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Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  700 ratings  ·  73 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
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published October 23rd 2007 by Knopf (first published 2007)
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Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, middle-east
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 Goodma
Genia Lukin
Jun 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Pete daPixie
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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 t
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
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 cover
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
Stephanie Matthews
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient-rome
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 wh ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Margie Dorn
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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-pag ...more
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Tom Stallard
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mark Sequeira
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for books like this. Very informative! Great contrasting method! ...more
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Oct 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism, christianity
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' ...more
Gordon Thursfield
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 wa
Jeff Noble
Mar 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
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, “Beli
Sylvia McIvers
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 Jew
Justin Evans
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
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 teach ...more
Justin Nichols
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable work by Martin Goodman. It took me 5.5 years to finish, with a few long breaks sprinkled in, but man, am I glad I bought and read this book of history! So incredibly thorough, detailed, dense, insightful, heady, and full of references and quotes from antiquity. He did such a marvelous job comparing and contrasting the two nations and their citizens in seemingly every way possible. I'll be sure to go back to this again and again if I ever get around to developing ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that has fascinating information but takes a lot of effort to read. It's long, comprehensive, and factual. I enjoyed the middle section, where he compares every element of Jewish life and culture to Romans: attitudes towards citizenship, time, war, government, bodies. It reminds me that as a Jew in the Western world, I'm really the product of a mix of two different civilizations. I got bored with the last section, where he returns to providing history and talks about t ...more
Jean Marie Angelo
I wanted to love this book. These are two cities that shaped the ancient world and the narrative really moves when the author focuses on their intersection. Most readable were the sections about the political maneuvering of Herod to grab power under Roman rule; and the Judea of Jesus’ time and the mix of Jewish, Roman, and early Christian cultures. This is, at times, a fascinating read and it is instructive in understanding the seeds of antisemitism and the current conflicts in the Middle East. ...more
Adrian Brereton
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Good book in providing insight into the background of the Roman v Jewish conflict of 70 C.E. Detailed and informative. However, wordy and unnecessary in the middle section. Worth reading initial and latter chapters.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very good book. Discussion of the culture/society of the Romans and Jews in the first centuries and a description and discussion of the causes and near- and long-term results of the conflicts between them and evolution of Christian ideas of the Jewish religion. Somewhat scholarly, some passages are difficult to follow; it’s generally readable though. Wouldn’t mind owning someday.
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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.

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