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Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations

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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 of Aelia Capitolina where Jerusalem had once stood. Jews were barred from entering its territory. They were taxed simply for being Jewish. They were forbidden to worship their god. They were wholly reviled.

What brought about this conflict between the Romans and the subjects they had previously treated with tolerance? Martin Goodman—equally renowned in Jewish and in Roman studies—examines this conflict, its causes, and its consequences with unprecedented authority and thoroughness. He delineates the incompatibility between the cultural, political, and religious beliefs and practices of the two peoples. He explains how Rome’s interests were served by a policy of brutality against the Jews. He makes clear how the original Christians first distanced themselves from their origins, and then became increasingly hostile toward Jews as Christian influence spread within the empire. The book thus also offers an exceptional account of the origins of anti-Semitism, the history of which reverberates still.

An indispensable book.

624 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Martin Goodman

48 books18 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Dmitri.
202 reviews158 followers
August 14, 2022
Martin Goodman is one of the recent heavyweight historians of the Roman period of biblical times. Goodman edited the Oxford Bible Commentary on the Apocrypha, an assignment a serious scholar would not accept lightly. This book may be the most widely published and popular work by Goodman to date. I hope he'll continue to write work of this quality in the future.

This is not just a straightforward account of the events about the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Instead Goodman lays out in detail aspects of the social, economic, religious, political and military context of the times, not only of Rome and Jerusalem but also other contemporary cultures. The result synthesizes separate fields of study

A problem of his approach may lie in the many paths that are pursued. It is not simply a narrative of events, combining thematic history as well. At times the reader may feel adrift, but in the end patience is rewarded. The story returns to a main question: how did the pragmatic paganism of Romans and the monotheistic faith of Jews came into conflict with Christianity?

Goodman deconstructs the classic dualism between the City of God vs. the City of Man. Jerusalem's theocracy (a term said to have been coined by Josephus) had peacefully co-existed with the Roman monarchy before. Civil chaos in Rome following the death of Nero would lead to destruction of the Second Temple by Vespasian and his heir Titus in the Jewish War of 66-73.

Following the reduction of Jerusalem, Goodman traces the repression of Jews by Rome and also the eventual rise of Christianity in the 4th century. A result of the period was to distance Christians from Jews for political reasons. It was a factor in the advent of early anti-semitism. There is not much controversy in the analysis, which reflects well on the research of the author.
Profile Image for Genia Lukin.
231 reviews179 followers
August 27, 2011
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 stereotypes where differences are irreconcilable, or smoothed over where it is possible to show by some spectacular way that these differences barely exist.

-The existence of the soul has, apparently, been stolen in an incomplete fashion by the Greeks: it's clearly impossible for anyone to have invented the concept themselves. Which it's certainly true Jews took much in the way of Greek philosophical tools, it's equally true that very few of the contents managed the cultural transfer and assimilated. They were around, but it was more akin to oil floating on the surface.

-Historiography certainly was not something that Greece had to teach the Jews. The styles of historiographic narrative are markedly different, and clearly influenced contemporary Jewish thought, but Jewish historiography is not nonexistent, as Maccabees attests. The assertion that Jews had "only the haziest idea" of the previous three-hundred years is rankly laughable. Simply because we have no specific texts from the period testifying coherent historiography, is absence of evidence, from which one can hardly draw conclusion, considering the wholesale destruction of the two upcoming revolts. Absence of evidence, Mr. Goodman should know, is not evidence of absence.

* Saying that Romans and Jews lived in perfect accord seems to completely forget the rebellious inclinations of Provincia Judaea, that were there to begin with. The Jews were disinclined to accept Roman rule, having tasted independence with the Hasmoneans, and while it's certainly true that in the beginning the amount of strife and collision was insignificant, minor and overshadowed by mutual benefit, it's equally true that there existed a philosophy crying against government by a foreign power. not by the rich elite, perhaps, but by the poor people certainly. It's easily visible in the grumbling against the population census, the emergence of the Fourth Philosophy, and event the outcry against the Herodian Dynasty.

* Asserting that Antisemitism originates with the Flavian dynasty is putting rather a burden on the Flavian dynasty and simplifying the nature of antisemitism. Not to mention reducing the place of such works as Against Apion. Against Apion rather implies, to most scholars, the relative common distribution of Apion's work and philosophy. If Josephus had to come out against it, Antisemitism couldn't be a complete unknown.

* Implying that the church merely rode on the political coat-tails of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian is very nice for the church, but the attempt to excuse the church from originating and generating a large chunk of European antisemitism is misplaced, as we find it commonly and everywhere.

While Goodman describes with fair accuracy the events leading to the Great Revolt and the Bar Kochba Revolt, his thesis concerning the nature of Roman and Jews relationships fails in the detail, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Pete daPixie.
1,505 reviews3 followers
December 9, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Jon.
295 reviews9 followers
September 17, 2017
This is ostensibly an in-depth look at the context in which (and causes of) the rebellion of the Jews against Rome occurred around 70 A.D., resulting in the destruction of Herod's temple. The opener sets up the circumstances, detailing the rebellion itself. Goodman, however, wonders why the rebellion occurred, when other cultural entities taken over by the Roman Empire did not have similar rebellions and when the Jews, in many ways, were so well integrated into the system.

He begins by describing the two cities in the first century. Rome was a cultural and political hegemon. Jerusalem was a religious one. Both were international cities, taking in people from around the empire, though for their varying purposes.

Next, Goodman turns to what living in the Roman Empire was like. He starts by looking in part at how Herod Agrippa came to power (via in-fighting among the Jews, who essentially invited the Romans to take over to settle disputes). Agrippa was appointed as king eventually, being a Jewish convert/outsider of sorts but also a friend of a certain Roman politician in power. Although criticized in the New Testament, he was known for his piety among the Jewish peoples. Maintaining power was a political game, one that often had to do with who was in favor or in charge in Rome.

