Saturday, 5 June 2021

Masada - The Sicarii

The Sicarii were a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots who, in the decades preceding Jerusalem's destruction in 70 CE, heavily opposed the Roman occupation of Judea. The Sicarii carried sicae, or small daggers, concealed in their cloaks. At public gatherings, they pulled out these daggers to attack Romans and sympathizers alike, blending into the crowd after the deed. The Sicarii were likely one of the earliest forms of an organized assassination unit.
Masada is one of the most visited sites in Israel. It contains ancient palaces and fortifications located on top of an isolated rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.

Masada (‘fortress’ in Hebrew) became known for its significance in the First Jewish-Roman War. In the first century A.D. a thousand Jewish rebels took over the fortress and were surrounded by the Roman army, which left behind the most complete siege works in the world. When defeat was imminent, the rebels chose to commit suicide.
Located about a 90 minute drive south from Jerusalem, the fortress was built during the time of King Herod between 37 and 31 BCE.

The eastern side of the rock falls in a sheer drop of about 450 meters (1500 feet) down to the Dead Sea basin, the lowest point on earth.

In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Judaea, Lucius Flavius Silva headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. The Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau.
Remnants of one of several legionary camps of X Fretensis at Masada, outside the circumvallation wall.

The inscription reads IVDEA CAPTA. Coins inscribed Ivdaea Capta (Judea Captured) were issued throughout the Empire
The ramp was complete in the spring of 73, after several months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram. When Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other. Only two women and five children were found alive.