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The Roman Siege of Masada

  • Christopher Hawkes
Extract

The arid plateau of the Judaean wilderness drops on the east to the trough of the Dead Sea in a long range of sheer cliffs, which are pierced about 32 miles south of the mouth of the Jordan by the ravine of the Wad-el-Hâfâf. On its northern flank a huge mass of their red limestone has split away to form an isolated flat-topped crag standing 1700 feet above the Dead Sea about a mile and a half from its western shore.

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1 Lynch, , Official Report of U.S. Expedition to explore the Dead Sea and River Jordan, p. 330 ff.

2 Quarterly Statement of Palestine Exploration Fund, 1869, p. 146 ff.

3 The topography in Josephus, , Bell. Jud. 7, 280 ff. and 305 is clear enough if it be borne in mind (1) that the descriptions are as from inside Masada, (2) that the whole, fortress-area and the northern summit are to be distinguished from each other.

4 Schulten, , Nutnantia 3, p. 23 fails to see this.

5 Compare Scipio’s offensive and defensive troops at Numantia: Appian, Iberica, 92, Schulten, op. cit. p. 45. A similar disposition of forces characterized the whole Roman frontier system, the consolidation of which by the Flavians was beginning at the time of the siege of Masada, cf. p. 213 below.

6 Lynch, , op. cit. p. 330; Rey, , Voyage dans le Haouran, p. 284; von Domaszewski, , De Provincia Arabia, 3, p. 224.

7 As its interior was solid earth, Josephus ‘phrase’ burnt up through its hollowness’, Bell.Jud. VII, 316, is puzzling. Probably the timbers burnt out and created hollow flues by which the fire penetrated the whole structure; such a process was adduced by Déchelette to explain the ‘vitrified forts’ of Western Europe: Manuel, II. 2, p. 704 ff.

8 The references to Josephus (Teubner text) for the forgoing narrative are : for earlier history Antiq.Jud. XIV, 296, 335, 390-400; XV, 184: Bell. Jud. 1, 236, 266; 11, 408, 433-4, 447, 653; IV, 399-405, 503-6, 555; for topography and account of siege VII, 252-407.

09 See pages 195, 197.

10 Josephus, , Antiq.Jud. 14, 394.

11 For photographs taken from the ground, see especially von Domaszewski, op. cit. figs. II02–6, 1109–1113, ni5–ii20, and Taylor’s edition(Traill’s translation)of Josephus Bell.Jud. (1847–51), vol. I, p. 232, vol. 11, pp. 87, 238; letterpress vol. 11, pp. cix–cxv.

12 Richmond’s, 4th summary, Yorks. Arch. Journal, 29, pp. 225231, with diagram.

13 e.g. scenes XI–XII, XVI–XVII, XX, XXXIX, LX, LXV.

14 So Schulten (plan vili, 5) has reconstructed the corresponding type of tower on Scipio’s siege-wall at Numantia; but there seem to be passages through some of the Masada towers.

15 Appian, Iberica, 90.

16 Schulten, , plan 8, 2. cf. Caesar, , Bell. Gall, 7, 72, 4.

17 von Domaszewski, p. 224.

18 Schulten, pp. 32, 82–3.

19 Schulten, p. 100.

20 ibid. pp. 25–37 (correcting Appian loc. cit.), 101, 191.

21 Rey, op. cit. pp. 284,294. Hence Schulten’s unsatisfactory plan VIII. 7, cf. p. 87.

22 Bell. Jud. 7, 5.

23 C.I.L. III, p. 857, dipl. XIV.

24 Dessau, 8970 : Pliny, Panegyricus, 14. 1.

25 Dessau, 9059.

26 Probably of a headquarters building : see pi. in in P.S.A. Scot.xxx.ni (1898), pp. 198–249.

27 J.R.S. 9 (1919), p. 3 ff.

28 cf. Tacitus, , Annals, 15. 6, 2 : ‘hibernavisse raptim erectis tuguriis’.

29 e.g. the ‘great camp’ at Newstead: Curle, , Roman Frontier Post, p. 15 ff.

30 p. 225.

31 Tacitus, , Annals, 1. 61. 3.

32 Dio, uvi. 21. I.

33 Bell. Jud. 3. 70109.

34 1, 23.

35 III, 8.

36 ch. 21.

37 ch. 55.

38 ch. 56.

39 1, 23.

40 von Domaszewski p. 225.

41 e.g. scenes VIII and LIII : cf. Josephus, III. 120.

42 Schulten, pp. 128–132.

43 Vita Hadriani x: Dio, LXIX. 9.

44 ch. 11.

45 von Domaszewski, p. 226.

46 Yorks. Arch. Journal, 28, pp. 2627.

47 Thus the meaning of Hyginus’ ‘right’ and ‘left’ remains uncertain, despite von Domaszewski, p. 226.

48 e.g. scenes X, LXXVII, CIV, CXXXVII.

49 Schulten, p. 155.

50 As ibid. p. 197.

51 As von Domaszewski rashly assumes, pp. 226–7.

52 Tacitus, , Annals, 2. 13.1: (Germanicus) ‘egressus augurali per occulta et vigilibus ignara’, is uncertain evidence against this; Silver Latin could use augurale loosely for the whole praetorium (Quintilian, VIII, 2. 8).

53 Schulten, p. 129.

54 See note 58.

55 Tacitus, , Annals, 15. 30. 1.

56 ch. 11.

57 e.g. scene XXX.

58 Immediately north of the headquarters; see schematic plan in Bonner Jahrbücher, 111–112 (1904), p. 89.

59 So at least Hyginus ch. 3.

60 Tacitus, Annals, 1. 18. 3, 28. 9. The events of Histories, III. 13 are to be similarly explained.

61 III. 8.

62 ch. 20; cf. ch. 15 and p. 210 below.

63 The standards could probably be on either side; cf. the position of their shrine at Neuss, see p. 208 and note 58.

64 ch. 9.

65 ibid. ch. 18. It was used for hostages, spoils of war, etc.

66 ch. 4.

67 ibid. ch. 1.

68 ibid. ch. 18.

69 ibid. ch. 1.

70 There were thus 30–40 men to a century (nominally 80); cf. 31 effectives + 9 details present in a century in an Egyptian papyrus of 90 A.D.: Parker, Roman Legions, p. 208.

71 Josephus, , Bell.Jud. 3, 82.

72 Parker, op. cit. p. 211.

73 ch. 15.

74 ch. 14.

75 cf. von Domaszewski, p. 232.

76 see p. 199.

77 Hyginus, ch. 28.

78 pp. 231–233 and fig. 1114.

79 von Domaszewski noticed one, but identified the others as a magazine and a centurions’ dining–tent. His theory of centurions’ tents all grouped together is doubtful.

80 e.g. Schulten, plan XXXIX, nos. 33–40: cf. pp. 210–11.

81 P.S.A.Scot, XXXIII, p1. VI, fig. 7.

82 Described to me in a letter by Mr Richmond.

83 That there was no circumvallation here, as Schulten and others have thought, is confirmed by Collingwood, , Antiquaries Journal, 6, pp. 83–4.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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