What is the Real Story of Hanukkah?

Part 7 of the historically accurate 8 Part Series

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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 inc. 139 BCE. The same vacuum that enabled this to happen was the same power vacuum that was later exploited by the Romans themselves. and , Simon’s great-grandsons, became pawns in a proxy between and . The deaths of Pompey (48 BCE), Caesar (44 BCE), and the related temporarily relaxed Rome’s grip on Israel, allowing a very brief Hasmonean resurgence backed by the .

Q. Was the resurgence long-lasting?

A. No. This short independence was rapidly crushed by the Romans under and . The installation of as king in 37 BCE made Israel a Roman and marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. During the late 1st century, Rome considered Judaism a , with protections and exemptions under that had been negotiated over two centuries Observant Jews had special rights, including the privilege of abstaining from the civic rites of . 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 in 6 and leading to a series of Jewish in the 1st–2nd centuries, including the (AD 66–73), the (115–117), and (132–135).

During the wars, temporary commonwealths were established, but they ultimately fell to the sustained might of Rome. under and , looted and burned (in the year 70), and Jewish strongholds (notably Gamla in 67 and in 73), and or 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 , as many Jews were scattered after losing their state or were sold into throughout the empire.

Q. Describe Roman rule in Judea in greater depth.

A. In AD 6, Rome joined proper, , and Idumea (biblical ) into the . In AD 44, Rome installed the rule of a side by side with the rule of the Herodian kings (specifically 41–44 and 50–100).

Q. How did Judea become part of Rome?

A. The History of the Jews in the Roman Empire generally traces the interaction of and during the period of the (27 BC — AD 476).

Q. When did their cultures begin to overlap?

A. Jewish and Roman culture began to overlap in the centuries just before the . Rome’s involvement in the dated from 63 BC, following the end of the , when Rome made a province. After the defeat of , the Pompeius Magnus () remained to secure the area, including a visit to the .

Jews, as part of the , migrated to and Roman Europe from the , , , and in response to economic hardship and incessant warfare over the land of Israel between the and 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 , 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 issued a decree expelling all 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 brothers and (descendants of Judah Maccabee) and 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 . This is likely how what became the 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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