Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ASOR Blog | The 'Circumvallation' Wall at Masada - In an article by Jodi Magness

The ASOR Blog - The 'Circumvallation' Wall at Masada - in an article by Jodi Magness 
Professor Jodi Magness wrote:
"archaeology sheds valuable light on other aspects of the Roman siege of Masada, which was conducted in the winter-spring of 72/73 or 73/74 C.E. and probably lasted no longer than 2-3 months. The Roman siege works, including eight camps that housed approximately 8000 troops and a circumvallation (siege) wall, still are clearly visible encircling the base of the mountain."

First let me say that Jodi Magness, and others, have a wrong date of between 72 to 74 CE for the capture of Masada.  The same is true for the time of the supposed siege of 2-3 months.  I believe that Masada (and Machaerus and Qumran) were taken by storm.  That implies at most a few days. This was in 66 CE by forces under Nero.  The great Vespasian as understood today, was the general fawning at Nero's feet.  

Here is one proof that Nero was leading the forces in 66 CE:
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 Jewish victory). Hendin says that the Judea capta series of coins was Rome's victorious response to the Jewish war. He further implies that Vitellius took advantage of his months in office to use the war for his Roman propaganda. Hendin thinks 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, as described in this blog, and not the sort of war created by Josephus. Vitellius was simply starting a propaganda which Vespasian later exploited with further issues of coins. As Vitellius was the last emperor in the 'year of the four emperors', one can safely say that the 'war' had been over four/five years before Vitellius came up with the idea of issuing Judea Capta coins. Vitellius was celebrating Nero's victory over the priests as something greater. But Nero had left the temple intact with all its wealth.
The Jewish revolt (by a relatively small number of people)  was over in a few days.  In 66 Nero had sailed to Ceasarea with his army.  From there he went straight to Jerusalem.  He entered Jerusalem without opposition at the invitation of the prophets.  The priests had fled taking their manuscripts with them to the fortresses they had captured from their Idumean and Herodian guards.   

We have been left with the archaeology and the vivid imagination of the writer Josephus. Herod reinforced many of his captured fortresses by building additional defensive walls around the existing fortresses. Masada (and Machaerus) were not exceptions. Jodi Magness (along with just about every other archaeologist with an interest) says that the Roman siege works included a circumvallation (or a siege) wall.  I reject totally this statement as false. Two archaeologists who agree with Magness on this point are Dr Guy Stiebel of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Associate Professor Gwyn Davies in the Department of History at Florida International University.  Gwyn Davies has written a book, Roman Siege Works.  All three are stridently confident in their view that the 'circumvallation' wall at Masada was built by the Roman military.  And so it seems is another archaeologist, Eberhard Sauer, Professor of Roman Archaeology in the University of Edinburgh.  Dr Duncan B. Campbell, a scholar of Greek and Roman warfare would probably agree with the rest.  He has written a book, Siege Warfare in the Roman World 146 BC to AD 378.  They all behave like sheep. These folk have been brainwashed to believe in the might of Rome. They also have been swayed by the writings attributed to one Josephus, and by what scholars have said in the past.  For example, according to the writings attributed to Josephus, Titus was supposed to have built a continuous stone wall around Jerusalem to put the city under siege.  There are no signs of that wall and no photographs of it in any books.  Yet Masada's well photographed wall is there for all to see.  

Why do scholars go on the defensive when challenged?  Is it because not to do so  would have severe implications for Christian and Jewish beliefs?  They all appear to be tarred with the same brush.  They have all assumed, falsely, that Masada's wall was built by Romans.  The wall around Masada was a defensive wall built by Herod.  It is similar to the wall around Machaerus.  These walls were built by Herod to protect his palaces.  So in this article I call the circumvallation walls defensive walls, assault ramps construction ramps, and the 'camps' built into the walls 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 (, Duncan Campbell questions Davies' emphasis on circumvallation: "Not only is Davies' 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 have recently been to Maiden Castle in Dorset.  It is the largest hill fort in the UK and Europe. The archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler reckons it was taken by storm.  It was here and at other forts that Vespasian gained experience in attacking forts during the conquest of England and Wales.  Maiden Castle was not unlike Masada with several defensive mounds, one around the other.  

