Over one thousand Jewish men, women, and children are slaughtered merciless in Israel. The Jews quickly fight back to protect their homeland. Within days antisemitism increases dramatically around the world. I am not talking about 2023. I am talking about 2,000 years ago. The historian Flavius Josephus was there in Jerusalem where it happened. He wrote down all the details.
It was in the Roman Province of Judaea in the twelfth year of the reign of Caesar Nero—May of 66 AD by our calendar. IT was also the seventeenth year of the Jewish puppet King Agrippa II. There was a new Roman governor in Judaea, a man by the name of Gessius Florus. It was no secret the man did not like the people he had been assigned to govern.
The coastal city of Caesarea was home to the Roman governor’s palace and seat of his administration. There a fight had broken out between Jews and Greeks. The two groups did not like each other but managed to live side by side in many towns in the land without it coming to bloodshed. This arrangement of mixed ethnicities had existed since the Greek general Alexander the Great invaded the land four centuries earlier. In Caesarea, the Greeks had begun construction on a plot of land that would nearly cut off access to the Jewish synagogue. The Jewish leaders took their complaint to the governor, Gessius Florus. They ended up paying him an enormous bribe of eight talents (900 lbs.) of gold—a value of over ten million dollars in today’s money.
But Gessius Florus took the gold and did not deliver as promised. He left the Jews and Greeks to fight it out. Rioting began in Caesarea, and when the news of the theft reached Jerusalem demonstrations began there too. And so Florus’ took soldiers and marched to Jerusalem to quell the disturbances. There in front of the people he demanded that those who began the uprisings be brought to him for public punishment. When they refused, he became enraged. He ordered his soldiers to go out and kill everyone in the marketplace. Josephus records for us that a total of 3,600 innocents, including many women and children, were killed that day in Jerusalem.
The Eastern Wall of today’s Temple Mount.
In fear that a real armed rebellion would now begin, Florus ordered more troops to come to Jerusalem to keep the peace. But soon his real intention was revealed. His soldiers headed toward the Temple to loot it of its vast store of treasure. But the entire city came out to block the soldiers, and they cut down the ramparts giving easy access to it. They bolted the doors to the Temple Sanctuary—which had been built by Herod as a fortress. This kept Florus and his soldiers out.
King Agrippa convinced the two sides to back down, and Florus returned to Caesarea. But the Jews could not take living under this tyranny any longer. A few months later at a feast in Jerusalem, thousands of armed zealots discreetly entered the city and started a war. They quickly overcame the Roman garrison in Fortress Antonia and Herod’s palace, killing all of them. Jerusalem was free of Roman control.
The southwest corner of Herod’s Temple Mount today.
But news of this armed rebellion quickly spread around the country and then around the Mediterranean. In Caesarea, Florus was quick to incite the Greeks to rise up and kill their neighbors. Caught by surprise, an estimated 20,000 Jews were killed in Caesarea in that one day. In the city of Scythopolis (Beit She’an) in Galilee a battle erupted between the Greeks and the Jews. Thirteen thousand Jews were killed there. Men in Ashkelon killed 2,500 Jews and near Haifa 2,000 were slain. Alexandria in Egypt was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire at the time with an estimated population of one million and a large Jewish Quarter. There the citizens convinced Roman soldiers to join them, and they managed to kill 50,000 in the Jewish Quarter. Eventually over one million Jews died in the war that ended with sacking of Jerusalem and burning of the Temple in 70 AD.
It seems there has been a long history of the undeserved dislike for the Jewish people. Their desire to live independently in their ancestral homeland seems to bring out the worst in other people. To experience the above story in dramatic detail in novel form, read my first book--Resisting Tyranny--in my new historical novel series--Cry for Jerusalem.
Cry For Jerusalem is a series of historical novel-fiction books covering the seven years leading up to the burning of Herod’s Temple and the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Author Ward Sanford gives this period of history new depth in Cry For Jerusalem, showcasing the works of eyewitness historian Flavius Josephus in a new way with this fictional yet fact-based dramatization.
In the CFJ blog section Ward covers subjects to do with the vast amount of research that went into the CFJ novel series, including Ancient Jerusalem, the Roman Empire, and Biblical topics and the writings of Josephus.