The Last Jewish Revolt against Rome: A Reconsideration

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Joseph Geiger


The evidence for the revolt of the Jews during Gallus Caesar’s rule in the East is scanty, its evaluation difficult. The paper argues that Patricius, the leader of the rebellion accused of aspiring to regnum (Aurelius Victor Caes.42.11), was not a Jewish ‘king’ but rather a Roman pretender to the Imperial  throne with strong support among Jews. Patricius may have used — or abused — the special problems of the Jews of Palestine for his own ends. Apart from other considerations, there is an argumentum e silentio which in the present case is exceptionally powerful. Were Patricius a Jewish ‘king’ it is difficult to figure him otherwise than as the head of a Messianic movement, not a secular king, but God’s Anointed announcing the fullness of time21. And yet our copious Rabbinic sources for the period — the Palestinian Talmud and an abundance of Midrashim — do not so much as hint at such a Messianic movement. One should compare this with the Rabbinic evidence for the controversy surrounding Bar Kochba: the silence about Patricius is roaring. There seems to prevail a not unaccountable trend among contemporary Jewish historians to seek persecutions of the Jewish religion and, on the other hand, Jewish rebellions, even where they do not exist. An objective reconsideration of the available evidence for the rebellion against Gallus should leave the question open, at least.

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