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.  Josephus has this to say about Machaerus (see War 7.6.2):

"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; ..... 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 the 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' 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 defensive wall with guard houses that Herod built around the whole complex of lower city and upper citadel.  The Romans did build one or two separate camps around the city after they had captured it from the amateur force of 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 ( "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   'firing stations'.  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 (as Davies calls them) 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 at the time Augustus was fighting Anthony and Cleopatra's forces. And the Arabians were supporters of Cleopatra. 


Masada was built on the same principle as Machaerus.  It had a 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.

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 bribed his later appointees, Bassus and Silva, who knew the truth.  They, like Vespasian, could misclaim victories to an ignorant public, and gain glory for themselves. 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 misclaimed - the time of the coins of so-called revolt, was a time of peace in Judea.  'Coins of revolt' were minted for five years from May 66 (see page 394 of The Herodian Dynasty by Kokkinos).  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."  My point would be that the people and the prophets probably had no idea of what Vespasian was planning.  The prophets had control of the temple, and the priests had been overpowered by Nero's forces in 66 CE.  The attack on the temple came as a shock to its occupants. 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 gain power.  

Nero had previously built camps outside the defensive wall as a main base for his troops and to prevent the re-capture of the fortress.   The wall with its built-in accommodation for guards was designed to be defended by at least 3000 troops.  Herod had plenty of manpower and stores and accommodation.  The priests that had occupied Masada were few by comparison and no match for a professional Roman army.  They would have found it impossible to defend a wall over 3000 m in length.  It was ripe for storm.

To build and maintain his 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 and pulled up the ramp.   The yard is near to the ramp to reduce the distance parts have to travel.  There is a gate in the inner wall (part of the defensive wall) of the yard to bring parts to the citadel.  The yard is protected on the outside by three outer walls.  Guard house E was intended to protect the yard, its workers and the entrance to the citadel.  It had two inner gates to allow rapid movement of defending soldiers.

An article in the Limes XVIII, Excavations at the Roman siege complex at Masada - 1995 written by Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas, page 209, describes how logs of Tamarisk  and Palm trees were laid to reinforce a foundation of locally quarried soft limestone and soil. This was  poured on the top of the spur of rock forming the base of the ramp.  Has it occurred to anyone to date the trees by carbon 14 dating and by their rings?  Second there is a possibility that Optical Luminescence dating could be applied to the limestone to establish the date it was laid.  The same is true of the defensive wall which is built of limestone.    

The assault  tower of height 27 m (according to Josephus) would have been highly unstable on such a narrow ramp slope of approximately one in two.   Again, according to Josephus, a block of stones 22m wide by 22m deep was supposed to have been constructed at the top of the slope as a foundation for the tower, so that the tower would stand vertical.  In his book Siege Warfare in the Roman World, Duncan Campbell wrote:  "No vestiges of this extra layer have ever been found”.

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 defensive wall, except for guard house A.  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.  There is something very fishy going on here. Gutman, it seems, is 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?  And 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 borders of the defensive wall. (See plate 11 of 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.   

Gutman's silence on the defensive guard house A?   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).  The writers of the article were puzzled by the presence of two headquarters, 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 article has: "Once the siege was over, a small unit, maybe a century, was left behind at Masada. This force utilized part of the available constructions of camp F1 (a Roman camp), and established itself in the south-west corner of that camp. To complete its defence (the Romans were in a guarding mode), new eastern and northern walls were built and a new gate added at the centre of the east wall. In addition, the western and southern wall, an original element, were abutted by another inner wall incorporating stairways and watchtowers as well." It was intriguing to the writers that the only other structure with such similar defensive arrangements (like stairways and a watchtower) was guard house A which was built into the defensive wall.  The answer is, guard house A was a 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 functioned as look out posts for the fortress military commander.  It is extremely likely that both Masada and Machaerus were taken by storm from the shoreline.     

