Symbol of resistance
In the year 70 A.D. e., after the capture by the Romans of Jerusalem, Masada remained the only center of resistance. The last Sikari rebels took refuge in the fortress, who did not recognize any other authority over themselves, except for God. (Sykarians – from the Latin word “sica”, a dagger. These are members of a radical organization that broke away from the wider patriotic Zealot movement. Sykaris killed the Romans and Jewish rich, satisfied with Roman rule, freed slaves and prisoners.) There were few, 967 total, including women and children. The life of these people in the besieged fortress was by no means comfortable. The rebels and their families rebuilt the dungeons for housing for their families, they also built a synagogue in Masad, recognized as one of the oldest in Israel. Nearby was a mikveh pool for ritual ablutions, built in accordance with all the rules of the code of religious laws of Halakha. The Sicarias held the fortress for three years, which made it a symbol of the resistance of little Judea to the all-powerful Roman Empire. In 73, fifteen thousand professional warriors arrived under the walls of the fortress, having traveled all the way of the Judean War – from beginning to end. It was impossible to storm Masada: her natural defense and Herod’s fortifications, made, by the way, using Roman technology, made her impregnable. But there are no difficulties that the Romans would retreat to. Under the walls of the fortress, they set up nine camps, completely cutting off the besieged path to retreat. Their location is clearly visible from above and today. Archaeologists claim that these are the best-preserved Roman military camps on the planet. Thousands of slaves were driven to Masada to build a mound connecting the western camp and the fortress wall. Realizing the inevitability of defeat, the besieged decided not to give up … On the 15th day of the month, Xanthics 73 A.D. e. Roman legionnaires stormed Masada. Having broken heavy stone walls with heavy rams, they broke into the fortress. The Romans expected fierce resistance, but they were met by an ominous silence, mixed with the smell of burning. Ambush? Warriors issued a war cry, on which two women and five children came out of one tank. They told where the defenders were and what happened. The Sykar leader, Elazar bin Yair, foreseeing the inevitable defeat and death at the hands of the enemy, said: “We were the first to rebel against the Romans and the last to end the war with them. I can only appreciate the mercy of God that we can die courageous and free. May our wives die before they are abused, and may our children die before they experience slavery, and after we kill them, we will perform this noble mercy towards one another. ” This beautiful speech, to be honest, was composed and recorded by Josephus. But with confidence we can say that the pronounced words of bin Yair were really strong, since they were able to convince the defenders to kill their wives and children first, and then themselves. When the relatives were finished, the Sicarias burned the treasury, leaving a supply of water and food to show the Romans that they were not afraid of thirst and hunger. By lot, ten men had to deal with their comrades. One of them killed the remaining, set fire to the fortress and stabbed himself. In Judaism, suicide is the gravest of sins, therefore, out of the nearly thousand who died by this sin, only one soul was burdened. Soon the Romans discovered a pile of dead bodies in the temple. Who were these people – heroes or fanatics? Of course, one could end there, then a beautiful heroic epic would turn out: glory and honor to the heroes who preferred death to slavery! But historians try not to recall some of Josephus’s testimonies. And we will remember. It was before the siege. One night, the Sykarians attacked the Ein Gedi settlement on the shores of the Dead Sea, dispersed everyone who could resist, and slaughtered the rest, that is, women and children, numbering about seven hundred souls. But it was their fellow tribesmen – the Jews! So to take the life of their wives and children was not so new for them. Here the opinions of society were divided: for some it was heroic, and for someone it was an absurd death, but enough about it. The miracle of accidental discovery After the defeat, Masada was forgotten. Centuries passed, and it was only in 1838 that the Americans Smith and Robinson first suggested that the Es Sebeh plateau, located near the Dead Sea in a remote desert, was the Masada fortress mentioned by Josephus Flavius. The miracle of an accidental discovery was that it was made while studying the surroundings with a telescope from the Ein Gedi oasis. In 1842, after many centuries, people first climbed to the top of Masada – the American missionary Walcott and the English artist Tipping, who illustrated the British edition of the Judean War. After that, members of several British and German expeditions explored the fortress and mapped it. But systematic archaeological excavations began only in 1963, they were led by Igael Yadin. By 1973, archaeologists discovered 97 percent of Masada’s area.