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Avner Ecker

After the Babylonian exile, Jews returned to their city under Cyrus I and rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem in 539 bce. Jerusalem eventually became the only monotheistic centre within the Greco-Roman world. Most Jews regarded their temple as the only temple to Yahweh. Three annual pilgrimages from the entire Mediterranean basin marked the city’s life cycle. The temple grew rich through donations, tithes, and a voluntary tax given by Jews. The city of the Second Temple Period was run according to a set of Jewish religious laws. Antiochus IV attempted to mould it into a Greek-style polis and instigated the Maccabean revolt (167–160 bce). The riches of the temple allured Hellenistic and Roman rulers alike, whereas the unique religious character of Jewish Jerusalem posed continuous political challenges. Indeed, the city was besieged, and the temple occasionally plundered by a succession of Hellenistic and Roman conquerors. Jerusalem and the temple flourished under Herod and his dynasts (Plin. HN 5.


Bar Kokhba  

Werner Eck

Shim‘on Bar Kokhba lead the rebellion of a part of the Jewish people, who organized an independent Jewish state for the short period from 132 to 136, during the reign of Hadrian. The rebellion which was finally crushed by the Roman army with heavy effects for the Jewish heartland in the province Judea.

Bar Kokhba (“son of a star”) is a sobriquet given to Shim'on, the leader of the Jewish revolt from 132–136. In his own letters, his real name is—in Aramaic/Hebrew language—Shim'on bar/ben Kosiba (P. Yadin 50; XḤev/Se 30, et al.); in Greek sources he is called Βαρχωχεβας (Justin, Apol. 1.31.6; Euseb. Hist. eccl. 4.6.2; 4.8.4), or Χοχεβᾶς (Sync. 660) or in Latin Cochebas (Hieron. De vir ill. 21); for all forms of names see PIR2 B 53; S 746.

The name Bar Kokhba (“son of a star”) carries a positive messianic association; it should go back to Rabbi Akiba, with reference to Balaam’s statement in Numbers 24.17: A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of tumult. Akiba is said to have awarded him the title Messiah: “This is the king: messiah.” However, this assignment to Rabbi Akiba is probably unhistorical; it is an ascription made by later rabbis.


Cestius Gallus, Gaius, suffect consul, 42 CE  

Nadav Sharon

C. Cestius Gallus (d. 67 ce) is believed to have been the son of the consul of 35 ce by the same name (Tac. Ann. 6.31; Cass. Dio 58.25.2). He was appointed suffect consul in 42 ce (CIL VI 2015),1 and was appointed by Nero to be governor of Syria apparently in 63 ce, in place of Cn. Domitius Corbulo (Tac. Ann. 15.25), but certainly by 65.2As part of his position in Syria, he intervened in the situation in Judaea, which was growing increasingly tense during the tenure of the procurator Gessius Florus (64–66 ce), and he ultimately had an ignoble role in the beginnings of the Great Revolt in Judaea against Rome, 66–70 ce (Tac. Hist. 5.10; Joseph. BJ 1.20–21).His first recorded involvement with Judaea was in the spring of 66 ce,3 when he came to Jerusalem during the Jewish festival of Passover. The Jews approached him to denounce Florus’s cruelty (BJ 2.


diaspora, Jewish, 332 BCE–c. 600 CE  

Seth Schwartz

For some ancient Jews, “diaspora” (together with its cognates) was an actor’s and not an observer’s term. But its import was primarily theological: God punished the Jews for their sins by dispersing them from their native land of Israel. Yet “diaspora” retains analytic utility for historians, if taken to refer to the geographically and temporally varied modes of Jewish life outside Palestine. It is not known to what extent diaspora Jews were emigrants from Palestine and their descendants; nor do we know how numerous they were. But we can follow the evidence where it exists. The main lesson is that the onset of Roman rule created crises around the integration of the Jews into their host societies. Intentionally or not, in the cities of the east (and the big villages of Egypt) the Romans fomented discord between different elements of the population. In Egypt, this led at once to the ultimately lethal—for the Jews, anyhow—three-way competition between Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians. Even in Asia Minor, normally understood as the best-case scenario for Jews under Roman rule, the evidence indicates that Jewish life in the Roman imperial period was more fragile, constrained, fraught, and impermanent than is often supposed.