A comprehensive and accessible study of two great ancient cities that finally came to fatal blows.
As a scholar of both Roman and Jewish studies, Goodman (Jewish Studies/Oxford) displays impressive depth in his fleshing out of the two cities in terms of their sense of identities, communities, lifestyles, government, politics and religion. Relying on the writings of the “main witness” Josephus, a priest in Jerusalem who eventually turned sides, Goodman demonstrates how Roman rule of Judea was relatively benign since Herod was appointed king in 40 BCE and devoted himself to rebuilding Jerusalem and embellishing his Temple. Both cultures adapted to the Hellenism pervasive in the area since Alexander’s conquest, and both were fairly tolerant of diversity. The first signs of trouble, writes Goodman, were mainly isolated skirmishes “largely internal to Jewish society rather than symptoms of widespread resentment to Roman rule.” After a series of venal Roman governors, the Captain of the Temple, Eleazar son of Ananias, persuaded his fellow priests in 66 CE to stop offering sacrifices made to the Jewish God on behalf of the Roman emperor—an assertion of war by the ruling elite. Roman reaction was swift and brutal over the next four years, culminating in Emperor Vespasian’s instructions to his son Titus to squelch the rebellion at any cost. With the razing of the Temple in the summer of 70 CE, 60 years of rebellion followed, and Hadrian’s new Roman city Aelia Capitolina was established on the site. Goodman pursues the growth of the Church in the wake of Constantine’s embrace of Christianity, which changed the nature of the region and pushed Jews increasingly to the margins. He also devotes a fine epilogue to the origins of anti-Semitism.
Absorbing work by a strong, capable writer and teacher who imparts his vast knowledge with great style and clarity.