History Files
 

Near East Kingdoms

Levantine States

 

Israelites & Israel

Today's Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of their history. The former was carved out of a large proportion of the already-expanded latter from 1948. Before that though lies four thousand years of history, sometimes recorded, sometimes alluded to, and sometimes a complete mystery. Unpicking it to establish a relatively stable story has been the work of decades, and even today there are differences of opinion regarding many of the details.

The region in which both names came to be created was Canaan, the long Mediterranean coast between ancient Syria and Egypt which today is known as the Levant. Various independent or united Semitic-speaking city states formed in this region from around 3000 BC onwards, reaching a peak of independent development in the second millennium BC. It was during the climate-induced social collapse of the late thirteenth century BC that both a state known as Israel and a region known as Palestine emerged, giving both terms similar founding dates (very approximately), with the Phoenicians emerging to the immediate north during the same period.

Then came the Jewish Diaspora and the age of great empires in the form of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Eastern Romans, Islam, and the Ottomans, until the twentieth century saw the most recent phase of empire-building come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge.

The term 'Israelite' is often used interchangeably with the terms 'Hebrew' and 'Jew', but these terms are not strictly interchangeable. The specific term 'Israelites', or 'people of Israel', is best used only for periods after the followers of Yahweh undertook their exodus from Egypt. It can also be used conveniently for the earlier period in which these people were subject to patriarchs (approximately between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BC).

The term loses its accuracy after the united kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon divided into the kingdoms of Samaria and Judah around 927 BC. The Old Testament tends usually to use the term 'Hebrew' for the entire period before 1000 BC, but it is best to avoid it here due to controversy surrounding its origins (regarding whether it descends from 'Eber', the ancestor of Abraham, or habiru, a general term for brigands and the dispossessed).

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler and from the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Sean Bambrough & Wayne McCleese, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran (1992), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from A History of the Jewish People, Hayim Ben-Sasson (Harvard University Press, 1985), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Bible Atlas.)

Roman Province of Palestine
AD 136 - 636
Incorporating Syria Palaestina (AD 136-c.395), and Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda, Palaestina Salutaris, Palaestina Tertia, & Dioceses Orientis (AD 395)

The early Israelites were able to form a kingdom of Israel in the late eleventh century BC, although it quickly divided into Samaria and Judah. The latter was commanded by Babylonian overlords in 586 BC, part of its Yehud province. Babylonian control was replaced by that of Persia, the Greek empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, and the Seleucid empire in Syria, before a second century BC Judean revolt created the mainly-independent Jewish Hasmonaean state.

Unfortunately, when the weakened Seleucids fell to Rome, so did Judea. Pompey 'the Great', besieged Jerusalem in 64-63 BC to end independence, although Jerusalem retained autonomy. Backed by Rome, Herod of Idumaea ruled in Jerusalem under his own Herodite dynasty. Herod very much had his own empire-building interests in mind, but Rome needed him to hold together a tumultuous region which was full of messianic claimants and prophesies. Ultimately his successors were less successful than him in many regards, and it was Emperor Claudius who placed a Roman procurator in charge of the newly-formed province of Judea.

The country was economically unstable, prophets and holy men abounded, and religious and political insurrections broke out in many regions. During the Roman period, Jewish Diaspora communities around the empire grew greatly in terms of their population figures as people emigrated from troublesome Judea.

Cyrenaica alone (in modern eastern Libya) soon counted twenty-five percent of its total population as Jews, while the Ashkenazi Jews would eventually form out of early communities in Roman Italy and the Mediterranean coast. Those who remained behind would in modern times be labelled Mizrahi Jews (with various named sub-groups). Judean worship began to shift in this period from the Temple to early Rabbinic authority, partially due to the emigration and partly causing it.

FeatureFrequent unrest resulted in two major revolts in the first two centuries AD. The second, from AD 132, saw Jerusalem destroyed and the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina built at least partially over the top of it. A pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter was built on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount itself, and the Jews were driven out of Jerusalem (see feature link).

By AD 136 Rome had forbidden Jews from entering Jerusalem, although Christian pilgrims were allowed. A major administrative change was made around the same time, probably as an attempt to completely disassociate with the long and troubled recent history of Judea. The Greek (Seleucid) name of 'Judea' or 'Judaea' was abandoned, and the existing regions of Galilee, Judea, and Samaria were grouped into a new single province of Syria Palaestina.

