Sunday, July 01, 2012

Apocalypse - The Great Jewish War

Many years ago I had a stab at reading Josephus; concious that given his status as a traitor to Judea it was likely to be a biased account of the Jewish Rebellion.  That it certainly was, but recently getting back in to the period and looking for other books on the subject I came across and excellent tome, that discussed in detail why he would be so disposed to treachery, amongst many other points.  Not least an excellent account of the war.

Neil Faulkner's 'Apocalypse, is a book of two halves really, the first part details the background and context of the war, including great detail on the prior history of the region and extensive discussion of the Jewish society and religious movements that more often than not worked against one another during the rebellion.  The readar is introduced to Essenes, Sicarii, Zealots and more, as well as the Romanophile property owning elites of which Josephus himself was a part.

The second part of course attends to the war itself, which can loosely be divided into four parts - the initial rebellion in which the Romans are defeated at Beth Horon; the War in the north where despite some willingness to take on the Romans in battle the Galilean's led by Josephus are defeated in detail; The siege of Jerusalem (preceded by the small matter of the year of four emperors); and the the mopping up campaign concluding with the tragedy at Masada.

One particularly commendable point to Faulkner's account, from a wargamers point of view especially, is the detailed discussion of ancient warfare and siege combat.  If nothing else, pages 338 to 344 (of this edition) should be required reading for any wargamer, detailing as they do the reality and psychology of pitched battle.  The author also details at great length the siege tactics, campaign doctrines and army compositions of both sides.

All in all, it is an excellent and very readable account of the war, which offers more balance and insight than a  reading of Josephus alone would permit.  I'm glad I picked this up, and for anyone with an interest in the middle east or Rome at war this should be a must.

1 comment: