supply with excellent man made water storage and natural pools filled with rainwater.

The major drawback was the declining food supply. 

After a series of raging battles in the hills surrounding the City, on the 15th day of the siege, Roman siege engines punched a hole in the Western Wall of the Second Temple.

This allowed the Romans to occupy the New City as Jewish forces retreated behind the next wall protecting the Old City.

As the Roman Army proceeded with an attack on the Old City, Titus built a wall around the Second City to cut off food supplies to the Old City. Famine soon descended on the Old City as the population gradually began to starve.

An assault on the Temple Mount was the last remaining phase of the battle for the Old City which ended in a dramatic sequence of events as a fire started near the Temple Court, and set the Second Temple ablaze. 

Unable to control the fire as they battled the Romans, the Jews were finally defeated and the capture of Jerusalem completed.

While a few isolated Jewish rebel strongholds remained, notably at the Fortress of Masada, the Jewish Revolt had been broken with Titus’ capture of Jerusalem.

After unleashing a bloody massacre and looting Jerusalem, Titus returned to Rome where his Father Emperor Vespasian granted him a Triumph in celebration of his conquest of Jerusalem.

Today the Arch of Titus stands as a monument in celebration of Titus’ conquest of Jerusalem.