Also noted in this period are the 'Bishops of Aelia Capitolina', introduced as part of Emperor Hadrian's policy of removing Jewish influence entirely from the new city. The Catholic Church's 'First Council of Nicaea' in AD 325 created the 'Bishops of Jerusalem' to replace the former post. When the empire divided in AD 395, Palestine was reorganised into the Dioceses Orientis. This consisted of the regions of Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda, and Palaestina Salutaris otherwise known as Palaestina Tertia.

Rome's colosseum

(Information by Peter Kessler, from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson (1987), from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from The History of Ancient Israel, Michael Grant (University of California, 1984), from Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, Cambridge (England), 1910), from Times Atlas of World History, Stacy Schiff (Maplewood, 1979), and from External Links: Gallus Caesar (15 March 351 - 354 AD), Thomas M Banchich (Roman Emperors Online Encyclopaedia), and Jewish History Sourcebook: Julian and the Jews 361-363 CE (Fordham University), and Hakira.)

AD 135 - 136

Gnaeus Minicius Faustinus S J Severus

First Roman proconsular imperial legate.

136

Two years before his death, Roman Emperor Hadrian adopts a consul by the name of L Aelius Caesar to be his successor. This man's premature death forces Hadrian to select again. His new choice, Antoninus Pius, has a reputation for honesty and devotion to duty.

The expulsion of the Jews AD 135
Entitled Israel - Expulsion of the Jews AD 135 and sub-titled How Heraclius turned the Jews out of Jerusalem, this facsimile of a miniature comes from the Histoire des Empereurs, a fifteenth century manuscript which is part of Project Gutenberg text 10940

136 - 140

Sextus Julius Major

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

140

Lucius Burbuleius Optatus Ligarianus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

147 - 150

Sulpicius Julianus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

150 - 154

Marcus P Laelianus Larcius Sabinus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

154 - 157

Marcus Cassius Apollinaris

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

157 - 162

Lucius Attidius Cornelianus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

163 - 164

Marcus Annius Libo

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

164 - 166

Gnaeus Julius Verus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

165 - 180

Plague enters Rome from the east, brought back by returning legionaries. It quickly spreads throughout the empire and is generally known as the Antonine Plague, although the 'Plague of Galen', who describes its spread, is sometimes used. The total death toll may reach five million, with as many as two thousand a day dying in Rome at its height. It drastically weakens the army.

Glevum plague victims
The widespread Antonine Plague left this mass grave for archaeologists to find in Gloucester in Britain, with scholars judging the disease to have been smallpox

166 - 175

Gaius Avidius Cassius

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

170

The centre of Jewish life moves to Galilee. Rabbi Judah HaNasi presides over a reconstituted Sanhedrin, or high court. The same rabbi is responsible for recording the oral laws of Judaism into the Mishnah to ensure their survival in a highly volatile Palestine.

The result, in the next two centuries or so, is the compilation of various works which is known as the Talmud (with the Jerusalem version, or 'Jerusalem Talmud', being the oldest). This process also involves Pharisaic Judaism transmuting itself into Rabbinic Judaism, thereby finally removing any lingering traces of former Pharisee sectarianism in favour of a more inclusive form of Judaism. Temple ritual is replaced by prayer in synagogues.

The nasi ('prince') is the patriarch of the Sanhedrin, a powerful position which is almost akin to royalty. The position is terminated in 425, but the Sanhedrin has already been dissolved by then, in 358.

Ephesos frieze
This scene from the Parthian War comes from Ephesos and shows a Roman warrior in typical heroic stance about to strike down his defeated Parthian opponent - all good propaganda for the Roman war effort, of course

175 - 178

Publius Martius Verus

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

179 - 182

Publius Helvius Pertinax

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

183 - 185

Gaius Domitius Dexter

Roman proconsular imperial legate.

187 - 190

Gaius Julius Saturninus

Joint Roman proconsular imperial legate.

187 - 190

Asellius Aemilianus

Joint Roman proconsular imperial legate.

189 - 199

Pope St Victor I introduces the Latin mass to Rome, where it replaces the typical mass in Greek. He also takes a firmer stand in the growing disagreement about dating the celebration of the Passover and Easter.

The Christian church in Asia Minor celebrates it on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day before the Jewish Passover, on whichever day that falls. Rome celebrates Easter only on the Sunday following the fourteenth of Nisan. It is a small difference which is causing increasing friction between the two Christian churches.

