Simon bar Giora, Ancient Jewish Hero:
A Historical Reinterpretation
VISITORS to Rome are inevitably taken to see the Mamertine Prison, not far from the Forum, where it is said Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome, perpetrated his deeds of bloodshed as early as the 3rd century before the Christian era. Here, below the actual building with its ancient Latin inscription, is a noisome dungeon hewn out of the rock, which is associated with some of the darkest tragedies of ancient history. Here the gallant Gaullish chieftain Vercingetorix was strangled by order of Caesar, and the accomplices of Cataline by order of Cicero, who tersely announced the execution in the single word vixerunt (“they have lived”). Here, according to Christian legend, St. Peter was imprisoned before his martyrdom. But for the Jew this spot has a special significance: for here Simon bar Giora was put to death in the year 71, as the symbol of the Jewish defeat, after the triumph of Vespasian and the overthrow of Jerusalem. In Roman eyes he was considered the principal leader of the revolt that had at last been crushed, after such stiff fighting and so many losses. It is amazing, and not wholly creditable, that among Jews he is barely remembered: and when he is, in terms almost of caricature.
About the Author