The Destruction of Jerusalem (specifically, the Second Destruction of Jerusalem) was the culmination of Titus Flavius' campaign against the Great Jewish Revolt (66-73 CE) in Judea. Titus' siege of Jerusalem in 70 came four years after an unsuccessful attack four by Cestius Gallus. The siege of Masada in 73 CE was considered the final cleanup of the rebellion, and these events marked the beginning of the time of the Jewish diaspora. The events were recorded by Josephus, who had abandoned the cause of the revolt, and acted as a mediator for the Romans.
Although the Roman army was ordered to leave certain structures intact, Roman guards the city was in short time entirely destroyed, along with the Second Temple. The reported casualties were 1.1 million dead and 96,000 taken prisoner. Evidence of this event is seen enscribed on what is now called the Arch of Titus; it graphically displays Jewish artifacts being carried back to Rome after the victory.
Sulpicius Severus, (363 to 420CE) in his Chronica referred to Tacitus's (-56 -120CE) account, as claiming that Titus favored destroying the Jerusalem Temple to help uproot and demolish both the Jewish and Christian sects. The account of Josephus described Titus as "moderate" in his approach, and after conferring with others, ordering that then-thousand-year-old Temple be spared. According to Josephus account, the Romans soldiers grew furious with Jewish attacks and tactics, and against Titus' orders, set fire to an apartment adjacent to the Temple, which soon spread althroughout.
Josephus had acted as a mediatior for the Romans, and when negotiations failed, witnessed the siege and aftermath. He wrote:
- Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), [Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
- And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.
The events of 66-73 CE come after the last canon of the Christian Bible, but many Christians claim to believe that this event was the fulfillment of Jesus' warning thirty-seven years before of the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke 21, Matthew 21) Following this, Christians of the era are claimed to have been able to escape during the withdrawal of Cestius Gallus four years hence.
It is also believed among some Christians, that it is the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Old Testament. Specifically Isaiah 10 :3, where it talks about a "day of visitation", when "desolation comes from far". This is also what Jesus was referencing in Luke 19:44. It is believed that the Jews did not recognize the "day of visitation" espused by Jesus since they rejected him as a false Jewish messiah. Apparently their city and temple were destroyed because of this.