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Jewish historian Sebag Montefiore's absurd writings on Roman Empire's pre-Nazi anti-Jewish atrocities: "Titus’ Roman holocaust"

Introduction by Radio Islam:

Simon Sebag Montefiore, from the famous Jewish Montefiore banking family, is the favourite historian of the BBC, whose TV-programmes reach into millions of people's homes.

This so called historical "authority" is a complete Judaic fanatic when it comes to Jewish history. Below an excerpt from him on the Romans' war against the Jews in 70 AD.

Here one understands that Sebag Montefiore's brain is completely fogged by his Jewish upbringing where he without any scrutiny or basic critical thought, relays the most bizarre Jewish gruel-propaganda versus the Romans.

Bold text and underlines below, added by this site to emphasize segments overlapping the W.W.II Holocaust tales of Nazi/German atrocities.


Simon Sebag Montefiore: Titus’ Roman holocaust
Special to National Post

Publishing date:
February 19, 2012
See also
, February 15, 2012
The Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, as envisioned by painter Francesco Hayez.
In the extraordinary new book, Jerusalem: The Biography, Simon Sebag Montefiore tells the story of the world’s holiest city. In today’s third instalment: the bloody destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.

On the 8th of the Jewish month of Ab, in late July ad 70, Titus, the Roman Emperor Vespasian’s son who was in command of the four-month siege of Jerusalem, ordered his entire army to prepare to storm the Temple at dawn. The next day happened to be the very day on which Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem over 500 years before.

Now, Titus commanded an army of four legions — a total of 60,000 Roman legionaries and local auxiliaries who were eager to deliver the final blow to the defiant but broken city. Within the walls, perhaps half a million starving Jews survived in diabolical conditions: Some were fanatical religious zealots, some were free-booting bandits, but most were innocent families with no escape from this magnificent death-trap. There were many Jews living outside Judaea — they were to be found throughout the Mediterranean and Near East — and this final desperate struggle would decide not only the fate of the city and her inhabitants, but also the future of Judaism and the small Jewish cult of Christianity — and even, looking forward across six centuries, the shape of Islam.

The Romans had built ramps up against the walls of the Temple. But their assaults had failed. Earlier that day, Titus told his generals that his efforts to preserve this “foreign temple” were costing him too many soldiers and he ordered the Temple gates set alight. The silver of the gates melted and spread the fire to the wooden doorways and windows, thence to the wooden fittings in the passageways of the Temple itself. Titus ordered the fire to be quenched. The Romans, he declared, should “not avenge themselves on inanimate objects instead of men.” Then he retired for the night into his headquarters in the half-ruined Tower of Antonia overlooking the resplendent Temple complex.

Around the walls, there were gruesome scenes that must have resembled Hell on Earth. Thousands of bodies putrefied in the sun. The stench was unbearable. Packs of dogs and jackals feasted on human flesh. In the preceding months, Titus had ordered all prisoners or defectors to be crucified. Five hundred Jews were crucified each day. The Mount of Olives and the craggy hills around the city were so crowded with crucifixes that there was scarcely room for any more, nor trees to make them.

Titus’ soldiers amused themselves by nailing their victims splayed and spread-eagled in absurd positions. So desperate were many Jerusalemites to escape the city that, as they left, they swallowed their coins, to conceal their treasure, which they hoped to retrieve when they were safely clear of the Romans. They emerged “puffed up with famine and swelled like men with dropsy,” but if they ate they “burst asunder.” As their bellies exploded, the soldiers discovered their reeking intestinal treasure troves, so they started to gut all prisoners, eviscerating them and searching their intestines while they were still alive. But Titus was appalled and tried to ban these anatomical plunderings. To no avail: Titus’ Syrian auxiliaries, who hated and were hated by the Jews with all the malice of neighbours, relished these macabre games. The cruelties inflicted by the Romans and the rebels within the walls compare with some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

The war had begun when the ineptitude and greed of the Roman governors had driven even the Judaean aristocracy, Rome’s own Jewish allies, to make common cause with a popular religious revolt. The rebels were a mixture of religious Jews and opportunistic brigands who had exploited the decline of the emperor, Nero, and the chaos that followed his suicide, to expel the Romans and re-establish an independent Jewish state, based around the Temple. But the Jewish revolution immediately started to consume itself in bloody purges and gang-warfare.

Three Roman emperors followed Nero in rapid and chaotic succession. By the time Vespasian emerged as emperor and despatched Titus to take Jerusalem, the city was divided between three warlords at war with each other. The Jewish warlords had first fought pitched battles in the Temple courts, which ran with blood, and then plundered the city. Their fighters worked their way through the richer neighbourhoods, ransacking the houses, killing the men and abusing the women — “it was sport to them.” Crazed by their power and the thrill of the hunt, probably intoxicated with looted wine, they “indulged themselves in feminine wantonness, decked their hair and put on women’s garments and besmeared themselves with ointments and had paints under their eyes.”

