Masada

BAR is offering a free e-book on Masada-

Herod’s desert fortress on the mountaintop of Masada has been immortalized as an enduring symbol of Jewish pride and determination. Although the stronghold was built by the megalomaniac King Herod, it was made famous as the site of the last stand between the besieged Jewish rebels and the relentlessly advancing Romans in the First Jewish Revolt in 73/74 A.D.

In our brand-new free eBook Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress, explore the archaeological evidence for the Masada siege. Discover what archaeology reveals about the Jewish rebels’ identity, fortifications and arms before their ultimate sacrifice.

Having spent months hemming in the rebels and hoisting a siege tower to the top of the mountain, when the Romans finally breached the Jewish defenses, they were met—so the story goes—only with silence. According to Jewish historian Josephus’s account, the rebels chose to commit suicide rather than be captured and enslaved by the Romans.

Originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review, the chapters in Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress investigate how well Josephus’s account holds up to the archaeology. With chapters from such distinguished scholars as Ehud Netzer, Sidnie White Crawford and Jodi Magness, our free eBook examines the Roman siege works, the historical accuracy of the Jewish rebels’ final hours and Masada’s link to the scribal community at nearby Qumran.

Download Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress for free and discover the archaeology of the Masada siege.

I would also, for a different perspective, urge you whole heartedly to read The Masada Myth by Nachman ben-Yehuda.  It’s amazingly eye opening and thoroughly debunks the whole Josephan fantasy of Masada.

masadaIn 73 A.D, legend has it, 960 Jewish rebels under siege in the ancient desert fortress of Masada committed suicide rather than surrender to a Roman legion. Recorded in only one historical source, the story of Masada was obscure for centuries. In The Masada Myth, Israeli sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda tracks the process by which Masada became an ideological symbol for the State of Israel, the dramatic subject of movies and miniseries, a shrine venerated by generations of Zionists and Israeli soldiers, and the most profitable tourist attraction in modern Israel. Ben-Yehuda describes how, after nearly 1800 years, the long, complex, and unsubstantiated narrative of Josephus Flavius was edited and augmented in the twentieth century to form a simple and powerful myth of heroism. He looks at the ways this new mythical narrative of Masada was created, promoted, and maintained by pre-state Jewish underground organizations, the Israeli army, archaeological teams, mass media, youth movements, textbooks, the tourist industry, and the arts. He discusses the various organizations and movements that created “the Masada experience” (usually a ritual trek through the Judean desert followed by a climb to the fortress and a dramatic reading of the Masada story), and how it changed over decades from a Zionist pilgrimage to a tourist destination. Placing the story in a larger historical, sociological, and psychological context, Ben-Yehuda draws upon theories of collective memory and mythmaking to analyze Masada’s crucial role in the nation-building process of modern Israel and the formation of a new Jewish identity. An expert on deviance and social control, Ben-Yehuda looks in particular at how and why a military failure and an enigmatic, troubling case of mass suicide (in conflict with Judaism’s teachings) were reconstructed and fabricated as a heroic tale.

It’s a brilliant book.