Chronology of the War

    Part 3:

The New Government

November 66 - March 67

This continues the chronology of the Judaeo-Roman war of 66-73 CE, as told by Josephus. The series  began with the War Chronology Introduction.


    Table of Regional Commanders
     Who Were These People?
     Sharing Authority
     Ananus son of Ananus
    Table of the Ananus Family versus the Rebellious Galileans
Actions of the New Government
    Coining Money
    Ethnic War
    Ethnic War Prior to Cestius' Defeat: October 66 (Table)
 War Chronology Table: The Start of the New Government


After the defeat of Cestius the new war heroes -- those who had actually engaged in combat with the Roman forces -- were in control of affairs in Jerusalem. Exactly who these heroes were and what form the government took, Josephus does not say. At this point the already existing Sanhedrin, the council of citizens that had run local affairs in Jerusalem even under the Roman procurators, attempted to act as a national assembly, for Josephus refers to its authority several times in his bibliography: e.g., "the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem" in Life 12  61 and the "assembly of Jerusalem" in Life 38 190.

    "The Judaeans who had pursued Cestius, on their return to Jerusalem brought over to their side -- partly by force, partly by persuasion -- such pro-Romans as still remained. Assembling in the Temple, they appointed additional generals to conduct the war. Joseph son of Gorion and Ananus the (former) high priest were elected to the supreme control of affairs in the city, with a special charge to raise the height of the walls.
    "As for Eleazar son of Simon [or Gion], notwithstanding that he had in his hands the Roman spoils, the money taken from Cestius, and a great part of the public treasure, they did not entrust him with office, because they observed his despotic nature and how his subservient admirers conducted themselves like his bodyguard. Gradually, however, financial needs had such influence with the people that they eventually yielded the supreme command to him." (War 2.20.3 562ff)

Unmentioned is the current High Priest, Matthias, son of the former High Priest Theophilus and nephew of Ananus. All of the named commanders apparently come from aristocratic priestly families, of the same social class as the priests who began the revolt in the Temple. 

A possible exception is the mysterious John the Essene, whose leadership and military career belies one's image of the Essenes as nothing but peaceful monks spending their days copying scrolls at Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea.

Another omission is the leading Pharisee, Simon son of Gamaliel, who Josephus later describes as highly influential in the Jerusalem assembly. (Life 38 190)

The regional commanders appointed at this time are shown in the following table.

Regional Commanders of the New Judaean Government (War 2.20.4 566)
Jerusalem Joseph son of Gorionand Ananus the (former) high priest
Idumaea [South Judaea] Jesus son of high priest Sapphas and Eleazar son of high priest Neus [or "of Ananias"]. The existing governor of Idumaea, Niger the Peraean, who had been prominent in the action against Cestius, ordered to obey them.
Jericho, Manasseh to Peraea

[E Judaea]

Joseph son of Simon
Thamna, Lydda, Joppa, Emmaus 

[NW Judaea]

John the Essene
Gophna and Acrabetene [NE Judaea] John son of Ananias
The two Galilees and Gamala in Gaulanitis [Far North Judaea] Josephus son of Matthias 
Who Were These People?

In addition, rebel factions held, somewhat independently of the central government, the fortresses of Masada, Machaerus and Cypros [2.485]

What Josephus doesn't tell us is the names of the people who appointed the new generals, nor why those chosen arrived at those positions. We can try to surmise some of those involved.

Prominent of those who had fought Cestius, hence may have been these leaders, included: relatives of King Monobazus of Adiabene; Niger of Peraea; Silas the Babylonian; and Simon son of Gioras (2.19.2 520).

The only identifiable feature of these men is that they all originate outside of Jerusalem: the royal Adiabeneans; Niger a native of Peraea across the Jordan River and former governor of Idumaea; Silas perhaps a descendant of one of the Babylonian Jews who had been settled in Batanaea east of Galilee by Herod the Great; Simon, we find later, was a leader and possibly civil magistrate in the toparchy of Acrabatene.

Does this mean the Jerusalem revolt was driven by outsiders? That is doubtful -- more likely is it that Josephus did not want to name any of his Jerusalem companions, many of whom he grew up with, and so only identified non-Jerusalemites. And other than the Adiabeneans, the men he named were all dead at the time he wrote the War; perhaps other early leaders were not.

