18 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (18 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

The Remarkable Story of Masada: Guest Post by Jodi Magness

Many of you know of my colleague Jodi Magness.  She is one of the world’s leading authorities on the archaeology of ancient Israel, a real superstar in her field.  You can read about her here: http://jodimagness.org/  Since 2011 her annual dig at Huqoq in Galilee has is often discussed in the international press, particularly because of the synagogue they discovered that has some of the most amazing works of art ever to be found in Israel; the work is regularly featured, for example, in National Geographic.  (For the dig, see:  http://huqoq.web.unc.edu/)

But her first major archaeological work involved the army camps at Masada, one of the most historically and culturally significant sites of Israel antiquity, where rebel fighters made their last stand against the Roman armies in 73 CE.  Jodi has recently published a terrific book for a broader audience on Masada.  It’s a fascinating story and a flat-out terrific book: Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019).

I asked Jodi if she would be willing to do a guest post for us about Masada and her book.  And here it is!  (She has agreed to address comments and questions on it over the next few days; but please: keep your questions direct and to the point, and ask only one question per comment.)

**************************************************************

 

Two thousand years ago, 967 Jewish men, women, and children reportedly chose to take their own lives rather than suffer enslavement or death at the hands of the Roman army.  They were the last holdouts of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, which had ended officially three years earlier, in 70 C.E., with an unimaginable disaster: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.  During the revolt, these families found refuge atop Masada, a remote mountain overlooking the Dead Sea that had been fortified by King Herod the Great seventy years earlier.  Now, however, they were besieged by an overwhelming Roman force, and it was clear the fortress would fall.  At this critical moment, the rebel leader Eleazar Ben-Yair gathered the men together and convinced them to commit mass suicide.  So persuaded, each man killed his own wife and children.  Then the men gathered together and drew lots, determining which ten of them would put the others to death.  The ten remaining men drew lots again, and one man killed the other nine before taking his own life, as the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes:

“Finally, then, the nine bared their throats, and the last solitary survivor, after surveying the prostrate multitude, to see whether haply amid the shambles there were yet one left who needed his hand, and finding that all were slain, set the palace ablaze, and then collecting his strength drove his sword clean through his body and fell beside his family.” (War 7.397-398; Loeb translation)

Nowadays most visitors to Masada come from Jerusalem via a highway along the western shore of the Dead Sea, arriving on the mountain’s east side.  Others make the trip from the west, by way of the town of Arad and arriving at the Roman ramp.  In the summer months, thousands of youth from abroad form a continuous line climbing the mountain before sunrise by way of the Snake Path.  After the sun comes up, many more tourists pack the cable car for a ride to the top.  All these visitors share one goal: to stand on the very spot where a small band of Jewish rebels made their last stand against the mighty Roman Empire.

Josephus’ account of the mass suicide at Masada is so compelling that after Israel was established in 1948, the slogan “Masada shall not fall again” became symbolic of the modern state.  The example of Jews putting up a heroic resistance to the death instead of going meekly to their slaughter had great appeal in the wake of the Holocaust and at a time when Israel’s population felt embattled.  However, times have changed, and with them, so have perspectives on Masada.  For one thing, even those who embrace the mass suicide as a symbol of modern Israel must reconcile it with Judaism’s prohibition against taking one’s own life (although according to Josephus’ account, only the last man died by his own hand).  More importantly, in today’s post-Zionist era the story of Masada has become a less compelling model for Israelis.  And scholarly views have changed as well.  For example, many scholars now believe Josephus’ description of the mass suicide (the only ancient account of this episode) is fabricated – that it never happened!

