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Masada

MASADA

site of jewish revolt and martyrdom, 74 c. e.

An isolated mountain on the western shore of the Dead Sea, Masada was turned by King Herod the Great of Judea (3734 b.c.e.) into a major stronghold. In 66 c.e., at the onset of the Jewish revolt against Rome, the extremist Sicarii ("dagger-men") captured Masada; after the revolt's suppression, it remained the last Jewish fortress to hold out. When the Romans were about to storm its walls in the spring of 74 c.e., the defenders, preferring death to slavery, decided to commit collective suicide. Men slew their women and children, then killed one anotherthus relates Flavius Josephus, the only historian to describe these events. The story of the mass suicide is supported by comparable occurrences in the Greco-Roman world.

In traditional Judaism, Masada went largely un-mentioned for centuries. Only with the advent of Zionism did it gain prominence, with the defenders portrayed as freedom-loving heroes and their stance hailed as an example to live by. In Yitzhak Lamdan's influential poem of 1927, Masada came to symbolize the entire Zionist enterprise, with the most famous line announcing, "Masada shall not fall again." From the 1940s, Masada became the goal of ritual treks organized by Zionist youth movements; from the 1950s, recruits of Israel's army swore their oath of allegiance in ceremonies atop Masada. The excavation of the fortress in the 1960s enhanced still further its salience in Israeli consciousness.


The veneration of Masada was never total; for instance, in 1946 David Ben-Gurion coined the slogan "Neither Masada nor Vichy." From the 1970s onward, the Masada myth repeatedly came under attack. The credibility of Josephus's account was questioned; the cruelty of Masada's "dagger-men" toward other Jews was emphasized; and the portrayal of the perpetrators of a group suicide as national heroes was decried as incongruent with Judaism's teachings and educationally misguided. Hard-line Israeli leaders were accused of being possessed by a "Masada complex"that is, of so identifying with Masada's desperate situation that they were no longer reacting to the reality of their own times.


In 2002 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) proclamation of Masada as a World Heritage Site entailed another round of exchanges between Masada's admirers and detractors.


Bibliography


Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

Josephus, Flavius. The Jewish War, translated by H. St. John Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Kedar, Benjamin Z. "Masada: The Myth and the Complex." The Jerusalem Quarterly 24 (1982): 5763.

Yadin, Yigael. Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966.


benjamin kedar

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Masada

Masada (məsā´də), ancient mountaintop fortress in Israel, the final outpost of the Zealot Jews in their rebellion against Roman authority (AD 66–73). Located in the Judaean Desert, the fortress sits atop a mesa-shaped rock that towers some 1,300 ft (400 m) above the western shore of the Dead Sea. According to the ancient historian Josephus, Masada was first fortified sometime during the 1st or 2d cent. BC Between 37 and 31 BC Herod the Great, king of Judaea, further strengthened Masada, building two ornate palaces, a bathhouse, aqueducts, and surrounding siege walls. In AD 66, with the outbreak of the Jewish war against Rome, the Zealots, an extremist Jewish sect, seized the fortress in a surprise attack and massacred its Roman garrison. Masada remained under Zealot control until AD 73, when, after a siege, the 15,000 soldiers of Rome's tenth legion finally subdued the 1,000 men, women, and children holding the fortress. In a final act of defiance, however, almost all of the Jewish defenders had killed themselves rather than be captured and enslaved by the Romans. Only two women and five children survived to tell of the Zealots' last action. Most archaeologists believe the siege lasted several months, although some have suggested it may have taken only a few weeks. Excavated (1963–65) by Yigael Yadin and an international team of volunteer archaeologists, Masada is now a major tourist site and an Israeli historical shrine. Large-scale archaeological excavations were also conducted at the site in the 1950s.

See Y. Yadin, Masada (tr. 1966).

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Masada

Masada the site, on a steep rocky hill, of the ruins of a palace and fortification built by Herod the Great on the SW shore of the Dead Sea in the 1st century bc. It was a Jewish stronghold in the Zealots' revolt against the Romans (ad 66–73) and was the scene in ad 73 of mass suicide by the Jewish defenders when the Romans breached the citadel after a siege of nearly two years. The name may be used allusively of a readiness to anticipate threatened defeat by bringing about one's own destruction first.

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Masada

Masada. Prominent rocky site in Israel/Palestine, where Herod the Great built a palace and refuge. According to Josephus, it was here that the last defenders against Rome at the end of the first Jewish revolt committed suicide rather than surrender. Despite the emotional importance of this in the state of Israel, archaeology throws doubt on Josephus' account.

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Masada

Masada Fortified hill near the Dead Sea, se Israel. It was the scene of the final defence of the Jewish Zealots against the Romans during the Jewish revolt that began in ad 66. In 73, the defenders, c.1000 in number, committed mass suicide rather than surrender.

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Masada

Masadaadder, bladder, khaddar, ladder, madder •Esmeralda, Valda •scaffolder • lambda •Amanda, Aranda, Baganda, Banda, brander, candour (US candor), coriander, dander, expander, gander, germander, goosander, jacaranda, Leander, Luanda, Lysander, meander, memoranda, Menander, Miranda, oleander, panda, pander, philander, propaganda, Rwanda, sander, Skanda, stander, Uganda, understander, Vanda, veranda, withstander, zander •backhander • Laplander • stepladder •inlander • outlander • Netherlander •overlander • gerrymander •pomander •calamander, salamander •bystander •ardour (US ardor), armada, Bader, cadre, carder, cicada, Dalriada, enchilada, Garda, gelada, Granada, Haggadah, Hamada, intifada, lambada, larder, Masada, Nevada, panada, piña colada, pousada, promenader, retarder, Scheherazade, Theravada, Torquemada, tostada •Alexander, commander, demander, Lahnda, slander •Pravda • autostrada

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