In typical Herodian flamboyance, he built the Northern Palace, which had a large bathhouse, storehouses, and 3 natural terraces that were built in 90 ft stages along the northern face of the mountain (see picture). The lowest terrace had a reception hall with a circle of colonnades. An additional bathhouse was located there with frescoes. The large bathhouse included palaestra (peri-styled courtyard), with a receiving room, a tepid room, a cold room (frigidarium) equipped with a ritual immersion pool, a hot room (caldarium) and a heating system.
The First Jewish War began developing prior to 66 AD and it was not simply based on a rebellion against Rome.
Factions of Jews were frustrated with Jewish leadership and were becoming more impoverished than ever.
Differing views were rapidly forming and divisions began to spread.
To say the least, it was completely unorganized and without solidarity in cause or leadership.
These conditions were ripe for anarchy to bloom and rebels began to take front stage.
While the most vocal of the groups were those decrying the idolatrous worship that had been not only tolerated, but even incorporated into Judaistic practices.
This gave them some binding as agents of righteousness and perhaps a link to the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks (the cleansing of the Temple).
As with all mounting internal conflicts within countries, those who are wealthy and with prestigious position are prone to seek out peaceful solutions, so as to maintain their comfort and status.
The poor and oppressed have a tendency to seek war, when the option is presented to them.
The Zealots clearly emerged as the radicals they had been historically known for amongst the Jews.
Their cause had gained traction and their numbers increased. Two main factions developed following two different leaders.
The Sicarii (meaning “dagger carrier;” Spanish = “sicario,” meaning “assassin”) were named after their habit of carrying daggers in their cloaks to kill Romans.
They followed a leader name Menachem, a descendant of Judas the Galilean, who was considered to be one of the original zealots. The other group was led by a priest named Eleazar, son of Ananias.
He had called for the ceasing of offering sacrifices to the Emperor of Rome and led a group priests and leaders who stood against the corruption of the high priest and other authorities among the Jews.
At one point, they take control of the temple and do not allow the other priests to enter.
Menachem and the Sicarii joined forces with Eleazar and took control of Herod’s palace and towers and seized the Roman garrison at Masada.
In doing so, weaponry and supplies were greatly increased for the Zealots.
Later, jealousy provoked the ranks of Eleazar and they killed several of his men in the temple.
Menachem fled to Ophel, where he was captured, tortured and killed. Eleazar saw the possible looming conflict with the Sicarii escalating, so he and some of his men fled to Masada.
As Rome began to entrench itself against the rebellion, their campaign under Vespasian spread from Galilee to Judea.
The pressure from Rome upset the hierarchy in Jerusalem and thousands of refugees poured into the city.
The result was full-fledged anarchy.
Incorporating many of the refugees, a new Zealot party emerged and was galvanized in 67 AD under John of Gischala.
They aggressively began to forcibly take control of the city and punished anyone who resisted.
An attempt was made by the people to negotiate with the Zealots, which failed.
John believed the attempt was a trick to hand over control to the Romans. He then called for another group of radicals to come to their aid – the Jews of Idumea.
Upon their arrival, the Zealots proceeded to slaughter the resisting populace, including the moderate leaders.
They plundered the city and killed the high priest, Ananus, with the rest of the major leaders they could find. The people began to desert Jerusalem.
The coalition fell apart and a new one formed between the people and the remaining Idumeans, along with another group following Simon bar Giora, to attack John and the Zealots and regain the temple.
This siege took one year to oust the Zealots from the temple.
It was 69 AD and the city was completely divided and at war with itself.
Pillaging and murder became commonplace and there was no central leadership in the city.
Many fragments of Scripture have been discovered at Masada, including Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ezekiel and Leviticus. Other artifacts and writings of Jewish antiquity were also found.