Nero led the army in 66 CE and was dead by June 68. In his article on Page 142 in JUDEA AND ROME IN COINS, David Hendin shows the front and back of a coin of Vitellius (Fig. 26: Vitellius bronze - depicting the victory over the Jews). Hendin says that with Vespasian supposedly running the war, the Romans were bound to win, and that Vitellius anticipated the victory. But Nero had already won the war four/five years previously, which was short, and not the sort of war created by Josephus. Vitellius was simply starting a propaganda which Vespasian later copied with further issues of coins, presumably not caring if anyone noticed. As Vitellius was the last emperor in the 'year of the four emperors', one can safely say that the 'war' must have been over four/five years before. Vitellius was thus the first emperor to issue Judea Capta coins to celebrate a false victory over the Jews. He had thought of the idea before Vespasian. The Jewish revolt (by a relatively small number of priests) was over in a few days. Nero had arrived too late to save Agrippa. The captured priests were thrown in prison. Nero left the temple intact with all its wealth. There followed five years of peace, usually called the five years of revolt. The so-called ‘coins of revolt’ issued during the four/five years of peace gave no indication of a destroyed temple. Marriages were being made and land bought and sold. The coins showed no antagonism to Rome. What they did show were comments such as: “the freedom of Zion”; "the redemption of Zion"; "Shekel of Israel". These comments indicated that the prophets and their followers in Judea and the diaspora had been given freedom of belief from the laws of the priests. The Jews did not celebrate any victory over the Romans. The majority of Jews still considered the Romans as friends of long standing. But things were about to change.
The scholars have all assumed, falsely, that Masada's wall was built by Romans. The wall around Masada was a defensive wall built by Herod. Herod had the time to build it. It is similar to the wall around Machaerus. These walls were built by Herod to protect his palaces. So in this article I consider that the circumvallation walls are defensive walls, assault ramps are construction ramps, and the 'camps' built into the walls are defensive guard houses. The defensive wall around Machaerus had the same purpose as the defensive the wall around Masada - to protect the fortress. In his review of Gwyn Davies' book (http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2007/2007-05-32.html), Duncan Campbell questions Davies' emphasis on circumvallation: "Not only is Davies's blueprint for the 'standard Caesarian siege approach' flawed, but the theory that an assault habitually accompanied a circumvallation is mistaken; in fact, only Caesar's sieges of Ategua (45 BC) and the town of the Atuatuci (57 BC) conform to this model." So it seems as though one scholar at least is capable of independent thought. I find Davies's book full of elementary schoolboy bias - in his first chapter he conditions the reader with pictures of the 'assault' ramp at Masada (page 22) and the 'assault' ramp at Machaerus (page 23). The ramps were essential to build and maintain the citadels.
Going back in time, Campbell points out the general reluctance of the Roman army to use siege tactics and their preference for storm, saying: "He (Davies) highlights Capua (212/211 BC) as 'the first real endorsement of the value of a well-organized circumvallatory scheme', claiming that 'there was a marked increase in the use of circumvallation' thereafter (page 64). But do the statistics really support this conclusion? There were two, perhaps three, circumvallations during the First Punic War (Agrigentum, Lilybaeum, and the possible example of Panormus, 254 BC), and another two during the Second Punic War (Capua, and Scipio Asiaticus' siege of Orongis, 207 BC). Thus, in the space of sixty years, Roman armies had utilised the tactic four or five times, as far as we know, whereas during the same period more than a dozen towns are known to have been taken by storm. Far from a 'marked increase in the use of circumvallation' (page 64), the seventy-five years separating the sieges of Orongis and Numantia witnessed a strategy of investment only twice, at Ambracia (189 BC) and at Carthage (146 BC)."
