When you walk up to Masada, you can see that Israeli tour guides have finally decided to put some railing where there was no railing for 2000 years. The walk up to Masada is daunting. Soldiers fresh out of military training walk up the snake path and are sworn in at the top of Masada. It was General Moshe Dayan’s idea to make this ceremony here. The walls around Masada range from 300 feet to 1400 feet at this fortress first fortified by Alexander Jannaeus, the first Judean Governor of Israel. The walls are casemate, two thick vertical layers with rooms built into them; and the whole wall meanders four miles in a rhomboid like shape. Later Herod The Great, the Judean leader appointed by the Romans occupied the castle and garrisoned there. During the great Jewish uprising against the Romans in 66 BC, Jewish rebels took control of the castle.
This was a nice place. It was originally designed to be royal quarters and barracks for Roman soldiers stationed in Judea. It had a huge bathhouse, a synagogue, apartments, and storehouses that kept grain and wine and oil.
Bath In Masada
When the Second Temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD during the ongoing Judean uprising against Roman rule, an extremist sect of Jews known as the Sicarii took over the redoubt, supplied it and battened down the hatches. Lucious Flavius Silva, the Roman Governor in Judea took the control of the famous Roman Tenth Legion and began a long, combat engineering project to breech the walls. Inside the walls were also Zealots, a rival group of Jews who in fact carried out raids on the Romans in the Levant for years. The two rival Jewish sects who once killed each other now closed ranks.
The inhabitants of Masada were well supplied. During the two years it was rare the see Jews outside the walls; and from the Roman point of view, the Jews were still a problem in 72 AD. As supplies eventually attenuated with the Roman blockade , Jews began to forage outside. It is said Romans crucified each one they caught as an example.
The Tenth Legion, auxiliaries and Jewish POWs patiently built a ramp up to the western approaches. After about a year of forced labor the Romans put siege engines on it. In 73 AD the Romans breached the walls, only to discover that the 960 survivors had cast lots and chosen people who would kill all of them. Then the final 10 people chose lots and the loser killed them and then committed suicide.
Roman Built Ramp To Masada
Of course, first they burned everything inside before the Romans breeched the walls. The Roman historian, Joseph Ben Matisyahu, or Josephus says that a handful of young girls survived when the Romans entered the camp.
The Jews lost the battle, but won the story.