100-1 BCE

Roman Rule of Israel 
Begins, 63 BCE 

The morally corrupt Hasmonean rule continued deep into the 1st Century BCE, where selfish interests ultimately forced them to turn to Rome for mediation, opening the door to total submission under Roman rule.   The roots of Rome are tied to the legend of Romulus and Remus in 753 BCE. By 500 BCE, Rome was already an organized republic governed by a senate. The Romans conquered Greece and its colonies and were heavily influenced by Greek culture entrenched in the ancient world. Rome brought with it diligent, disciplined, and methodical values, and revolutionized construction and infrastructure development, leaving behind phenomenal building feats like aqueducts, building structures, highways, and roads.   The Romans refined the Grecian battle strategies into systematic and more manoeuvrable battle units called legions. This, in addition to their fiercely competitive, aggressive, and outright brutal approach in battle, made the Roman army an indestructible war machine.

Beit Shean, Israel (Shutterstock)

In this picture is a rare golden coin commemorating the Ides of March assassination.   On the 15th of March, 44 BCE, infamously known as the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of senators in a conspiracy led by Marcus Junius Brutus and two other senators.   Marcus Antonius, better known as Mark Antony, a Roman politician, general and relative of Julius Caesar sided with two other generals, Gaius Octavius and Marcus Lepidus, and defeated Caesar's killers in 42 BCE. Known as the Second Triumvirate, they divided the government between themselves. Antony was assigned Rome's eastern provinces, including the province of Judea and the client kingdom of Egypt, then ruled by Cleopatra VII. Gaius Octavius would later change his name to Augustus.   Josephus, Antiquities 14.10.9 Now after Caius (i.e. Julius Caesar) was slain, when Marcus Antonius, and Publius Dolabella, were consuls, they both assembled the senate and introduced Hyrcanus’s (High Priest of the Jews) ambassadors into it. They discussed their desires, and formed a league of friendship with them. The senate then decreed to grant them all they requested.

The Ides of March
Denarius of Brutus Coin Commemorating the Assassination of Julius Caesar, March 15th, 44 BCE

Josephus, Antiquities 14.10.9
Now after Caius
(i.e. Julius Caesar) was slain, when Marcus Antonius, and Publius Dolabella, were consuls, they both assembled the senate, and introduced Hyrcanus’s (High Priest of the Jews) ambassadors into it, and discoursed of what they desired, and made a league of friendship with them. The senate also decreed to grant them all they desired.

Herod Appeals to the Romans

Herod was determined to regain power in Judea.  His father Antipater and his brother Phasael were now both dead, so Herod set sail to Rome in order to appeal to the Roman Senate for their support.  

Josephus, Wars, 1.14.4

"Hereupon Antony was moved to compassion at the change that had been made in Herod’s affairs, and this both upon his calling to mind how hospitably he had been treated by Antipater, but more especially on account of Herod’s own virtue: so he then resolved to get him made king of the Jews..."

Herod returned to Judea with a large Roman army, captured Jerusalem and sent Mattathias Antigonus as a prisoner to Rome.

Determined to regain power, Herod set sail for Rome, where he persuaded the Senate to declare him king of Judea.   Josephus, Wars, 1.14.4
"Hereupon Antony was moved to compassion at the change that had been made in Herod’s affairs, and this both upon his calling to mind how hospitably he had been treated by Antipater, but more especially on account of Herod’s own virtue: so he then resolved to get him made king of the Jews..."   In 39 BCE, Herod returned to Judea with a large Roman army. His first attack on Jerusalem was unsuccessful, with Antigonus still holding his own in the city. By 37 BCE, Herod had subdued virtually all of the country and ultimately captured Jerusalem. Mattathias Antigonus was taken as a prisoner to Rome.

Wikipedia: Web Gallery of Art:Canaletto

The balsam tree, known as the "balm of Gilead" in the Bible, was used in the production of perfumes and said to be a favourite of Cleopatra's.  In 2021, archaeologists discovered this depiction of a balsam tree carved into an amethyst gemstone from the Second Temple period in Jerusalem.     Watch the video to learn more about the gemstone as well as the production of ancient balsam in Israel in the Jericho area.

