Quotable: Martin Goodman

In the concluding remarks on his Rome and Jerusalem chapter devoted to the destruction of Jerusalem, Prof. Goodman sums up rather bluntly the catalysts:

The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 was the product of no long-term policy on either side. It had come about through a combination of accidents, most of them unrelated in origin to the conflict: the death of Nero, leading to Vespasian’s bid for power in Rome and Titus’ quest for the propaganda coup of a rapid conquest of Jerusalem, and the devastating effect in the summer hear of a firebrand thrown by a soldier into the Temple of God.

Rome and Jerusalem, 423

I’m reminded of the Kennedy assassination, and here’s why. The conspiracy theories that followed Kennedy’s assassination and persist still today derive, and my opinion, primarily from a reluctance to accept that insignificant, flippant, and even accidental people and events can culminate to destroy someone as important as JFK. Many consider it almost an affront to his memory to accept that someone as inconsequential and unsuccessful as Lee Harvey Oswald could really bring down, completely on his own initiative, one of the most popular presidents of all time.

In like manner, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple has often been viewed as the intentional machinations of a megalomaniacal Roman emperor, perhaps even rooted in the righteous indignation of the God of the Universe. That Jerusalem was a pawn in one man’s powerplay, and the destruction of the temple the accidental result of one soldier’s bigoted zeal, may seem hard to swallow for some. Thoughts?


2 responses to “Quotable: Martin Goodman

  • Michael Helfield

    Hello Daniel,

    My colleague Tommaso Leoni has written an article on the Titus and the Temlple destruction (as it appears in Josephus). It is JJS within last 5 years or so, but I cannot remember the details now. It’s worth a look if you have time!


  • Daniel O. McClellan

    That must be “‘Against Caesar’s Wishes’: Flavius Josephus As a Source for The Burning of The Temple,” JJS 58.1 (2007): 39-51. Tomasso arrives at the same conclusion as Goodman, namely that Josephus’ account of Titus’ reluctance is not to be dismissed in favor of Sulpicius Severus’ account. Looks like a good article. Thanks for the heads up!

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