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History - Jewish Defeat of Roman Legion XII

by Sim Lee  
8/13/2019 / Christian Living

The Little Known Battle of Beth-Horon

"..God has given us this privilege, that we can die nobly and as free men and leave this world as free men..." Josephus, The Jewish War

There comes a time when the hopeless looks possible and the divided can unite just long enough to attempt the impossible and win the day. This is the story of one of those times and one of those days.

Many Roman Army Legions were defeated in major battles across the Empire throughout their period of history and a few were destroyed, like Legions XVII, XVIII and XIX Legions at the battle of Teutoburg Forest, but one in particular was humiliated as well as being destroyed by those who no one took as a serious threat: Jewish rebels during the Jewish War.

Following the failed revolt of 6 BC against Rome, Judea became a Roman Province and was ruled by prefects such as Pontius Pilate. The Jews hate for Rome and the existing religious divisions among them over the years lead to wide spread conflicts, one in particular in Jerusalem was so bad that the troops of the Roman garrison there had to leave the city in 66 CE. As news of the retreat reached across Judea, the Jews were further encouraged to widen the revolt.

Fearing the worst, King Agrippa II fled Jerusalem and appealed to the Roman legate in Syria to put down the civil disorder. In response, the legate (Centius Gallus) left Syria with the 12th Roman Legion and axillaries formed in column to strike the rebels in the center of their position. This was textbook Roman response to crush rebellions an restore order.

Gallus fought his way to Jerusalem but could not defeat the Jews defending the Temple Mount. Quickly realizing that he did not have sufficient troops for an extended campaign, he ordered a withdrawal to the coast to wait for reinforcements. They were met at the passes of Mount Beth-Horon by the largest group of Jewish rebel forces.

The ambush was executed perfectly by the Jews. Movement in the area was too restricted by broken ground and tight passages for the Romans to get organized into formation for battle and the quick and fierce attacks against them caused their near annihilation. 6000 Roman soldiers were killed that day and many were wounded. As the small remnant of the 12th Legion fled to Antioch, their Legionary Eagle Standard was taken by the Jewish rebels and paraded through many of their towns as an insult to the power of Rome and to encourage more rebellion.

When Rome heard of this disaster, the decision was to respond with total war to crush the Jews. Four Roman Legions (the Fifth, Tenth, Twelfth and the Fifteenth) under General Titus successfully engaged the Jewish rebels throughout Judea for three years and finally reached Jerusalem. Jerusalem was defeated and destroyed in 70CE, mainly in retaliation for the rebels handing the Rome Army one of its most resounding defeats: the battle of Beth-Horon.


The reinforced XII Roman Legion fought bravely at the closing of the Jewish War and was given it's dignity and Legionary Eagle Standard once again.

As for the Jews, in both OT and NT times, they were definitely a fighting force to be reckoned with, and are still considered to be so today! As believers, we know that Christ will fight their final battle in the Church Age and begin His 1000 year reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sim Lee is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.

Article Source: WRITERS

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