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🏛Quo Usque Pro Roma Ibis?🏛  4U - This page is dedicated to the mighty Roman Army and Navy. From the Kingdom of Rome to the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire! c. 753 BC - 1453 AD 📜

Jopha was not the only uprising that had taken place in the aftermath of Vespasian's failed attempt to storm Jotapata that day: Samaria was also teeming with unrest. The Samaritans had no love for the Jews, but their loyalty to Rome was also questionable, representative of the fact that a very large number of them were gathering at Mount Gerizim, which was sacred to them. Samaria was by now well garrisoned, and generally secure from any attack the rebels might mount, but still Vespasian couldn't ignore this large concentration of hostiles to his rear.
It was now Cerialis' turn to enter the spotlight. Vespasian dispatched him with a Vexillation of 3,000 infantry and 600 cavalry to deal with the Samaritan uprising, which was still concentrated at Mount Gerizim. When Cerialis arrived on scene, he at once saw that attacking the large Samaritan army while it was positioned on higher ground would be unwise, and he instead kept his distance from the mountain and marched his men around it all day long. Coincidentally, it was summertime and the country was being burned up by a terrible heatwave, which the Samaritans were ill-equipped to resist since they lacked water and other supplies.
Thirst and fatigue quickly took hold, and the Samaritans began to surrender themselves to Cerialis in considerable numbers rather than die a slow and agonizing death. Cerialis then lead his men up the mountain, correctly assuming he would encounter no resistance from the enemy, and ringed the remaining Samaritans. The Roman offered them a chance to surrender peacefully: the Samaritans rejected his offering of the olive branch. Cerialis then attacked, and butchered all of the Samaritans on the spot, ensuring no rebellion would arise from the region. As the battle came to an end, 11,600 Samaritans were left dead on the top of their sacred mountain, whilst others were sold to slavery. Vespasian would face no further threats to his rear, and the siege at Jotapata continued without a hitch as Trajan, Cerialis and Titus returned with their Vexillations to the main army continuing the investment. Little did they know, the end of that battle was very near.

Encouraged by news that the Romans had suffered setbacks at Jotapata, the village of Jopha 16 KM south of the site of the siege declared for the rebels. Vespasian couldn't allow the rebels to think that Rome was weak, or incapable of squashing this rebellion, nor could he allow threats like this to his rear to exist. Vespasian dispatched Trajan with a Vexillation of 2,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to subdue Jopha. When Trajan arrived, he found the village was well fortified with double walls, and its garrison greatly outnumbered his small army.
Trajan was just pondering over how he would capture the strong enemy position, when the gates of the village suddenly opened and the Jews sallied out to meet him in a pitched battle. Trajan was only too eager to accept the challenge, and the qualititive superiority of the Romans once again was too much for the Jews to handle, who were defeated and driven back into Jopha. Trajan pursued the rebels, who were unable to close their gates in time before he followed them in, and a mass slaughter of the Jews commenced as the Romans put everyone to the sword.
The remaining Jewish defenders barred themselves behind the village's second wall, refusing the trapped Jews at the first wall to enter. Chaos ensued, where the Jews began to turn on one another, and the Jews died cursing their own countrymen rather than the Romans who slew them. Trajan reserved the final touches of the victory to Vespasian however, who sent Titus with 1,000 infantry and 500 cavalry along with ladders to storm the second wall. Together, Trajan and Titus attacked the final Jewish holdout, which for a while held its own. But eventually the Romans drove them back, and the fighting poured into the village streets, where even the women joined in by throwing stones at the Romans from rooftops. For six hours, battle raged, an unusually long time and a sign of the stubbornness of the Jewish defense. But the final outcome was never in question: Jopha was sacked as an example, over 15,000 people were killed and the remaining 2,130 women and children were captured to be sold as slaves.

