• Kloe Gentry

The forgotten second Jewish-Roman war- A timeline of Kito's War.

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

An inscription in Cyrene marking the rebuilding of the city following the disorders caused by the Jews. (119 CE)
An inscription in Cyrene marking the rebuilding of the city following the disorders caused by the Jews. (119 CE)

Despite having been more widespread, the second Jewish-Roman war (115–117 CE), also known as Kito's war, has received far less scholarly attention than it's first and third counterparts. In fact, searching online for 'the second Jewish-Roman war' mostly turns up results for the Bar Kokhba revolt.

However this forgotten rebellion is quite fascinating, as it involved not only the Jews of the desolated province in Judea but also the Jewish diaspora throughout the Roman empire. I believe that such a case, in which the diaspora of an ethnic group decides to revolt almost globally, is unique to history.

The great revolt (66-73 CE), which saw the devastation of Jerusalem and it's temple, led to a substantial increase in Jewish-Roman tensions. Jews throughout the roman empire were subject to Fiscus Judaicus, a special tax imposed as compensation for the revolt. Many of the Judean Jewish refugees still held the rebellious sentiments against the Romans and helped revive the nationalistic-massanic fervor.

Just three years after the destruction of the temple. A weaver by the name of Yonatan, infected with "the madness of the Sicarii", attempted to lead a messianic movement from Cyrenaica (modern day Libya) into Jerusalem, but was quickly captured.

In 115 CE the Roman emperor Trajan led a military campaign against the Parthinian empire. With most of the Roman garrison deployed for the war effort, the Jews finally seized their chance. First they begun revolting in Cyrenaica, quickly taking control of it's namesake capital, Cyrene. They then proceeded to demolish the gentile temples and other roman buildings, including the Caesareum, the basilica, and the public baths.

"The Jews ... waged war on the inhabitants throughout Libya in the most savage fashion, and to such an extent was the country wasted that, its cultivators having been slain, its land would have remained utterly depopulated, had not the Emperor Hadrian gathered settlers from other places and sent them thither, for the inhabitants had been wiped out."

-Paulus Orosius 4th century

The leadership of the revolt fell upon a man named Lukuas, who declared himself king. He quickly amassed an army of rebels and marched towards Alexandria, causing it's Roman governor and many of it's inhabitants to flee. Once there he set fire to the city and destroyed the tomb of Pompey and it's temples. A roman garrison was soon dispatched to combat them, but the Jews prevailed in battle.

Meanwhile in Cyprus, Jewish bandits led by a man named Artemion started their own rebellion. They seized control of the island and massacred the local civilian population. However they fared far worse than their North-African counterparts, and were soon defeated by the seventh legion. Afterwards, laws were created forbidding Jews from entering the island.

In Judea, two brothers by the name of Julianus and Pappos led the rebellion, taking Lydda (Modern day Lod) as their makeshift capital.

The emperor dispatched perfect Marcius Turbo, a close friend and member of the elite Praetorian Guard, to quell the uprising. The Jewish army led by Lukuas, fled to Judea, joining Julianus and Pappos in Lydda. They were then laid siege by the governor of Judea, Lusius Quietus. The distress became so great that the patriarch Rabban Gamaliel II, who was shut up there and died soon afterwards, permitted fasting even on Ḥanukkah.

After a long siege, the city finally fell and many of it's inhabitants were slaughtered. Julianus and Pappos were executed and many of the Jewish rebels were crucified. It is unknown what befell of Lukuas.

By the time the dust had settled over 460,000 Roman citizens and a countless number of Jews were reported killed. Jewish settlements in Cyprus and Libya were completely annihilated. The war caused the resentment against the Romans to only grow stronger. Just fifteen years later another unsuccessful Jewish revolt would erupt in Judea, the famous Bar Kokhba revolt.

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