Article Review -- "Yadin At Masada" #2

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Article Review -- "Yadin At Masada" #2

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:00 am

>>>>“Yadin At Masada,#2” <<<<

>>> Neil Faulkner, <<<

>> ‘Great Excavations,’ Current World Archaeology magazine, (Issue 56 - Vol. 5 - #8 - Dec 2012, Jan 2013, Page 66).

>>The Dig

In the book “Jewish War,” written by the Jewish Historian Josephus, is the story of the Battle of Masada, a great mountain in the Jewish Desert not far from the Dead Sea. It is a battle between the Jewish ‘Zealots’ who were rebelling against the Roman Occupation of Judea and the Roma Army. This is the Siege of Masada in AD 73 which resulted in the suicide deaths of 960 men, women, and children who preferred to die by their own hand than to endure the agonies of the conquering Roman Legion.

To this place came the author and archaeologist, Yigael Yadin to carry out an intensive and extensive excavation of the fortress and palace built by King Herod the Great, as well as the living conditions and facilities for the rebel Zealots during their stay on the mountain. The work undertaken took a total of eleven months in two seasons because of the desert heat .

>>The Discoveries

Almost all of the structures put together under the overseeing eye of King Herod were laid bare, and throughly researched and mapped. There are several references about the excavations, but two which are sure to be of interest are:

>>>”The Story of Masada,” Yigael Yadin, Gerald Gottlieb;

>>>”Masada, Herod’s Fortress, and the Zealt’s Last Stand,” Yigael Yadin.

These structures were built in the second half of the first century BC and were comprised of “The Western Palace” as it was known, with it’s very own “Throne Room,” two massive storerooms, both an administrative building as well as an apartment building possibly for the Royal Staff, and on the North peak the famed “Hanging Villa.”
The decorations were not spared in any way for the areas designated as the ‘grand Living Area.’ Masada is a flat topped mountain which rises about 1200 ft (366m) above the surrounding desert lands. It is very steep-sided and from above resembles to some degree a ship. The “Hanging Villa” is located on the very prow of that rock ship with steep drops all around and magnificent views of the area on all three sides.

However, in excavating the Zealot quarters it was obvious the differing living conditions between the high born Jewish people and the common ones. Many things were found that relate to the Zealot temporary living facilities, coins, plaits of human hair, bone utensils, leather sandals, basketwork, all indicating the simple life led by the revolutionaries.

>>The Deductions

The religous radicalism of the Dead Sea Scrolls was linked to some fragments of scroll which included a passage found nowhere else except in the hidden scrolls of the Dead Sea. This link can now be assured to provide a view of the Zealot motives for the revolution that they started and the way they were determined to end it. There are three pictures along with this write-up: A photograph of Yigael Yadin at the top, a pair of preserved leather sandals found in the Zealot improvised living quarters, in the center, and a picture of “Herod’s Palace” on the prow of the great rock ship of Masada.


One thing that is obviously missing from this narrative is any mention of the Roman Legion and it’s works that were erected to take this mountain refuge. The steep ramp to near the top of the mountain built by the Roman engineers to allow a tower to be built and placed against the wall of the mountain to break through the barriers erected by the Zealot’s or the fire that very nearly defeated the Roman’ before the winds turned and flames engulfed the wooden wall separating the attackers, from the top of the mountain.

In 72, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, led Roman legion X Fretensis, a number of auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war, totaling some 15,000 men and women (of whom an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 were fighting men) to lay siege to the 960 people in Masada. The Roman legion surrounded Masada and built a circumvallation wall, before commencing construction of a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth to do so. Josephus does not record any attempts by the Sicarii to counterattack the besiegers during this process, a significant difference from his accounts of other sieges of the revolt. Outside the circumvallation wall there were built several Roman camps which housed the host of soldiers, workers and slaves to people the siege.

The ramp was completed in the spring of 73, after probably two to three months of siege. A giant siege tower with a battering ram was constructed and moved laboriously up the completed ramp, on the west side leadingd up to near the summit of Masada, where they (Romans) then, at the top of this ramp, built a stone platform and on top of this they put a battering ram.

The battering ram eventually took its toll on the defenses of Masada and the Romans were able to access the fortress via the breach in the wall. while the Romans assaulted the wall, discharging "a volley of blazing torches against ... a wall of timber." However when the wall was burning the desert winds blew across the tabletop then treatening the Roman siege tower and battering ram. However, at the last minute the winds changed direction and the flames took out the timber wall and its re-inforcements, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress on April 16, 73 CE. When the Romans entered the fortress, however, they found it to be "a citadel of death."

The largest of the eight Roman Camps,was from where Silva directed the siege operation at Masada. Along the sides of the camp, the outlines of the entrances to it are visible. In the upper left portion of the camp a smaller camp is visible. This small camp—within the larger one—houses a Roman Garrison stationed at Masada, after its fall. The largest of the Roman camps on the east side of Masada, number is VI, Roman Camp V is clearly visible to the North and in the center, is the large camp VI. On the far right is the reconstructed Roman camp.

2,000 year old wood and a thick mat of palm leaves were used by the Romans to construct the siege ramp at Masada. Evidently the Romans used palm branch mats to stabilize the siege ramp that they built during the siege of Masada. The "traditional interpretation" is that wood from the vicinity was used. However, scholars from the University of Haifa have suggested that because the area was denuded of wood, that the wood was brought in from other regions of the country (thanks to Todd Bolen for reference to this information).

The winding footpath that leads up and down this east side of Masada, Josephus called it the “snake path.”

>>> References:

>> Richmond, I. A. (1962). "The Roman Siege-Works of Masada, Israel". 'The Journal of Roman Studies.' Washington College. Lib. Chestertown, MD.: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 52: 142–155. doi:10.2307/297886. JSTOR 297886. OCLC 486741153;
>> SI Shepprd (2013). "The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74." p. 83. ISBN 978-1-78096-183-5.
>> Pearlman, Moshe (1967). "The Zealots of Masada: Story of a Dig". New York: Scribner. OCLC 2019849.
>> Campbell, Duncan B. (2010). "Capturing a desert fortress: Flavius Silva and the siege of Masada". Ancient Warfare. 4 (2): 28–35.

Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens

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