FALL OF MASADA
Is their story a symbol of courage, or is it simply a story inspired from Herodotus?
Since the late centuries BC untill the first and second centuries AD Rome ruled the known the civilized world with an iron fist. One of the provinces they rule was the area where İsrael today.
They ruled the area for a long time without having been encountered specific resistance. The unhappieness of the people of the area started to come out with the acts of a radical splinter group seperated from Jewish Zealots and they began to reflect this unhappieness short before the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD.
Roman-Jewish war & the destruction of Jeruslaem
The group was generally consisted of idealist, radical, angry young Jewish men, men who were heavily opposed to the Roman presence in their land. Their methods were different from other jews who were trying to live under the Roman occupation in peace or tried to fight them politically. This extremist group used to conduct terror-like attacks like setting carts in fire, conducting stage assassinations and creating kaos in the marketplaces. They were in fact a more radical & horrifying Jewish sect called as ''Sicarii'' by Romans.
These extremists among the Zealots turned to terrorism and assassination started to be known as Sicarii which means in latin ''The dagger men''. They frequented public places with hidden daggers to strike down persons friendly to Rome. In the first revolt against Rome (AD 66–70).
The Scariis were famous for their choice of weapon called as the the Sica. It was a short sword or large dagger commonly used by Illyrians, Thracians, and Dacians.
These Scarii concept can make the readers associate or recall another famous sect or group ''The Hassashins'' led by Hassan Sabbah. That sect was made famous by the novel ''Alamut'' written by Wladimir Bartol, than again by another novel ''Semerkand'' written by Amin Maulouf. The sect was also used as a material for the scenario of the Hollywood movie named ''The Prince of Persia''.
The hassashins are well known in the history with their suicide assasination agains the great Seljuk Vezir (Prime minister) Nizam-ül Mülk in a mosque while worshipping. They were a great power and kind of ''The Sword of Democles'' over the surrounding monarchies or empires. Just as the terrorist organisations of today, they have been used by leaders or politicians who pay them in order to conduct terrorist attacks to other opponents. The computer game The Assassins Creek'' had been inspired by them. The Hassassin sect had finally been swept out and destroyed by Mongolian herds.
Everything started to get more sinister just four years before the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, in a time that historians call “The Great Jewish Revolt”. The Sicarii left being secret and broke into Jerusalem, and began to stir the Jewish citizens to fight against Roman authority. When the Romans seiged the city, many Jews wanted to surrender but he Sicarii destroyed the city’s food supply so the Jews would have to fight against the Romans instead of negotiating. After the Romans took control, the Sicarii left the city towards the dead sea area and took over Masada. They slaughtered over 700 Roman soldiers in oırder to take control of the castle. They also took Antonia, and fought a guerrilla war against the Roman legions in Judea.
After the fall of Jerusalem the Romans began to restore order in Judaea by putting down any final resistance by Zealots. The last and longest of these process was the Siege of Masada.
Only a small number of Zealots escaped the massacre when Jerusalem fell. As mentioned above the Zealots & the Sicarii sect settled in the mountaintop fortress of Masada.
Ramp made by Romans which reaches to the fortress level of Masada
The Romans sieged Masada. They Built a circumvallation wall around the mountain. However, the resistance would last long, because the inhabitants of the castle had plentiful food and water supplies with the 12water cisterns around the castle top. When there is no other chance to enter into the castle because of its height and impossibilities to create an access point, he Romans started to build a massive earth ramp on the western side of the fortress. This ramp is still seen under the walls of ancient Masada today. The ramp was 600 m long and rose 61 m to the fortress walls. After reaching the ground level of the fortress, the Romans pushed a siege tower up the ramp. Soon there was a breach in the wall. The fortress has fallon to Romans. But, when the Romans entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had committed mass suicide. Jewish historian Josephus gave a full account of the siege by two women who survived by hiding inside a drain. They say, because suicide was against Jewish belief, the Sicarii had drawn lots to kill each other. Only the last man would be the only one to suicide. Masada was the last act of the Jewish war. The Jews became scattered into areas around the Mediterranean & thousands of them were sold into slavery.
For many, this story symbolizes Jewish heroism, courage and strength. it could be True or fiction, but the fact is that people of Masada managed to keep hold of the mountain for nearly three years.
Above is one of the 12 water cisterns in Masada. One of the largest water cisterns from Herod’s time which collected rainwater from the hill’s slopes. They were one of the most important reasons of how the Jews could defend the fortress for a long time. Below is a wiew from the top of Masada to the foots of the hill. The settlement ruins of Roman legions are still visible.
Speaking of this legendary decision and act of the people of Masada, it is necessary to make the readers informed that about the same story is being told for the people of ''Xantus'' which is a Lycian city at the southern part of Asia minor.
Trojan War heroes and Lycian leaders Glaucus and Sarpedon are described in the Iliad as coming from the land of the Xanthos River.
Both Herodotus and Appian describe the conquest of the city by Harpagus on behalf of the Persian Empire in approximately 540 BC. According to Herodotus, the Persians met and defeated a small Lycian army in the flatlands to the north of the city. After the encounter, the Lycians retreated into the city which was besieged by Harpagus.
Lycian Ancient City Xantus / Turkey
The Lycian warriors destroyed their own Xanthian acropolis, killed their wives, children, and slaves, then proceeded on a suicidal attack against the superior Persian troops. Thus, the entire population of Xanthos perished. As it has been seen many times, this story was also used two times by different civilisations which were present centuries far from each other. The source of the elder one is the famous historian Heredotos and the other one is the Jewish historian Josephus. One of them could have been inspired from the other one, both of them may be fiction or both are true. You decide.
We believe or not, these are the stories or legends which makes history more exciting.