Eberhard Sauer said I should find other contemporary examples of walls to justify my view that the wall around Masada was a defensive wall built by Herod. I have found one contemporary example. It is the wall around Machaerus, a fortress on the border of the Dead Sea opposite to Qumran. The text of Josephus has this to say about Machaerus (see War 7.172-175): "But when Herod became king, he thought the place to be worthy of the utmost regard, and of being built upon in the firmest manner, and this especially because it lay so near to Arabia; for it is seated in a convenient place on that account, and hath a prospect towards that country; he therefore surrounded a large space of ground with walls and towers, and built a city there, out of which city there was a way that led up to the very citadel itself on the top of the mountain; nay, more than this he built a wall round the top of the hill, and erected towers at the corners, of a hundred and sixty cubits high; in the middle of which place he built a palace, after a magnificent manner, wherein were large and beautiful edifices". This description is accurate. The "large space of ground" contained the lower city and the upper citadel. Herod built a 3000 m long wall around the whole. Integrated with this wall he built defensive towers. The citadel and the palace is on the top of a hill within the boundary of the defensive wall. Herod built a second wall and towers around the top of the hill. These details are shown on plate 12, Chapter 5 of Gwyn Davies' book. Davies's caption for the photo is: The siege system at Machaerus (after Strobel 1974a and Kennedy and Riley 1990). The errors of former scholars are repeated. The wall depicted as a ‘circumvallation wall’ IS the permanent defensive wall with guard houses that Herod built around the whole complex of lower city and upper citadel. The Romans built one or two temporary camps near the defensive wall after they had captured Machaerus from the priests. These separate camps were to guard the city against re-capture.
The text attributed to Josephus, makes no mention of Bassus (the supposed conqueror of Machaerus) building a circumvallation wall. Nor does the text speak of any assault ramp. But there is a construction ramp on the western side of the citadel. This is cut-off short of the citadel, a sure sign that the ramp was used for construction and not for any assault. When the construction work was finished a part of the ramp was removed to make the approach to the citadel difficult. In his review of Gwyn Davies' book, Duncan Campbell has this to say (in Note 5) about Machaerus (http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2007/2007-05-32.html): "Davies refers to 'firing stations' for artillery, spaced along the circumvallation wall at Machaerus, but the platforms in question have a maximum depth of 2 m, which is far too small for a standard arrow-shooting catapult." (See pages 83 and page 88 of Davies' book). Davies makes a very feeble argument for these being Roman 'firing stations' firing inwards. He says that although the width of a turret was too small for the lightest catapult, the full length along the wall of a turret, averaging 4 m, could have been used. But the catapults would have had to fire along the wall. This was hardly the efficiency which one expects from Romans. These turrets were for use by Herod's soldiers to guard and defend the fortress. As at Masada, they face towards the sea and the shoreline, two possible routes for an attack. They were a unique feature of the defensive walls at Masada and Machaerus. Machaerus, Masada and Qumran were attacked simultaneously by a Roman force under Nero in 66 CE. Honours were given later to Bassus for a misclaimed victory at Machaerus.
Why does the text of Josephus say that Herod thought the place to be worthy of the utmost regard, "especially because it lay so near near to Arabia"? Was it threats from Arabia that caused Herod to build these defensive walls around his fortress palaces? Herod went to war with the Arabians to support Augustus in the east who was fighting Anthony and Cleopatra's forces in the west. This was a very costly war for Herod. He lost a good proportion of his family in Alexandrium . The Arabians supported Cleopatra. Augustus later came with his army to pay tribute to Herod.
Masada was built on the same principle as Machaerus. It had a permanent defensive wall approximately 3000 m long with in-built guardhouses and defensive towers. Then it had a casemate wall approximately 1300 m long around the summit. The casemate wall had built-in living accommodation and defensive towers. In an email, Gwyn Davies said of the defensive wall around Masada: "I see no reason to deviate from the standard interpretation of the circumvallation as an integral element of Silva's siege strategy." Like Bassus, honours were also bestowed on Silva for his misclaimed victory over so-called rebels at Masada in 73 CE. Vespasian never began his campaign in Galilee where there are no camps or archaeological artifacts that show he had been there. His victory over Judea was also misclaimed.
The time of the coins of so-called revolt, was a time of peace in Judea. Land was bought and sold between 67 and 69 - not usual in a time of war (See Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, page 19. He cites H. Eshel, Documents of the First Jewish Revolt.) 'Coins of revolt' were minted for five years from May 66 (Kokkinos,The Herodian Dynasty, Page 394). Coins from these years were numerous. The last issue for the fifth year will have lasted only about four months. The numismatist, Meshorer is puzzled by this. He says, (I am quoting from page 395 of Kokkinos) "The several different dies indicated that the quantity of coins struck in the last four months of the war was not small." The point is that the prophets and their followers probably had no idea of what the opportunist Vespasian was going to do after five years. The prophets had control of the temple, and the priests had been overpowered by Nero's forces in 66 CE. Vespasian’s (or rather Titus’s) attack on the temple came as a shock to the prophets. At the end of the five years of peace, after the deaths of four previous emperors, the temple was ransacked by Vespasian's forces for its gold. He used the gold to fund his army in a great rush for power, and later for his building projects in Rome, such as the Colosseum.
To build and maintain Herod’s palace, the ramp, with its principle of the inclined plane, would have been essential. Heavy stone parts would have been turned, cut and polished in the ‘engineer’s’ yard EY and pulled up the ramp. When any construction work was completed, the ramp was reduced. The yard (built into the defensive wall) is near to the ramp to reduce the distance parts have to travel. There is a gate in the yard (part of the defensive wall) to bring parts to the citadel. The yard is protected on the outside by outer walls, similar to a modern building site. The soldiers who occupied the permanent adjacent guard house E (built into the defensive wall) protected the yard, its workers and the entrance to the citadel.
Gwyn Davies wrote some pretty astonishing words to me. He said that no excavations had been done on any of the guard houses built into the wall, except for guard house A (built into the wall). But here's the rub. Jodi Magness wrote that she thought Shmaryahu Gutman, who excavated guard house A, had not published his findings. And Gwyn Davies wrote that Gutman has never published his findings in English, as though he might have published them in another language. Gutman, it seems, was holding back some information deliberately. Jodi Magness has excavated only the Roman camp F. There appears to be a massive ignorance of the archaeology of the guard houses and towers built into the defensive wall. Did Gutman find any Roman artifacts in guard house A, like those Magness found in the Roman camp F? Or, did he find no Roman artifacts? Did he find only Jewish artifacts? It appears that guard houses D, E, G, H and the engineering yard EY have not been excavated. Nor have the defensive towers 1 to 15 along the eastern and north easterly sides in the defensive wall. (See plate 11 of Davies’ Roman Siege Works). These towers are a unique feature of the defensive wall. They are clearly defensive against attack from the sea or the shoreline, as at Machaerus.
The article in the Limes XVIII, Excavations at the Roman siege complex at Masada - 1995, has some interesting comments about the defensive guard house A (see page 210) in the south-eastern side of the defensive wall overlooking the shoreline and the sea. . The writers of the article were puzzled by the presence of two headquarters, the Roman camp F on the western side and guard house A on the eastern side. There was no reason to build two places for headquarters with two Roman commanders. The temporary Roman camp F, near the ramp, incorporated stairways and a watchtower. The only other structure with stairways and a watchtower was guard house A. Thus guard house A was not Roman. It was an Herodian command post for defenders looking eastwards for a possible attack from the shoreline or the sea. Guard house A at Masada is in exactly the same position as guard house D at Machaerus. Each guard house is adjacent to a row of defensive towers facing the shoreline and the sea. Thus both guard houses, A at Masada and D at Machaerus, functioned as look-out posts for Jewish military commanders. It is extremely likely that both Masada and Machaerus were taken by storm from the shoreline.
In an email, Ebehard Sauer said that if these fortifications (the defensive wall, the built-in defensive guard houses and towers) were Herodian, they should yield closely dateable artefacts, and charcoal suitable for 14C dating and maybe hearth suitable for archaeomagnetic dating. He also said there are limited options for dating a stone wall, but that optical luminescence (OSL) dating of the soil covered by the stone wall might be possible - an expert could tell. My view is that the time between when the wall was originally built and the Nero’s invasion should be sufficient for the accuracy of OSL dating to differentiate the two times. Jodi Magness assumes that the dates of the artifacts recovered from her excavation of the Roman camp F also dates the defensive wall. Yet she admits that the defensive wall has not been excavated and thus not independently dated. One question to ask is: are there any Roman artifacts in the soil below the wall, or, are there only Jewish artifacts?