Goodman then turns to a discussion of diversity in the empire, and as he does so, he rather loses sight of Jerusalem, focusing on various other parts of the empire, in part to help establish how Rome interacted with its various vassals. Of note in this section is how Rome had a certain love for the exotic. Writings often focused on the strange. Our views of the empire largely come from Roman or Greek writers, however (Greece remained the cultural hegemon throughout the eastern empire and Rome adopted many of its customs as its own). One would get the impression that the subject peoples never wrote, but Goodman shows how such peoples did likely write of their own places. Most such writings did not survive, however; in cases where they did, there was usually some reason or advantage for its presentation, such as that of an early Spanish writer. The Jewish people, in this way, were unique, since so much of their writings were preserved.

Next comes a discussion of citizenship. Being Roman initially meant being of the city, then of Italy. But citizenship came to have more and more expansive meanings. One could buy it or be born into a mixed marriage or even be freed as a slave and then granted it. What it meant to be Roman slowly became watered down, until the third century, when all peoples in the empire would declared citizens. Whether people thought of themselves more as Romans or more as Gauls or whatever subject peoples they were depended on the person. Paul was born Roman, for example, but one would hardly see him as typical--for he was a Jew first. Meanwhile, some Greek writers of the time were thoroughly of the empire, serving in the Senate, though they were not of Roman heritage. To be Jewish carried similar quandaries, since one could convert to Judaism, meaning that ethnicity was only part of the Jewish identity--religion also played its part. If one were of mixed marriage, one was likely a Jew if one's father was Jewish . . . or later, one's mother. The shift from patrilineal to matrineal heritage happened between the third century BCE and the third century CE.

Differing concepts of time and history also come up. Rome had little sense of deep time--it did not know much about its origins and had to make up parts of its early history. But recent history was well documented. For the Jewish people, it was just the opposite. The Bible goes back to the origin of humanity, and the early history of the Jewish people, their judges and kings, was written out in full. But coming into the first century, history fairly well dropped off after Ezra. There was a lot less written about the Jewish people in the intertestamental era. Romans were heavily concerned about preserving parts of themselves for posterity--making some kind of monument to themselves in terms of their deeds and what they left behind. Jewish people were less interested in this, their faith focusing instead on God and on doing well for him. That said, Herod's building of the temple certainly was an attempt by him to maintain his name and reputation into posterity.

Kinship ideas among the two peoples had similarities and differences as well. The father was largely the head of the household for both. The Jewish people historically had maintained extended families, but by this time the focus was more on the nuclear family, as in Roman society. And yet, in Roman society, this focus was complex. The paterfamilia maintained, in many respects, control over the family to multiple generations. You could be a son or grandson, married and out on one's own, but you were still legally under the paterfamilia's jurisdiction. What mitigated this was that fact that lifespans were typically short(er): fortysomething.

Divorce was fairly common in both societies. Roman marriages were essentially "living together" arrangements and rarely lasted a lifetime. Stepfamilies were the norm, both because of divorce and the shorter lifespans. The Jewish peoples had contractual marriage, but a man could fairly easily divorce his wife (not so easily the wife her husband, as under the law she technically could not).

Friendship among Romans was generally a tit-for-tat sort of thing. If one did someone a favor, then one was a friend. One generally did not do favors for nonfriends, and favors were used to cultivate friendship. Among the Jewish people, there was more of a culture of charity (based on religion), which meant that they had a reputation as a people among whom there were many beggars.

Another chapter focuses on common beliefs. Romans celebrated birthdays; Jewish people generally did not. Romans practiced birth control and considered abortion and infanticide as means toward that. Until a baby was formally recognized by its father, it was not considered a real human; often newborn babies were left out (exposed) when not wanted, allowed to die. A common device in Roman plays was that of the abandoned baby taken in by another family and then reunited as an adult with its biological family. While birth control was practiced among the Jewish people, abortion was generally frowned upon, especially once the fetus took on human features, and infanticide was strictly forbidden.

Ideas of the afterlife varied among both peoples. Historically, Romans had focused mostly on the here-and-now, while the Jewish peoples had a notion of a spiritual realm and a possible afterlife (the resurrection being an item of dispute). Both eventually were heavily influenced by the Greeks and took on Greek beliefs about the eternal soul.

Burial practices among the peoples also differed. Romans burned bodies and preserved the ashes in cemetaries. Poor people were buried together, but as Rome grew better off, they too took to the upper-class way of cremation. Jewish peoples buried bodies whole, often in caverns or in holes covered with stone.

The Jewish peoples had the creation story and one God; the Romans had a pantheon of gods who were not necessarily seen as being intimately involved in human affairs (some were, some not). History started with the foundation of Rome or with the gods, not so much with creation. Astrology was common among both peoples, but mostly later on--probably adopted from Greeks, Egyptians, and Babylonians. Jewish teaching, however, discouraged its practice, and some writers claimed that Abraham had once practiced the art but gave it up when he realized that God created all and had control over all.

The relationship of humans to animals differed quite a bit. Jewish people believed in treating animals with kindness, but also looked at them mostly as creatures for work and food. There doesn't seem to be much of a record of them using animals as pets. Romans, by contrast, were much more affectionate to animals but also much more cruel. Records of animals as pets exist, and some buried animals, like dogs, with epitaphs much as some do today. A dog, among Jewish people, would have largely been for tending sheep or guarding a home. However, Romans also engaged in sport with animals much more--hunting or fighting and killing them in front of an audience, as at the sports arena. Herod's love for hunting is placed, by historians, within a Roman context: it was hunting for sport not food, since the creatures killed were not kosher.

Of particular interest to me was a short section on moral philosophies. Goodman summarizes three Roman systems: Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Cynicalism. Epicureanism has a reputation of being one in which anything goes so far as the pleasures of this life are concerned, for it taught that pleasure is the be all and end all of living. But what this really meant wasn't so much hedonism as it meant avoiding pain. Because seeking one's own pleasure can result in pain, ascetism could be the means by which Epicureans pursued pleasure--avoid difficult situations by avoiding things that would bring them about, such as a public life or politics. Stoicism, by contrast, taught that virtue was the highest thing to be sought, and it was by virtue that happiness was to be gained. Other "goods" (pleasure, riches, and fame) were counterfeits. If attained via virtue, that was fine, but they were not to be sought for their own sake.