Vespasian was eager to capture the hated town, and Josephus, and after giving his men a brief moment of rest he readied them for the attack. Three breaches had now formed into the wall, and each had to be attacked at once - Vespasian dismounted a part of his heavy cavalry and had them lead the way, who were followed by his best Legionaries. The rest of the cavalry remained mounted, and was positioned further away to intercept any who might slip away from the battle, whilst light infantry and artillery stood ready to provide covering fire. Other troops were to take ladders to uncollapsed sections of the wall and scale them to draw off Jewish troops from the breaches. Josephus placed his old and still-walking wounded men on the sections of the wall that hadn't collapsed, and by drawing lots placed groups to guard the breaches. He advised his men to cover their ears to avoid being shaken by the Roman battle-cry that would precede their charge, and then hunker down beneath their shields to protect themselves from the Roman missiles. He also had all the civilians locked into their homes to prevent them from unnerving the men, and once again took personal command of the defense at the breach.
Soon the Romans charged, their attack preceded by the expected battlecry and volley of bowfire. They levelled gangways over the rubble in the breaches, allowing them to cross into the town and engage the Jews. At first the garrison held its ground, but lacking reserves and the same skill as the Romans, they were soon pushed back. Josephus had expected this, and ordered boiling oil to be poured down on the Romans from the sections of the wall flanking the breaches, and the tide turned immediately. Writhing in agony, the initial Roman wave was defeated as they were boiled alive in their tight-fitting armor. Josephus then ordered a particularly slippery liquid, boiled fenugreek, to be poured onto the gangways. This completely broke apart the second wave of Roman attackers who advanced to the breaches when the first wave was beaten back, and many lost their footing and were crushed to death by their own collapsing comrades. Suffering heavy casualties, the Romans retreated.

Elated by their success in destroying the Roman battering ram, the Jews sallied out in great force to attack the siege lines. They set ablaze a number of the Roman siege pieces around them, and wrecked considerable havoc elsewhere, destroying much of the camp of the Legio V Macedonica and disordering the Legio X Fretensis. The Romans then covered up the rest of their timber supplies with earth to prevent the Jews from setting them ablaze, who themselves were sustaining heavy casualties from the Roman artillery and missile troops. The Romans were undaunted by the chaos, and by the evening in the same day they had already rebuilt the battering ram.
The Romans moved it up to the section of the wall that had been weakened the most by the previous ram. Vespasian was at the time close to the front lines with Titus, and the general received an arrow to his leg. For a moment the Roman army panicked as news of Vespasian's "death" spread, however Titus was able to confirm his father was alive and well, and Vespasian rose up and rallied his troops to continue the assault. The Jews pelted the Romans from above their walls with missiles at a constant, but they failed to inflict serious damage on them or the battering ram.
The fighting, or rather the shooting, continued into the night. The Jews tried to ease communications between their troops with torches, which they also tried to use against the battering ram but without success. These sources of light however made the Jews easy targets for the Roman artillery, who caused massive casualties to the Jews, killing hundreds and wounding hundreds more. Josephus himself was in great peril, with the man right next to him losing his head to a stone thrower's shot. As men collapsed in heaps with wet, fleshy thuds and blood flowed across the night, the morale of the Jews suffered greatly. That the Jewish bodies were surely mangled and crushed by artillery didn't help. By the morning, the Romans' hard work paid off: the walls of Jotapata came crashing down, opening a way into the town for the Roman heavy infantry.

Vespasian decided the best way to defeat Josephus was in the classic style of siege warfare: starving out the defenders. The tactic initially worked, with the Jews' lack of water being a particularly great hinderence. From the heights surrounding Jotapata, the Romans saw the Jews' water-gathering place and made this the target of their artillery, inflicting heavy losses on them. To counter the lack of water, Josephus had his men "soak their outer garments and hang them round the battlements, so that the whole wall suddenly ran with water". Josephus was also receiving supplies into the town from a hidden gully, but Vespasian discovered this and had the line severed.
Despite these success', the Jews were hanging on only by a thread, and Josephus realized the fall of Jotapata was inevitable. He and some other of the leading citizens in the town tried to sneak out and desert to the Romans, but they were stopped by a mob. Josephus argued that if he escaped, he could return with a great army from other parts of Judea and relieve the siege - a falsity, since the central reserve had been wiped out at Ascalon. Josephus and his colleagues were forced to stay, and he lead another sally against the Romans with his toughest men, destroying many of their tents, thus sowing confusion.
These sallies continued, and Vespasian had his light infantry and artillery repulse these attacks while his other forces built a new piece of siege equipment: a battering ram. The Romans completed this within a day, and at once began to batter down the walls. The newly constructed defenses began to give away quite quickly, and the Roman troops were preparing to rush into the gap that would inevitably form into the walls now. However the timber used to build the ram was dry, having been exposed to burning sunlight for a long time. The Jews launched a three-pronged sally from within their walls, and while fighting and casualties were minimalistic, they were able to set fire to the flammable piece of siege equipment with a combination of bitumen, pitch and brimstone. The superstructure of the ram went up in flames quickly.

While it took him a while to grasp this reality, Vespasian understood that he couldn't use a simple charge to capture Jotapata. This was a siege, and required equipment for the task. He held a war council with his senior officers, and it was decided to construct a siege platform/ramp to scale the walls. This was a simple piece of equipment, being merely a ramp leading up to enemy walls, allowing them to be stormed by infantry whole units at a time rather than with individual soldiers using ladders to climb up.
The whole Roman army got to work at once to build the ramp. The trees around Jotapata were cut down to aquire timber for building the siege equipment, while another working party tore up the hillocks nearby and brought up streams of earth to used by the engineers. The Romans built a number of wooden screens which were placed evenly across the siege lines to cover the engineers building the ramp. The Jews tried to disrupt the working parties with missiles, but the screens shielded the Romans from these very well. Josephus lead his troops out in several sallies to delay the construction of the ramp, which at first successfully delayed its completion. However Vespasian had the screens fixed together into a single barricade, preventing Jewish penetrations from the gaps between the many individual ones scattered about his lines before.
Vespasian had also surrounded the entire town with his impressive battery of 160 artillery pieces, which along with his light infantry were constantly firing synchronized volleys onto the Jewish defenses. Josephus realized he couldn't stop the construction of the ramp, so he instead had the masons with him heighten the walls and towers to make it useless. The masons at first were hesitant, given the heavy concentration of Roman firepower on the walls. Josephus then had oxhides fixed atop railings which were mounted on the walls to give the masons cover, allowing the walls to be successfully raised by thirty feet and completed with a stout parapet. Vespasian was dismayed at Josephus' cleverness, and recalled his men from the attack as it became evident that the ramp wouldn't work any longer.

Jotapata had been built on a steep-sided ridge which had deep ravines to its south, east and west, making attack from these directions impossible. The only access into the town was from the north, which was fortified by a wall, and this too was built on a ridge. In his book Josephus notes that the town had plentiful supplies of food, but was lacking in other important items like salt and an adequate water supply. The town was circled by a series of heights which were thickly forested, and allowed an overhead view of the settlement. It was home to over 42,000 people. Vespasian pitched camp three and a half miles opposite of the northern wall, and waited for the next day to deploy his men.
Vespasian's arrival with his army had made a great impression on the Jews, and he deployed his troops into battle order before the walls and prepared to storm them. Auxiliary slingmen and archers provided covering fire for the heavy infantry, who advanced up to the ridge and began to threaten the walls. The Jews at first were terrified by the Roman onslaught, and Josephus also despaired as he realized the town was doomed unless the Roman advance was checked now. Thus he personally lead the garrison out of the walls in an unexpected sortie, the Jewish soldiers fighting with animal courage born from the fact that they had nowhere to run.
The first Roman assault was thus checked, as the fanatical Jews crashed onto the Romans as they were preparing to advance onto the walls. Both sides, fighting in the relatively confined space of the northern wall, made no signifigant headway and took many losses - 17 Jews were killed along with numerous wounded, along with 13 Romans who also lost 600 men wounded. However "the Jews were not dismayed by the strength of the enemy nor were the Romans put off by the difficulty of capturing the town" says Josephus in his description of the siege. For five days the Romans charged at the Jewish defenses, and were in turn met by more fierce sallies by the Jews. Neither side was making any progress at this rate.

