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The Masada Myth

    Scholar presents evidence that the heroes of the Jewish Great Revolt were not heroes at all.

    There are different versions about how long the siege of Masada lasted. Josephus does not discuss this issue. However, it is very obvious that the siege did not begin immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem. First, the fortresses of Herodium and Machaerus were conquered, and then Lucilius Bassus (who was sent to Judea as legate) died and was replaced in command by Flavius Silva (who succeeded him as procurator of Judea). Silva had to gather his forces and only then launched the final attack on Masada. All these processes took time.  

    Most researchers seem to accept that the siege and fall of Masada only took a few months—Probably from the winter of 72/73 A.D. until the following spring—A matter of 4-6 (maybe 8) months. In fact, Roth's impressively meticulous study (1995) states:  

All in all, a nine-week siege is the likely maximum, a four-week siege the likely minimum, and a siege of seven weeks the most probable length for the siege of Masada. Postulating a siege of some seven weeks fits in well with the date given by Josephus for the fall of the fortress, whatever calendar is being used (p. 109). 

    Moreover, this conclusion is supported by the recent geological attention paid to the fact that the massive siege ramp on the west side of Masada is based on a natural huge spur. If so, then the Roman army did not have to build the big siege ramp from the bottom of the mountain, but only to add the actual ramp on top of that natural spur. This means that constructing the ramp took a significantly less effort than previously assumed by some (see Gill's 1993 work).  

    While in Josephus's description of the siege of Jerusalem he describes rather courageous raids made by the Jewish defenders of Jerusalem against the Romans, no such descriptions are available for the siege on Masada. This is a significant omission because after Jerusalem fell, the Roman army went on to conquer three other fortresses. One was Herodium, which fell rather quickly. The other was Machaerus where the Jews put a courageous fight including raids against the Roman army. Moreover, Josephus had a clear "interest" to present the heroic fight put by the Jews so as to demonstrate just how much more heroic was the Roman army that conquered them. His failure to mention any active fights or resistance (or raids) by Masada's defenders against the Romans is not insignificant. Thus, while the impression one typically gets through the historian’s description of fights, battles and struggles, is that there was a war around Jerusalem, no such impression is projected about the Roman siege of Masada. In other words, there really was no "battle" around Masada. 

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