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Caligula: a bronze head of a white man with short hair and no beard

The Roman emperor Caligula: before the First Jewish Revolt

The Romans conquer Israel

The Roman conquest of Israel and Egypt in the last century BC brought many Jews into the Roman Empire (though many Jews lived in Babylon or elsewhere in the Parthian Empire as well).

Late Republican Rome
The Jews and the Levant
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Jews in the Roman Empire

Many stayed in Israel, but others moved to Alexandria in Egypt, or to Rome, or to other parts of the Roman Empire. Because they had a different religion and a different way of life, and because they refused to worship the Roman Emperor as a god, the Romans treated the Jews with some suspicion.

Roman imperial cult
Roman religion
Alexandria and Egypt

Vespasian: an overweight, middle-aged white man with no beard

The Roman emperor Vespasian: general during the First Jewish revolt

Was there freedom of religion?

The Romans, like the Persians, did allow the Jews to keep on practicing their religion. But they also messed with the Jews. The Roman Emperor Caligula had an anti-Jewish policy. In 40 AD, he tried to put his own statue in the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

Jews under Persian rule
Roman emperor Caligula
And then Claudius
Agrippina the Younger
The Romans in Egypt

But the Jews in Alexandria, in Egypt, rioted about this decision. So Caligula’s successor Claudius allowed the Jews to practice their religion, and left the Temple alone. So did Agrippina the Younger and her son Nero.

The Roman emperor Titus, Vespasian's son. Doesn't he look like his dad?

The Roman emperor Titus, Vespasian’s son. Doesn’t he look like his dad?

The First Jewish Revolt

By 66 AD, however, still in the reign of Nero, the Jews decided to revolt against Rome as they had under the Maccabees and try to get their independence back. Thanks to the Jewish writer Josephus, who wrote a history of the revolt, we know a lot about the First Jewish Revolt.

Who were the Maccabees?
The Roman emperor Nero
Vespasian and Titus

Nero sent one of his minor generals, the future emperor Vespasian, to put down the revolt. When Vespasian became emperor in 69 AD, he left his son Titus to finish off the Jewish revolt.

Earth ramp to the fortress at Masada

Earth ramp to the fortress at Masada (Thanks to

The fortress of Masada

Titus fought the Jews until he won. One of the last holdouts was the fortress of Masada. A last group of Jews held out at Masada until the Romans built a great ramp up to the fortress. Then the Romans broke down the walls. (The old story that all the Jews then killed themselves is not true).

The Arch of Titus

When Titus returned to Rome, his brother Domitian built a great big stone triumphal arch in his honor, and inside it there are carvings showing Titus carrying away the sacred things of the Jews, including a menorah.

What is a menorah?
The Arch of Titus
Domitian and the Christians

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus: showing the First Jewish revolt

Titus destroys the Second Temple

Titus also, in 70 AD, destroyed the Second Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem. This was the temple the Jews built after the Babylonian Captivity.  It has still not been rebuilt.

Second Jewish Revolt

Bibliography and further reading about the Jews and the Romans:


Second Jewish Revolt
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