To read the Introduction to this 8 Part series please click below…
Q. Describe the Roman Period after Herod. What major changes were ushered in that specifically affected the Jews and Jewish life in the holy land?
A. There were many important event and changes that came about; from the formation of the Christian Faith to the various Jewish-Roman Wars and the Destruction of the Second Temple (That is the Western Wall of the Second Temple at the beginning of each of the post in this Series. Of course, historically speaking this is an important time in Judaism for it was here that the rise of Rabbinical Judaism came about. Rabbinical Judaism is still the dominant force in the Jewish world in 2020.
Q. Did Judaism flourish under Roman rule or was it suppressed as it had been under other foreign rulers?
A. The Jewish state was recognized by the Roman Senate inc. 139 BCE. The same vacuum that enabled this to happen was the same power vacuum that was later exploited by the Romans themselves.Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, Simon’s great-grandsons, became pawns in a proxy war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The deaths of Pompey (48 BCE), Caesar (44 BCE), and the related Roman civil wars temporarily relaxed Rome’s grip on Israel, allowing a very brief Hasmonean resurgence backed by the Parthian Empire.
Q. Was the resurgence long-lasting?
A. No. This short independence was rapidly crushed by the Romans under Mark Antony and Octavian. The installation of Herod the Great as king in 37 BCE made Israel a Roman client state and marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. During the late 1st century, Rome considered Judaism a legitimate religion, with protections and exemptions under Roman law that had been negotiated over two centuries Observant Jews had special rights, including the privilege of abstaining from the civic rites of ancient Roman religion. Failure to support public religion could otherwise be viewed as treasonous since the Romans regarded their traditional religion as necessary for preserving the stability and prosperity of the state.
The fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom under Herod the Great marked an end to a century of Jewish self-governance, but Jewish nationalism and desire for independence continued under Roman rule, beginning with the Census of Quirinius in 6 and leading to a series of Jewish-Roman wars in the 1st–2nd centuries, including the Great Revolt (AD 66–73), the Kitos War (115–117), and Bar Kokhba’s revolt (132–135).
During the wars, temporary commonwealths were established, but they ultimately fell to the sustained might of Rome. Roman legions under Vespasian and Titus besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, looted and burned Herod’s Temple (in the year 70), and Jewish strongholds (notably Gamla in 67 and Masada in 73), and enslaved or massacred a large part of the Jewish population. The defeat of the Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire notably contributed to the numbers and geography of the Jewish Diaspora, as many Jews were scattered after losing their state or were sold into slavery throughout the empire.
Q. Describe Roman rule in Judea in greater depth.
A. In AD 6, Rome joined Judea proper, Samaria, and Idumea (biblical Edom) into the Roman province of Iudaea. In AD 44, Rome installed the rule of a Roman procurator side by side with the rule of the Herodian kings (specificallyAgrippa I 41–44 and Agrippa II 50–100).
Q. How did Judea become part of Rome?
Q. When did their cultures begin to overlap?
A. Jewish and Roman culture began to overlap in the centuries just before the Christian Era. Rome’s involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean dated from 63 BC, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when Rome made Syria a province. After the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus, the proconsul Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) remained to secure the area, including a visit to the Jerusalem Temple.
Jews, as part of the Jewish diaspora, migrated to Rome and Roman Europe from the Land of Israel, Asia Minor, Babylon, and Alexandria in response to economic hardship and incessant warfare over the land of Israel between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires which led to the Maccabean revolt.
Q. Did most Jews migrate to Rome from Judea?
A. No. It seems the early Jewish immigrants from Rome initially migrated there from Alexandria, drawn by the lively commercial intercourse between those two cities. They may even have established a community there as early as the second pre-Christian century, for in the year 139 B.C. the pretor Hispanus issued a decree expelling all Jews who were not citizens of Rome. Many Jews came to Rome directly as a result of two civil wars raging during the last decades of the second century B.C..
One civil war was in Judea between the two Hasmonean brothers Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II (descendants of Judah Maccabee) and the one in the Roman republic between Julius Caesar and Pompey. With the evolution of the Jewish population in Rome the Jewish community there grew very rapidly. Many Jews were taken to Rome as prisoners and were then either ransomed by their coreligionists or set free by their Roman masters. Many of these freed Jews settled as traders on the right bank of the Tiber. This is likely how what became the Jewish quarter in Rome originated.
In Part 8, the last entry of this series on Hanukkah, we will explore the complete end to the influence of the descendant of the Maccabees and explore What was life like for the Jews living in Rome under Roman rule?…
Author: Lewis Harrison is an Independent Scholar with a passion for history, personal development, self-improvement, and problem-solving. He is the creator of Harrison’s Applied Game Theory.
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