Sharing Authority

Josephus claims in the War he was alone appointed commander of the Galilees; however, in his later and more detailed autobiography, he only states that he was sent on a mission to Galilee with two other priests, his command only evolving over time. 

Josephus seems not to have explained that the original leaders made it a policy to appoint multiple commanders over each region, which would have been a wise precaution in any case given the inexperience in government and uncertain political loyalties of the principal men of Jerusalem. 

We see that two men were appointed commanders over Jerusalem, two or three over Idumaea, and, as just noted, three over Galilee. And these were all "additional generals" besides those unnamed ones who made the appointments.

When John the Essene in western Judaea waged a campaign against Askelon he shared command with Silas the Babylonian and Niger the Peraean, two of the men whom we saw were named as major commanders against Cestius and, therefore, were likely among the real leaders afterwards. 

Similarly, although only a single man, John son of Ananias, is identified as governing the toparchy of Acrabatene and surrounding areas, there is evidence he shared this command with Simon son of Gioras, one of those prominent in the battle with Cestius, who had Acrabatene as a power base (2.22.2 652, 4.9.3 504); Prof. Goodman presents arguments that Simon had been an administrator of the area even before the war (The Ruling Class of Judaea, p. 163, 202ff).

The use of multiple commanders may also reflect a compromise ensuring the representation of competing political parties in the government, as well as protecting the nation from the tyranny of a single ruler. 


Ananus son of Ananus

    The former High Priest Ananus, who was appointed one of the supreme commanders of Jerusalem, had a taste for power, having tried to seize it illegally several years before. 

   When he had been High Priest he had tried to act as governor after the sudden death of Festus, and at that time ordered killed James the brother of Jesus, for which he was deposed as high priest by Agrippa. Now he was finally leader of the city and Agrippa's military enemy.

   Ananus was the youngest of the five sons of the elder Ananus. Each of the sons had been high priest, for which the father was most fortunate, according to Josephus in Antiquities 20.9.1 197-203. But the youngest Ananus was "arrogant in character and exceptionally bold, and followed the school of the Sadducees, who, when they sit in judgment, are more heartless than any other Jews."

   The Ananus family had a history of acts against lower class rebels -- in particular, against troublemakers from Galilee, as seen in the following table.

The Ananus Family versus the Rebellious Galileans
6 CE Ananus son of Sethappointed High Priest by Quirinius during the time of the rebellious Judas the Galilean. [Antiquities 18.1.1 3-4; 18.2.1 26]
33 CE The High Priest Caiaphus, married to the sister of the five Ananus brothers, leads accusations against Jesus of Nazareth. (See John 18:13-14: "First they took him to Ananus [the elder], the father-in-law of Caiaphus, the high priest that year. Caiaphus was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people." See also Luke 3.2, Acts 4.6, John 18:19-24)
c. 56 CE Sicarii assassinate Jonathan son of Ananus. (War 2.13.3 256)
62 CE Ananus son of Ananus, seizing power in the interim after the death of Festus and before another Roman governor took command, orders James the brother of Jesus killed. This provokes opposition and Agrippa subsequently deposes Ananus, pointing in his place Jesus the son of Damnaeus.
66 CE The priestly forces supporting Ananus kill Menahem son [or grandson] of Judas the Galilean.

With this background, it is no surprise that Ananus was suspicious of the violent rebels among the lower classes. Josephus reports:

Ananus cherished the thought of gradually abandoning these warlike preparations and bending to a more useful course the seditious party and the madness of those called the 'Zealots'. (War 2.22.1 651)
This also seems to have been Josephus' own position at the time.

The man with whom Ananus shared power, Joseph son of Gorion, is mentioned nowhere else in Josephus' works. However, the Talmud refers to a Nakdimon ben Gurion, who was one of the three wealthy men who supplied Jerusalem with food and wood during the war. Perhaps Joseph and Nakdimon were brothers in a family  whose wealth and pro-war leanings ensured them a political position. They mave have been of a different party from Ananus and provided a counterbalance to him.