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 Roman 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 Herodian or Jewish artifacts?  

Guy Stiebel  wrote in response to an e-mail: 

1."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 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 second cliff face.  There is a gorge between the fortress and this second cliff. Fleeing defenders would have had great difficulty climbing up the face of the second cliff. The Romans had no need to build the wall there to keep defenders in."  I wrote the same comments to Nachman Ben-Yehuda who wrote back in upper case A VERY INTERESTING POINT. The Romans could have simply patrolled the second cliff face.  This wall was built by Herod to keep attackers out.         

2."First and foremost it is built together with the camps - the walls of the small camps are integrated with the wall. 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'. 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."

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 been excavated and dated.    

3."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 connnection with the 8 siege camps, which are indisputably Roman." 

What was Roman drill?  Does Stiebal mean that the wall was built in a Roman style?  Or does he mean it was built in a Roman military manner?  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 should not have influenced his building of defences.    

How did Herod defend his cities?

1.Ant.15.8.5: "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." 

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. 

2.War 1.16.3. "He also sent to his youngest brother Pheroas ... to build a wall about Alexandrium."

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 knew that the defenses of the fortresses from earlier times were inadequate because he had captured them.

What do the writings attributed to Josephus say about Masada?

War 1.13.7. "Now as Pacorus and his friends were considering how they might bring their plot to bear privately, because it was not possible to circumvent a man of so great prudence by openly attacking him, Herod prevented them, and went off with the persons that were the most nearly related to him (I suggest "him" was Hyrcanus the high priest and king, not Hyrcanus II as in the text) by night, and this without their enemies being apprized of it. But as soon as the Parthians perceived it, they pursued after them; and as he gave orders for his mother, and sister, and the young woman who was betrothed to him, with her mother, and his youngest brother, to make the best of their way, he himself, with his servants, took all the care they could to keep off the barbarians; and when at every assault he had slain a great many of them, he came to the strong hold of Masada."

There is no record of any battle to take Masada.  Herod arrived outside Masada with Mariamne, "the young woman who was betrothed to him", that is Mariamne and "her mother", Alexandra II, who was the wife (NOT the daughter as in the text) of the king Hyrcanus (who was not the high priest Hyrcanus II as in the text).  Notice that the writer is reluctant to give the names of the two women in case he gave the game away.  Hyrcanus was resident at Masada. (See Ant.14.11.7 below).  Herod didn't have to negotiate with Hyrcanus.  As his future son-in-law Herod would have been invited into Masada especially as he had rescued Hyrcanus's wife and daughter from the Parthians.  The relation between Hyrcanus and Herod was of course good. After all, what father would keep his wife and daughter, and future husband, his mother and brother, waiting outside, with the hostile Antigonius around. The travelling party must have expected to be kindly received. 

War.1.13.8."Now as they were in their flight, many joined themselves to him every day; and at a place called Thressa of Idumea his brother Joseph met him, and advised him to ease himself of a great number of his followers, because Masada would not contain so great a multitude, which were above nine thousand. Herod complied with this advice, and sent away the most cumbersome part of his retinue, that they might go into Idumea, and gave them provisions for their journey; but he got safe to the fortress with his nearest relations, and retained with him only the stoutest of his followers; and there it was that he left eight hundred of his men as a guard for the women, and provisions sufficient for a siege; but he made haste himself to Petra of Arabia." 

War 1.15.1: "Now during this time Antigonus besieged those that were in Masada, who had all other necessaries in sufficient quantity, but were in want of water; on which account Joseph, Herod's brother, was disposed to run away to the Arabians, with two hundred of his own friends, because he had heard that Malichus repented of his offenses with regard to Herod;"

War 1.15.3. "as was Silo in Judea corrupted by the bribes that Antigonus had given him; yet was not Herod himself destitute of power, but the number of his forces increased every day as he went along, and all [Galilee] {Judea}, with few exceptions, joined themselves to him. So he proposed to himself to set about his most necessary enterprise, and that was Masada, in order to deliver his relations from the siege they endured."

