Friday, October 11, 2019

Magness on the Masada myth(s)

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Masada Myth(s) (Jodi Magness).
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!
For more on Professor Magness's recent book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019), see here. And for many other posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, see here and links.

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