Guy Stiebel, wrote in response to one of my e-mails: "Constructing a siege wall had in addition to practical functions also psychological virtues. Namely the wall was built also as a statement. This is why on the south-eastern sector one can see that the wall was built only in the sectors that were visible from the fortress. Mind you that there is no need to build a wall at all in this area - but it was built." That the wall was built as a ‘statement’ for ‘psychological’ reasons is surely contrived. He admits that there was no need to build a wall at all in the southern area. Guy Stiebal's comments were in response to an e-mail in which I said, "South of the fortress, the path of this outer wall appears to be over a cliff face. There is a gorge between the fortress and this cliff. Fleeing defenders would have had great difficulty climbing up the face of the cliff. The Romans had no need to build the wall there to keep defenders in." I wrote the same comments to Nachman Ben-Yehuda, author of two books on Masada. He wrote back in upper case ‘A VERY INTERESTING POINT’. The wall was to keep attackers out, not defenders in.
In connection with the defensive wall Guy Stiebal also wrote: "First and foremost it is built together with the camps - the walls of the small camps are integrated with the wall.” Yes, the small camps (guard houses) are integrated with the wall but they are not Roman camps. Stiebal continued: “Herod did not build it - none of the coins and pottery there found attest this and so forth. None of Herod's fortress has such external so-called 'defensive wall'.” Yes they did. Machaerus had a defensive wall around the upper and lower parts of the city. Stiebal continued: “But it is above all the Roman camps that were clearly built together with it. All the material culture from the camps are from the time of the revolt! Coins, pottery weapons and so forth! They are simply not Herodian in date, nor is the wall." Yes, the wall was built at the same time as the small camps because Herod naturally built them together as permanent stuctures. For the Romans to build a permanent wall with small camps for a siege is absolutely ridiculous. Immediately outside the wall the Romans built their own temporary camps to guard the site from another attack. It is quite possible that the Romans did go into the small camps and leave various artefacts there. But the guard houses integrated with the wall have not been excavated, except for guard house A by Gutman, and he has not published his results, as testified by Magness. So how can Stiebal say that coins, pottery, weapons and so forth are from the guard houses? As far as I know, the only camp where Roman artifacts have been found is the Roman camp F which Magness and others excavated. Nor has the wall itself been excavated and dated.
Stiebal continued: "It (the wall) was built in accordance to the Roman drill, with ample parallels." Magness agrees with Stiebal. She said: "The identification of the circumvallation wall at Masada as Roman is based on Josephus' testimony as well as with its connection with the eight siege camps, which are indisputably Roman." Of Magness’s eight ‘siege’ camps five were guard camps built permanently with the wall. That the guard camps were Herodian is given away by the fact that the engineer’s yard EY is also integrated with the defensive wall. The other three camps were the larger Roman temporary camps built outside the wall. What was Roman drill? Does Stiebal mean that the wall was built in a Roman style? Does he think the Romans had a monopoly on such construction? Herod had Italian architects and builders to help with his palaces, so I see no reason why the same builders were not employed in the construction of his defences.
How did Herod defend his cities? (See Ant.15.292- 297) He fortified Jerusalem and the city of Samaria. "Besides all which, he encompassed the city (Samaria renamed Sebaste) with a wall of great strength, and made use of the acclivity of the place for making its fortifications stronger; nor was the compass of the place made now so small as it had been before, but was such as rendered it not inferior to the most famous cities; for it was twenty furlongs in circumference." (297) . Thus Herod built a wall around Samaria approximately 2.5 miles long, almost the same length as the walls around Masada and Machaerus. Herod understood the need for such walls as an extra defence. "He also sent to his youngest brother Pheroas ... to build a wall about Alexandrium." (War 1.308). Alexandrium was a fortress north of Judea near the border of Samaria. These were early days when Herod was establishing his power base, building defensive walls around captured fortresses. Herod recognised that the defences of the fortresses of earlier times were inadequate. It was a standard procedure for Herod to build walls around cities he captured. He was later to lose a large proportion of his family at Alexandrium, including his wife Mariamne, who the author of Josephus would have us believe he murdered.