2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"A victory? What have we won?",
This review is from: The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74 (Campaign) (Kindle Edition)
"The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74" by Si Sheppard, a volume in the Osprey Campaign series, is a superb account of how an army of peasant guerrillas fought against the most powerful empire and war machine of antiquity: The Roman Army.
The Jewish Revolt started when a local disturbance in Caesarea caused by Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue exploded into a pan-Jewish revolt against their Roman overlords. It was finally ended when the last Jewish remnants of the revolt, who held out in the mountain fortress of Masada until AD 73, committed mass suicide when the Romans were breaking down the walls, bringing the revolt to an end.
"The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74" provides, in 96 pages, a concise presentation of the Roman campaign to crush the rebellion. The opposing commanders are introduced, as well as the opposing armies and their war-aims, before the narrative switches to the campaign itself. It was a campaign mainly of sieges, and those of Jotapata, the seaport Joppa and Gischala to give an example are covered. Most of the attention is given to the five-month siege of Jerusalem in the summer of AD 70, which ended with the fall and destruction of the city amid dreadful atrocities. Even by Roman standards, the human toll was appalling. But Jewish resistance was not broken yet, and this is also covered in this Campaign-title. Isolated redoubts still remained in rebel hands. Masada was one of them, on the western bank of the Dead Sea. Although a postscript to the Revolt, this is the best-known part of it to the general public (see below). The Roman Flavius Silva led the siege of Masada, which lasted three years, and the ensuing "death before dishonor" resolution of the Sicarii holdouts has gone down in history as the famous last stand of a defiant-until-death Jewish nation.
Kudos must go to author Shi Sheppard, who manages to present the convoluted story of this Jewish War in a clear and comprehensive way. The only thing lacking in this campaign title is a section on how the soldiers of the opposing armies were trained and armed.
The strength of the Osprey format is also its weakness: at 96 pages, there's no room for anything more than a concise recounting of the highlights of a campaign, always leaving you with just a taste of what's to offer but not the full meal. This is compensated with an abundance of pictures, maps and full-color artwork you (usually) won't find in a regular history book.
The casual reader may know about this Jewish Revolt through "Masada" (1981), the epic four-part television mini-series that was shot on location in Israel, starring Peter O'Toole, Peter Strauss and Barbara Carrera. The title of this review is a quote from that series. The full quote goes: "A victory? What have we won? We've won a rock in the middle of a wasteland, on the shores of a poisoned sea," and was uttered by the Roman warrior Flavius Silva (Peter O'Toole) after the Romans finally take Masada and discover the corpses of the suicides.
For those interested in reading more about this revolt, I recommend "Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD 66-73" by Neil Faulkner, "Jerusalem's Traitor: Josephus, Masada And The Fall Of Judea" by Desmond Seward and "Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations" by Martin Goodman.