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Jerusalem Sacked

A.D. 70

The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts scenes from the sack of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts scenes from the sack of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Photograph by Werner Forman/Corbis

The future Emperor Titus snuffed out a four-year Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in A.D. 70. The rebellion had started when Roman rulers tried to place Roman gods in Jewish religious places—an action considered a desecration and an abomination. Titus' legions destroyed most of Jerusalem and killed tens of thousands of Jews—the Arch of Titus still stands in Rome to commemorate the Roman victory.

King Herod the Great's Second Temple of Jerusalem was among the many structures to fall in the conflict, though its destruction may have been accidental. Today the Western, or Wailing, Wall is all that remains of this legendary site. The Temple's remains are sacred to Jews and form part of Islam's Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The ruin thus serves as a sometimes contentious touchstone for two faiths.

The crushing defeat of the A.D.-66-to-70 and subsequent A.D.-132-to-135 Jewish revolts may have helped to create a schism between Judaism and the burgeoning Christian faith. Some scholars believe that early Christian identity was solidified by the desire of its followers to differentiate themselves from Jewish leader Simon Bar Kokhba, who claimed that he was the true Messiah, instead of Jesus.