My book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019) uses the story of Masada as a lens through which to explore the history of Judea in the late Second Temple period (mid-second century B.C.E. – first century C.E.) – roughly the same period covered by Josephus in his account of The Jewish War.  This turbulent era witnessed the reign of Herod the Great as well as Jesus’ ministry and death and culminated with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

One of the “myths” surrounding Masada concerns whether the mass suicide really happened.  As I explain in the book, this is a question that archaeology is not equipped to answer.  For example, nowadays visitors to Masada are shown the spot where the “lots” were found, in a space to the west of the large bathhouse in the northern palace complex.  This area displayed signs of a violent conflagration, and more than 250 ostraca (inscribed potsherds) were found dumped here among heaps of ashes.  They include ostraca inscribed with names which might be connected to the distribution of food among the rebels.  The famous Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who excavated Masada from 1963-1965 and was also chief-of-staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), identified twelve of the ostraca as lots because they were written by the same hand and are inscribed with Hebrew names, including “ben Yair.”  However, Joseph Naveh, who published these ostraca, was unable to identify them conclusively as the lots mentioned by Josephus.  One problem is that there are twelve ostraca in the group, not ten.  Yadin argued that one ostracon had never been completed, which leaves eleven ostraca.  He therefore suggested that Josephus did not include Eleazar ben Yair among the final ten men who drew lots, based on the assumption that the ostracon inscribed ben Yair refers to the rebel leader.  Another problem noted by Naveh is that the lots resemble ostraca inscribed with names found elsewhere around Masada.  Therefore, whether these ostraca are lots or were used for other purposes remains an open question.  The ostraca and other archaeological remains can be interpreted differently as either supporting or disproving Josephus’ account.  Whether or not the mass suicide story is true depends on how one evaluates Josephus’ reliability as an historian.

A second “myth” concerns Masada’s iconic status: how did the site of a reported mass suicide of a band of Jewish rebels who terrorized other Jews become a symbol of the modern State of Israel?  These rebels included the sicarii, who, by the winter of 67/68 C.E., were using Masada as a base for raiding nearby settlements including Ein Gedi, where they massacred upwards of seven hundred villagers during the Passover festival (Josephus, War 4.399-405).  The creation of the Masada myth – in which these Jewish rebels are transformed into freedom fighters and the mass suicide becomes a heroic last stand – has been explored by a number of scholars.  While archaeology has been used in many countries to advance political or nationalistic agendas, Masada perhaps best exemplifies this phenomenon.  Although Masada’s eventual fame is largely a result of Yadin’s excavations, the site had become a symbol of the modern State of Israel long before the 1960s.  It is the Israeli archaeologist Shmaryahu Gutman who deserves much of the credit for the creation of the Masada myth.  Beginning in the 1930s, Gutman organized treks to Masada for youth movements which established the site as an emblem of Zionist aspirations.  With the creation of Israel in 1948, Masada became a symbol of the new state.

A constellation of interrelated events in the twentieth century made possible Masada’s transformation into a symbol of Jewish heroism and the modern State of Israel.  First, the European Jews who immigrated into Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century sought to establish a physical connection to the Zionist homeland.  Treks like those organized by Gutman to Masada were intended to forge this bond.  Second, archaeology proved a useful tool in establishing Zionist claims to a land that had not been under Jewish rule for two thousand years.  Third, the notion that heroic Jewish freedom fighters held out against the mighty Roman Empire to the bitter end countered the image of millions of passive European Jews starving to death or being gassed in Nazi concentration camps.  Fourth, after 1948 Masada became a metaphor for the State of Israel: isolated, besieged, and surrounded by enemies on all sides, as expressed by the popular slogan, “Masada shall not fall again.”  This phrase was coined in 1927 by a poet named Yitzhak Lamdan in reference to persecuted European Jews returning to Zion.  From the early 1950s on, the IDF’s armored units climbed to the top of Masada for induction ceremonies.

After Yadin’s excavations, the archaeological remains underwent restoration and Masada became a national park.  Yadin’s 1966 book introduced the story of Masada to an international audience.  In a remarkable conflation of archaeology and nationalism: Masada’s image as a symbol of Jewish heroism, the Zionist enterprise, and the State of Israel was elevated through its connection to Yadin, who promoted this association in various ways.  Ironically, within a couple of years of Yadin’s excavations, Masada began to decline as a symbol of the State of Israel.  By the late 1980s the IDF ceased to hold its induction ceremonies at Masada.  Nevertheless, Masada remains the second-most visited archaeological site in Israel, and in 2001, it became Israel’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.  Although Masada has lost much of its relevance to Israelis as a national symbol, it still resonates with Diaspora Jews who make the pilgrimage to the top of the mountain, where their guides relate the story of a small band of freedom fighters who made a heroic last stand against Rome.


