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Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient…

Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations

by Martin Goodman

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This is a Well-written account of the similarities and differences as well as the history of both cities. The book gives plenty of interesting information as well as good pictures in an engaging manner. I bought this book expecting a history of the jewish revolt against Rome but it gave me so much more. This book is highly-recommended. ( )
  zen_923 | Dec 25, 2016 |
His main point: origin of antisemitism almost an accident, a by product of new emperor Vespasian's need to have a victory to prove his credentials. This followed on equally random acts of incompetence by Roman military leaders on the ground in Judea. The anti- Jewish stance then maintained by subsequent emperors (with 1 or 2 exceptions) and then picked up and magnified by Constantine and the Church. Previously Jews had just been another minority religion within the Empire and tolerated as such. Convincing case but seems amazing that something so long-lasting and intense should have such shallow roots. The main bulk of the book is more a cultural comparison of the Roman and Jewish world-views, more info than I really wanted. I personally felt much more at home in the pre-Christian Graeco-Roman world, with its scepticism and love of pleasure and the arts; the Jewish world felt disturbingly like fundamentalist America or, unsurprisingly, settler/orthodox Israel today. ( )
  vguy | Nov 14, 2013 |
This book was not only an excellent comparison and contrast of the Greco-Roman pagan world with that of early Judaism, but also a great introduction to the first century Mediterranean world in general, explaining very well the cultural contexts out of which Christianity and post-Temple Judaism both grew. The only two faults I can find with the book are: 1. there is not enough discussion of the repercussions of the relationship between Greco-Roman pagans and ancient Jews on the Middle Ages and the modern world and 2. the author portrays the break between Judaism and Christianity as a little too clean, perhaps presupposing much later forms of Christianity (Scholastic Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) and tries just a little too hard to show the Christian Roman Empire as inherently antisemetic (for instance: how is a law issued by St. Constantine which gave the death penalty to Jews who stone Christians antisemetic? seems simply sensible to me). Overall, great book; I do recommend. ( )
1 vote davidpwithun | Sep 16, 2011 |
Hugely informative and interesting! Maybe it gets a little bogged down in detail in some places - it's not a quick read! - but as a relative newcomer to this period in history, I very much enjoyed it. ( )
  PaolaF | Aug 22, 2011 |
I read this book because of my particular interest in the history of the Land of Israel, with the hope of finding some new insights into the 700-year conflict between Rome and the Jews, that started with Pompey’s conquest of Judea in 67 BCE and continued through the Roman imperial and Byzantine periods, until the Muslim conquest of The Holy Land in 638. With his eminence in the fields of both Roman studies and Jewish studies, the author seems uniquely well-placed to shed light on this.

The book’s prologue gives an excellent summary of the great Jewish revolt against Rome in 67 AD and the subsequent war, which ended (more or less) with the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in the year 70. The author then takes up the story again in part three of the book (chapter 11) with the immediate aftermath of the war, the two subsequent Jewish revolts against imperial Rome (115 and 132 AD) , and the subsequent relationships between the successors of Rome - the Byzantine empire and the Church – and the Jews.

In between, these two accounts (chapters 1 through 10), the author provides in exhaustive detail a profile of the two peoples and societies. After a three-chapter overview, he covers in the second part of the book a series of specific topics – identities, communities, perspectives, lifestyles, government, and politics – in a level of detail that far exceeded my needs or expectations. For each topic, he deals first with the Romans and then with the Jews, pointing out any similarities and contrasts between them. Throughout this systematic methodology, the author does not highlight the relevance of any of these detailed comparisons to the causes or the progress of the conflict, with the effect of creating (for this reader) a somewhat numbed impatience. Nor does this detail seem to be necessary for appreciating the the hoped-for insights, that are certainly to be found in the book.

When you read about the great revolt from the point of view of Jewish history, you hardly stop to think about Vespatian’s transformation, from Roman general in charge of putting down the revolt in 67 to emperor in 69 – except insomuch as the pause in the Roman assault that accompanied Vespatian’s withdrawal to Alexandria provided an opportunity for the Jews to regroup in Judea after their setbacks in the Galilee in the early part of the war. Goodman provides a detailed description of what was actually a civil war in Rome, the year of the 3 emperors (68) and Vespatian’s eventual coup that left him in the imperial seat. He points out that Vespatian - up to that point “an obscure senator of mediocre talent and minimal prestige” - needed to give his claim the kind of legitimacy that mattered to the Roman populace – a victory over foreigners. Hence his instruction to his son Titus to prosecute the war as rapidly and comprehensively as possible, so that he would be able to preside over a triumph in Rome. “Titus had his eye less on Jerusalem than on Rome, and the need to to proclaim to the population …that his father, the new emperor.. was not a thuggish nonentity propelled to power by a slaughter of Roman citizens in civil conflict, but a hero of the Roman state who had won victory in Judea.”

The destruction of the Temple in 70 – a state that has existed from then until the present day – is such an existential feature of Jewish consciousness, that it does not occur to ask the question which Goodman addresses “Why did the Romans not permit the subsequent re-building of the temple ?” Judaism, after all was – unlike Christianity until Constantine – a “permitted” religion. Throughout the Roman empire, temples were – sometimes deliberately, sometimes by accident – destroyed and rebuilt all the time. Why not the Jewish temple ? In addition to raising the issue – an insight for this reader by and of itself – the author attempts to answer this question with an extended perspective of the motives and needs of the Flavian dynasty – Vespatian, Titus, Domitian – and the continuation of their oppressive policy towards the Jews by Trajan. Although this may not provide a definitive answer , it does give essential background to understanding the subsequent conflicts – the “War against Quietus” of 115 and the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-5.

Goodman also has a point of view on the well-aired question of whether Josephus’ contention that Titus did not intend the temple to be destroyed should be taken at face value or not (he thinks it should); and throughout the latter part of the book, he provides similarily valuable gloss on the perspectives of Josephus and other ancient historians.

This was a worthwhile read; however, it would have been a much shorter and more accessible book if some of the mass of detail in its central chapters had been better harnessed in service of its core theme, the conflict between Rome and Jerusalem.
6 vote maimonedes | Aug 31, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375411852, Hardcover)

A magisterial history of the titanic struggle between the Roman and Jewish worlds that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

In 70 C.E., after a four-year war, three Roman legions besieged and eventually devastated Jerusalem, destroying Herod’s magnificent Temple. Sixty years later, after further violent rebellions and the city’s final destruction, Hadrian built the new city of Aelia Capitolina where Jerusalem had once stood. Jews were barred from entering its territory. They were taxed simply for being Jewish. They were forbidden to worship their god. They were wholly reviled.

What brought about this conflict between the Romans and the subjects they had previously treated with tolerance? Martin Goodman—equally renowned in Jewish and in Roman studies—examines this conflict, its causes, and its consequences with unprecedented authority and thoroughness. He delineates the incompatibility between the cultural, political, and religious beliefs and practices of the two peoples. He explains how Rome’s interests were served by a policy of brutality against the Jews. He makes clear how the original Christians first distanced themselves from their origins, and then became increasingly hostile toward Jews as Christian influence spread within the empire. The book thus also offers an exceptional account of the origins of anti-Semitism, the history of which reverberates still.

An indispensable book.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:51 -0400)

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Written by one of the leading scholars of the ancient Roman and Jewish worlds, this book explains how the first generation of Christians first distanced themselves from its Jewish origins and then became hostile to Jews as their influence spread within the empire. It also provides an account of the origins of anti-semitism.… (more)

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