These provincial cut-throats, swaggering in “finely dyed cloaks,” killed anyone in their path. In their ingenious depravity, they “invented unlawful pleasures.” Jerusalem, given over to “intolerable uncleanness,” became “a brothel” and torture-chamber — and yet remained a shrine.

Somehow, the Temple continued to function. Back in April, pilgrims had arrived for Passover just before the Romans closed in on the city. The population was usually in the high tens of thousands, but the Romans had now trapped the pilgrims and many refugees from the war, so there were hundreds of thousands of people in the city. Only as Titus encircled the walls did the rebel chieftains halt their in-fighting to unite their 21,000 warriors and face the Romans together.

The city that Titus saw for the first time from Mount Scopus, named after the Greek skopeo meaning “look at,” was, in Pliny’s words, “by far the most celebrated city of the East,” an opulent, thriving metropolis built around one of the greatest temples of the ancient world, itself an exquisite work of art on an immense scale. Jerusalem had already existed for thousands of years but this many-walled and towered city, astride two mountains amid the barren crags of Judaea, had never been as populous or as awesome as it was in the first century AD: Indeed, Jerusalem would not be so great again until the twentieth century. This was the achievement of Herod the Great, the brilliant, psychotic Judaean king whose palaces and fortresses were built on so monumental a scale and were so luxurious in their decoration that the Jewish historian Josephus says that they “exceed all my ability to describe them.”

The Temple itself overshadowed all else in its numinous glory. “At the first rising of the sun,” its gleaming courts and gilded gates “reflected back a very fiery splendour and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away.” When strangers — such as Titus and his legionaries — saw this Temple for the first time, it appeared “like a mountain covered with snow.” Pious Jews knew that at the centre of the courts of this city-within-a-city atop Mount Moriah was a tiny room of superlative holiness that contained virtually nothing at all. This space was the focus of Jewish sanctity: the Holy of Holies, the dwelling-place of God Himself.

Herod’s Temple was a shrine but it was also a near-impregnable fortress within the walled city. The Jews, encouraged by Roman weakness in the Year of the Four Emperors and aided by Jerusalem’s precipitous heights, her fortifications and the labyrinthine Temple itself, had confronted Titus with overweening confidence. After all, they had defied Rome for almost five years. However, Titus possessed the authority, the ambition, the resources and the talent necessary for the task. He set about reducing Jerusalem with systematic efficiency and overwhelming force. Ballistae stones, probably fired by Titus, have been found in the tunnels beside the Temple’s western wall, testament to the intensity of Roman bombardment.

The Jews fought for every inch with almost suicidal abandon. Yet Titus, commanding the full arsenal of siege engines, catapults and the ingenuity of Roman engineering, overcame the first wall within 15 days. He led a thousand legionaries into the maze of Jerusalem’s markets and stormed the second wall. But the Jews sortied out and retook it. The wall had to be stormed all over again. Titus next tried to overawe the city with a parade of his army — cuirasses, helmets, blades flashing, flags fluttering, eagles glinting, “horses richly caparisoned.” Thousands of Jerusalemites gathered on the battlements to gawp at this show, admiring “the beauty of their armour and admirable order of the men.” The Jews remained defiant, or too afraid of their warlords to disobey their orders: no surrender.

Finally, Titus decided to encircle and seal the entire city by building a wall of circumvallation. In late June, the Romans stormed the hulking Antonia Fortress that commanded the Temple itself and then razed it, except for one tower where Titus set up his command-post.

By mid-summer, as the blistered and jagged hills sprouted forests of fly-blown crucified cadavers, the city within was tormented by a sense of impending doom, intransigent fanaticism, whimsical sadism, and searing hunger. Armed gangs prowled for food. Children grabbed the morsels from their fathers’ hands; mothers stole the tidbits of their own babies. Locked doors suggested hidden provisions and the warriors broke in, driving stakes up their victims’ rectums to force them to reveal their caches of grain. If they found nothing, they were even more “barbarously cruel” as if they had been “defrauded.” Even though the fighters themselves still had food, they killed and tortured out of habit “to keep their madness in exercise.” Jerusalem was riven by witch-hunts as people denounced each other as hoarders and traitors. No other city, reflected the eyewitness Josephus, “did ever allow such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, since the beginning of the world.”

The young wandered the streets “like shadows, all swollen with famine, and fell down dead, wherever their misery seized them.” People died trying to bury their families while others were buried carelessly, still breathing. Famine devoured whole families in their homes. Jerusalemites saw their loved ones die “with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence and a kind of deadly night seized the city” — yet those who perished did so “with their eyes fixed on the Temple.” The streets were heaped with dead bodies. Soon, despite Jewish Law, no one buried the dead anymore in this grandiose charnelhouse. Perhaps Jesus Christ had foreseen this when he predicted the coming Apocalypse, saying “Let the dead bury their dead.” Sometimes the rebels just heaved bodies over the walls. The Romans left them to rot in putrescent piles. Yet the rebels were still fighting.

