In my previous posting (Monday), I introduced Masada and mentioned the First Jewish-Roman war or Great Rebellion. Well, today's posting is about how the war ended. In the picture you see the Negev desert to the east (roughly), from the top of Masada. In the middle there is a ramp, coming up to where I stand on top. This is what remains of the siege ramp built by the Romans, to conquer Masada.
When King Herod had the fortress of Masada built, he achieved a number architectural and engineering feats. Since my posting is about that last battle, I will not be showing pictures of the ruins and what remained of fortress, nor provide information on what made up the fortress. You may read up Wiki, that provides good info and some pictures, if so interested.
In 66 AD, during the First Jewish-Roman war, the Roman unit stationed at Masada was rused and overpowered by Zealots under leadership of Eleazar ben Ya'ir. In 70 AD, Jerusalem fell and was destroyed by the Romans. After this, some more Zealots joined those on Masada. They numbered almost 1,000 people, including men, women and children. On Masada, they held out for three years, raiding and harassing the Romans.
By 72 AD, the Romans with 15,000 people, including 9,000 soldiers, laid siege to Masada. At some stage, they decided that enough is enough and they started to build a ramp to access the top of Masada. The builders were met with stones from the top. The Romans replied by using Jewish labour in the front positions. The Zealots felt they shouldn't be killing their own people, so they allowed the building to continue. When the Romans started to laboriously move a battering ram up the ramp in 73 AD, the besieged knew the end was near. They also knew by then, that no other Jews will join them. They further knew that the Romans will not be kind to them. Men will be killed and probably in some horrible way, while women and children will become harlots and slaves, to the Romans. The besieged decided that this is not what they want, so they arrived at a pact.
Everything they posessed and the buildings, were burned down, to deny the Romans their wealth. The foodstores were left standing with the foodstuff in it. They wanted posterity to know they were not starved. Then 10 men was chosen and as part of the suicide pact, they killed everyone (so they thought) and with the 10 remaining, one was chosen to kill the others and then commit suicide. Committing suicide is against the Jewish religion - so in this way, only the last guy sinned.
When the Romans finally breached the wall, they reported that they entered a citadel of death. They later discovered two women and five children hidden in a water cistern. They told the story of the pact and repeated Eleazer's speech, which ended with: " ... We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom."
The picture below, was taken to the right of the main picture. It shows the remains of where the Romans were encamped, during the siege. There are more of these remains below the cliffs in the picture.