"The Balm of Gilead" Depicted on a 2,000 Year-Old Amethyst

The balsam tree, known as the "balm of Gilead" in the Bible, was used in the production of perfumes, and said to be a favorite of Cleopatra's.  In 2021, archaeologists discovered this depiction of a balsam tree carved into an amethyst gemstone from the Second Temple period in Jerusalem.  

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The City of David, Photo by Eliyahu Yanai 

Coin of Herod the Great,
35 BCE

BASILEOS ERODOU
“Herod the King.”  

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Herod the Great left a legacy of being one of the greatest builders in human history but was also known as paranoid, psychologically unstable, and a brutal tyrant.   Instituting major changes in Jewish coinage, Herod still followed biblical restrictions with none of his coins being minted with human representations. The coins however diverged from their predecessors with their inscriptions only in Greek and not Hebrew or Aramaic. He included mainly pagan or Roman symbols with minimal traditional Jewish symbols. He also initiated a system of dating for coins.   Pictured here is a bronze coin minted by Herod, part of the George Blumenthal collection. On the obverse is written BASILEOS ERODOU “Herod the King” with a tripod holding a bowl and the date "year 3" corresponding to 35 BCE. On the reverse is an incense burner between two palm branches. The earlier coins are believed to still display vessels used in the Temple.

Collection of George Blumenthal

Herod the Great Starts to Rebuild The Second Temple, 19 BCE

Josephus, Antiquities, 15.11.1
“And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign…undertook a very great work; that is to build of himself the Temple of God, and make it larger in compass, and to raise it to a most magnificent altitude…” 

City of David Megalim Institute, Courtesy of George Blumenthal and the Gol Family 

Herod clashed with the Jews throughout his reign, especially the religious Jews and those opposing his rule, brutally persecuting them. In the 18th year of his reign, Herod announced that he would raze the former Temple built by the returnees from Babylon and build a more glorious one in its place. His plan was met with fierce scepticism. In an effort to gain their trust and make amends for his cruelty towards the rabbis, Herod prepared all the materials before the construction commenced.   Josephus, Antiquities, 15.11.1 “And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign…undertook a very great work; that is to build of himself the Temple of G-d, and make it larger in compass, and to raise it to a most magnificent altitude…”    The construction was finished in therecord time of a year and a half.   Watch the video by the City of David Megallim Institute, courtesy of the Gol Family and George Blumenthal, showing how the magnificent edifice was constructed.

Golden Bell From the Clothing of a High Priest

Exodus 28:31-34
Description of the Priestly Garments
“You are to make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth… Make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn all the way around the lower hem, with gold bells between them, alternating the gold bells and pomegranates around the lower hem of the robe.” 

In 2011, a small golden bell in the shape of a round ball was found during excavations of the rainwater drainage channel under the stepped road leading up to Temple Mount. It had a loop at the top, for the purpose of attaching it to something else. Perhaps to the hem of the garment of a noble or important individual, as was customary at that time. Found very close to the foot of the Temple Mount on the road where the High Priest would have walked, especially during the water libation service of the Sukkot festival, archaeologists deduced that it might be one of the bells that adorned the hem of the garment of the High Priest himself. When Eli Shukrun, the overseeing archaeologist, shook the little ball, it rang like a bell. Research later revealed that it had a bell clapper inside.   The Book of Exodus describes the Priestly Garments in chapter 28:31-34  “You are to make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth…  Make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn all the way around the lower hem, with gold bells between them, alternating the gold bells and pomegranates around the lower hem of the robe.” 

City of David Excavations

Israel Antiquities Authority

The British Museum, London

An ossuary is a burial receptacle for the bones of the dead. In ancient tradition, the bones were collected approximately one year after the flesh had decayed and were placed in the ossuary. The ossuary’s size is the length of the femur bone, which is the longest bone in the body. Family tombs were common, especially among the rich. This is one of the reasons why the Bible refers to a person being "gathered to his fathers".   In 1903 a limestone ossuary was discovered belonging to Nicanor. The inscription in Greek reads: “The bones of the family of Nicanor, the Alexandrian, who made the gates (of the Temple Mount).” Below it in Hebrew is written: “Nicanor Alexa”   Nicanor of Alexandria donated two doors to the Temple which are referred to as the Gates of Nicanor. Opinions differ on their location and the time they were fashioned. The general opinion places the location between the Women’s court and the Temple courtyard with fifteen semi-circular steps leading up to it, on which Levites sang the fifteen “Psalms of the Steps” or Songs of Ascents that can be found in Psalms 120-134.

