Friday, February 28, 2014
Justin, Did You Think This One Through?
When we hear "Hadrian" we probably think of the Roman emperor Hadrian for whom the Hadrian Wall in Britain is named. That Hadrian is considered one of Rome's 'Five Good Emperors.' Good, that is, unless you're Jewish.
You see, it was on Hadrian's watch that the Jews in Judea revolted. Hadrian flew into a tizzy, amassed a huge army, crushed the rebellion and drove the Jews from their homeland. Hadrian is credited with creating the Jewish diaspora.
According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, and 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Cassius Dio claimed that "Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war. Therefore, Hadrian, in writing to the Senate, did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors: 'If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the army are in health.'"
According to a Rabbinic midrash (the Ten Martyrs), in addition to Bar Kokhba himself the Romans executed ten leading members of the Sanhedrin: the high priest, R. Ishmael; the president of the Sanhedrin, R. Shimon ben Gamaliel; R. Akiba; R. Hanania ben Teradion; the interpreter of the Sanhedrin, R. Huspith; R. Eliezer ben Shamua; R. Hanina ben Hakinai; the secretary of the Sanhedrin, R. Yeshevav; R. Yehuda ben Dama; and R. Yehuda ben Baba. The Rabbinic account describes agonizing tortures: R. Akiba was flayed, R. Ishmael had the skin of his head pulled off slowly, and R. Hanania was burned at a stake, with wet wool held by a Torah scroll wrapped around his body to prolong his death.
Hadrian attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions. He prohibited the Torah law and the Hebrew calendar, and executed Judaic scholars. The sacred scroll was ceremonially burned on the Temple Mount. At the former Temple sanctuary, he installed two statues, one of Jupiter, another of himself. In an attempt to erase any memory of Judea or Ancient Israel, he wiped the name off the map and replaced it with Syria Palaestina. By destroying association of Jews to Judea and forbidding the practice of Jewish faith, Hadrian aimed to root out a nation that engaged heavy casualties on the Empire. Similarly, he re-established Jerusalem but now as the Roman pagan polis of Aelia Capitolina, and Jews were forbidden from entering it, except on the day of Tisha B'Av.
Yet, Hadrian's death in 138 CE marked a significant relief to the surviving Jewish communities. Rabbinic Judaism had already become a portable religion, centered around synagogues, and the Jews themselves kept books and dispersed throughout the Roman world and beyond.
Justin, it's probably not too late. Just think this over.
Sure enough, just as I expected, the National Post twitched to the Emperor Hadrian/Jewish pogrom angle. Kinsella is raging with indignation.