Rome and Jerusalem

Rome and Jerusalem

The Clash of Ancient Civilizations

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In 70 CE, after the war which had flared sporadically for four years, three Roman legions under the future Emperors Titus surrounded, laid siege to, and eventually devastated the city of Jerusalem, destroying completely the magnificent Temple which had been built by King Herod only 80 years earlier. Sixty years later, after further very violent rebellions, the destruction of Jerusalem was completed when the otherwise generally lenient and humane Emperor Hadrian built on top of it the wholly Roman city of Aelia Capitolina, and Jews were forbidden even to enter its territory.

What brought about this extraordinary conflict, with its extraordinary consequences? Before 66 CE, the Romans had been generally tolerant of the Jews, as of other subject peoples within their vastly diverse empire. Goodman compares Roman and Jewish beliefs about history, the future and the gods, and attitudes to food, sex, politics and patronage, to explore whether there was anything innately incompatible between the two peoples.

Publisher: London : Allen Lane, 2007.
ISBN: 9780713994476
Branch Call Number: 933.05 G653
Characteristics: xiv, 638 p. : ill., geneal. tables, maps.

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jan 08, 2018

In 66 AD, Jewish rebels seized control of the city of Jerusalem and declared the foundation of a new state of Israel free from Roman control. Four years later, the armies of Rome recaptured Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children died by violence or starvation, tens of thousands more were enslaved, while thousands of real or suspected rebels were crucified, sometimes as many as five hundred at a time. The Temple, the center of Jewish life and worship, was completely destroyed, never to be rebuilt, its treasures carted off to adorn the triumph of the victorious general, Titus, son and heir of Emperor Vespasian.

This "Jewish War", described in detail by Josephus, is the centerpiece but not the subject of Martin Goodman's Rome and Jerusalem. His focus is not the conflict itself, but its causes and consequences. Through a detailed analysis of the societies and cultures of the Jews and Romans, he dissents from the conventional view that the bloody showdown was inevitable, while contending that it was responsible for a seismic shift in Roman attitudes towards Jews that would resonate for millennia. Unfortunately, in order to reach these conclusions, Goodman is forced to stretch the evidence to the breaking point. He often writes as if people are only allowed a single motivation for any action, so that attacks by poor Jews against their wealthier coreligionists can be dismissed as class warfare without any component of opposition to Roman power or influence, despite the obvious parallels with the Maccabean revolt, which was as much a struggle of poorer rural Jews against the Hellenizing urban elite as with the Syrian king. Another problem is his tendency to selectively generalize from the acknowledged diversity of social groups - for example, since many Jews were comfortable with certain aspects of Hellenism, Goodman concludes that first century Hellenism and Judaism were essentially compatible, effectively papering over the existence of large numbers of Jews and Gentiles who passionately believed that they were fundamentally incompatible. This reaches absurd levels in his treatment of the early Church, when he dishonestly elides the early Jewish persecutions of Christians in order to mystify the break between the two communities, then imagines that those same Christians would voluntarily disassociate themselves from Jews in order to escape from Roman antisemitism despite themselves being under an imperial death sentence. Then, too, he sometimes slides into the error of evaluating a period with the full benefit of hindsight, so that he imagines the inhabitants of Herodian Jerusalem, not as chafing under a corrupt alien dynasty with the knowledge that the security of their holy place was dependent upon the unpredictable whims of distant pagan emperors and their functionaries, but as enjoying a golden age of peace and prosperity which was cut tragically short by war precisely because that is how it appears in retrospect.

This overreach is a considerable and unnecessary flaw. Goodman's exploration of the Roman and Jewish cultures of antiquity is excellent, not in spite of but precisely because of his recognition of the heterogeneity of each and his awareness of their broad similarities as well as their particular differences. Likewise, he generally avoids the trap of imagining that even the most authoritarian of ancient societies much resembled modern totalitarianism. It would be a far stronger book if it was not driven by the author's overriding determination to discover a single source for all of European antisemitism. Goodman succeeds as a historian of fact but ultimately fails in his analysis.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top