The Roman Wars

The Roman Wars started in 66CE initially because of Jewish and Greek religious tensions which later grew into anti-taxation protests and aggression upon Roman citizens. It ended when the military forces under Titus besieged and demolished the centre of rebel resistance in Jerusalem and conquered the remaining Jewish strongholds.

The outbreak of the rebellion started when the Greeks sacrificed birds in front of a local synagogue. There was no intervention by the Roman garrison and the religious tensions between the Jewish and the Greeks took a downward spiral. In response the son of  Kohen Gadol ceased sacrifices and prayers for the Roman  Emperor at the Temple. Protests began over the taxation and attacks on Roman  citizens and perceived traitors occurred in Jerusalem. Agrippa ll, the pro-Roman king and his sister Berenice fled to Galilee. The legate of  Syria, Cestius Gallus, brought a legion called the Xll, and auxiliary troops as military aid to restore peace and order. They were overthrown in an ambush at the Battle of Beth of Horon, which brought shock to the Roman Leadership.

The Roman response was for Emperor Nero to appoint general Vespasian instead of Gallus to demolish the rebellion.  Vespasian landed at Ptolemais in April 67 along with legions X Fretensis and V Macedonia. Titus his son joined him who had arrived from Alexandria, as well as by the armies of several local allies  which included King Agrippa ll. There were more than 60, 000 soldiers brought together and Vespasian began movements by overpowering Galilee. Many towns surrendered without a fight, although several other towns had to be taken by force. Jewish resistance had been crushed in the north by the year 68 and Vespasian made Caesarea Maritima his central headquarters and continued to clear the coast.  Joppa which had been previously destroyed by Cestius Gallus was rebuilt by the Jews who were driven out of Galilee. Surrounded by the Romans they rebuilt the city walls, they used light flotilla to demoralise commerce and interrupt the grain supply to Rome from Alexandria.

The war in Judea was successful but there were also great events occurring in Rome. Emperor’s Nero increasingly extreme behaviour lost him all support for his position which occurred in the middle of 68BC. The Roman Senate, several army commanders and the praetorian guard conspired for his removal. Nero fled to Rome and committed suicide when he was declared an enemy of the people by the senate. Galba the newly appointed emperor was murdered after a few months by a rival. This triggered a civil war that came to be known as the Year of the Emperors. The popular Vespasian was hailed emperor by the legions under his command in 69 CE. Upon gathering further widespread support he decided to return to Rome to claim the throne from Vitellius which left his son Titus to finish the war in Judea. The defeat of the Jewish revolt changed the Jewish diaspora, as many of the Jewish rebels fled or were sold into slavery.

Leave a Comment