by Evropa Soberana
Second Jewish-Roman War:
The Rebellion of the Diaspora or Kitos War
‘The Jews, overwhelmed by a spirit of rebellion, rise up against their Greek fellow citizens’.
— Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History
This section will deal with the Jewish revenge on the Greeks and Romans for the destruction of the Second Temple. While Judea is still exhausted and under a heavy military occupation, we will see an attempt to establish ‘communes’ or Jewish states abroad, starting with secession in Cyprus, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Cyrenaica. The constitution of these Jewish territories happened to exterminate the local Greek communities.
The First Jewish-Roman War made it very clear that the Jewry, under the ‘coexistence’ with the Greeks and the authority of the Romans, had absolutely no chance of prospering or reaching levels of power as they did in the past in Egypt, Babylon and Persia.
The ‘ghettoized’ situation of the Jews submitted to Rome contrasted radically with that of the Jews who, in Mesopotamia, were subjects of the Parthian Empire. There existed many ancient Jewish communities, especially in Babylon and Susa, who saw themselves as prosperous, rich, powerful and with a long tradition. They had enjoyed ample freedom for six centuries, and they were horrified by the situation of their coreligionists within the Roman Empire.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the ‘international Jewry’ unconditionally supported the Parthian Empire during this time, partly because it treated them much better and partly because it was the only really serious enemy that lurked the borders of the Roman Empire in the East, therefore they were the only power capable of liberating Jerusalem. After all, the Parthians were the ones who killed the hated looter Crassus during the Battle of Carrhae, and if the Romans were anti-Jewish and the Parthians were enemies of the Romans, the opportunist strategy of the moment considered the Parthian Empire as a pro-Jewish regime. At this time, nothing would have pleased the Jewry more than a military campaign that conquered Judea, Syria, Asia Minor in general and, if possible, Egypt, as the Persians had done before.
In 113, Trajan, who admired Alexander the Great, was about to start a series of campaigns against the Parthian Empire, with the aim of conquering Mesopotamia. To carry out such an action, he concentrated troops on the eastern borders, at the expense of leaving many more western places unguarded. Knowing the conflict in the province of Judea, Trajan forbade the Jews to study the Torah and observe the Shabbat, which, in practice, did nothing but irritate the Jewry.
Bust of Trajan in 108 CE, in the Museum of Art History in Vienna, Austria. Trajan, the first emperor of Hispanic origin, had the honour of having ruled the Roman Empire when its borders were most extensive. Under his reign, Mesopotamia was annexed, but soon it was to be clear that every step taken by Rome towards the East would encounter as a reaction an uprising of the Jewish quarter.
In 115, the Roman army conquered all of Mesopotamia, including towns that were important Jewish centres. Throughout Mesopotamia the Jews, horrified to see themselves falling into the hands of their mortal enemies, aligned themselves with the Parthians and fought the Romans with ferocity. This open hostility, which was soon heard throughout the Empire, caused a wave of indignation and provided the perfect excuse for the Greek ethnic communities of the provinces of Cyrenaica (current coast of Libya) and Cyprus, with strong anti-Jewish tradition, to start riots against the ghettos, taking advantage of the absence of the Roman legions, which could have appeased the situation.
Several Jewish extremist leaders again preached agitation against Rome, proclaiming the end of the Empire, travelling through all the Roman provinces of Asia Minor and North Africa and exhorting local Jewries to rise up and fight against European occupation. The Jews, already angered by the disturbances with the Greek population, took advantage of the absence of Roman soldiers to begin, that same year, a bloody insurrection.
The rebellion began in Cyrenaica, led by Lukuas, self-proclaimed messiah. The Jews, in a swift stroke of hand reminiscent of their rebellion in Jerusalem half a century earlier, attacked Greek neighbourhoods and villages, destroyed Greek statues and temples dedicated to Jupiter, Artemis, Isis and Apollo, and also numerous Roman official buildings. (These actions were a mere foreshadowing of what Christians would later do on a massive scale and throughout the Empire.) The famous Roman historian Cassius Dio, in his Roman History, describes the terrible massacre that was unleashed, referring to Lukuas as ‘Andreas’, probably his Greco-Roman name.
