Biographies of the main players in the Jewish Revolt

Flavius Josephus: (37-96?AD)  As a young priest who was initially opposed to the Jewish revolt he nevertheless accepted command of the rebel forces of the Galilee.  In 67 the Roman General Vespasian took Josephus a prisoner after the battle of Jotopata.  He was about to be sent to Rome in chains when he caught the attention of Vespasian, convinced him that he had the gift of prophecy, and told Vespasian that he would become the next Roman emperor and that his son, Titus, would be emperor after him.  Vespasian released Josephus and kept him as his lucky Jewish rabbit's-foot. When the army proclaimed Vespasian Roman Emperor, Josephus' job as resident Jewish advisor was assured.  He accompanied Titus to the siege of Jerusalem and returned with Titus to Rome after the war where he spent the rest of his writing 4 major works.  The best know are The Jewish War, the only eyewitness account of the war that survives, and Antiquities of the Jews, a history of the people of Israel.  In his book about the war Josephus estimated the dead from the siege of Jerusalem and its aftermath as 1,197,000. It has been estimated that 97,000 Jews were caught after the war and sold as slaves; many died as unwilling gladiators in the triumphal games that were celebrated after the war.

Gessius Florus:  The Roman procurators in the years leading up to the revolt went from bad to worse.  Of all these corrupt and incompetent Roman administrators, none was worse than the last one, Gessius Florus.  Flavius Josephus wrote of him that he: "ostentatiously paraded his outrages upon the nation, and as though he had been sent as hangman of condemned criminals, abstained from no form of robbery or violence...No man has ever poured greater contempt on truth; none invented more crafty methods of crime."  His actions had become so notorious that the Sanhedrin (Jewish law court) and the aristocracy complained to Florus' superior, Cesstius Gallas, the governor of Syria.  Josephus accuses Flores of doing everything possible to incite a revolt so as to obscure the charges that were against him.  In the fall of 66AD Florus stole 17 talents ($61,200) from the Temple treasury (overdue taxes, as he claimed). When protest ensued, Florus ordered his soldiers to attack the crowd and allowed his soldiers to plunger hundreds of homes and to kill the populous at will. 3,600 Jews were killed; 2000 of whom he ordered to be crucified.  The revolt began in earnest in May and after Florus fled Jerusalem the Roman garrison in Jerusalem was massacred.

Cestius Gallus: Governor of the Roman province of Syria and Florus' superior.  He ignored the protests against Florus' administration as prefect of Judea.  When the revolt started he amassed an army of seasoned Roman veterans and marching across the Euphrates River.  In October the Jews managed to band together to fight the Roman forces and successfully expelled Gallus who withdrew his forces in November 66 AD.  At this point all of Judea was united in the revolt with the exception of the Christians who had fled the country during the 5 months between May and October/November.

Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus (AD9-79): The most able of Roman Emperor Nero's generals, Vespasian was sent to put down the Jewish Revolt.  In 67AD he united his legions north of the Euphrates and led the attack into Judea along with his very able son, Titus.  In the fall of 69 his soldiers proclaimed him as Roman Emperor, which the Roman Senate hurriedly confirmed.  He arrived in Rome in October of 70AD and began a reign that would be marked by good sense and stability for the Empire.  One of his many accomplishments was the establishment of the first system of state education in classical antiquity, but he is more often remembered as the builder of the Roman Coliseum (built with the money looted from Judea).  His able and much loved son, Titus, succeeded him.  Vespasian rewarded Christians for not taking part in the revolt against Rome by allowing them to practice their faith without persecution.  When petitioned by Simon, Bishop of Jerusalem, he allowed the return of Christian refugees to Judea and Jerusalem.  He was also the life-long patron of Josephus, who accepted Vespasian's reward of Roman citizenship by taking Vespasian's surname as his own.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus:  Elder son of the General/Emperor Vespasian.  He is best known as the conqueror of Jerusalem.  The Arch of Titus in Rome was his father's gift of appreciation for his accomplishments.  Titus fell deeply in love with the Jewish princess Bernice (gggrandaughter of Herod the Great) who returned with him to Rome after the fall of Jerusalem.  When his father opposed his wish to marry Bernice he bowed to his father's wishes and chose Rome over love.  He succeeded his father as Emperor in 79AD but died two years later of a fever.  All Rome mourned him except the insane brother who succeeded him.  Titus was also favorably disposed toward Christians.  His nephew Flavius Clemens became a Christian and was martyred by Titus' brother Domitian in 95AD when he refused to offer sacrifice to Domitian as a god.

 The leaders of the different Jewish factions many of whom claimed to be the Messiah:

Eleasar: a priest and son of the high priest Ananias.  He was the leader of the aristocratic priestly revolutionary party. In AD66 he suspended the daily sacrifice in the Temple that had been offered for the welfare of the Roman emperor and the Empire.  This act was tantamount to a declaration of war.

Menahem:  leader of the Sicarii.  In the fall of 66 his forces entered Jerusalem.  In addition to attacking the Roman forces that remained in the city, the Sicarii also attacked the Jewish aristocracy and looted the homes of the well-to-do and massacred many of the nobility and priests including the high priest Ananias.

John of Gischala: leader of Galilean forces was an ally of the Zealots until he turned on his former allies, killed their leader and took over control of the Zealot forces.

Eleazar ben Yair:  leader of the Sicarii.  He held out the longest against the Romans.  With 960 of his men and their families he held off 4 Roman legions at Masada.  On the last night before the Romans broke through their fortifications Eleasar and his men killed their families and 10 men were chosen by lot to kill the rest. Finally, one was chosen to kill the remaining 9 and then to commit suicide by killing himself.  When the Roman's broke through the next day they found the Jews had escaped them in death.

Simon bar Giora: drew much of his support from freed slaves.  Captured alive by Titus, he was beheaded in Rome.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2003 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.