Cynicism taught "that life should be 'lived according to nature'"; they rejected cultural norms, materialism, and strivings after wealth, power, fame, and intellectual high thinking. Concerns about race, sex, and class were all pointless. They were, in a sense, anarchists.

Religion paid little role in these means of deciphering morality. By contrast, for the Jews, religion was, of course, the center of one's moral thinking, and what was right and wrong was laid out in the scriptures. Thinking often focused on gray areas, delineating things the scriptures hadn't outright answered. Ideas of about guilt, sin, and repentence, common in Jewish thinking, had no part in Roman thoughts about morality.

Next comes a discussion of the varying lifestyles of the two peoples, which can be clearly seen in their attitudes toward the body. Romans thought little of nudity, and muscled nude male sculptures, some in actual states of arousal, were common. Genders mixed in the public baths, and lust prevailed. Sex outside of formal marriage, it is implied, was fairly common, even if private (though displays of sex in artwork were not uncommon). Homesexuality was permitted, especially between men of power and weaker men. Jewish peoples, by contrast, had strictures against any sex outside of marriage. Bodies--let alone people or animals--were rarely displayed in art. The emphasis was on purity. When Jewish people engaged in bathing it was in large part often for purification, more so than pleasure or even cleanliness.

For spectator events, the Romans had plays, singing, mime troops, gladiatorial bouts, and chariot races. Jewish life was comparatively staid. Among the spectator (and participatory) events among them was dancing.

Both Jewish and Roman societies had a heavy emphasis on law, with extensive codes. But their attitudes toward war were a bit different. Rome used war as a means of extending power, collecting taxes, and consolidating power (for the emperor). It was heroic. The Jewish nation's attitude toward war was more ambivalent. It could be used for similar things for which Rome used war (extending power over other nations and gaining tributary), but warriors were not typically glamorized in the same sense (and often that glamour went to God, with the warrior himself disparaged for the taking of life). Roman war was vicious, with looting, rape, and other horrors common for the victors, which is one reason it was best to surrender. Romans were also perserverant: a battle might be lost, but Rome would return over and over until it won the war. Jewish credo often emphasized mercy: give the enemy the opportunity to surrender, don't cut down the fruit trees, and so on. Battle rules were written out even in the Bible. Some genocide was mandated (for peoples of Canaan), but rules for other peoples were less total in mandated destruction.

As for who had status and power in each society, Goodman sums it up nicely: "In Rome, political status derived primarily from wealth, noble ancestry, age, and (above all) military glory. In Jerusalem, what mattered was lineage (priestly or royal), learning in the law and (occasionally) a claim to divine inspiration." Romans showed off their power by showing off wealth--paying for people to enjoy the "bread and circus." Emperors often derived from the same family (or adopted family). Wisdom was accorded to age, though they put forth an effort to appease young folk with activities. And of course, success on the battlefield accorded with political power. For the Jewish peoples older generally meant wiser too, but after age fifty, priests were forced to retire. Little was done to "appease" youths, so it seems those in the middle ages were those accorded the most power. More important was being of Levitical heritage and being a scholar. Showing off one's wealth was not generally seen as a necessarily good thing, and one could be a "poor" scholar and have a modicum of respect from among the people.

Jewish people were spread throughout the empire, and their Sabbath and many of their ways came to be known among the Romans. For the most part, the two existed in relative harmony. A large Jewish population lived in Rome itself, and although they were kicked out in 19 and 49, these appear to have been temporary dismissals and perhaps not even in total. In 19, the dismissal may have had to do with various Roman rites and a turn back toward the gods and symbolic purifying of the city in preparing for the change in emperor. In 49, there apparently had been an uprising by one Christus, but it's also possible that it was simply another purifying of the city. This dismissal is the context in which Paul finds Aquilla and Priscilla in Corinth in Acts, them having left Rome (but later to return, as denoted in the letter to the Romans). At this time, gatherings of Jews weren't allowed, but continuing practice of the Jewish religion could be completed discreetly.

The time from 6 to 66 CE in Jerusalem was one mostly of peace. Goodman recounts the various uprisings that occurred during this time but notes that they were likely minor, since they are barely mentioned (if at all) in Roman records. More often, these accounts come from Josephus (sometimes they're mentioned in the Gospels or Acts). Many such conflicts had to do with Jewish issues and power more than with insurrections against the Roman authorities. And even among the Jewish people, the diaspora Jews did not typically side against Rome in putting down Jerusalem, and the royal family actually supported Rome.

The question arises, then, why the Romans put the Jewish rebellion down so hard and destroyed the Temple. Goodman sees this as largely a fluke. In the quest to consolidate power, the aspiring emperor Vespasian needed a military victory, which his son Titus afforded him, through the conquest of the Jerusalem rebels. (Nero had recently died and various men took the spot as emperor in a short span, fighting among each other.) This demanded swift and heavy action. Even then, according to Goodman's interpretation, there was no plan to destroy the Temple (the Romans did not generally mess with local gods), but the military accidentally laid it on fire, and that was that. (Accounts differ as to the motive, with Josephus claiming accident, but Sulpicius Severus claiming intent.) There was also the issue that the priests had recently begun refusing to offer a sacrifice to God in honor of the emperor. With the Temple gone, the best way to pass off its destruction was to pass it off as purposeful.

Jerusalem itself was torn apart, the Jewish people killed in great numbers (over a million, according to Josephus), with the leftover one hundred thousand or so dispersed throughout the empire after enduring torture, selling into slavery, and so forth. Land in Jerusalem was taken from the Jewish people and handed to others (Gentiles); the priestly class itself disappeared.

Another thing that followed was a tax on being Jewish. The tax was equal to the temple tax; now that there was no temple, Rome claimed the same amount of money and used it to pay for a temple to Jupiter. Over the years, anti-Jewish feelings in Rome grew in part because Vespacian, Titus, and Domitian used the victory over Israel as a way to prop up their power, to emphasize their greatness. Domitian had no victories of his own--he was simply related to the other two emperors--so victory over Judaism was particularly important. Trajan, the next emperor, even invaded Parthia, taking over Mesopotamia, to which many Jews had fled.

The tax was done away with under the emperor Nerva, who was more kindly to the Jewish people, but any hope that the Temple would be rebuilt ended after Hadrian came to power. He reinstituted the tax. Although his emphasis was on peace and stability within the empire--thus he built Hadrian's wall on the border with Scotland and ended the Parthian campaign--he saw the Jewish peoples as adding instability. As such, he built a new city atop the ruins of Jerusalem and put a temple to Jupiter near the site of the former Jewish Temple. This, according to Goodman, sparked the Bar Khokhba revolt of 132-35. (Some scholars say that it was the revolt itself that sparked Hadrian to build over Jerusalem, but Goodman comes down on the other side of this debate. What sparked Hadrian to build over Jerusalem, however, was unclear to me in Goodman's text--perhaps, simply memories of the revolt of 115.)

In the third century, emperors finally took an easier hand with the Jewish peoples, removing the tax and allowing them to live by their customs without interference. They did not return to Jerusalem, however, though many still lived in the land of Palestine (Rome had renamed the region). Julian, just after Constantine, even made plans to rebuild the Temple, though not out of sympathy for the Jews but rather because he was against Christianity and thought sacrifices to be more in line with paganism.

The destruction of the temple in 66 also helped to separate the Jewish people from the sect of Christianity, which had initially been a sect of the Jewish religion. Christians were seen as atheists by Rome, since they did not align themselves with any god to whom sacrifices were owed. By going along with Jewish customs, they were subject to the tax on Jews; by not doing so, they were not subject to the tax, but then they were subject to persecution for not participating in Roman religious/civic rites. That said, Goodman sees persecution as coming mostly from local sources rather than from the empire itself, with a few brief exceptions.

By the time that Constantine made Christianity the official religion, it was a good deal different than its Jewish roots. Gone were many of the Jewish practices: dietary restrictions, the Sabbath, circumcision, concerns with purity. However, there was still a reliance on Scripture (if only metaphorically), a much more prudish attitude toward sex, a hate of abortion, a disdain for the worship of other gods, and an emphasis on charity. Constantine tried to settle various theological disputes to help shore up the unity of the church and the empire. He built Christian churches, where before there had been only house churches, often at the supposed site of martyrdoms. . . .
Profile Image for Jerome Otte.
1,763 reviews
September 25, 2015
In this less than straightforward but fair, comprehensive, accessible and judicious volume, Goodman examines the conflict between Rome and the Judean provinces, the various forms it took and how it eventually ended in the famous destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Despite the title, he strongly suggests that such a conflict was not inevitable (nor was the destruction of the Temple necessarily inevitable given that Roman generals typically avoided such destruction or attacks on enemy deities).

At the beginning of their relationship, such a destructive conflict seemed unlikely; Rome tolerated many lifestyles and institutions throughout their empire and even allowed the Jews an exemption from the common practice of emperor worship and from paying taxes in Sabbath years (despite the Romans’ general incomprehension of Judaism). They also granted the Jews a degree of autonomy, with local Jewish leaders remaining in place. Because Rome never really expected much trouble from the Jews, most of the governors sent to the region weren’t exactly qualified or capable (also, the Roman garrisons in the region were fairly small). Most of the book is an examination of this relationship, with the Jewish revolts receiving maybe a hundred or so pages in the last part of the book. One feels that Goodman could easily have cut at least two hundred pages of material.

Goodman argues that the catalyst for the more violent revolts was conflict between local Jews and Samaritans as well as the poor performance, tactlessness, and taxation policies of local administrators. To Goodman, the wars were mostly caused by a combination of chance, incompetence, and political calculations. When Titus besieged Jerusalem, Goodman argues, he had no intentions to destroy the Temple; it basically grew out of the indiscipline of soldiers. Once the temple was destroyed, Goodman writes, the Romans claimed victory over Judaism (rather than just the rebels) in order to mask the incompetence of the troops and the “bad omen” of destroying a foreign religious site.

The book, on a whole, cannot be called a page-turner. Much of it is devoted to related issues such as the inherent instability of a Roman emperor’s position, or how central the idea of the Jewish Temple was to the various Jerusalem factions ( who could agree on little else), and how its eventual destruction by Titus simply provoked more revolt (and the diaspora). In some ways, one could link the destruction of the Temple to the rise of anti-Semitism; given that Christianity as originally inseparable from Judaism, Christians in later ages would attempt to formalize and institutionalize such a separation, and began to conveniently forget the Jewishness of Jesus, His followers, and His fulfillment of Jewish law. And of course, the destruction of the Temple came about just as Jesus predicted.

The book is not without its shortcomings; the comparison between the two worlds often seems unnecessary or trivial. Also, it seems like the title was more of a publisher’s ploy; Goodman suggests that the catalyst for war was internal political issues rather than overt cultural differences, and the entire second section of the book feels tacked-on, full of trivial minutiae, and often utterly unnecessary. Also, the index seems inadequate.

Interesting enough but quite dense and often overstuffed.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,823 reviews1,387 followers
April 1, 2017
Very well written albeit extremely detailed account of the issues leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in the First Century AD.

The first and longest section of the book is a meticulous examination of all aspects of Roman and Jewish culture effectively trying to tease out what led to the clash but often simply serving as an excellently written (but often seemingly undirected) account of Rome/the Roman Empire (emphatically not the Republic) and Judaism/Jerusalem. This covers areas such as morals, identities, attitudes to family and associations, politics and legal issues, diversity and toleration. The main conclusion is that although there were clearly issues that Romans found strange about Jews there was a lot of toleration (not least their dispensation from worshiping roman gods) and no real reason for Jerusalem and the Jews to have special treatment.

The second section covers the destruction of Jerusalem and the following events. The central thesis is that the destruction of the Temple was accidental but that then the new Roman Empire Vespasian (who by co-incidence was leading the Roman response to the Jewish revolt) and his son Titus then felt they had to portray it as a deliberate act, especially as Vespasian needed to establish his credentials as a military leader. This in turn led to a policy of vilification of the Jews, a policy continued by subsequent emperors who also had only the Jewish war as an association with military glory or who wanted to prove their descent from emperors who did.