At that time, the Jews who lived in Cyrenaica, having as captain one Andreas, killed all the Greeks and Romans. They ate their flesh and entrails, bathed in their blood and dressed in their skins. They killed many of them with extreme cruelty, tearing them from above head down the middle of their bodies; they threw some to the beasts while others forced them to fight among themselves, to such an extent that they took 220,000 to death. Cassius Dio also tells us how from their intestines they made belts, and anointed themselves with their blood. These testimonies, although perhaps should not be taken literally, are certainly interesting to see the negative image that the Jewry had in Europe, as an odious and misanthropic people.
Also noteworthy is the character of ethnic cleansing implicit in Jewish actions in Cyrenaica: let us think that, at that time when it was much less populated than now, 200,000 dead (although it may be an exaggerated number) was a monstrous figure; to such an extent that, according to Eusebius, Libya was totally depopulated and Rome had to found new colonies there to recover the population.
After the genocide in Cyrenaica, the Lukuas masses went to an unguarded city that had long been the world centre of wisdom and also of anti-Judaism: Alexandria. There they set fire to numerous Greek neighbourhoods, destroyed pagan temples and desecrated Pompey’s tomb. But this Rebellion of the Diaspora was not limited only to North Africa. Jewish terrorism in Cyrenaica and Alexandria had emboldened Jews throughout the Mediterranean, who, seeing the absence of Roman soldiers, felt the call of the uprising against Rome.
While Trajan was already in the Persian Gulf struggling against the Parthians, crowds of Jews, fanatized by the rabbis, rose up in Rhodes, Sicily, Syria, Judea, Mesopotamia and the rest of North Africa to carry out the ethnic cleansing against European populations. In Cyprus, the worst massacre of the entire rebellion took place: 240,000 Europeans were massacred and the capital of the island, Salamis, was completely razed, according to Cassius Dio. A similar cruelty was shown in Egypt and on the island of Cyprus under one Artemion, the chief of barbarism. In Cyprus they massacred another two hundred and forty thousand people, so they could no longer set foot on the island.
To quell the rebellion in Cyprus, Syria and the newly conquered territories of Mesopotamia, Trajan sent the Legio VII Claudia under the orders of a Berber prince, General Lusius Quietus. The repression of Lusius Quietus in Mesopotamia was so ruthless that the rabbis in that place forbade the study of Greek literature and eliminated the custom of brides adorning themselves with garlands on their wedding day.
In Cyprus, Lusius Quietus exterminated the entire Jewish population of the island and prohibited, under penalty of death, that no Jew step on Cyprus. Even if he was a castaway who appeared on a beach, the Jew should be executed on the spot. These actions left a deep trace in the memory of the Europeans of those places. As a reward for the services rendered, Lusius Quietus was made governor of Judea.
For the pacification of Alexandria, Trajan took troops from Mesopotamia under the command of Marcius Turbo, who in 117 had already quelled the rebellion. To rebuild the damage caused there by the revolt, the Romans expropriated and confiscated all of the Jews’ goods and wealth. Marcius Turbo remained as governor of Egypt during a period of reconstitution of Roman authority. Lukuas, who was at that time in Alexandria, probably fled to Judea.
Throughout the Rebellion of the Diaspora, well over half a million Europeans were massacred, mainly those belonging to the noblest social strata of Cyrenaica, Cyprus, Egypt and Babylon: that is, the European people of these places, men, women and children who were at that time the aristocracy of the Eastern Mediterranean. Although thousands of Jews were put to the sword and the rebellion was ruthlessly crushed by Trajan, Lusius Quietus and Marcius Turbo, many Europeans were killed after suffering atrocious tortures.