Titus himself, an unsqueamish Roman soldier, who had killed 12 Jews with his own crossbow in his first skirmish, was horrified and amazed: He could only groan to the gods that this was not his doing. “The darling and delight of the human race,” he was known for his generosity. “Friends, I’ve lost a day,” he would say when he had not found time to give presents to his comrades. Sturdy and bluff with a cleft chin, generous mouth and round face, Titus was proving to be a gifted commander and a popular son of the new emperor Vespasian: their unproven dynasty depended on Titus’ victory over the Jewish rebels.

Titus’ entourage was filled with Jewish renegades including three Jerusalemites — a historian, a king and (it seems) a double-queen who was sharing the Caesar’s bed. The historian was Titus’ adviser Josephus, a rebel Jewish commander who had defected to the Romans and who is the sole source for this account. The king was Herod Agrippa II, a very Roman Jew, brought up at the court of the Emperor Claudius; he had been the supervisor of the Jewish Temple, built by his great-grandfather Herod the Great, and often resided in his Jerusalem palace, even though he ruled disparate territories across the north of modern Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

The king was almost certainly accompanied by his sister, Berenice, daughter of a Jewish monarch, and twice a queen by marriage, who had recently become Titus’ mistress. Her Roman enemies later denounced her as “the Jewish Cleopatra.” She was around 40 but “she was in her best years and at the height of her beauty,” noted Josephus. At the start of the rebellion, she and her brother, who lived together (incestuously, claimed their enemies), had attempted to face down the rebels in a last appeal to reason. Now these three Jews helplessly watched the “death-agony of a famous city” — Berenice did so from the bed of its destroyer.

Prisoners and defectors brought news from within the city that especially upset Josephus, whose own parents were trapped inside. Even the fighters started to run out of food, so they too probed and dissected the quick and the dead, for gold, for crumbs, for mere seeds, “stumbling and staggering like mad dogs.” They ate cow dung, leather, girdles, shoes and old hay. A rich woman named Mary, having lost all her money and food, became so demented that she killed her own son and roasted him, eating half and keeping the rest for later. The delicious aroma crept across the city. The rebels savoured it, sought it and smashed into the house, but even those practised hatchetmen, on seeing the child’s half-eaten body, “went out trembling.”

Spy-mania and paranoia ruled Jerusalem the Holy  as the Jewish coins called her. Raving charlatans and preaching hierophants haunted the streets, promising deliverance and salvation. Jerusalem was, Josephus observed, “like a wild beast gone mad which, for want of food, fell now upon eating its own flesh.”

That night of the 8th of Ab, when Titus had retired to rest, his legionaries tried to douse the fire spread by the molten silver, as he had ordered. But the rebels attacked the fire-fighting legionaries. The Romans fought back and pushed the Jews into the Temple itself. One legionary, seized “with a divine fury,” grabbed some burning materials and, lifted up by another soldier, lit the curtains and frame of “a golden window,” which was linked to the rooms around the actual Temple. By morning, the fire had spread to the very heart of holiness. The Jews, seeing the flames licking the Holy of Holies and threatening to destroy it, “made a great clamour and ran to prevent it.” But it was too late. They barricaded themselves in the Inner Court then watched with aghast silence.

Just a few yards away, among the ruins of the Antonia Fortress, Titus was awakened; he jumped up and “ran towards the Holy House to put a stop to the fire.” His entourage including Josephus, and probably King Agrippa and Berenice, followed, and after them ran thousands of Roman soldiers — all “in great astonishment.” The fighting was frenzied. Josephus claims that Titus again ordered the fire extinguished, but this Roman collaborator had good reasons to excuse his patron. Nonetheless, everyone was shouting, the fire was racing and the Roman soldiers knew that, by the laws of warfare, a city that had resisted so obstinately expected to be sacked.

They pretended not to hear Titus and even shouted ahead to their comrades to toss in more firebrands. The legionaries were so impetuous that many were crushed or burned to death in the stampede of their bloodlust and hunger for gold, plundering so much that the price would soon drop across the East.Titus, unable to stop the fire and surely relieved at the prospect of final victory, proceeded through the burning Temple until he came to the Holy of Holies. Even the high priest was allowed to enter there only once a year. No foreigner had tainted its purity since the Roman soldier-statesman Pompey in 63 BC. But Titus looked inside “and saw it and its contents which he found to be far superior,” wrote Josephus. As the inferno rose around the Holy of Holies, Titus was pulled to safety by his aides.

The fighting raged among the flames: Dazed, starving Jerusalemites wandered lost and distressed through the burning portals. Thousands of civilians and rebels mustered on the steps of the altar, waiting to fight to the last or just die hopelessly. All had their throats cut by the exhilarated Romans as though it were a mass human sacrifice. Ten thousand Jews died in the burning Temple.

Excerpted from Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

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