Pope St Victor I
The most famous act by the Africa-born Pope Victor I is his excommunication of the leatherworker, Theodotus of Byzantium, for his Adoptionist doctrine ('Dynamic Monarchianism', or 'Adoptionism') which proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth to be non-divine

190 - 193

Gaius Pescennius Niger

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

193 - 194

Ti Manilius Fuscus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

198

Q Venidius Rufus M M L Calvinianus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

c.207 - 209

Marius Maximus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.207

Domitius Leo Procillianus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

c.209 - 211

Minicius Martialis

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

213

D Pius Cassius

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

fl c.216

Aurelius Mam-

Roman proconsular imperial legate. Name incomplete.

fl c.221

Antonius Seleucus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl 225 - 235

Quintus Aradius Rufinus Optatus Aelianus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.235?

(Claudius Sollemnius?) Pacatianus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.241

Attius Rufinus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

c.241 - 249

Flavius Antiochus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.251

Atilius Cosminus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.251

Pomponius Laetianus

Joint (?) Roman proconsular imperial legate.

260 - 272

Crisis strikes the weakened Roman empire, with two major splinter states forming in the same year. The Rhine frontier collapses completely at around the same time.

The second of these splinter states is the Palmyrene empire, which encompasses the Roman provinces of Syria, Palestine, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor. It is ruled as little more than an expanded kingdom by Queen Zenobia for her infant son Vaballanthus, with a capital at Palmyra.

Palmyra
Palmyra (now in central Syria) was a Roman client kingdom for many years, and was fully independent again in AD 260, commanding a large swathe of Roman eastern territory at the same time

These crises, and the expenditure required to bring them to resolution, means a great deal of increased taxation across the empire. The Jewish population of Palestine seems to be especially impacted.

Large numbers of Jews emigrate to Babylon and the more tolerant Sassanids (where they form a large contingent of modern Israel's Mizrahi Jews, which in turn eventually supplies the nucleus for the later Indian Jews). There, autonomous Jewish communities are allowed to flourish, with individuals able to lead full and rewarding lives.

260s

Virius Lupus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl 268 - 270

Salvius Theodorus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

fl c.275

Maximinus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl c.279

Julius Saturninus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl 276 - 282

Claudius Cleobulus

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

fl 284 - 305

L Artorius Pius Maximus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

fl 289 - 297

Lucius Aelius Helvius Dionysius

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

290

Charisius

Roman proconsular imperial legate of Syria Coele.

292 - 293

Crispinus

Roman propraetorial imperial legate of Syria Phoenicia.

fl 293 - 305

Latinius Primosus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 293 - 305

Aelius Statuus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 293 - 303

Sossianus Hierocles

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 305

Julius Julianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 305

Verinus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 309/313

Maximus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 323?

Dyscolius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.323

Achillius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

after 324

Arrius Maximus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 324 - 337

Plutarchus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

325

The first ecumenical Christian council, the 'First Council (Nicaea I)', is held by Constantine the Great in Rome. A new post is created, the bishopric of Jerusalem, with Bishop Macarius of Aelia Capitolina present to become the first occupier of the replacement post.

All of the fundamental basics of Catholic Christianity are debated and decided, including which books to include in the Bible (and which to discard because they do not fit the specific message to be broadcast by the church), the date for Easter, and the divinity of Jesus, whereas before he had usually been regarded by his followers as an ordinary (if special) man.

First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea, held in Rome in AD 325, decided upon the basic tenants of the Catholic Church, including the contents of the Bible

328 - 329

Fl Dionysius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 329 - 335

Fl Dionysius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

335

Archelaus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.337

Nonnus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

337

Roman Emperor Constantine II emerges from the unsettled period following his father's death as the senior Augustus, controlling Britain, Gaul, and Iberia - the Gallic Provinces. Constans controls Africa, Italy, and the Illyrian provinces, while Constantius II holds Constantinople and most of the east, including Palestine.

fl 338

Nonnus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 338

Eustathius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

342

Marcellinus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 347

Theodorus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 348

Fl Antonius Hierocles

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 349

Anatolius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

351

Rome is plunged into civil war between 350-353, with the usurper Emperor Magnentius being opposed by Eastern Augustus Constantius II. While the Romans are distracted, the Jews of Galilee launch a revolt against the authority of Constantius Gallus, brother-in-law to Constantius.

351 - 351

Isaac of Diocaesarea / Sepphoris

Rebellion leader. Fate uncertain.

351 - 351

Patricius / Natrona

Rebellion co-leader. Killed in battle?

351 - 352

Isaac of Diocaesarea (also known as Isaac of Sepphoris) is aided by one Patricius, also known as Natrona. The latter name apparently has messianic connotations. The revolt erupts in the town of Diocaesarea when a night assault destroys the Roman garrison.

Emperor Constantine the Great
Emperor Constantine the Great is perhaps best known for confirming Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, but he also did a great deal to stabilise the empire and ensure that it survived into the next century

Later in the year, AD 351, or in 352, Constantius Gallus sends his magister equitum, Ursicinus, to put down the revolt. The cities of Diospolis and Tiberias have already been captured and mainly destroyed by the rebels, while Diocaesarea is destroyed by Rome.

Ursicinus orders several thousand rebels to be killed, with Gallus apparently executing many of all ages, even the young. Patricius is claimed as having been killed in battle.

bef 353

Honoratus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

353/354

Apollinaris

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 354

Theophilus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 355

Dionysius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

355 - 356

Gymnasius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 358

Demetrius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

358

Nicentius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

358 - 359

Nicentius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

358 - 359

Sabinus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

359/360?

Euchrostius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

359

According to twelfth century tradition, the nasi of the Sanhedrin, Hillel II, decides to draw up the fixed Hebrew calender which remains in use to this day. His reasoning is that the increasing Jewish Diaspora demands greater unity in terms of religious practices.

The Sanhedrin
The highest court in Roman-era Judea was the 'Great Sanhedrin (a form of supreme court), which was usually based in Jerusalem and which consisted of seventy-one judges and was led by the nasi

A ninth century letter reveals the fact that, although the calender is in use, holidays are still being observed at different times across various communities across the Jewish diaspora. The calender seems not to be finalised and fully accepted until the early tenth century when the Abbasids control Palestine.

bef 360

Julianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

360

Tryphonianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

360

Italicianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

360 - 361

Andronicus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 361

Aelius Claudius Dulcitius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

361

Siderius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

361

Anatolius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.361/362

Polycles

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

362

Julianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

362 - 363

Gaianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

363

Alexander

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

363 - 364

Celsus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

363 - 364

Marius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

363

The rise to power of Emperor Julian the Apostate comes with his abandonment of Catholic Christianity and support for pagan ceremonies. On his way to campaign in the east against the Sassanids he orders the construction of a Third Temple in Jerusalem (no longer Aelia Capitolina).

An earthquake in Galilee in the same year (actually two in quick succession, both severe) is held as the main reason for the failure of any serious construction (the old ruins are cleared but the earthquake occurs just as the new foundations are to be prepared). Much more likely a reason is the death of Julian and the accession of a Christian emperor who cancels the work.

Sassanids
The coming of the Sassanids as replacements for the Parthians meant an entirely new and more vigorous empire being created in the north-western borders of Saka-controlled lands

364

Marcianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

364

Ulpianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

364 - 365

Domninus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 364 - 380

Protasius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 365 - 368

Festus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 365 - 371

Aetherius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 370 - 374

Fl Eutolmius Tatianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

372

Leontius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.379/380

Carterius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

380

Petrus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 381

Domnicus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.382

Marcellinus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.382/383

Pelagius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

fl 382 - 393

Timocrates

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

382 - 383

Proculus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.384/385

Eumolpius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

386

Tisamenus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

387

Celsus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 388

Eustathius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

388

Lucianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

388

Antherius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

388

Eustathius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

388

Epiphanius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

389

Eutropius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

c.389/390

Palladius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

390

Infantius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

390

Domitius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

391

Severianus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 392

Capitolinus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 392

Iullus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

392

Leontius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

392/393?

Florentius

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

bef 393/394

Severus

Roman consularis governor of Syria Coele.

395

The Roman empire finally divides permanently between the Eastern Roman and Western Roman portions, acknowledging a state of affairs which has already existed in practise for many years. Palestine and its population of Mizrahi Jews falls under the jurisdiction of the eastern half, as do the Byzantine Jews within the European section of the eastern empire.

Ravenna
Ravenna became an imperial city in 402, and remained Italy's capital under succeeding Gothic, Ostrogothic, and Eastern Roman administrations

In a reorganisation which takes place in the late fourth century (and probably very close to this division), Syria Palaestina is divided in three. The main aim is to give each governor a smaller and more solidly-organised defensive base. Together, all of these provinces are part of the newly-created Dioceses Orientis.

Palaestina Prima or Palaestina I has its capital in Caesarea Maritima, while also including central Palestine, the coastal plain, Judea, and Samaria.

Palaestina Secunda or Palaestina II has its capital in Scythopolis, while also including northern Transjordan, the lower Jezreel Valley, Galilee, and Golan.

Palaestina Salutaris, Palaestina Tertia, or Palaestina III has its capital in Petra, and includes the Negev, southern Transjordan, and parts of the Sinai peninsula.

425

Having sorted out problems with the Huns for the next thirty years, Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II orders the Sanhedrin to be disbanded. Roman persecution continues off-and-on, while Jewish resentment continues to trigger various incidents which does little to help its case.

438

Eastern Roman Empress Eudocia has removed the ban on Jews being able to pray at the Second Temple site. The heads of the Jewish community in Galilee issue a call 'to the great and mighty people of the Jews' which begins: 'Know that the end of the exile of our people has come!' However the Catholic Christian population of the city see this as a threat to their primacy, so a riot erupts which chases Jews out of the city.

Attila the Hun
Despite his great success over the barbarian tribes of eastern and Central Europe, Attila's stalemate against an allied Roman-led army in 451 was a blow to his prestige, and his death soon afterwards caused his empire to crumble

451 - 453

The Fourth Council (Chalcedon) is held by the Catholic Church in 451. Monophysitism is condemned, but the fatal disaffection of Syria and Egypt is effected (the former eventually forms the Syriac Orthodox Church which survives to the present day). Oriental Orthodoxy develops a distinctive flavour of its own under the patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, with the majority of its adherents hailing from Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Armenia.

Palestine is also affected by the division. In 451 or 452, having gained church autonomy, the anti-Chalcedonian (largely Orthodox) clergy elect a rival bishop by the name of Theodosius to hold the post of 'Bishop of Jerusalem'. He is forced into exile in 453 but the Syriac Orthodox church holds supremacy in the region right up to the modern day, under the patriarch of Jerusalem.

476

On 4 September, Odoacer, the Scirian magister militum of the Western Roman army, takes Ravenna, killing Orestes, the magister militum, and deposing Emperor Romulus. By this time the Western Roman army has effectively ceased to exist, and Christians are flocking to Palestine and the Eastern Roman empire in general in the hope of avoiding the chaos in the west. The Jewish population in Palestine becomes even more heavily outnumbered.

Half-Siliqua of Romulus Augustus
This half-siliqua was the only silver coinage issued during the short reign of Romulus Augustus, puppet and final official Western Roman emperor

484

Over the next century a series of revolts take place within Palaestina Prima. They are launched by the Samaritans against the Eastern Roman empire, and both sides exhibit extreme violent tendencies. Roman suppression - especially at the hands of their Ghassanid allies - severely reduces the Samaritan population, making Christians the single dominant group in province.

The first of them, in 484, is triggered by rumours of the impending removal of the remains of Samaritan heroes. Justa or Justasas is elected as the Samaritan king before the rebels descend on Caesarea. The Catholic Christian church of St Procopius is destroyed and many Christians are killed.

484

Justa / Justasas

Rebel leader. Captured, killed, and beheaded.

Asclepiades, dux Palaestinae (commander of the province's Limes Arabicus troops), has his troops reinforced by Rheges, the Caesarea-based Arcadiani of the local lestodioktes (the commander of the watch). Together they defeat Justa, killing him and sending his head to Emperor Zeno in Constantinople.

495

Another Samaritan revolt is ignited, during the reign of Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus. They occupy Mount Gerizim from which they have been banned since 484. The Samaritan rebels are led by a Samaritan woman who allegedly seizes the Church of St Mary and massacres the garrison. The revolt is suppressed by the Eastern Roman governor of Edessa, Procopius. The rebel leaders are killed.

Notitia Dignitatum: Dux Palaestinae
As recorded in the Notitia Dignitatum, Palestine was Sub dispositione viri spectabilis ducis Palaestinae, 'Under the control of the worshipful duke of Palestine'

500s

It is during this century that Judaism, effectively (but in greatly simplified terms) the Jewish form of post-Second Temple Christian worship, cements its traditions and doctrines. The Babylonian Talmud, completed around 499 amongst the Babylonian Jews and generally known as 'the Talmud', forms one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism, the mainstream form of Judaism from this century onwards.

529

Another messianic figure emerges from the Samaritan community. Julianus ben Sabar (or ben Sahir) leads the Samaritans in a fresh revolt with the intention of carving out an independent state. The reason, according to Procopius, is restrictions which have been imposed through Emperor Justinian's edicts. Underlying tensions already exist, of course, so little extra provocation is needed to incite violence, and this revolt is extremely violent.

