Book Review: Jewish War under Trajan and Hadrian


by William Horbury

New York & Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. x, 502. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $110.00. ISBN: 0521622964

Rome’s Other “Jewish” Wars

The “Jewish War” of the years 66-73 is very well know, due in no small part to the survival of the works ofFlavius Josephus, the Jewish general who defected to the Romans and became a close confidant of the Emperor Vespasian. But, as Prof. Horbury (Cambridge) reminds us , that war was neither the first nor the only during the long and complex history of Romano-Judean relations. 

After a short introduction Horbury gives us a long chapter discussing the available sources in great detail, including not only ancients texts, but also coins, inscriptions, and archaeological materials.  He then takes a look at the earlier history of relations between the Romans and Jews , which were not always contentious but usually complex , including Pompey the Great’s violation of the sanctity of the Holy of Holies, Jewish support for Caesar in his Egyptian War, and the very curious episode in the year 70 in which prominent Alexandrine Jews help proclaim Vespasian as emperor, even as he was fighting the Zealots in Judea .

Horbury then follows with a long chapter each on the two later notable Romano-Jewish wars, the less well-known “Revolt of the Exiles” in 115-117 and the “Bar Kokhba Revolt” of 132-136. While the weakness of the sources make it impossible for him to give a detailed operational account of either war, Horbury  looks into their originsthe objectives, organization, and leadership of the rebellion, and even the policies, economics, and propaganda which the rebels developed, while managing to present a reasonably coherent overview of the military operations. 

This is an excellent work, very well documented (the footnotes are outstanding), and worth reading for anyone interested in ancient military history or Romano-Jewish relations.


Note: Jewish War under Trajan and Hadrian is also available in several electronic formats.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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