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Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  332 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A magisterial history of the titanic struggle between the Roman and Jewish worlds that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

In 70 C.E., after a four-year war, three Roman legions besieged and eventually devastated Jerusalem, destroying Herod’s magnificent Temple. Sixty years later, after further violent rebellions and the city’s final destruction, Hadrian built the new city
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Hardcover, 624 pages
Published October 23rd 2007 by Knopf (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,148)
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Genia Lukin
Rather than writing a complete, coherent review I am simply going to list the many points which make this book a serious suspect in my mind insofar as historical writing goes:

* For one, it's simply dull. this is the least of its sins, but even academic writing should be mildly interesting to read.

* The writer creates a somewhat absurd picture comparing the Romans and the Jews of the second temple period in minute point after minute point, which somehow repeatedly gets either reduced to stereotyp
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Pete daPixie
Oh mighty tome this is. A brilliant history of two centuries, possibly the most important period in world history. Pompey,Jesus,Vespasian,Titus,Masada,Bar Kochba,Hadrian,Claudius,Josephus. If anyone reads any history book, this is it, if only to understand the middle east conflict of the 21st century.
David Withun
This book was not only an excellent comparison and contrast of the Greco-Roman pagan world with that of early Judaism, but also a great introduction to the first century Mediterranean world in general, explaining very well the cultural contexts out of which Christianity and post-Temple Judaism both grew. The only two faults I can find with the book are: 1. there is not enough discussion of the repercussions of the relationship between Greco-Roman pagans and ancient Jews on the Middle Ages and th ...more
Emily
This is one of the most sensitive treatments of Jewish-Roman relations and cultural similarities & differences that I have read. It is intended for a mass-market audience, and thus is quits easy to read, although still full of great detail and scholarly discretion. The book is largely focused on first century: he describes the status quo leading up to the first Jewish war with Rome (66-72 CE), ultimately arguing that the conflict arose in response to a series accidents rather than concrete R ...more
Tom Stallard
An insightful and in-depth analysis of the war between Rome and Jerusalem in 66-70AD, discussing the reasons for the war and the ultimate results in subsequent centuries, as well as the legacy we see today. The book itself has incredible levels of detail, sometimes to its benefit and sometimes its detriment. Having become interested in this very specific period of history, it was excellent for me, but I can't imagine the average reader, with a more general interest, would be able to sit through ...more
Caroline
This book is about the run-up to and the aftermath of the Great Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It explores the tensions and hostilities that led to the war between the Jewish state and the Roman Empire and examines the similarities and differences between the two sides. It also tries to explain why the Roman reaction to the Jewish Revolt was so much harsher than other similar rebellions against the Roman Empire and how it led to the rise in antisemitism ...more
Trebenaid
May 29, 2008 Trebenaid rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs, biblical researchers
Recommended to Trebenaid by: self
A well written organized comprehensive look at the cultures of the Romans and the Jews. This book takes you back there during biblical times but without the religious rhetoric that so many histories carry from that era. The jewish religion is looked on objectively. Then it is compared side by side with the Romans' seeming debauchery. But done so in a fashion that does not demean either culture. "Facts, just the facts." And this author researched them. This is a must read for anyone interested in ...more
Douglas
A massive book which in great detail describes the culture of the Romans and the culture of the Jews explaining how there was no natural animosity between them. And how by the quirks of history the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans followed by Imperial persecution of the Jews by a succession of Emperors, a policy which developed into that of the Christian Church , which blamed the Jews for the death of Christ, after its fortunate conversion of the Empire. And so the Jewish cultural ...more
Mark Sequeira
Have I reviewed this yet? Excellent, intriguing book that I only have a few qualms with but overall, like Josephus, Alfred Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah and N.T. Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God" and "Jesus and the Victory of God," "Herod" by Richardson, "Pontius Pilate" by Wroe, as well as Richard Horseley's books, this is a great resource for first century israel and the world Jesus lived in. I am still reading it but think it is a great read so far.
Monique
This book depends heavily on one of the only remaining sources for the period, the Jewish general Josephus who became a Roman citizen after the revolt of 66 CE. The author argues that Roman anti-semitism can be dated to the revolt and its aftermath; before that, he shows quite comprehensively, Jews and Romans shared a wide range of cultural and social practices. He includes a huge amount of evidence from Jewish and Roman history, but the argument remains clear.
Wayne Saxe
A comparative history of the Roman and Jewish (via Jerusalem) societies that lead to the destruction of the 2nd Temple.

Much like getting to know your parents as people and not mythical figures, it was very gratifying to get to know the history of the religion in a much more realistic light. Well written.
Jeffery Lawson
All that you've ever wanted to know about first century Romans and Jews is in this book. It's very detailed and thorough yet Goodman's elegant prose keeps the pages turning. I've found it to be an insightful look into the world out of which Christianity emerged.
Stephen Cadywold
It took a while to get through it, but it was worth it. Highly readable and a fascinating glimpse into life and institutions in Rome and Jerusalem in the Roman world and the events of the first century AD/CE which have had consequences ever since.
Hans
I'm a sucker for books like this. Very informative! Great contrasting method!
Chris Wolfe
The reason I began studying Roman history is to give me a better understanding of Jewish and Christian history. I rendered to Caesar in order to deepen my understanding of the history of Christianity.