What Are The Dead Sea Scrolls?
Academic Fraud at the Highest Levels

47

Comments

  1. Avatar
    AstaKask  May 27, 2020

    Were there any similar heroic last stands during the Bar Kokhba rebellion? If so, why aren’t they spoken of? Is it because we have Josephus as an eye-witness?

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      Thank you for your question. The answer is yes and no. By this I mean that yes, Bar-Kokhba made his last stand at Bethar, but no, we have no accounts like those of Josephus. We do have scattered reports in early Christian and rabbinic sources to the fall of Bethar and Bar-Kokhba’s death there; see for example Yigael Yadin’s classic popular book, Bar-Kokhba, The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt against Imperial Rome (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 26.

  2. Avatar
    Poohbear  May 27, 2020

    We suffer from a plague of revisionists. Masada didn’t happen. There was no Matthew or Mark writers. Luke wasn’t an eyewitness to the growing church. Jesus did no miracle – if he existed at all. There was no King David. Moses is a myth. There was no nation of Jewish people. There is no Redeemer in the Old Testament. Maybe there was no Rome either – “history is bunk” as Henry Ford didn’t put it. We have become like the hapless Soviets, unable to predict tomorrow and unable to predict yesterday either.

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      I hope you are not lumping me in with revisionists! The point of my book (which I hope you will read) is that archaeology is incapable of either proving or disproving the historicity of Josephus’s story of the mass suicide at Masada. On the other hand, Josephus’s description of the siege is remarkably consistent with the archaeological remains (which is a separate matter from the story of the mass suicide). In other words, the question is not whether the siege occurred – we have plenty of archaeological evidence for that, and it is consistent with Josephus’s account. The question/controversy concerns Josephus’s account of the mass suicide at the end of the siege.

  3. Avatar
    Matt2h  May 27, 2020

    I believe that Magness recorded a wonderful Great Courses series I’ve listened to on placing Jesus and the characters from the New Testament in their Jewish context.

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      Thank you, I am so glad you liked the course!

    • Avatar
      DODea  May 28, 2020

      I will start watching that GC series this weekend.

      I was at Masada about 35 years ago and brought Josephus’ account along to read while there. A stunning palace and stunning place in general – and very moving history despite J’s exaggerations. What an amazing part of the world. We were kids basically – and broke the rules by returning and climbing a ways up the snake path one evening under a very bright moon. We had our own armed guide with us – a history buff from the Kibbutz I was living on at the time (Kfar Giladi). He had connections there and was able to make this happen for us. It was a head trip – I kept thinking how I was sitting in the same location …. the same view …. under the same moon as the Zealots, Josephus and the all those Romans. 2,000 years ago seemed like an eternity to me then. For whatever reason not so much anymore. Anyway I imagine we’d never have get away with that now!

      I enjoyed this post very much and look forward to getting your book!

      • magness
        magness  May 28, 2020

        Thank you for sharing your special memory of Masada! You are right, there is no way you’d be able to get away with that now, so I am glad you were able to do it then.
        I hope you will enjoy the book and maybe it will bring back some of those magical memories.

  4. Avatar
    Diane  May 27, 2020

    I have never understood why people would elevate a mass suicide to a national symbol. Be that as it may, how do scholars think Josephus got his detailed information, if literally every witness was killed/committed suicide? How did Josephus explain that he knew the story of 967 dead Jews?

    • Avatar
      Leovigild  May 27, 2020

      Josephus says that two women and five children survived the mass suicide by hiding in a cave which was one of the water sources for the palace. They told the Romans what had happened.

      • magness
        magness  May 27, 2020

        Yes, that is correct, Josephus does say that. So, if the mass-suicide actually occurred (which scholars debate), then Josephus presumably heard the story either directly from the survivors, or indirectly from others.

        • Rick
          Rick  May 28, 2020

          Having surrendered in the Galilee to Vespasian (after a similar suicide pact) and “changing sides” as Vespasian slave then freed advisor, was not Josephus Titus’ advisor/translator when Titus besieged Masada? All of which raises offsetting possibilities. 1) Josephus with Titus et Legion saw the throat slit bodies when entering Masada post siege – corroborating the survivors testimony. Or. 2.) The earlier Galilean suicide/murder pact fostered a repeat story for Masada by Josephus.