The last part of the book briefly covers the rise of the Church (mainly put down to Constantine’s vision and conversion) and the interaction of the Christians with the Jews (who in fact kept their distance from the Jews which had the advantage of being distanced from their vilification but also the disadvantage of not getting their religious dispensation) and a last chapter of anti-Semitism.

Really outstanding account – superbly written and coming across as very well researched and argued.
Profile Image for Margie Dorn.
345 reviews17 followers
August 23, 2018
This book is a "mixed bag." A lot of good research here, but the problem is that the researcher is so very selective in his presentation, biasing the evidence towards the conclusions he desires. The bald statement he makes, that "in fact the Jewish state was characterized less by organized hostility to Rome than by internecine struggles for power," does not take into consideration multiple uprisings--I found it interesting, for example, that "Sepphoris" is not even mentioned once in this 598-page volume, and certainly not found in the index. He mentions the rebel Theudas who brings a group of followers with their belongings to the river Jordan "but whether he intended any action against Rome is unknown," by which statement he seems to be clueless about the great significance of any action whatsoever at the river Jordan in the understanding of the Jewish people.
I did find some support in the work of Rose Mary Sheldon, who "offers a more critical review. Recognising his expertise in both Roman and Jewish history, Sheldon claims that Goodman's arguments in favour of a lack of conflict between Romans and Jews between 6-60 CE "do not hold water". (See Sheldon, Rose Mary (2010). "Rome and Jerusalem: An Ancient Clash of Civilizations - Book Review". Intelligence and National Security. 25 (6): 856–861. doi:10.1080/02684527.2010.537882)
I did learn a lot from this book. I respect the research that went into it. I do not, however, recommend the book to anyone except people who do enough reading to be able to fill in his gaps and revise his conclusions.
Profile Image for Caroline.
718 reviews124 followers
March 23, 2011
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 through the Roman Empire and subsequently the Roman Catholic Chuch and mediaeval Europe. It's a very good book, very thorough and insightful, and very well-written. I'd highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Stephanie Matthews.
Author 2 books43 followers
January 5, 2018
A fascinating look at both the Roman and Jewish cultures, considering things that were alike and different. It wasn't until the last portion of the book that Goodman shifted from analysis to argument for why these two cultures clashed so heavily, and his final argument- and further, why the Jews and the land of Judaea were continually suppressed isn't without debate, but a very interesting and discussion worthy conclusion is made. There were only one or two chapters that became tediously dull which is more the material's fault than Goodman's I think, but overall I was fascinated more than once and thoroughly enjoyed my time spent within these pages.
Profile Image for Dariusz Płochocki.
440 reviews22 followers
March 8, 2017
Trochę nadto chaotyczne, mimo wszystko pozycja popularnonaukowa, autor uwielbia postać Agrypy I, którym raczy nas i do którego odwołuje się przez większość dzieła. Trochę po macoszemu przedstawione zostały niestety czas herodiańskie, a i powstanie Bar Kochby, za to należy pochwalić opis wojny żydowskiej, chociaż tu jak wiemy źródła są ograniczone. Za dużo Rzymu, za mało Jerozolimy.
Profile Image for Emily.
233 reviews7 followers
February 3, 2009
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 Roman policy, and that the war was emphatically not the inevitable result of a clash of ancient civilizations ontologically opposed to each other (although I doubt he would argue that in some sense there *was* a clash - it's in his subtitle). He argues that Jewish world - prior to the first war - was not and did not feel perpetually oppressed by Rome. Although he hasn't yet convinced me of that, Goodman argues strongly enough that I will have to reassess my opinions on the nature of Jewish-Roman relations prior to the first war. Goodman emphasizes the political necessity that the Flavian dynasty, having no claim to the Julio-Claudian line, must present themselves as military victors securing Rome against her enemies. The biggest, most significant result of the first Jewish war with Rome, he seems to suggest, was not the destruction of the Jewish temple, but the ramifications of Roman anti-Jewish hostilities on Christian anti-Judaism, which ultimately led to modern anti-Semitism. That's a lot of weight to lend to Vespasian and Titus, but he's probably not be overstating the importance of the events of 66-72 CE.

12 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2020
This is a bit of a strange book. The only reason it gets three stars is because of the terrific last part of the book entitled "Conflict" in which Goodman presents an excellent analysis of Judaeo-Roman relations since Herod's time and all the way to Constantine's conversion to Christianity. This section is filled with interesting insights (such as the reason for Titus' costly push for a speedy defeat of Jerusalem rather than waiting it out and siege the city to starvation, was because Vespasian's urgent need to legitimise his regime through a military achievement), and is the section that answers directly the book's title. The first tho thirds of the book, however, offer a peculiar comparison of different aspects Jewish and Roman societies (beliefs, communities, government etc.) which is akin to comparing apples and oranges. These comparisons also add almost no value to understanding the last third of the book (ie the "clash between Romans and Jews"). Knowing the different dietary preferences of Jews and Romans, for example, has little relevance to the analysis of the Roman political and military considerations in Judea. If you're interested in both Roman and Jewish history, you'd find this book fairly interesting. The last section is by far the best part (although, strangely, Goodman chooses to start the story of Romans and Jews at Herod's time rather than go all the way back to Pompey's intervention in the Hasmonean inheritance dispute of 63BC).
Profile Image for Jeff Noble.
Author 1 book51 followers
March 9, 2018
I’ve been working on this book off and on for four years. It is ponderously boring. History and analysis should not be this unattractive. But that’s not what made be put it down and give it up after reading over 200 pages..

I just don’t think it’s an accurate analysis of 1st century Israel or Judaism. I kept getting a gut feeling about his unequivocal assertions, and finally I began to do my own fact-checking. It was in the chapter on “Perspectives” that I was most bothered.

Goodman states, “Belief in an afterlife was not obviously part of the worldview of any of the authors of the biblical books apart from the author of Daniel chapter 12..”

I’m not going to go into detail here, but he’s simply wrong. There are plenty of examples in the Old Testament that demonstrate that faithful Jews trusted in spending life after death with God.

Such a wrong claim called into question his real understanding of Judaism as a whole.