War 1.15.4.After this Herod took Joppa, and then made haste to Masada to free his relations. Now, as he was marching, many came in to him, induced by their friendship to his father, some by the reputation he had already gained himself, and some in order to repay the benefits they had received from them both; but still what engaged the greatest number on his side, was the hopes from him when he should be established in his kingdom; so that he had gotten together already an army hard to be conquered.  But Antigonus laid an ambush for him as he marched out, in which he did little or no harm to his enemies. However, he easily recovered his relations again that were in Masada, as well as the fortress Ressa, and then marched to Jerusalem, where the soldiers that were with Silo joined themselves to his own, as did many out of the city, from a dread of his power.  The editor makes it sound as though Herod had captured Masada and Ressa.  In fact he had beaten off Antigonus's soldiers who were besieging Masada.  Ressa was fictitious.    

War 1.16.1:However, Herod did not lie at rest, but seized upon [Idumea] {Jerusalem}, and kept it, with two thousand footmen, and four hundred horsemen; and this he did [by sending his brother Joseph thither,] that no innovation might be made by Antigonus. He also removed his mother, and all his relations (this must have included Mariamne and her father Hyrcanus who was getting old), who had been in Masada, to [Samaria] {Jerusalem}; and when he had settled them securely, he marched to take the remaining parts of [Galilee] {Judea}, and to drive away the garrisons placed there by Antigonus.  

He removed his mother and relations from Masada to a secure place, which I maintain was Jerusalem, not Samaria.  Herod was then free to develop Masada as Hyrcanus and he wanted, with two palaces, storehouses and a casemate wall on the summit, and a defensive wall with guardhouses.  The relations were to return when building work was finished. (See Ant.15.6.1 below).  Significantly, there is no record of the vast amount of construction work that must have gone on at Masada.   

War 1.16.3. "He also sent to his youngest brother Pheroas ... to build a wall about Alexandrium."

It was a standard procedure for Herod to build walls around cities he captured ,or simply took.

What Happened to Agrippa I's Children Bernice and Agrippa II?

Ant.20.9.3. "For the robbers perpetually tried to catch some of Ananias's servants". 

This translates into: The priests tried perpetually to catch some of Agrippa's servants to give the chief priest Ananias some bargaining power.  One of the king's servants could be exchanged for ten priests that the king had captured. The strategy was to take captives and use them as bargaining chips.

War 2.17.2. "And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada.  They took it by treachery and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it."

The time was the reign of Agrippa the Great, and Agrippa was fighting for his life, or he had just been killed by the priests.  This text deliberately hides "those that principally excited the people to go to war".  These included the exiled priests Ananias and two of his sons, Ananus (the murderer of James) and Eleazar.  The priests had rebelled, and were looking to arm themselves with the weapons they knew were stored in Masada, weapons that belonged to king Agrippa.  There were no Romans occupying Masada. They slew Agrippa's soldiers (probably Idumeans) that were there. It was probably Ananus who took Masada, by treachery. We are not told the exact method.  And why does the writer say "a certain fortress called Masada" when Masada was well known as a fortress? This was an expansion of a civil war.

Eleazar had been appointed to be in charge of the temple.  He forced the prophets (those that "officiated in the Divine service") to accept the principle of sacrifice for sins.  This was nothing to do with rejecting the "sacrifice of Caesar".  The prophets rejected the sacrifice of animals for sins. They believed that sacrifice made no difference to a person's standing before God.  

