In 66 CE, Jews in the province of Judea launched a major rebellion against Rome, which lasted until approximately 74 CE. As Barry Strauss notes in a review of a new history of the conflict, it was not the only significant national uprising in Roman history. But it is particularly memorable for three reasons:
First, it caused the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, an event that has left its mark to this day, although in very different ways, on Christianity and Islam as well as on Judaism. Religious Jews pray every day, morning and evening, a heartfelt prayer to see the Temple rebuilt. Christians have at least historically believed that the destruction of the Temple fulfilled Jesus’s prophecy, and so they think it indicates divine favor for the New Israel of Christianity.
Second, the Great Revolt brought a new dynasty to power in Rome, the Flavians, and with them a new architectural program. The dynasty’s founder, Vespasian (r. 69–79 CE), based his claim to the purple on his leading role in putting down the Great Revolt, which he achieved with the help of his son and successor, Titus. They, along with Titus’s younger brother and successor, Domitian, turned the center of Rome into a veritable world’s fair commemorating their defeat of the rebels of Judea. Monuments there included but were not limited to the famous Arch of Titus on the edge of the Roman Forum, with its relief sculpture showing loot captured from the Temple in Jerusalem; the nearby Temple of Peace, which housed some of that loot; a second arch dedicated to Titus, but no longer extant, at the entrance to the Circus Maximus; and above all, the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum. The most famous monument of ancient Rome and the symbol of the city today was built in part from spoils of war looted from Judea and served to commemorate that victory.
The third reason for the importance of the Great Revolt is the historian Josephus, a contemporary of and participant in its dramatic events. His Jewish War, or Judean War as some translate it, is by far the most detailed account of any rebellion in a Roman province that survives, as well as an important source for the history of the imperial Roman army.
More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Josephus, Judean Revolt