Siege of Jerusalem (63 BC)
The Siege of Jerusalem (63 BC) occurred during Pompey the Great's campaigns in the east, shortly after his successful conclusion of the Third Mithridatic War
Third Mithridatic War
The Third Mithridatic War was the last and longest of three Mithridatic Wars fought between Mithridates VI of Pontus and his allies and the Roman Republic...

. Pompey had been asked to intervene in an internecine war between Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BC.-Accession:Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome...

 and Aristobulus II
Aristobulus II
Aristobulus II was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea, 66 BC to 63 BC, from the Hasmonean Dynasty.-Family:Aristobulus was the younger son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome. After the death of Alexander in 76 BC, his widow succeeded to the rule of Judea and...

 for the throne of the Hasmonean Kingdom. His conquest of Jerusalem, however, spelled the end of Jewish independence and the incorporation of Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 into the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 as a client kingdom.


The death of Hasmonean queen Alexandra Salome plunged Judea into a civil war between her two sons, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. After Aristobulus ousted his elder brother from both the throne and the high priesthood
Kohen Gadol
The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem...

 in Jerusalem, Antipater the Idumean advised Hyrcanus to enlist the aid of King Aretas III
Aretas III
Aretas III was king of the Nabataean kingdom from 87 to 62 BCE. Aretas ascended to the throne upon the death of his brother, Obodas I, in 87 BCE. During his reign, he extended his kingdom to cover what now forms the northern area of Jordan, the south of Syria, and part of Saudi Arabia...

 of Nabataea. In return for the promise of territorial concessions, Aretas provided Hyrcanus with 50,000 soldiers and their joint forces besieged Aristobulus in Jerusalem.

Pompey had followed the successful conclusion of the Third Mithridatic War with the creation of the Province of Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 and had spent 64 and 63 BC bringing law and order to the region. Events in Judea prompted Aemilius Scaurus
Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (praetor 56 BC)
Marcus Aemilius Scaurus was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC and son of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Caecilia Metella Dalmatica.Scaurus lost his father when he was very young, but his education was insured by several other family friends...

, Pompey's legate
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

 in Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, to arrive in Jerusalem. Scaurus was approached by both parties but the issue was settled by a bribe from Aristobulus, and Scaurus ordered Arestas to lift his siege of the city. As the Nabataean army withdrew towards Philadelphia
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

, Aristobulus set off in pursuit and defeated the Nabataeans at Papyron.

When Pompey himself arrived in Damascus in 63 BC, both Hyrcanus and Aristobulus visited him there. Pompey put off resolving the issue, informing the opposing parties he would resolve it once he arrived in Judea in person. Aristobulus did not wait for Pompey's decision and left Damascus to shut himself away at his fortress of Alexandrium
Alexandrion or Alexandrium, sometimes referred to as Sartaba, was a fort constructed by the Hasmoneans on a mountain between Scythopolis and Jerusalem, near the Jordan Valley...

. This angered Pompey who marched his forces into Judea, at the sight of which Aristobulus yielded. When Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius, Roman statesman and general, and supporter of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, was a prominent figure in the later days of the Roman Republic....

 led a force to take Jerusalem, however, Aristobulus' supporters refused to let the Roman troops in. Incensed, Pompey had Aristobulus arrested and prepared to besiege the city.


When Pompey arrived in Jerusalem, he surveyed the city:
Fortunately for Pompey, Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BC.-Accession:Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome...

 still had supporters in the city. They opened a gate, probably situated in the north-western part of the city wall, and let the Romans in. This allowed Pompey to take hold of Jerusalem's upper city, including the Royal Palace, while Aristobulus' party held the eastern portions of the city—the Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

 and the City of David. The Jews consolidated their hold by breaking down the bridge over the Tyropoeon Valley
Tyropoeon Valley
Tyropoeon Valley is the name given by Josephus the historian to the valley or rugged ravine, in the Old City of Jerusalem, which in ancient times separated Mount Moriah from Mount Zion and emptied into the valley of Hinnom...

 connecting the upper city with the Temple Mount. Pompey offered them the chance to surrender, but when they refused, began prosecuting the siege with vigour. Pompey had his forces construct a wall of circumvallation around the areas held by the Jews and then pitched his camp within the wall, to the north of the Temple. Here stood a saddle
Mountain pass
A mountain pass is a route through a mountain range or over a ridge. If following the lowest possible route, a pass is locally the highest point on that route...

 allowing access to Temple, and it was therefore guarded by the citadel known as the Baris
Hasmonean Baris
The Hasmonean Baris was a citadel constructed north of Jerusalem's Temple Mount in existence during the Hasmonean period.-History:Nehemiah refers to a "birah" on or adjacent to the Temple Mount. This may have been the predecessor or identical to the Hellenistic fortress mentioned in the Letter of...

, augmented by a ditch. A second camp was erected south-east of the Temple.

The troops then set about filling the ditch protecting the northern part of the Temple enclosure and building two ramparts, one next to the Baris and the other on the west, while the defenders, from their superior position, sought to hinder Roman efforts. When the banks were complete, Pompey erected siege towers and brought up siege engines and battering rams from Tyre
Tyre is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. There were approximately 117,000 inhabitants in 2003, however, the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932, so an accurate statistical accounting is not possible...

. Under the protection of slingers driving the defenders from the walls, these began to batter the walls surrounding the Temple. After three months, Pompey's troops finally managed to overthrow one of the Baris' towers and were able to enter the Temple precinct, both from the citadel and from the west. First over the wall was Faustus Cornelius Sulla, son of the former dictator
Roman dictator
In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

 and a senior officer in Pompey's army. He was followed by two centurion
A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army .Centurion may also refer to:-Military:* Centurion tank, British battle tank* HMS Centurion, name of several ships and a shore base of the British Royal Navy...

s, Furius and Fabius, each leading a cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

, and the Romans soon overcame the defending Jews. 12,000 were slaughtered, while only a few Romans troops were killed.

Pompey himself entered the Temple's Holy of Holies
Holy of Holies
The Holy of Holies is a term in the Hebrew Bible which refers to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant was kept during the First Temple, which could be entered only by the High Priest on Yom Kippur...

 which only the High Priest was allowed to enter, thereby desecrating it. He did not remove anything, neither its treasures nor any funds, and the next day ordered the Temple cleansed and its rituals resumed. Pompey then headed back to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, taking Aristobulus with him for his triumphal procession
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...



The siege and conquest of Jerusalem were a disaster for the Hasmonean kingdom. Pompey reinstated Hyrcanus II as the High Priest but stripped him of his royal title, though Rome recognize him as an ethnarch
Ethnarch, pronounced , the anglicized form of ethnarches refers generally to political leadership over a common ethnic group or homogeneous kingdom. The word is derived from the Greek words and ....

 in 47 BC.
Judea remained autonomous but obliged to pay tribute and dependent on the Roman administration in Syria. The kingdom was dismembered; it was forced to relinquish the coastal plain, depriving it of access to the Mediterranean, as well as parts of Idumea and Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

. Several Hellenistic cities were granted autonomy to form the Decapolis
The Decapolis was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Judea and Syria. The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status...

, leaving the state greatly diminished.
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