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Thread: No Mass Suicide at Masada?

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    No Mass Suicide at Masada?

    There might have been suicide, of course, as happens even today in these kinds of desperate situations, but whether all the defenders committed suicide or not, we'll probably never know.

    What is clear is that it suited the purposes of the Romans to spread the story, and that their pet turncoat historian, Josephus, would, in my opinion, not be leery of embellishing the story. To be fair, most "historians" of the period did the same. One shouldn't apply modern standards to the past.

    It also suited the purposes of the young state of Israel, and for understandable reasons.


    “According to Geva, there was no mass suicide at Masada. Perhaps some of the rebels took their own lives but fighting continued after the Romans entered the fortress,” she writes.
    If Jews are heroes, conquering Romans are, too

    Overlooking the Roman camps from the top of Masada, Magness said the gripping literary device of mass suicide is found throughout ancient histories. Roman-era histories were not written with absolute truth in mind, rather the essence of truth was to be mixed with tragedy and triumph to create a form of entertainment."

    "Remarkably, pottery pieces with names of Jewish men — including that of rebel leader ben Yair — were discovered during excavations, seemingly confirming the Josephus history. But, Magness asks, do they really?
    The 12 pottery sherds, or ostraca, inscribed with names appear to be compelling evidence. Magness points out that the “lots” were discovered among some 250 ostraca and grouped together by foremost Masada archaeologist Yigal Yadin because the Hebrew names appeared to be written by the same scribe."

    "However, leading epigrapher Joseph Naveh could not conclusively identify them as Josephus’s lots, stating that they were too similar to other sherds used as “tags” for food distribution. Likewise, there were 12 Hebrew names, and Josephus only mentions 10 men.
    “Whether these ostraca are lots or simply tags used for other purposes remains an open question,” writes Magness."

    "But Magness also writes she wouldn’t necessarily expect to find archaeological evidence to support Josephus’s tale of mass suicide, assuming the account is true. She carefully does not voice an opinion on its veracity in the book.
    In person, her answer was as cool as her trademark punky haircut. “I don’t know and I don’t care,” she said frankly. “I don’t care because it is not a question that archaeology is equipped to answer.”

    An honest archaeologist.

    "What the work does best is set the stage for the period prior to the Jewish rebellion. At times it reads like a series of fascinating academic lectures — Herod 101 — as Magness explores the predecessors to the mighty ruthless king, and his descendants and legacy. (Interestingly, although the site is a jewel of architect Herod’s crown, there is no evidence that he ever set foot here.)"

    Non si fa il proprio dovere perchè qualcuno ci dica grazie, lo si fa per principio, per se stessi, per la propria dignità. Oriana Fallaci

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    Nooooo! Yet another ancient myth not corroborated by evidence. Who would have thought? The stories people tell, taken to be history.

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