Rome and Jerusalem was one of the first books I tried to read. It did not take more than 3 chapters in to realize this was not a book to be read lightly. R&J is an in-depth work on the cultural, political, economic, and history of Romans and Jews during the time around Christ's birth and death.
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Christopher Bryan
When I saw that Martin Goodman had written a book devoted to events surrounding the so-called "Jewish war" of 66-70, I expected to be impressed. I wasn't disappointed. Goodman writes as an historian, which means, among other things, that he makes a serious effort to bring the past before us for its own sake, and at least partly for the mere delight of examining it. So, in the former part of his study, he offers lucid and informative chapters on the nature and makeup of the Roman Empire at this p ...more
Terence
Overall, a good book about a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. In this case the author argues that up to the Jewish War (AD 66-70) there was no inevitability about the subsequent anti-Semitism of Western civilization -- Rome and Jerusalem could accomodate each other. It was only when the newly installed Flavian dynasty had to legitimize itself that the Jewish War and the "differentness" of the Jews became a central tenet of Roman political ideology, which (combined with the Christians' need t ...more
Christa
Oct 10, 2011 Christa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bible scholars, interested in History, interested in Ancient History, interested in Jewish history
Shelves: history
I picked up this book at the library while researching the Jewish War and was disappointed at first. While I thought the book was going to be about the conflict, it was actually about the cultural differences and events leading up to the war, while on the last third or less actually discusses the military action. BUT, that being said, after I adjusted my expectation of the book, I found it to be excellent. The discussions comparing and contrasting Roman and Jewish cultural expectations were insi ...more
Dave
I had read so many raving reviews about this book that I picked up the paperback version. I knew it wasn't fiction, but still expected a pseudo-scientific story. I mean, it was published in paperback, right?

It started out nicely, carried by a strong premise where the Jewish and Roman cultures of that era are compared on various topics. Interesting enough, and Goodman managed to set things up in an accessible, thorough manner. At just past the midway point the story started to crumble like - oka
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John Otte
A fascinating look at how the Roman Empire interacted with the Jews leading up to the First Revolt in 66 CE. Goodman examines a lot of data and evidence to see if things were really as antagonistic as people are usually led to believe. And, as is usually the case, it turns out that things are a lot less clear-cut as we might originally believe.

This subject has always been fascinating to me ever since I did a project about Jerusalem during this time period. I found some of his conclusions interes
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Alexander Kennedy
It was an insight analysis of how these two separate culture interacted. Goodman dispels the myth that Rome constantly oppressed Jerusalem. He provided good insight into the daily life of Romans and Jews and had some insightful stories about some famous men.
Jane Sandberg
So I only managed to get halfway through chapter two of this book. I wasn't expecting to have so much trouble finishing this book; it's a period in history which I find fascinating, and I generally don't have too much trouble reading books with a more academic tone. These weren't issues; the issue was that the book is constantly getting sidetracked by irrelevant details and digressions. Any sense of narrative is shattered by the author's self-indulgent tangents. I probably could have gotten a lo ...more
Lisa
A comprehensive look at the two cities that have shaped the religion (and thus the history) of Europe for the last couple thousand years. The book starts with an account of the revolt in 66, then backtracks to do an exhaustive (or perhaps exhausting, depending on your point of view) compare and contrast of the two cities, their people, and cultures. It is only after all this that the run-up to the revolt is chronicled, and then the book proceeds to the aftermath and its reverberations through hi ...more
Heather
I saw this book in the Tel Aviv airport while waiting for my flight to Rome. It seemed timely and I wanted to understand more about the ancient history and connection of these two great cities, but it was kind of beyond my scope of understanding and interest for now. I did enjoy looking at the maps and pictures of places I now recognize a little bit. It's obvious that both have a very rich and complex history and it was interesting to think about their influence on each other historically. I lea ...more
Mirna Campa
IS THE BEST BOOK
Eric
Very comprehensive, packed with information, a little dense, so not for light reading days....
Charlie
A pretty dense work comparing and contrasting Rome and Jerusalem of the first century. Lots of detail on the cultures, religion, politics from a lot of interesting primary sources of the day. The main point is how the Roman war against the Jews in about 67 AD came about and why the persecution lasted and why the treatment of the Jews was so different than other subjugated peoples. I learned a lot that I'll never remember.
Reynold Byers
A good book and full of interesting details. the drawback is that it was so full of details that it was difficult to keep the arc of the story/thesis in mind. I am partial to dry, academic books, but this was too dry and detailed at times even for me. It was a worthwhile read to learn about the relationship between Rome and Jersulaem, what led up to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the beginnings of anti-semitism.
Andy Field
Finally finished this. It was a mixed bag, lots and lots of interesting facts but it lacked pace and hence was not easy to read. The military details of the Jewish revolt came too early in the book instead of working up to it. So in summary worth reading but is a book to dip in and out of. I did learn a lot but it was hard going.
Christian
Very well-researched and well-argued book about the conflicts of Roman and Jewish civilizations in the Roman Empire. Book is pretty dense as the middle section is mostly ethnography in parallel, so it can be tough to slog through, but definitely worth keeping at until you finish.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Martin David Goodman is a historian and writer on Roman history and the history of the Jews in the Roman period.
More about Martin Goodman...
The Roman World 44 BC AD 180 Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the Religious History of the Roman Empire Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome A.D. 66-70 Jews in a Graeco-Roman World Suffer & Survive: The Extreme Life of Dr J.S. Haldane

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