While there are ample footnotes, upon second look, the majority are simply for quotes he’s used in the books. It calls into question the validity of his research.

I am rarely a book quitter, but this one is forgettable.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,553 reviews814 followers
October 8, 2019
This is exhausting stuff--Goodman knows a lot about this period, and he has put it all in this book, which would have been better served divided in two, or perhaps three. The 'comparison' stuff is unhelpful; saying 'the Roman political system was like this, and the Hasmonean political system was like that' over and over, just subbing out 'political system' for something else gets very tedious, very quickly. I read it because Goodman's history of Judaism was very, very good, and because I'm teaching some stuff in this vague arena this semester, so I thought it would be useful. It was not. The imbecilic subtitle doesn't help, but I'm sure that was the publisher's fault. I blame the editor for the generally low standard of prose; again, Goodman can do better, as his more recent big book shows.

Having said all of that, it'll be a great reference work if I ever need to look up something about the second temple era, the end of it, or even early imperial Roman history.
Profile Image for Tom Stallard.
40 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2011
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 pages of Jewish history and analysis of Roman culture. I also found it distracting that the actual war is covered in most detail at the start of the book, presumably to catch the bookshop browser unaware, making them think the entire book moves at such a pace. I would suggest the causal reader picks this up and the library and reads the first and last chapters.
134 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2023
This book is sub-titled “The Clash of Ancient Civilisations” but what the author gives us is a very one-sided clash as most of the clashing seems to have come from the Roman side. That makes it a very different conflict than that between, say, Rome and the Parthian-Persian empire, which was much more of a level playing field in terms of technology, manpower and economic resources. This is revealed in the Prologue, which gives a brief account of the Jewish Revolt, which broke out in 66CE, and is the crucial event in relations between Rome and Jerusalem.
One of the many fascinating characters in this story – described by the author as the “main witness” – is Josephus. He starts out as a senior officer in the Jewish Revolt of 66CE, but not a very successful one. Then suddenly he’s on the other side. He’s changed his name to Flavius Josephus to curry favour with the emperor, Flavius Vespasianus, whose son eventually defeated the Jews and destroyed the Temple in 70CE. Josephus then goes on to write a detailed account of the revolt and then a wider account of Jewish history in the centuries leading up to it. He is therefore a key literary source, but not an altogether reliable one, as he has two agendas. One is to explain or justify his own turncoat behaviour; the other is to excuse the Flavian dynasty from blame for the destruction of the Temple and the massacre of Jews in the final throes of the siege of Jerusalem.
In Part I the author gives us very detailed and illuminating accounts of the two cities – their similarities and contrasts – in the first and second centuries CE. The biggest contrast, of course, is that Rome was the centre of a growing and powerful empire while Jerusalem was a religious rather than a political city, the centre of what used to be a Jewish kingdom but was now a Roman province. The author is also very good at reminding us that although Jerusalem – and especially the Temple – was the spiritual heart of the Jewish faith, many perhaps most Jews lived far away from the city. In Alexandria, for instance, in Antioch and in Rome itself. And of course many Jews still lived outside the Roman orbit, in the Parthian empire. One chapter is titled “Diversity and Toleration” and we see a multi-cultural Roman world in which cults and faiths and customs are tolerated so long as people toe a general line of loyalty to Rome, and in particular to its emperors. By and large, the Jews get by without much trouble. Sometimes they even get special favours, such as exemptions from participating in the deification of emperors. On the Jewish side, we see that many educated (male) Jews are able to write and converse in Greek and Aramaic as well as Hebrew. Some of them seem to have Greek names and they dabble in Greek philosophy, even giving it a Jewish veneer. In many ways the Jews seem to have blended in alongside dozens of other imperial subjects.
Part II continues this theme, giving us a much more detailed survey of Roman and Jewish culture, with chapters on government, politics, identities and perspectives. This covers topics such as attitudes towards homosexuality and the treatment of slaves. The message is that despite the profound differences between what “Rome” and “Jerusalem” represented, some level of peaceful co-existence was not only possible, it was a practical reality for a long period up to 66CE.
However, Part III, entitled “Conflict”, begins with a chapter called “The Road to Destruction” and summarises the rising tensions over a period of a century leading up to the siege of Jerusalem. It all seems as if it was so avoidable. Like the origins of World War I, the reader is left with a strong feeling of “if only…” And after the dust has settled and the Temple is destroyed, things only get worse. On the one hand, in the second century the Romans re-establish Jerusalem as a Roman city called Aelia Capitolina. On the other hand, Christianity begins its long journey from obscure quasi-Jewish cult in the first century to the status of imperial religion in the fourth, when the emperor Constantine the Great declared himself a Christian. The ramifications of this for the Jewish people and religion were profound. Under Paul’s influence, Christians began to distance themselves from their Jewish heritage fairly early on, and as Christianity became more influential – and more tolerated – the Jewish faith was literally cast into the outer darkness. Part III ends with the foundation of Constantinople as a Christian city dominating what we now call the Middle East. The newly-Christianised Romans then continued the obliteration of the Jewish faith in Jerusalem itself, founding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre there and turning the city of Aelia, as it was now known, into an essentially Christian city.
The book ends with an epilogue on the origins of antisemitism. The author’s view is that although the destruction of the Temple in 70CE was a dreadful act of violence against the Jewish people, their plight was even worse in the Christian Roman empire of the fourth century than it had been in the pagan era of the first century. The author then jumps 1500 years to the nineteenth-century philosopher Moses Hess, who argued that Jews might find some respite from persecution if they could establish a Jewish state in Palestine. The author, writing in 2006, concludes that it is “too early yet to say whether Hess’s optimism was justified”. Indeed.
The book has some useful extras: photographs of key sites in Jerusalem and Rome, maps of the two cities at various times and genealogies. It is a fascinating read and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the classical world, Roman history, Jewish history or to anyone who wants to get some background on what is happening in the Middle East today.
Profile Image for Socraticgadfly.
1,045 reviews337 followers
March 20, 2023
Martin Goodman’s "Rome and Jerusalem” is a tour de force of research. It’s not always such, or close, on its conclusions.