          • magness
            magness  May 29, 2020

            You are mistaken. Titus did not besiege Masada (he was in charge of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE). Titus’s father Vespasian was emperor in 72-73. The commander of the siege of Masada was Flavius Silva, who had responsibility for subduing the mountain as he was the legate (all of this is in my book). By this time Josephus apparently was in Rome.
            Some scholars think that Josephus invented the stories of mass suicide as a literary motif to make the story more exciting (I also discuss this in the book).

  5. Avatar
    flshrP  May 27, 2020

    Are modern Israelis ambivalent about using Josephus as the basis of the Masada story? After all, Josephus was a Jewish military commander who suffered defeat and capture by the Romans three years before the fall of Jerusalem. And his story of this event in his life has him suggesting that lots be cast in a mass suicide pact among his men. All but two were killed and Josephus was one of the two survivors. This story sounds a lot like Masada only without any survivors in that second suicide pact. So is this where modern suspicions arise that Josephus has fabricated the Masada suicide story?

    His reputation was tarnished when he became a “Romanized” slave who was freed by his master, the Emperor Vespasian and assumed the Emperor’s family name, Flavius. If I recall correctly, most of his history of Masada focused on the long, drawn out Roman siege and less on the mass suicide.

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      I discuss all of this in my book (which I hope you will read). To try to answer you briefly: 1) About modern Israeli ambivalence: in the post-Zionist era, Masada ceased being a symbol of the modern state of Israel, although it still retains much of that attraction for Diaspora Jews. 2) Many scholars (Israeli scholars and non-Israeli scholars) now question the historicity of Josephus’s story of the mass-suicide at Masada, noting (as you do) that the motif of mass-suicide occurs repeatedly in his accounts. 3) Josephus does have a detailed (and quite accurate) description of the Roman siege of Masada, but in terms of page length the mass-suicide story takes up alot more space thanks to the “speeches” that he put in the mouth of Eleazar Ben-Yair, the leader of the Jewish rebels atop Masada.

  6. Avatar
    Nichrob  May 27, 2020

    I’ve heard 4 options argued: 1) suicide 2) It was abandoned (when the Romans finally rushed in), 3) they were systematically slaughtered, or 4) they were captured and became slaves. (I personally believe it was option 3. Why? Because if it took that much time for the Romans to penetrate the fortress, it is most certainly more likely the Romans would have simply slaughtered everyone immediately…. ). Question: If option 1 is not likely, then what do you believe is the most likely option and why?

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      If you read my book (not to self-promote…), you will see that I have a long discussion of this. To answer your question briefly, I will say that 1) the siege was not “that much time” – probably only two months in all from the time the Romans arrived at Masada until it fell; and 2) archaeology can neither prove nor disprove the historicity of Josephus’s mass suicide story. this means there is no way of knowing exactly what happened at the end. The reason is that the archaeological evidence can be interpreted differently depending on how one evaluates Josephus.

  7. Avatar
    fishician  May 27, 2020

    I am under the impression that Josephus was something of a collaborator with the Romans. Possible he wrote of the mass suicide as a way of exonerating the Romans of a massacre, while still preserving Jewish honor?

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      Thank you for your question. Josephus is a very complex character! Yes, in Jewish tradition he is indeed considered a traitor (or collaborator) because he surrendered to the Romans and then advised them during the siege of Jerusalem. And after the fall of Jerusalem he moved to Rome and was commissioned by his Imperial patrons to write histories of the Jewish people. So, much of his work is self-serving. But it is a lot more complex than that (for example, more recent scholarship has pointed to subversive elements in Josephus’s writings). I have a discussion of Josephus and ways of looking at his works in my book that provide more information about this. I also evaluate the historicity of his account of the mass-suicide.

  8. Avatar
    Hormiga  May 27, 2020

    >drove his sword clean through his body and fell beside his family.

    And then there were none. So how did the story, with its many details, get to Josephus some two decades later?

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      Josephus says that a couple of women hid with some children in a cistern on the side of the mountain and gave themselves up alive to the Romans. So, if the mass-suicide story is true, then presumably Josephus either heard it directly from these hide-outs, or indirectly from others who heard it from them.

