The Jewish War by Josephus is the voluminous, detailed and scholarly report of the first century Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire. The war climaxed with the seige of Jerusalem, built up as it was by King Herod, as the single most beautiful and wonderfully rich city in history. Also one of the most heavily fortified large cities. None other match in fortifications times beauty times defences. The siege, resulting in the wholesale destruction of the most glorious temple, and the starvation of hundreds of thousands of the population (which was also undergoing two civil wars), is the single most bloody, inhumane and shocking thing I've ever read. To read of two armies of desperate bandits torturing their own populace (who were trying to surrender to the Romans), fighting each other, and continually refusing to surrender to the pleading Roman Emperor, Vespasian, despite all hope. Condemning the entire city to flame, blood and destruction and dooming all of it's inhabitants to starvation, the two occupying armies of Jerusalem caused the entire beautiful city to be lost. It's harrowing stuff, three chapters detail this final siege, page after page of descriptions of bodies in the streets, plague, disease, famine, internal fighting all while the Romans broke through the immense defences wall at a time. Retreting, wall at a time, to the upper city, then to the outer courts of the temple, then to the inner temple, and then to the sewers under the city, decimating all the populace for their food and fighting each other, the survivors had become soulless, unfeeling, brutal robots, driven by hunger and desperation and yet never surrendering to the Romans to save their own lives, save their city from destruction wall at a time, or to save their temple. The destruction of the Jewish temple in 70ce, previously only a footnote in my mind, is now horrifically clear. Fact and history is more terrifying than any horror ever wrote by any fiction author, no human psychological trauma in any hollywood movie or film matches the depths of the horror of ancient war and siege.
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