What Became of the Treasures of the Second Temple?

According to an eight-century-old rumor, which persists in some Jewish circles today despite the lack of evidence to support it, sacred items from the Second Temple lie in the vaults of the Vatican. The ancient historian Josephus recounts that the golden menorah, the table of the showbread, and other ritual objects were indeed transported to Rome after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, paraded through its streets in a triumphal procession—depicted famously in the Arch of Titus—and then placed in the recently built Temple of Peace. In the last post of a five-part series, Carl Rasmussen explores what happened to them next:

[I]n 192 CE the Temple of Peace [in Rome] was burned down. [The historian Clyde] Billington argues that “the [Jerusalem] Temple menorah and the other ‘treasures of the Jews’ were rescued and placed in the royal palace where, according to the Byzantine historian Procopius, they remained until the mid-5th century CE.” . . . In 445 CE . . . the Vandals conquered and looted the city of Rome and [took these treasures] to their capital city of Carthage in North Africa. Procopius of Caesarea also describes how . . . the Byzantine general Belisarius conquered Carthage in 534 CE. . . . [Then] the Temple treasures were brought to Constantinople [and] placed, for a time, in the newly built Nea Church [in Jerusalem], dedicated in 543 CE.

Some of the remains of the Nea Church have been excavated and are located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem—but much is covered by the Jewish Quarter parking lot. . . .

At that point, the story becomes very complex because of the Persian invasion and capture of Jerusalem in 614 CE. It is complex partially because the Jews initially assisted the Persians, and may have gained possession of the objects then, but soon thereafter the Persians sided with the Christians. And eventually the Byzantine ruler Heraclius captured Jerusalem in 630 and treated the Jewish population harshly.

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Read more at Holy Land Photos

More about: Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Jerusalem, Josephus, Second Temple

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy