Saturday, June 9, 2018

Back to Masada Hardcover – January 1, 2009 by Amnon Ben-Tor (Biblical Archeology Society)

An excellent description of the history of Masada and the Yadin excavations and restorations. The book is well illustrated. It also includes a section on the Masada Myth which is must-reading to ensure full understanding of what happened when the 10th Legion attacked. It was not as it was depicted in the movie, Masada. As good as the movie was, it portrays the myth, not what are the most likely events. For example, the building of the Roman ramp (the movie ramp is still very visible), according to the myth, required several months to build, when the evidence supports the assault took place no later than about 6-8 weeks from the time the Legion first arrived. Also the Zealots were not patriotic Zealots but Secarii, a terrorist group that attacked other Jews who had accommodated the Romans. Also the Secarii never came down from the summit of Masada to attack the Romans as depicted in the movie. The only place they did attack was the village of Ein Gedis where they killed 700 Jews. And so on. though there are 16 historical instances of mass suicides in various places in antiquity, the pattern of the 940 "Zealots' and drawing lots, etc., never occurred anywhere else, which raises the issue of did it happen?. It seems unlikely.

Back to Masada brings Yigael Yadin's classic book on this desert palace/fortress up-to-date. Since Yadin's death in 1984, archaeologists have published eight hefty volumes of excavation reports that are now available to the many experts who contributed to this gorgeously illustrated new book. See how Professor Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University masterfully undermines the argument that Masada is only a myth.

But even then, for all that, standing on the summit of Masada for the first time last November, was unforgettable.

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