The priests had caught the king's daughter (the later so-called mistress of Titus) Bernice, her brother Agrippa II and another daughter, the same as they had caught the king's servants.  These three had been living in Agrippa I's palace in Jerusalem. They took them to Masada and persuaded the Idumean guards that they would harm the children if they didn't let them in.  The guards acceded to their request. Then they killed the guards and proceeded to try Bernice and the other two. She stood barefoot before Ananus, was insulted by the priests,  and she asked that the prophets be set free.  There was no escape. They cut her hair to shame her - the hair was actually discovered in Masada. She was executed. Amnon Ben Tor writes in his book Back to Masada (see page 304): "on one of the steps were  found fragments of a woman's scalp with well preserved braids of brown hair wrapped up in remains of a kerchief on which possible traces of blood (?) could still be observed."  Ben Tor should know because he uncovered the find which included three skeletons.  One was that of a man aged about 22 years, a woman about 18, and a boy (supposedly) about 11. (see page 304 of Ben Tor).  It is probable that the man was Agrippa II, and the woman Bernice the daughter of Agrippa I, who had both been murdered.  The boy was the youngest son of Agrippa I.  

War 2.15.1 gives us a indication (garbled by Flavian historians) of  what happened to Bernice: Now she dwelt then at Jerusalem, in order to perform a vow which she had made to God; for it is usual with those that had been either afflicted with a distemper, or with any other distresses, to make vows; and for thirty days before they are to offer their sacrifices, to abstain from wine, and to shave the hair of their head. Which things Bernice was now performing, and stood barefoot before Florus tribunal, and besought him to spare the Jews.  Yet could she neither have any reverence paid to her, nor could she escape without some danger of being slain herself." 

You will not get a better correlation than this. Bernice was not standing barefoot before Florus but before a priest, probably Eleazar the son of Caiaphus, while in Masada, not Jerusalem.  She was not having here head shaved to make a vow, but her hair was being actually cut off with a part of her scalp. Bernice had been taken from Jerusalem with her brother Agrippa II and a young brother to Masada.  All three were executed while the priests mocked them.

Yet another indication of what happened to Bernice is War 2.15.1 which has:  "but indeed had killed her also, unless she had prevented them by flying to the palace, and had staid there all night with her guards, which she had about her for fear of an insult from the soldiers".

Ben Tor says (page 305): "There is no archaeologist who has not been asked during his or her career what they consider their most moving discovery.  I have also been asked this question many times, and I always say that the day I uncovered the three skeletons in the lower level of the Northern Palace was the most thrilling day in my professional life." Such was the importance  Ben Tor attached to his discovery. It was more important than ever he could have imagined.  The place was a small bath house - exactly the sort of place that guilty folk would have committed the murder.

Yadin thought the three skeletons were a family group.  And that one of the skeletons may have been that of an officer, based on the silver-coated scales of armour found next to the skeleton of the man.  Yadin had them reburied in SECRET location.   The family group were the children of Agrippa I.  The officer was Agrippa II wearing royal armour.  

On the same page, Joe Zias says the place where the bodies were found was a Roman burial ground in Masada. But how does he explain the woman's hair being cut off along with some of her scalp, in the context of a Roman burial ground? Zias seemed to have changed his mind when he said that hyenas brought the remains to the small bath house on the lower terrace of the Northern Palace. 

The penultimate chapter of Antiquities (See 19.9) is reserved for what must be one of the most appalling cover-ups in the writings attributed to Josephus. After the death of king Agrippa, the supposed soldiers from Caesarea and Sebaste supposedly went to the kings supposed house, took away supposed statues of Agrippa's daughters to supposed brothel houses and abused them on the tops of the houses.  Such a fanciful story is ridiculous, yet scholars have sought to explain it as though it was true.  This story recalls the fact that the priests had murdered three of Agrippa I's children.  The children had been taken from Agrippa I's palace to Masada. Agrippa II did not survive the war.  

The history of Agrippa II after the war of 66 was all Roman propaganda, as was Bernice's supposed incestuous relation with him, and her love affair with Titus.  Agrippa II was never crowned king of anywhere. There may be coins of Agrippa II, but these were overstamped. The historians assume that Agrippa II and Bernice were expelled from Jerusalem.   Agrippa II was buried unceremoniously with Bernice and his young sister at Masada.  Agrippa I and Agrippa II's dates of death were in the year 66 CE.  The date of Agrippa II's birth should be brought forward.  The Flavian writers exploited the fact that the names were the same. Thus Agrippa II (without the II) is described as expending large sums beautifying Jerusalem, when in reality it was his father Agrippa I. Agrippa II's supposed appointment of High Priests was a farce. The priests were living in exile in their villages. There were no animal sacrifices in the temple.  

Manahem the son of Judas, the Galilean, was a complete fabrication. Didn't he just have to be the son of Judas and a Galilean?

War 2.17.8. "In the mean time, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans, took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod's armoury, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also." 

This text gives the impression that rebel priests were already occupying Masada and thus able to get access to Agrippa's weapons. 'Manahem' only had to 'break open' the 'king Herod's armoury'.  The weapons were those of king Agrippa's soldiers.  This was the real reason the rebel priests used the children of Agrippa as hostages to bargain their way into Masada. The priests intent was to arm themselves.

War 2.17.9. "But Eleazar and his party fell violently upon him, as did also the rest of the people; and taking up stones to attack him withal, they threw them at the sophister, and thought, that if he were once ruined, the entire sedition would fall to the ground. Now Manahem and his party made resistance for a while; but when they perceived that the whole multitude were falling upon them,
  they the multitude fled which way every one was able; those that were caught were slain, and those that hid themselves were searched for.  A few there were of them who privately escaped to Masada, among whom was Eleazar the son of Jairus, who was of kin to Manahem and acted the part of a tyrant  at Masada afterward. As for Manahem himself he ran away to the place called Ophla, and there lay skulking in private; but they took him alive, and drew him out before them all; they then tortured him with many sorts of torments, and after all slew him, as they did by those that were captains under him also, and particularly by the principal instrument of his tyranny whose name was Apsalom."

Here the writer continues the sham of portraying Menahem as a rebel.  We have Eleazar the son of Ananias, along with the people, attacking "Menahem and his party" on the pretence (of the writer) that the latter were rebels.  And another Eleazar the son of Jairus, who was supposed to be related to Menaham, who managed to escape to Masada.  The writer was thinking subliminally. The true rebel was Eleazar the son of Caiaphus, who supported other priests in the capture of Masada from its Idumean soldiers.   The whole story is obviously a fabrication to confuse real events.  "Manahem himself he ran away to the place called Ophla, and there lay skulking in private", indeed!

What Happened to Agrippa I?

Agrippa I was a prophet
Ant.19.8.2. "Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the [city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato'sTower] {temple}; and there he [exhibited] {offered} [shows] {prayers} in [honour of Caesar] {the Spirit} upon his being informed that there was [a certain] {the} festival of Tabernacles celebrated to make vows [for his safety].  At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the [principal persons] {prophets}, and such as were of dignity through his province. On the second day of which [shows] {festival} he put on a garment made wholly of [silver] {white linen} [, and of a contexture truly wonderful,] and came into the [theatre] {temple} early in the morning; at which time the [silver] {whiteness} of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the SUN'S RAYS upon it, shone out after a surprising manner [, and was so resplendent] as to spread a [horror] {joy} over [those] {the prophets} that looked intently upon him; and presently [his flatterers] {the prophets} [cried out] {prayed}, one from one place, and another from another, [though not for his good,] that he was a {prophet of} God; 
[and they added, "Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature]."

The passage leading up to Agrippa I's supposed death has pretty obviously been garbled, yet scholars accept it literally that the Jews believed he was a God and that was why God struck him down.  The 'essenes' (prophets) rose before dawn and put on a white garment.  For the Feast of Tabernacles they went to the temple. While the early morning sun was shining on them, they recited their prayers.  Agrippa was there dressed as a prophet in a white garment.  The prophets took it in turns to pray, as in the New Testament.  The Feast of Tabernacles was the time when the Spirit of God came, also as in the New Testament.  This was the first time that Agrippa I celebrated being a prophet. 

The priests were already out of favour. The scrolls demean the prophets, or they are not mentioned explicitly being classed as "seekers of smooth things".  The king, Agrippa I was apposed to priests.    

There is something wrong with the history related to Agrippa I in the writings attributed to Josephus. Aristobulus, the father of Agrippa I, was made king after Herod the Great died, not Archelaus.  He continued where Herod left-off, with the priests out on their ear. 

Aristobulus was King of Judea after Herod the Great

Ant.18.1.1."NOW [Cyrenius] {Aristobulus}, a [Roman senator] {Hasmonean}, and

[one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and]

one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity came at this time into [Syria] {Judea}, [with a few others,] being sent by Caesar to be

[a judge of that Nation and to take an account of their substance.  Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power]

{king} over the Jews.

[Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money;]"

Aristobulus would have been sent from Rome on the death of his father.  He was the inheritor of Judea in Herod's  will.

Ant. 18.2.3. And now [Herod the tetrarch] {Aristobulus}, who was in great favor with [Tiberius] {the prophets}, built a city [of the same name with him, and called it Tiberias] {Ein Gedi}. He built it in the best part of [Galilee] {Judea}, at the [lake of Gennesareth] {Sea of Salt}. There are warm baths at a little distance from it.

[, in a village named Emmaus. Strangers came and inhabited this city; a great number of the inhabitants were Galileans also; and]

Many were [necessitated] {invited} by Herod to come thither out of the country belonging to him, [and were by force compelled] to be its inhabitants; some of them were [persons] {prophets} of condition. He also admitted poor [people] {prophets}, such as those that were collected from all parts, to dwell in it. Nay, some of them were [not quite free-men] {trainee prophets}, and these he was benefactor to, and made them [free] {prophets} in great numbers; but obliged them not to forsake the city, by building them very good houses at his own expenses, and by giving them land also; 

There is a consistency in Aristobulus's good character. 

The prophets were to be attacked in their village or city of Ein Gedi by the priests in Agrippa I's time.

Ant.18.4.6. "About this time it was that [Philip] {Aristobulus}, Herod's ' [brother] {son}, departed this life, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius, after he had been [tetrarch of Trachonitis and Gaulanitis, and] {king} of the nation of the [Bataneans also,] {Jews} thirty-seven years. He had showed himself a person of moderation [and quietness] in the conduct of his life and government; [he constantly lived in that country which was subject to him; he used to make his progress with a few chosen friends;] his tribunal also, on which he sat in judgment, followed him in his progress; and when any one met him who wanted his assistance, he made no delay, but had his tribunal set down immediately, wheresoever he happened to be, and sat down upon it, and heard his complaint: he there ordered the guilty that were convicted to be punished, and absolved those that had been accused unjustly. He died at [Julias] {Jerusalem}; and when he was carried to that monument which he had already erected for himself beforehand, he was buried with great pomp. His principality [Tiberius] {Agrippa (I)} took." 

The writer wanted to give the impression that his Philip {Aristobulus} never went out of the country, was quiet, and just went around with a few of his friends. He simply got on with things in a remote country without creating any ripples.  This was to put the reader off the scent.  

Ant.14.11.7. But when Cassius was marched out of Syria, disturbances arose in Judea; for Felix, who was left at Jerusalem with an army, made a sudden attempt against Phasaelus, and the people themselves rose in arms; but Herod went to Fabius, the prefect of Damascus, and was desirous to run to his brother's assistance, but was hindered by a distemper that seized upon him, till Phasaelus by himself had been too hard for Felix, and had shut him up in the tower, and there, on certain conditions, dismissed him. Phasaelus also complained of Hyrcanus, that although he had received a great many benefits from them, yet did he support their enemies; for [Malichus's brother] {he} had made many places to revolt, and kept garrisons in them, and particularly Masada, the strongest fortress of them all. In the mean time, Herod was recovered of his disease, and came and took from [Felix] {Hyrcanus} all the places he had gotten; and, upon certain conditions, dismissed him also. 

In the above passage, Felix had been dealt with by Phasaelus.  'Malichus's brother' is unnamed. The passage makes more sense to consider that Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean, and the high priest, was in occupation of Masada, and that Herod took Masada from Hyrcanus. (See War 1.13.7 above).  This is an indication that the text was being manipulated. There is no sign of any battle. 

Ant.14.13.7and 8:"He therefore removed with the armed men whom he had with him; and set his wives upon the beasts, as also his mother, and sister, and her whom he was about to marry, Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, with her mother, the daughter of Hyrcanus, and his youngest brother, and all their servants, and the rest of the multitude that was with him, and without the enemy's privity pursued his way to Idumea... and proceeded on the way he proposed to go with the utmost haste, and that was to the fortress of Masada."

Ant.14.13.9."And when he was come to Idumea, at a place called Thressa, his brother Joseph met him, and he then held a council to take advice about all his affairs, and what was fit to be done in his circumstances, since he had a great multitude that followed him, besides his mercenary soldiers, and the place Masada, whither he proposed to fly, was too small to contain so great a multitude; so he sent away the greater part of his company, being above nine thousand, and bid them go, some one way, and some another, and so save themselves in Idumea, and gave them what would buy them provisions in their journey. But he took with him those that were the least encumbered, and were most intimate with him, and came to the fortress, and placed there his wives and his followers, being eight hundred in number, there being in the place a sufficient quantity of corn and water, and other necessaries,"

Ant.14.14.5 and 6"Antony also feasted Herod the first day of his reign. And thus did this man (Herod) receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio the first time.  All this while Antigonus besieged those that were in Masada, who had plenty of all other necessaries, but were only in want of water insomuch that on this occasion Joseph, Herod's brother, was contriving to run away from it, with two hundred of his dependents, to the Arabians; for he had heard that Malchus repented of the offenses he had been guilty of with regard to Herod; but God, by sending rain in the night time, prevented his going away, for their cisterns were thereby filled, and he was under no necessity of running away on that account; but they were now of good courage, and the more so, because the sending that plenty of water which they had been in want of seemed a mark of Divine Providence; so they made a sally, and fought hand to hand with Antigonus's soldiers, (with some openly, with some privately,) and destroyed a great number of them." 

Ant.14.15.1."However, as Herod went along his army increased every day, and all Galilee, with some small exception, joined him; but as he was to those that were in Masada, (for he was obliged to endeavor to save those that were in that fortress now they were besieged, because they were his relations,) Joppa was a hinderance to him, for it was necessary for him to take that place first, it being a city at variance with him, that no strong hold might be left in his enemies' hands behind him when he should go to Jerusalem. And when Silo made this a pretense for rising up from Jerusalem, and was thereupon pursued by the Jews, Herod fell upon them with a small body of men, and both put the Jews to flight and saved Silo, when he was very poorly able to defend himself; but when Herod had taken Joppa, he made haste to set free those of his family that were in Masada.

The Romans used the same strategy in 66 CE.  Before they took Jerusalem, they made sure that the fortresses at their backs, Masada, Machaerus and Qumran had been dealt with. 

Ant.14.15.2."Herod had now a strong army; and as he marched on, Antigonus laid snares and ambushes in the passes and places most proper for them; but in truth he thereby did little or no damage to the enemy. So Herod received those of his family out of Masada, and the fortress Ressa, and then went on for Jerusalem." 

Ant.14.15.4."But Herod was not pleased with lying still, but sent out his brother Joseph against Idumea with two thousand armed footmen, and four hundred horsemen, while he himself came to Samaria, and left his mother and his other relations there, for they were already gone out of Masada, and went into Galilee, to take certain places which were held by the garrisons of Antigonus; and he passed on to Sepphoris, as God sent a snow, while Antigonus's garrisons withdrew themselves, and had great plenty of provisions." 

Ant.15.6.1."so he committed the care of every thing to his brother Pheroras, and placed his mother Cypros, and his sister Salome, and the whole family at Masada, and gave him a charge, that if he should hear any sad news about him, he should take care of the government. But as to Mariamne his wife, because of the misunderstanding between her and his sister, and his sister's mother, which made it impossible for them to live together, he placed her at Alexandrium, with Alexandra her mother, and left his treasurer Joseph and Sohemus of Iturea to take care of that fortress."