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History of IsraelRoman Empire

The Roman Empire was an outgrowth of the ancient Roman Republic, which had roots back as far as 500 BCE. In the first century BCE, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus formed the First Triumvirate in an attempt to gain control of the Republic. Caesar emerged as the victor, but was later assassinated. However, his chosen heir, Octavian, formed part of the Second Triumvirate, and in 31 BCE, became the undisputed ruler. Roman emperors continued to expand and conquer more territory, until the Romans ruled much of the known world. During the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, a period of relative peace, the Roman economy thrived and trade routes were established. The Romans built huge, architecturally impressive structures, like the Coliseum, and made incredible advances in infrastructure, building aqueducts, sewer systems, and the first highway system.

The Romans, in the 1st century BCE, conquered much of the known world, ending the reign of the Greeks, as well as the reign of the Hasmonean dynasty in Israel. Their reign lasted until 476, when the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire, gained control.

At first, the Romans granted the Jewish people some authority over their internal affairs; however, frequent rebellions by the Jews led the Romans to stamp out that autonomy. Around 40 BCE, the Roman Senate proclaimed Herod the Great as "King of the Jews," and he was appointed the governor of Judea. He married a Hasmonean princess in order to gain the favor of the Jews in the region and shore up support for his reign. Herod also embarked on a program to reconstruct the Temple, which suffered damage from invasions over the years. He returned the Temple to its former glory, as well as enclosing the Tomb of the Patriarchs and building the fortress at Masada, but never received full Jewish support.

After Herod's death in 4 BCE, the Romans took full control of Jerusalem. The Jewish revolts began in earnest, culminating in the rebellion in 66 CE, which led the eventual destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The Jewish people had been able to fend off Roman advances for a few years, but were never a true match for the stronger and better-equipped Roman army, under the Emperor Titus.

After the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, the Jewish people were devastated. Hundreds of thousands were killed by the Romans, exiled, or sold into slavery. The image of the Romans triumphantly carrying off the sacred vessels from the Temple is immortalized on the famous Arch of Titus. Hope stirred again briefly during the reign of Bar Kokhba, a messianic figure and powerful military leader, who managed to reclaim Jerusalem in 132 CE. His victory, though, was short-lived; in 135 CE, his rebellion was crushed, the remaining Jews exiled, and Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina.

However, this did not end Jewish presence in Israel. The north, specifically Tiberias, became a center of Jewish learning and Torah study.