      • Avatar
        Hormiga  May 27, 2020

        Thanks for your reply — I just downloaded your book and am looking forward to getting into the details.

        About books: would you recommend one about Josephus himself?

        • magness
          magness  May 28, 2020

          Thanks, I hope you like the book!
          Good question about Josephus. Offhand I cannot think of any trade books on Josephus that I can recommend (that is, for a non-specialist audience). Although its a bit old, a good book (and readable) is still Tessa Rajak, Josephus, The Historian and His Society (London: Duckworth, 1983).

  9. epicurus
    epicurus  May 27, 2020

    I’m excited to read the book. Are there any other ancient sources for the seige besides Josephus? Given how he got into the Roman world I never really trust him.
    P.S. I enjoyed your Great Courses video series on The holy Land Revealed

    • magness
      magness  May 27, 2020

      Thank you, I am glad you liked the Great Courses series! The short answer is no, there are no other sources on the Roman siege of Masada, only Josephus. I discuss this in the book – I hope you will enjoy it.

  10. Avatar
    Hngerhman  May 27, 2020

    Dr Magness,

    Thank you for this guest post! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both your existing Great Courses lecture series, and I’m excited to dig into the book!

    Question: Is there a bit of archeological evidence one could find, or a future sophisticated analysis one could run, that might conceivably settle the answer of the historicity of the suicide account? Or is any future evidence / analysis here equivocal by its nature?

    Many thanks!

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      Thank you. I do not believe that archaeology is capable of providing the evidence needed to prove or disprove the historicity of Josephus’s mass suicide story.
      The only way I think it could ever definitely be settled one way or another would be if a previously unknown work of a contemporary Roman historian (such as Tacitus) was found which described the siege of Masada. Of course, that is extremely unlikely, so I doubt the issue can ever be resolved. At this point it is a matter of interpretation – how one interprets Josephus, and how one interprets the archaeological evidence.

  11. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  May 28, 2020

    Thank you Professor Magness. Your post was very thought-provoking. There was a major TV movie about Masada back in the 1980s (starring ‘Peters’ Strauss & O’Toole) which I think very much presented the viewer with the ‘Masada myth’, but nevertheless gave a pretty detailed account of the campaign. Do you have any thoughts on that film?

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      Ah, I was working as a guide at the Ein Gedi Field School at that time (1977-80), when the film was made. I visited the set many times during those months (it was at the base of the Roman assault ramp), although unfortunately I never caught a glimpse of Peter Strauss or Peter O’Toole! It was fun to see the “Roman soldiers” and they had fake Styrofoam boulders. They also made a fake ramp.
      I did not care for the program, however, as they put a romantic story into it that had nothing to do with the original story.

  12. Avatar
    jhague  May 28, 2020

    “many scholars now believe Josephus’ description of the mass suicide (the only ancient account of this episode) is fabricated – that it never happened!”

    What do most scholars think happened? That the Romans massacred them?

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      Many scholars now think that there was no mass suicide. Instead the Romans broke through the wall, entered the fortress; there was fighting; some of the rebels were killed and others led away into captivity. (Or, I suppose its possible they were all killed). That is an alternate scenario.

      • Avatar
        jhague  May 29, 2020

        If led into captivity, is it know what the captives are made to do? Are they in slavery do building projects for Rome?

        • magness
          magness  May 29, 2020

          That depends. Slaves could serve in various capacities (including within households), and sometimes they could be manumitted (freed).

  13. Avatar
    gwayersdds  May 28, 2020

    If I remember correctly, one of the arguments that the mass suicide did not occur is that there were no human remains such as skeleton bones found in the numbers that should have been there and that the Romans wouldn’t have taken the time or trouble to bury or burn the bodies. Is there an explanation as to why there were few human remains found? I have really enjoyed watching you on the NatGeo/ Discovery/ History documentaries. Thank you.

