Hadrians and Second Roman-Jewish War










Hadrians and Second Roman-Jewish War


In 130, Hadrian visited the ruins of Jerusalem, in Judaea, left after the First Roman-Jewish War of 66–73. He rebuilt the city, renaming it Aelia Capitolina after himself and Jupiter Capitolinus, the chief Roman deity. A new temple dedicated to the worship of Jupiter was built on the ruins of the old Jewish Second Temple, which had been destroyed in 70. In addition, Hadrian abolished circumcision, which was considered by Romans and Greeks as a form of bodily mutilation and hence "barbaric". These anti-Jewish policies of Hadrian triggered in Judaea a massive Jewish uprising, led by Simon bar Kokhba and Akiba ben Joseph. Following the outbreak of the revolt, Hadrian called his general Sextus Julius Severus from Britain, and troops were brought from as far as the Danube. Roman losses were very heavy, and it is believed that an entire legion, the XXII Deiotariana was destroyed. Roman losses were so heavy that Hadrian's report to the Roman Senate omitted the customary salutation "I and the legions are well". However, Hadrian's army eventually put down the rebellion in 135, after three years of fighting.

According to Cassius Dio, during the war 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. The final battle took place in Beitar, a fortified city 10 km. southwest of Jerusalem. The city only fell after a lengthy siege, and Hadrian did not allow the Jews to bury their dead. According to the Babylonian Talmud, after the war Hadrian continued the persecution of Jews. He attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions, prohibited the Torah law, the Hebrew calendar and executed Judaic scholars. The sacred scroll was ceremonially burned on the Temple Mount. In an attempt to erase the memory of Judaea, he renamed the province Syria Palaestina (after the Philistines), and Jews were forbidden from entering its rededicated capital. When Jewish sources mention Hadrian it is always with the epitaph "may his bones be crushed" an expression never used even with respect to Vespasian or Titus who destroyed the Second Temple.

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