VALDEMIR MOTA DE MENEZES
Polybius's capture and transport to Rome in the second century, Rome was
in a way an empire before it was an empire.
In the area of Judea, internal struggles in the Hasmonean dynasty led
both sides in the conflict to appeal to Rome for a solution even before
Rome was an empire.
In 63 BCE, the Romans entered Jerusalem.
This is the end of the Hasmonean rule over Palestine, and Rome established a
new dynasty there, a dynasty established by Rome and
thus loyal to Rome.
This dynasty included Herod the Great, who reigned from 37 to 4 BCE, whose
Jewish identity could be contested.
Some would say he isn't purely Jewish.
He tried to be king over all and not just Jews.
He built pagan cities, temples, as well as Jewish cities, and rebuilt
parts of the Jerusalem temple.
It was a time of heavy taxation and unrest.
Shortly after the period of Herod the Great, Romans slowly moved from rule
through vassal kings to rule through Roman administrators.
These Roman administrators were even less sensitive to the
needs of the populace.
We read in Josephus, for example, of brutality under the procurator Pontius
Pilate, under whom Jesus was killed.
By 66 of the Common Era, Jews were revolting against the Roman power, but
they weren't that well-organized.
At the same time, there was chaos at the head of the Roman Empire.
In 68, Nero committed suicide.
The general Vespasian was biding his time.
He sent his son Titus to take over Palestine and destroy the temple.
And Titus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE as his father
Vespasian came to take power at the head of the Roman Empire.
This isn't the end of Jewish conflict with Rome.
We know of revolts in 115 to 117 in Cyrenaica in Northern
Africa and in Cyprus.
And in 132 to 135, a Jewish figure named Bar Kokhba, or "Son of a Star,"
rose up and took back Jerusalem, minting his own coins.
Hadrian put him down violently, and Jerusalem came to be called Aelia
Capitolina by the Romans.
The larger region was no longer called Judea, but Palestina, and became part
of a larger province of Syria.
This coin sums up the relationship between Rome and Judea--
although not all Rome and all Jews--
Minted first in 71, after the destruction of the temple, it
celebrates and publishes the news of the Roman victory over Judea.
On one side we find the emperor Vespasian, beefy and satisfied,
wearing a laurel crown.
On the other side we find a small sculpture that
summarizes Roman triumph.
The palm tree divides the image.
On its left is a soldier, arms tied behind his back and his weapons piled
uselessly behind, a trophy now for the Romans.
On the palm tree's right is a seated woman, seated in a posture of grief,
with a veiled head in sorrow, and her head is low and held up by her hand.
Provinces in Greek and Latin are grammatically feminine: Judea, or
perhaps Jerusalem the city, is here depicted personified
as a mourning woman.
Various forms of the Judea capta--
Judea conquered-- coins were minted for twenty-five years.
Let's take a breath and think about that again, with Jerusalem as our
focus, that powerful site for Jews and Christians and Muslims, that holy city
on earth and for some a holy city in the heavens, a New Jerusalem.