Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Selwood on the two Jewish revolts against Rome

DOMINIC SELWOOD: Two millennia after the sack of Jerusalem, what does history tell us about violence in the Middle East? (The Telegraph). This longish article, published on Tisha B'Av in the context of the current Israel-Gaza conflict, covers the history of the Great Revolt against Rome in 66-74 CE, as presented by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, and also covers the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-135 CE and its background. It is a thorough summary and is pretty accurate, although it does not distinguish between Zealots and Sicarii, which Josephus treats (in a not particularly clear way) as two different movements. It is the Sicarii who held out until the end at Masada. As for the question in the headline, Selwood concludes:
The eastern Mediterranean seaboard is — and has always been — a troubled region that has seen too much blood spilled for one reason or another, all of which seemed important at the time. As Churchill noted, so bluntly but accurately, the first casualty of war is truth. And the truth of the land is that the various competing webs and roots of nationhood, identity, and memory that have flourished for millennia are thick and run deep into its dust and soil.

As Josephus observed, “as for war, if it be once begun, it is not easily laid down again.” History may not repeat itself exactly, but it does teach us lessons. One thing is certain: in 1,000 years’ time, the Near East will look different. And perhaps the lesson for the troubled land is that throughout history extreme military force has been used there time and time again — but, in over five millennia, it has never yet brought lasting peace for anyone.
More from Mr. Selwood on the Knights Templar is noted here.