The Geography

  1. Proximity
    1. Jerusalem
    2. Arad
    3. Ein Gedi (and Qumran)
    4. Dead Sea
  2. Elevation
    1. Eastern (Dead Sea) 1300 feet
      1. Snake Path
    2. Western 300 feet
      1. The Roman Ramp
    3. Northern/Southern (serious climbers only)


  1. First Settlement
    1. Very scattered remains of the Middle Bronze age.
  2. Historical Sources
    1. Josephus
      1. Names: Yosef ben Mattiyahu, Titus Flavius Josephus
      2. Lifespan: 37-100 CE (dates approximate)
      3. Languages: Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek (probably via secretaries)
      4. Bibliography
        1. War (ca 75, perhaps in Aramaic prior to the Greek)
        2. Antiquities
        3. Against Apion
        4. Life
      5. Clearly belonged to the upper economic echelon
        1. Member of a delegation to Nero to seek release of several Jewish priests
      6. Betrayal (?) at Yotafata (67)
        1. By his own account, he stood by while 40 of his commanders committed mass suicide
          1. Relationship to the suicide story of Masada?
  3. First Historical Settlement
    1. Jonathan--but which one?
      1. Almost certainly Alexander Janaeus based on scattered coin finds and little else
      2. There are no identifiable Maccabean remains
  4. Herod
    1. Responsible for 95% of what we see today, and certainly the architect of the architecturally impressive buildings
    2. Herod's fears (Cleopatra!)
  5. Between Herod and the Great Revolt
    1. Not much--first an outpost of the later Herodians, then a small Roman garrison.
  6. 66 - 73 CE
    1. A raiding party of Sicarii (per Josephus) takes the fortress by stealth
    2. Digression: the place of Sicarii in politco/religious environment
      1. The largest part of the population was probably interested in fulfilling their sacrificial duties and non-aligned
      2. The Sadducees
      3. The Pharisees
      4. Various Extremists
        1. Christians?
        2. Zealots
        3. Essenes
        4. Sicarii
      5. Non-Jewish religious groups:
        1. Samaritans
        2. Idumeans
        3. Nabateans
        4. Romans and Greeks (eg, at Caesaria)
    3. Book 4: The Raid on Ein Gedi
    4. The Fall of Jerusalem and its consequences for Masada
    5. The Siege
      1. The Romans: Led by Lucius Flavius Silva
        1. 10,000 strong (15,000 including auxiliaries, slaves, etc)
      2. The Defenders: 967 (imputed) led by Eleazer ben Yair
      3. The Roman Ramp
        1. Now understood to have needed only 30 feet of fill (the rest was natural).
        2. Accounts that the siege lasted for three years are greatly exaggerated.
        3. In fact, the ramp could have been constructed in as little as 8 days and is unlikely to have taken more than a month. Three months is a reasonable guess for the buidling of the seige camps and the entire military campaign.
  7. Language and Historiography
    1. Translations
      1. Whiston, Thackeray
    2. Subtleties of Greek
      1. David Ladouceur
        1. Example: When the Romans come upon the scene after they take mountain, Josephus uses the verb "phoneuo" which Thackeray translates as encountering the mass of the slain. Ladouceur explains that the verb should be rendered encountering the mass of the murdered. It is the same verb that Josephus uses to describe in several other places the victims of Zealot attacks.
        2. This type of interpretation occurs several times in this part of the narrative. Ladouceur concludes that consciously or unconconsciously Thackeray is changing the language to make the suicides appear more heroic.
    3. Use of the suicde motif: Shaye JD Cohen
    4. The Use and Abuse of History: Nahman Ben-Yehuda

Archaeology (Lesson 2 and 3, After Yadin, Masada and BenTor, Back to Masada)

  1. The Northern Palace
  2. Storerooms, Bathhouse, Commandant's (?) quarters
  3. Byzantine Structures
  4. Synagogue: It is possible to distinguish the Heroidan building here from the defenders' synagogue. Why did they go to the trouble?
  5. Western Palace
  6. Casemate Wall
  7. Miveh (Mivke'ot)
  8. Written materials: Ostraka, Scrolls: Parchment and Papyrus
    1. Ostraka: 2 basic types, note and "lot"
    2. Parchment: Scrolls (could be Torah), Biblical, extra-Biblical
      1. What kind? Do these sectarian documents help us identify Masada's defenders?
    3. The Biblical material
      1. Masoretic
  9. Human remains
    1. From the caves
      1. The confusing presense of pig bones
    2. From the lowest level of the Northern Palace
      1. Jews or Romans?
  10. Roman Fortifications
    1. The Ramp
    2. The Circumvallation Wall
    3. The camps
      1. Silva's camp: a camp within a camp?