529

Julianus ben Sabar / ben Sahir

Rebel leader. 'King'. Captured and beheaded.

529 - 531

The rebels take Neapolis, during which time ben Sabar emerges as the leader and is proclaimed king. The bishop of Neapolis is murdered along with many of his priests, while local Christians are persecuted and Catholic churches destroyed.

Byzantine coins of Justin I
Shown here are two sides of a type of coinage which was typical of that being issued under Eastern Roman emperors, Justin I and Justinian I, during the height of Eastern Roman power in the aftermath of the collapse of the western empire

The dux Palaestinae combines his forces with those of local governors and the Ghassanid Arab phylarch to deal with matters. Ben Sabar withdraws his forces from Neapolis but they are still surrounded and defeated and their leader is beheaded. The last vestiges of the rebellion are put down by 531, by which time tens of thousands of Samaritans have died or have been enslaved. The Samaritan faith is subsequently all but banned.

556

Jews and Samaritans together slaughter many of Caesarea's Christians, and then attack Catholic churches. Governor Stephanus and his military escort are unable to do much more than take refuge in the governor's house where they are killed.

? - 556

Stephanus

Eastern Roman Governor. Killed by rebels.

Amantius, governor of the east, is ordered to quell the revolt. The Church of the Nativity is burned down, suggesting that the rebellion has reached Bethlehem, but no further damage is recorded. Perhaps a hundred thousand or so are killed during the Eastern Roman reprisals, and many others are driven into exile.

Bishop Cerula
The fifth century fresco of Bishop Cerula in the San Gennaro catacomb, Naples, destroys the myth that only men ministered to the faithful in the early church and instead adds support to the theory that women played a vital role in the church's early success

572 - 573

Emperor Justin II complains about 'outrages committed against Catholic Christian Churches and holy images by... Samaritans at the foot of Mount Carmel'.  He rescinds the restoration of rights which had previously been granted by Justinian, sparking a fresh Samaritan-Jewish revolt in summer 572, and again in early 573 (or, alternatively, 578). The Samaritan faith is outlawed and the Samaritan community dwindles to near extinction.

613

As part of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628, the Battle of Antioch of 613 sees Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius defeated. The forces of Sassanid Shah Khusro II consolidate their recent gains and make further advances, entering Palaestina Secunda and Palaestina Prima. They are assisted by Jewish forces under Nehemiah ben Hushiel and Benjamin of Tiberias.

613 - 614

Nehemiah ben Hushiel

Jewish leader alongside Sassanid forces. Killed.

613

Benjamin of Tiberias

Jewish leader alongside Sassanid forces.

614 - 617

Caesarea Maritima is taken in 614, with Jerusalem falling soon after. But then a few months later Christian revolt kills Nehemiah ben Hushiel and his council of sixteen, alongside many other Jews. The city briefly changes hands before the Sassanids re-establish control.

A Jewish attack on Tyre is foiled by the Catholic Christian Tyrians themselves, although churches around the city are destroyed by the attackers. The Tyrians kill two thousand Jewish prisoners in revenge to force the attackers to withdraw.

Ruins of Tyre
The visible remains of ancient Tyre are largely Greek and Roman, built on the base of the first millennium BC Phoenician city

617 - 630

Sassanid policy has changed by 617, switching from Jewish support to Christian support. Internal pressure from Catholic Christian communities may be responsible. Between 622-627 the military situation changes. Heraclius gains the upper hand, driving the Sassanids back into Mesopotamia. An internal revolt in 628 replaces Khusro II and ends the war, allowing Heraclius to enter Jerusalem in 630.

A promise by Heraclius to restore Jewish rights in return for aid in fighting the Sassanids is quickly abandoned. Instead the emperor orders a general massacre of the Jewish population, devastating the Jewish communities of Jerusalem and Galilee.

As a result, many Jews join the Jewish Diaspora in Egypt where many of them eventually become part of the Beta Israel population. Byzantine Jews within the European section of the Eastern Roman empire also suffer reprisals, having exhibited a certain level of support for Jerusalem's cause.

Palestinian bracelets
Two bangles of dark glass which were possibly made in Palestine were discovered on Cyprus, and they have been dated to between AD 200-300

636 - 642

It is under the leadership of Umar I 'the Great' that Islam begins its rapid expansion outside Arabia. Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius is defeated, and Palestine and Phoenicia are conquered in 636 and 637 respectively. The Roman province is no more, having been replaced by an Islamic-controlled Palestine.

 
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