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      Thank you, I discuss this in my book. Only three skeletons (man, woman, child) were found on the lowest terrace of the northern palace, and another 5-25 (which may or may not be Jewish remains) in a cistern on the southeast side of the mountain.
      Let’s suppose there was a mass suicide. When the Romans broke through the wall they found everyone dead. Now, the Romans left a garrison on top of the mountain for a couple of decades after the fall of the mountain. Obviously they would have cleaned up and disposed of the bodies, either by burying them in a mass grave somewhere or cremating them.
      Now let’s imagine there was no mass suicide. Instead some of the rebels were killed and others taken into captivity. The same thing would have happened: the Romans would have disposed of the corpses.
      So, the small number of human remains found neither proves nor disproves the historicity of the mass suicide.

  14. Avatar
    darren  May 28, 2020

    Mass suicides, tricking an enemy into eating human flesh, defeating ‘barbarians’ by getting them drunk, the son of a king who is marked for death as a baby and is saved comes back to get revenge on the father — these sorts of motifs, do we have a sense of whether any of them actually occurred? Or are they a way of explaining events that ancient audiences found convincing and interesting?

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      That is a good question, but it is complex and there is no simple or single answer. First, each story/episode/circumstance must be evaluated individually in light of the evidence. For example, one of the reasons Josephus’s mass-suicide story is so controversial is that it is not mentioned by any other ancient author (in other words, no independent confirmation from another contemporary source). And in this case, the archaeological remains can be interpreted differently depending on how one evaluates Josephus’s testimony. And that leads to the second point – that the evidence can be (and has been) interpreted differently by modern scholars. In the case of Josephus, for example, whereas earlier generations of scholars such as Yadin interpreted Josephus relatively literally, nowadays the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, so that scholars are much more skeptical. And remember that in antiquity there was no concept of “objective history” (if such a thing even exists), which means even when authors were writing “histories” they were not concerned by embellishing the story with fictitious elements. So, again, each such episode much be evaluated on its own in light of the available evidence.

  15. Avatar
    RickR  May 28, 2020

    You say ” Whether or not the mass suicide story is true depends on how one evaluates Josephus’ reliability as an historian.” What is your view?

    • magness
      magness  May 28, 2020

      Thank you for your question. I don’t have a view as I am an archaeologist, not a Josephus specialist – and archaeology is not capable of resolving this question.

  16. Avatar
    John Uzoigwe  May 28, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman you mention many times over that we do not have the originals of any books of the new testament, only copies. I am curious how one would identify an original from a copy. Would it be through some scientific process like carbon dating, or could it be determined by analyzing textual variations. Perhaps it could not be determined at all! I am very curious about this but I could not find it answered.(I’m asking for a friend)

    • Bart
      Bart  May 29, 2020

      If you could date a copy to about the time the original was produced, it would be virtually impossible to show that it *was* the original; you could in theory show it was *not* the original, depending on what kind of scribal mistakes were in it (e.g., of it was obvioulsy missing a line). But proving that it is the original would almost certainly not be possible. (e.g., what if it were a completely flawless copy of the original made a year later? How would you know?)

  17. Robert
    Robert  May 28, 2020

    RickR: “You say ‘Whether or not the mass suicide story is true depends on how one evaluates Josephus’ reliability as an historian.’ What is your view?”

    Jodi: “I don’t have a view as I am an archaeologist, not a Josephus specialist”

    Archaeologists aren’t allowed to have opinions on the literature they read? Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone!

    • magness
      magness  May 29, 2020

      Right. I am not afraid to express my opinions when I have them. But as I tell people, I don’t have opinions on everything, and this is one of those cases. I think there are other more interesting aspects of Masada to focus on than the historicity of the mass suicide story. For example, I am fascinated with the Roman siege works and what they tell us about how the Romans conducted a siege operation (which I discuss in the first chapter of my book).

  18. Avatar
    tcasto  May 31, 2020

    Mark me down as a skeptic. If it fact it is a true event, I certainly don’t see it as in any way, heroic.

  19. Avatar
    AngeloB  June 1, 2020

    Why would Josephus fabricate the Masada story?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2020

      To show the remarkable resilience and determination of Jews? To show the length to which they would go to preserve their freedom? To titillate his Roman readers? I should think there could be lots of reasons — pretty much like most stories that are made up. (Which, now that I think about it, are most stories!)

      • Avatar
        AngeloB  June 2, 2020

        That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

You must be logged in to post a comment.