Shortly after the initial actions in Galilee, Vespasian arrived with the main army and reached Ptolemais without incident. Titus had also reached Alexandria where he assumed command of the Legio XV Apollinaris, and with a swift march reached the city as well. Placidus had been keeping himself busy, raiding across Galilee and returning with extensive numbers of prisoners who were sold as slaves. Once all his troops were concentrated at Ptolemais, Vespasian lead the army out towards the city of Gabara. It was lightly garrisoned, and taken after the first assault and sacked as an example for the rebels.
Josephus was camped at Garis a short distance from Sepphoris with the large Galilean field army, but news of the slaughter the Romans were dispensing across the district caused panic to spread. Josephus' army defected him in large droves, seeking shelter in their fortified strongholds and opting out to fight the war on their own terms, effectively creating even more factions within the already divided Jewish rebellion. Josephus fled to Tiberias with whatever troops were loyal to him, but his arrival only succeeded in arrousing more panic, and he departed for the fortified town of Jotapata.
Vespasian and Josephus both knew that control of Galilee rested on this important stronghold, where the bulk of the Jewish military strength was concentrated and where their leading commanders in Galilee were. Placidus had tried once to take it, but he lacked sufficient troops and had to withdraw after a brief skirmish where he lost seven men. Vespasian had his men construct a road towards Jotapata to establish his supply lines better, ensuring the siege could be held indeffinetly, also receiving confirmation from a Jewish deserter that Josephus was present in Jotapata. He then sent 1,000 cavalry under Placidus and one Aebutius ahead of the main army to Jotapata, arriving soon after them and immediately getting to work in laying siege to the formidable fortified settlement.

Antoninus' decisive victory over the Jews gave Vespasian the perfect conditions and opportunity to invade Galilee, whilst opening up Judea's southern border to Titus' forces and enabling Ascalon to be used as a forward base by him. Vespasian himself had such a base in the form of Sepphoris - after Gallus' defeat, the city had called to his deputy Caesennius, who had liberated the city earlier, to return and provide them with a garrison. Since late 66 AD, Sepphoris had been garrisoned by Caesennius with a force of 6,000 men, and Josephus had been unable to dislodge him. Now that all was in place for the offensive, the plan was to launch a two-pronged assault against Judea: Vespasian would come from the north, marching through Sepphoris onto Galilee to pacify the region, whilst Titus approached with the Legio XV Apollinaris from the south. The two armies would converge at the city of Ptolemais.
Vespasian marched into Galilee in early 67 AD, sending a strong Vexillation of 6,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry under the Tribune Placidus ahead of his march column to Sepphoris to reinforce Caesennius. Placidus camped his infantry within the city, but camped his cavalry just outside its walls. Once Placidus' reinforcements arrived, the strong Roman force of now 13,000 foot and horse began pillaging the surrounding countryside, heavily disrupting Jewish control of the area and causing signifigant casualties and damage. The Jews found their hands tied: if they stayed within their fortified strongholds, the Romans raided Galilee unchecked and inevitably would besiege them, whilst if they marched out to meet them they were quickly defeated. Desperate, Josephus marched onto Sepphoris and tried to recapture the city by storm, as its commanding position in northern Galilee made it an important objective. Ironically, Josephus had himself ordered the city's fortifications enhanced earlier, and now his own defenses were proving to be his undoing. His attempt to capture the city failed, and his entreaties to the citizens to reject their Roman overlords fell on deaff ears. Realizing he couldn't take Sepphoris, Josephus withdrew.

Over the course of two days of failed campaigning, the rebels had sustained over 90% casualties to their army; 10,000 on the first day, when Antoninus lead his epic cavalry sally; over 8,000 on the second day when the Antoninus ambushed Niger. Among the dead were Silas the Babylonian and John the Essene - experienced and distinguished officers whose deaths the rebels could ill afford. There is no record of the supposed 2,000 survivors making it back to the rebel lines - they may have perished or scatteted. The survival of Niger of Perea hardly compensated for such catastrophic losses; not only had the army of the rebels been wiped out, their whole central reserve had been eliminated along with it.
The political ramifications were just as signifigant. As a result of this disaster, the Jewish leaders outside Jerusalem lost faith in the rebel government to run the war effort. As a result, the Jewish militias declared for seperate, independent warlords who refused to integrate their troops under a centralized command, with the notable exception of Josephus. The Jews' capacity to present a united front against the Romans was forever broken, and this in turn greatly contributed to the factional infighting that had proven, and would continue to prove, endemic for the rebel cause.
The Jewish cause had been irreparably broken, and the rebels were so totally chastened by their defeat at Ascalon that they reverted entirely to a form of reactive and defensive warfare, barring themselves behind Judea's many fortified strongholds to wait for Vespasian's imminent onslaught alone as individual groups. The result of this would be a strange war, and ironically by hunkering down behind their defenses where they were supposed to have the best chance at fighting off the Romans, the Jews in fact gave them the exact type of war they excelled at: logistics, supplies and methodical siege warfare. The initiative had passed permanently from the Jews over to the Romans, who were now free to hunt down the rebels in their strongholds one by one. And for all this, Antoninus paid for with just a few wounded men.

Understandably, the Jews were dismayed by their swift and unexpected defeat, and were clamoring for revenge. Niger, the only Jewish commander still alive, was equally eager to settle the score with Antoninus, despite having suffered very heavy casualties and that many of his remaining men were wounded. It was bad enough that Niger and the Jews who were eager for this second attack failed to learn from their mistake: they would never have a chance against the Romans in a battle such as this, as the quality gap was simply so vast. Worse yet, Antoninus had actually predicted that the Jews would return, and was laying in wait with his cavalry.
Niger and his army advanced through a series of passes on their way back to Ascalon, which was when Antoninus sprung his ambush. The Roman cavalry galloped into the Jewish ranks and cut them down by groups, isolating one column after another as they marched on and charging before they could get into battle formation. That the Jewish army was composed of many wounded men who likely could not properly fight back against this fresh onslaught didn't help. The Jews broke and fled a second time, making for the nearby fortified town of Belzedek.
Antoninus followed Niger there, but was not going to risk his small command attacking the strong defensive position. Instead, he had a small party of men set fire to the foot of the Jewish walls, which soon spread into the town and levelled it entirely. Niger barely survived the flames, escaping to the safety of a nearby tunnel, where he remained in hiding until other Jewish forces arrived at the scene of the disaster and rescued him three days later. But the disaster for the Jews was total: their army had been utterly destroyed, and they would never again make an attempt against Ascalon and its defenders. The losses to manpower were one thing, but the battle had other horrible consequences for the Jews...

60 miles south from Jerusalem was an old town called Ascalon. It was one of the two remaining Roman strongholds in Judea, with the first being Sepphoris in northern Galilee. The junta that made up the Jewish government decided Ascalon as the first target of their army's offensive operations, and planned the expedition to a great extent, mustering considerable forces lead by their most able generals. The main reason for this major expedition was that Ascalon was a known center of anti-Jewish sentiment, sentiment which had indeed existed for centuries, and it had recently done progoms against the town's Jewish population.
However the operation also made sound strategic sense: Ascalon had a port in it, and could provide a forward base for Roman troops advancing into Judea from the southern border. The town was well fortified and manned by a single Cohort of Legionaries and one Ala Quingeneria, which were possibly supplemented by local Auxiliaries - less than 1,000 men. Their commander was Antoninus, a particularly clever leader. The Jews sent their entire central reserve army of 20,000 infantry to attack the town, lead by Niger, Silas and John. The Jews arrived at Ascalon at an unusually quick pace, and immediately charged towards the walls.
However Antoninus understood his advantages of disclipine, quality and maneuver well, and rather than remaining behind his walls he lined up his cavalry outside them and charged. Disregarding the fact he was outnumbered over 20:1, Antoninus lead the cavalry in person and slammed through the Jewish ranks. Lightly armed, wearing no armor and being poorly organized, the raw Jewish levies stood no chance against a charge like this and they sustained heavy casualties. The front ranks of the Jews tried to flee, but this only created further chaos as the Jewish army spiralled out of the control of its generals and became a panicked crowd, with the Jews even killing one another in the confusion. The Jews made a run for it, but the whole area was a featureless desert plain, perfectly suited for cavalry operations, and Antoninus hounded the Jews across their flight and inflicted terrible losses, until the fighting ended at dusk.

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