It is very good at times and very uneven at times, and just outrightly wrong as much of that.

The best parts are Goodman’s comparisons of Roman and Jewish ways of life, and tied in with that, Jewish efforts to live in a Roman world. Second best is Jewish life, or non-life, in Palestine following Hadrian’s creation of Aelia Capitolina by name and development at Jerusalem, followed by the Kitos War and then bar Kochba revolt. (Goodman thinks Hadrian’s actions came first.) Sidebar: Goodman indicates that at least some Jews thought the later Severans, especially Alexander Severus, were philo-Judaic.

Related to all of this is Goodman’s story line, repeated in the epilogue, that for the 130 or so years between Pompey’s entering the temple and the Jewish revolt, Rome officially bore no animosity toward Jews and that individual Romans might have condescension at times toward Jews, occasional praise, but general indifference beyond knowing Jewish males were circumcised, they didn’t eat pork and half-understanding of the Sabbath (often thought of as a fast day, not just a rest day).

It’s also good on a couple of matters that spill over from Judaism to Christianity.

Good in noting the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Tacitus wasn’t just Jews, but also “practitioners of Egyptian rites” and was related to the death of Germanicus, which was believed to possibly be due to magic. (Goodman doesn’t address claims that Tiberius had him poisoned; if so, these expulsions would have been a deliberate distraction.) Claudius’ expulsion, he notes, was connected with him trying to revive some older Roman rituals. Neither one was permanent, and neither one may have been of all Jews in Rome.

Good in noting why Titus fought up to the temple, and presumably, refuting Josephus, destroyed it. Vespasian his dad, by proxy, felt the need for a triumph-sized victory, being an equestrian with no great military victories before. (But, more on the not good parts of this below.)

The biggest, thematically, unevenness and even more flat wrongness is on Christian origins, early growth, etc., where Goodman repeatedly, on many issues, accepts traditional Christian legends as true.

Here’s what’s uneven, or not good, or in some cases flat wrong on that and more.

Chapter 2 is to some degree dated with the publishing of Yonatan Adler’s “The Origins of Jerusalem,” even if one, like a Jon D. Levinson, thinks that Adler overstates some claims.

Elsewhere, on the not so good, Goodman assumes that Acts is largely historical and that Paul was a Roman citizen. On one specific, on direct and indirect power in both worlds, in his chapter on that, he talks about Agrippa II [and Berenice] sitting in on Festus' interrogation of Paul, and even has Agrippa hinting at his innocence, as Luke writes.

The idea that this is historical? Tosh. Rather, it's a doublet from Luke's account of the trial of Jesus. Luke has Pilate discovering that Jesus is a Galilean, and packing him off to Antipas. Supposedly, that resulted in them being friends from that time on. And, yes, it's ONLY Luke that has a hearing before Antipas.

Goodman also nowhere discusses what percentage of non-Italians outside Rome had citizenship. It’s about 7 percent as of Augustus’ 14CE census. One would think, even if we don’t know, that Greeks and the rich would be more likely to have citizenship bestowed. Paul’s father was surely not rich and unless a Jewish convert, not Greek. Also, being born well before 14CE, the likely percentages of citizenship holders in, say, 20 BCE would have been 5 percent or less. In addition, Tarsus was NOT a Roman colony, and was not such until Severan times, so Paul’s father couldn’t have gotten citizenship that way, either.

He also thinks that Nero did indeed punish Christians for the Fire of Rome. In reality, whether the Tacitus passage is an interpolation or not, Nero most certainly did no such thing.

Later, in talking about Titus’ destruction of the Temple, after citing Josephus’ claim he opposed it and it was an accident, he cites Sulpicius Severus, supposedly quoting from a lost passage of Tacitus’ “Histories,” as Titus ordering it. Problem? Just a “small” one. This is the same Sulpicius Severus who likely created the Tacitus interpolation about Nero persecuting Christians over the Fire of Rome. And, assuming the same here, the Christian author has motive in “framing” a second pre-Constantine emperor as hating Christians by extension from hating Jews, as the passage specifically mentions both religions. It’s kind of sad that Goodman doesn’t pick up on this.

Not good in his claim that Jews didn’t really like war, contra Romans, while not discussing how often Jews were hired as mercenaries in the Hellenistic world. Going back further, Samuel censoring Saul for a non-total holocaust against the Amalekites talks of hearing “the bleating of sheep,” which would indicate plunder and a desire for it.

In his chapter on “The Growth of the Church,” Goodman appears to take Josephus’ writings about Jesus at face value, with no mention of either partial or complete interpolations. He also, in talking about Paul’s missionizing, seems unaware of Ashoka’s Buddhist missionaries to Cyrene and Macedon 250 years earlier.

He later on accepts legends of Paul and Peter’s martyrdom at Rome as fact.

Finally, if not fully academic, this is at least a semi-academic book. It’s not pop history, so, if you’re interested, note that it will be a slower read.
Profile Image for Douglas.
98 reviews8 followers
May 6, 2008
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 narrative of seeing themselves as victims arose.

Profile Image for Trebenaid.
4 reviews3 followers
May 29, 2008
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 history, but especially for those interested in Biblical history without a religious slant.
Profile Image for Mark Sequeira.
123 reviews9 followers
August 4, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Monique.
400 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Wayne Saxe.
13 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Jeffery Lawson.
5 reviews3 followers
May 28, 2015
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.
10 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2011
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.
52 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2009
I'm a sucker for books like this. Very informative! Great contrasting method!
Profile Image for Alethia.
476 reviews2 followers
February 5, 2022
I realized too late that the whole book was outlined in the epilogue. What a waste.

To start off, this book was incredibly long-winded. The best parts were the prologue and the epilogue--prologue because it was gripping and epilogue because it was to the point. I swear sometimes I couldn't pay attention because Goodman was going on about how the coins looked, or discussing one of the Roman busybodies that were so mildly important that I didn't bother to remember their names.

Here's my takeaways from this 566 page hurricane:
-Romans and Jews lived in peace, in the sense that Jews did their thing and Romans watched with a "silly Rabbit" kind of attitude
-Then Romans got lazy with policing because their government was a mess but they were like "well it's just the Jews, no big", so the Jews got fed up and revolted.
-Rome was not in a good place politically so they weren't too happy about the revolt. But, it did provide a good resume opportunity, so some would-be emperors went out to squash the resistance.
-But the resistance was strong, and the battle harder and longer than those in Rome predicted, so they made some uncalculated big moves--or more precisely, burned down The Temple.
-The Jews didn't have the manpower or strategy to actually win, so Rome wins, gets a new emperor, and the Jews are defeated.
-Jews aren't allowed to build temple and temple fund taxes get redirected to Rome--known as the Jewish tax
-Then this one emperor (Hadrian I think) decides he wants to be the artistic type and--in the typical colonizer fashion--tries to change Jerusalem into this aesthetic newopolis. A, uh, secular city. And the Jews resist and Hadrian doesn't like that, especially since this means that he'll have to use violence and endanger his reputation as The Artsy Emperor. But he sends troops in, and decimates. Then he decrees that no Jews can live in Jerusalem (boo).
-Emperors come and go until... Constantine, who decides that Christianity is the way to go. He's like very sold. It's this new little religion that just cropped up and although they are originally recognized as a sect of Judaism, their form of worship and holy scriptures diverge enough that they are recognized separately. And Christians begin to see themselves that way too.
-Under Constantine, Christianity becomes The Thing to have. But most of the empire worship the Roman gods, as they have been doing for hundreds of years. What to do?
-Option A: Promote Christianity as is--this will keep it somewhat linked to Judaism and potentially alienate most of the Roman population. Option B: Promote Christianity while putting down the Jews--this unites the empire against a common enemy, and the enemy of my enemy is my new religion... I suppose.
-So Constantine makes Jerusalem more Christian, Rome switches to Christianity, and the death of Jesus Christ is blamed on the Jews; the destruction of their temple proactive karma.

So the book could have been a lot shorter. Also could have ended the book better I think, instead of with "might not a Jewish state founded on the soil of Palestine for the first time since antiquity, bring the travails of the Jews to an end?"
Obviously not, since that's where we are now. And it's that lack of consideration that got us here in the first place. The Romans had no consideration for the Jews--minimizing their beliefs and traditions, and in Hadrian's case trying to erase their identity. So how is that different than now in Palestine?

I would just like to say, before I close this book for good, that I don't believe in nationalism. I think that people shouldn't be united around sameness or perceived sameness because it results in narrow-mindedness. When people take the time to get to know one another, to actually understand from their point of view, the world can look so different. But instead we continue to breed this unquestioning mindset that 'this is the way it is' or 'because this happened to my family, this is always true'. People should have the right to live where and how they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. Community can be good, but too often we see the majority weaponize it against those that are different. It comes down to power and that should never have to intersect with identity.

This was book one of four in my serious education of Israel-Palestine. Hopefully the next book doesn't take me two years.
Profile Image for Kyra Boisseree.
433 reviews11 followers
April 23, 2023
This book was excellent. It tackled such a complicated period of history with such care, depth, and clarity, and managed to provide a satisfying explanation for some of the hardest questions out there. It made me so angry, but more than that, it made me sad. In the 200+ pages covering Roman and Jewish culture in the first centuries BCE and CE, I got so used to the imaginary presence of the Jerusalem Temple that it was devastating to read it destroyed again. That, and the aftermath, were so hard to get through. But by a funny gift of fate, I was reading Now I Rise by Kiersten White alongside this book and even finished them on the same day. Much of Now I Rise is set during the siege of Constantinople in 1453 and, while it is a fictional account, it was helpful to have the perspective of Radu, who is spying for the sultan from inside the city, while reading this book. Over the course of the siege, Radu realizes that, no matter how much he may want the city to fall in order to protect his people from further crusades, revenge against Christianity will not bring him peace. It’s a thought I had last year and now this year again while teaching the Rome and Christianity chapter to my students. No matter how mad I get, I always just end up sad. Revenge won’t give me any closure about what happened in the past. There is no one left who is truly guilty. But I still wish there was some way to acknowledge the truth of what happened, after so many centuries of lies.
9 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2017
Essential reading for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Jewish people under the heel and whim of the Roman imperial regime. Comparison is made with Roman culture in an attempt to understand why the Temple in Jerusalem was sacked by Titus, son of Vespasian in the first Jewish-Roman war in 70 AD.
Nearly 600 pages packed full of historical information and intelligent conclusions.

"Of course the antagonism to Judaism found in many Christian writings of the second century was given a theological gloss. ...
It was no more (or less) true that 'the Jews rejected Christ' than it was true that the other inhabitants of the Mediterranean world rejected the missionaries who came to them: in all such places, some were persuaded some were not. Nor was it true that the Jews as a whole had killed Jesus. His death was engineered by the High Priestly authorities in the Temple, intent on avoiding disturbances in the volatile pilgrim season, but it was impossible to know how many other Jews considered it was 'right for one man to die for all the people'. ...
What is certain is that the order to execute Jesus was given ultimately by Pontius Pilate as Roman governer but that, when he washed his hands of responsibility, he succeeded in eventually whitewashing for later Christians not just himsef but the Roman imperial regime as a whole. ..."

Good value. Recommended

Profile Image for Sylvia McIvers.
739 reviews41 followers
January 18, 2018
Starts with the war in the year 70, leading up to Titus and the legion burning down the Temple.

Part two covers the Mediterranean region under Roman rule, and the Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Egypt, and other localities. What were communities like, who was head of household, how did they worship, lots of interesting details.

Romans expected citizens to sacrifice to Roman Emperors, past and present. Jews were fiercely monotheistic. Bit of a conflict there. For a long time, Emperors allowed Jews to sacrifice to their own god for the good of the state. When the occasional Emperor insisted that the Jews sacrifice to the cult of Emperors, the Jews revolted, and the Emperor's eventually made peace.

What changed? Emperors stopped leading the legions, and needed some victory to point at. "Judea Capta" let the capture of Jerusalem stand for military victory for several Caesars. It would have been bad politics to let Jews rebuild their temple and undo the victory. Then Constantine converted to Christianity, and that was the last nail in the coffin.
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