The Ossuary of Nicanor of Alexandria, Who Made Gates for Herod’s Temple, 10 BCE

Nicanor Ossuary, Discovered in 1903
Inscription in Greek: “The bones of the family of Nicanor, the Alexandrian, who made the gates (of the Temple Mount).”
Below in Hebrew: “Nicanor Alexa” 

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Ossuary of Simon the Temple Builder

Inscription in Aramaic: "Simon, the builder of the Temple"

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More ossuaries dating back to the second temple were found in Givat Hamivtar in a large tomb with several burial niches. Engraved in Aramaic on one of them is 'Simon Bana Hekhala", "Simon, builder of the Temple". The ossuary is of simple design indicating that he was most likely one of the builders of the Temple, perhaps a master mason or an engineer. It is on display in the Israel Museum.

Israel Museum / Israel Antiquities Authority

Herod Preserves the Olympic Games, 12 BCE

Josephus, Wars, 1.21.12

“... but then what favours he (Herod) bestowed on the Eleans was a donation not only in common to all Greece, but to all the habitable earth, as far as the glory of the Olympic games reached. For when he perceived that they were come to nothing, for want of money, and that the only remains of ancient Greece were in a manner gone, he not only became one of the combatants in that return of the fifth-year games, which in his sailing to Rome he happened to be present at, but he settled upon them revenues of money for perpetuity, insomuch, that his memorial as a combatant there, can never fail.”

In 12 BCE, receiving word that the Olympic Games, established in the time of Grecian rule, were dwindling due to insufficient funds, Herod was strongly moved to make large provisions to ensure its continuity.  
Josephus, Wars, 1.21.12
“... but then what favours he (Herod) bestowed on the Eleans was a donation not only in common to all Greece, but to all the habitable earth, as far as the glory of the Olympic games reached. For when he perceived that they were come to nothing, for want of money, and that the only remains of ancient Greece were in a manner gone, he not only became one of the combatants in that return of the fifth-year games, which in his sailing to Rome he happened to be present at, but he settled upon them revenues of money for perpetuity, insomuch, that his memorial as a combatant there, can never fail.”

Image: Shutterstock

לְאַחַר שֶׁשָּׁאוּל הַמֶּלֶךְ וּבְנוֹ יְהוֹנָתָן מֵתִים בַּקְּרָב, פּוֹנִים רָאשֵׁי הַשְּׁבָטִים לְדָוִד, שֶׁמָּלַךְ כְּבָר שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים וָחֵצִי בְּחֶבְרוֹן. הֵם מְמַנִּים אוֹתוֹ לְמֶלֶךְ עַל הַקּוֹנְפֵדֵרַצְיָה הַשִּׁבְטִית הַמְּאֻחֶדֶת שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל.     

דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ פּוֹנֶה מִיָּד לְכִוּוּן יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, אַחַת הֶעָרִים הָאַחֲרוֹנוֹת שֶׁטֶּרֶם נִכְבְּשָׁה בְּמַהֲלַךְ כִּבּוּשׁ הָאָרֶץ בִּידֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.   דָּוִד בּוֹחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מֵאַרְבַּע סִבּוֹת עִקָּרִיּוֹת: מַיִם, בִּטָּחוֹן, אִחוּד וְשִׁלְטוֹן קַרְקָעִי נֵיטְרָלִי, אַךְ חָשׁוּב מֵהַכֹּל, בִּגְלַל הַקְּדוֹשָׁה שֶׁל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם הַטְּבוּעָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַנִּבְחָר, שֶׁבּוֹ יִבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָעֲתִידִי.     

לְפָנֶיךָ סִרְטוֹן הַמְּסַפֵּר אֶת הַסִּבּוֹת שֶׁל דָּוִד בְּכִבּוּשׁ הָעִיר.