Actions of the New Government

Coining Money.  Although Josephus does not refer to it, we know from archaeological finds that one of the first acts of the new government was the coining of money. Thick silver shekel and half-shekel coins labeled "Year One" have been found in quantity in Israel, and while there are fewer than these than the coins of the next two years, indicating it took some time to bring the mint into full production, they are not as rare as those of the fourth and fifth years of the war. The immediate production of these coins, which also bear the legend "Jerusalem the Holy," was doubtless for use in paying the Temple tax and purchasing sacrifices for the Temple, part of the support of the war effort by solidifying heaven's favor. For more information, see Ancient Jewish Coins Related to the Works of Josephus.

Ethnic War

The ethnic hatred that had long been a danger to the region exploded when Roman authority in the region disappeared. At "the same day and the same hour" as the slaughter of the surrendering Romans by the rebels in the initial revolt, "as if by the hand of Providence" Syrians began to murder the Jewish minority in their midst. (2.18.1 457) The Jewish reprisals against Syrian towns were equally fierce, producing a cycle of murder and revenge of the sort still familiar in the region in modern times.
   The Judaean response, in which the nation formed parties to organize systematic attacks on Syrian tows, reflects some control by the central government. After the Cestius campaign these attacks consolidated into a formal military action against the old ethnic enemy city of Askelon, where a Roman garrison was still stationed.

Ethnic War Prior to Cestius' Defeat
October 66
20,000 Jews killed in Caesarea by the Greek inhabitants, the rest deported, so that the city "was completely emptied of Jews" (War 2.18.1 457)
In reprisal, parties of Jews organize and attack Greek villages and cities of Syria on all sides of Judaea, so that immense numbers of the inhabitants were captured and slaughtered. (War 2.18.2 460)
Greeks continue to murder all Jews living in their midst and begin to include "Judaizers" (ioudaizontas), Greeks who followed some Jewish customs. (war 12.18.2 461ff).
The Jews of Scythopolis protect the Greek inhabitants from attacks by the  Judaeans; subsequently the non-Jewish Scythopolitans kill 13,000 of these Jewish inhabitants. (War 2.18.3 466ff)
Reprisals against Jews in the cities that had been attacked by the Judaenan parites: Askelon, Ptolemais, Tyre, etc. Only Antioch, Sidon, and Apamea, and Gerasa spare their residents.  (War 2.12.5 447-480)
Jews and Greeks riot at Alexandria.  (War 2.18.7 487ff)


Chronological Table: The Start of the New Government

All dates are estimates.
October-November 66 Cestius invades and is defeated.
November 66 The Jewish population of Damascus, numbering 10,000, is forced into the stadium and murdered. 
November-December 66 The military leaders victorious against Cestius appoint regional commanders in the new government. (2.20.4 566).
December 66 Josephus (the historian) is sent to Galilee with two other priests to collect tithes and weapons, and to bring rebel elements there under control of the central government. (2.20.5 569)
December 66 - January 67

("after the defeat of Cestius…without a moment's delay")

First attack on the city of Askelon, an ancient enemy. Led by Niger of Peraea, Silas the Babylonian, and John the Essene. (3.2.1 9)
  The Jewish forces are routed at Askelon and "ten thousand" killed, including the commanders Silas the Babylonian and John the Essene."It was a case of novices against veterans, infantry against cavalry, raged order against serried ranks, men casually armed against fully equipped regulars, on the one side men whose actions were directed by passion rather than policy, on the other disciplined troops acting upon the least signal from their commanders." (3.1.2 15)
January-February 67 ("without even leaving time for wounds to heal") Second assault on Askelon, led by Niger the Peraean.
  The Judaeans are again defeated at Askelon, with a loss of 8,000 men. Niger the Peraean is nearly killed; his survival is interpreted as a sign from Heaven. (3.1.3 28)
December 66-March 67 Ananus and all leading men who are not pro-Roman repair the walls, gather and construct war engines, missiles, and armor, and train young men. (2.22.1 647)
  The moderates foresee disaster. "There were also omens observed that were understood to presage ill by those who loved peace, but were by those who kindled the war interpreted as favorable to themselves." (2.22.1 650)
  The most violent and committed revolutionaries begin to be referred to by the name "Zealots." (2.22.1 651)

Created by G. J. Goldberg, April 2000
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