EX PRAEDA IVDAEAE: Funded by the Booty of Judaea

He came, he saw, he looted.

We all know that Titus conquered Jerusalem and looted the Temple. What happened to the Temple Treasures after AD 70 has been speculated about almost ad nauseam.

I wanted to first look more generally at the evidence for what Titus did with the "booty" from the War, and although that booty is often taken to included the Temple Treasure, it could also more generally include money, such as the funds sent as tribute to the Temple by all Jews, and which presumably he confiscated.


Our best literary source for how Titus spent the booty from the Judean War is the Chronicle of John Malalas. Malalas is a tricky source, for although he came from Antioch and gives us valuable information about the city, he was writing in the 6th century, and makes a number of dubious statements. Immediately before the sections of Book 10 that I will quote below, for example, Malalas dates the Sack of Jerusalem to "the 38th year after the Ascension of the Saviour Christ" which by the dating criteria of the time gives a date of AD 78. He then goes on to quote Eusebius of Caesarea explaining that God abandoned the Jews as punishment for crucifying Christ, and that this is why Jerusalem was sacked three times. With many of these Christian polemicists one must take great care, as they often have an anti-Jewish agenda.

Malalas seems to be reliable when it comes to information about Jewish monuments in his hometown of Antioch, and his claims can be sometimes be corroborated, for example when it comes to the Tomb of the Maccabean Martyrs. He refers to 21 inscriptions, quoting the text 18 of them, and claiming that eight were extant in his own lifetime (JSTOR); two he quotes in Latin.

Malalas wrote in Greek, but transcribed this building inscription from Antioch in Latin: EX PRAEDA IVDAEAE - from the spoils of Judaea. Malalas states that Titus destroyed a synagogue in the suburb of Daphne and built in its place a theatre on which this was inscribed.

Malalas is an obscure source, so this is the passage in English from the 1986 translation by E.Jeffreys, M.Jeffreys and M.Scott, et al:

The theatre has been excavated, and was decorated with suitably pagan sculpture (photo JSTOR):


Malalas goes on to mention a similar incident at Caesarea in Palestine, where another synagogue was destroyed and replaced by "a very large odeon." He does not mention a building inscription, but one can speculate that a similar one existed:

Caesarea Maritima was a more Roman than Jewish city, which was founded or re-founded by Herod, and became the military capital of the Roman province. Herod had already built a theatre in the city, and one survives to this day, as does an amphitheatre: the form that Titus' odeon took is uncertain, but since it replaced a synagogue, it does not seem to have been a rebuilding of Herod's theatre.

[Frank Sear, Roman Theatres, Oxford 2006, p.302 claims says Malalas attributed the synagogue to odeon conversion to Herod, and p. 303 that Malalas says Vespasian built the theatre ...].

Zeev Weiss, Adopting a novelty: the Jews and the Roman games in Palestine, is the key work on the Roman theatres of Palestine (JRA supplement 31, 1999; PFD here). In note 32 he discusses the difficulties in identifying what differentiated the theatre from the odeon when the term was sometimes used interchangeably even in inscriptions. In Talmudic sources the odeon is called 'Be Abidan' and seems to refer not to a building in which plays were performed, but to one where books were kept and religious discussions took place (p. 30 and n. 33).

Although scholars like to glorify Tragedy and Comedy, those two pillars of Greek civilization, mime seems to have been popular in the Roman world.

Lamentations Rabbah, Proem 17 preserves a particularly ugly incident which probably took place at Caesarea. In the late 3rd century Rabbi Abbahu, a resident of Caesarea, describes a mine performed by Pantokakos (literally "completely evil") that mocked Jewish religious practices and the Sabbath (see also y. Taan. 1:4, 64a).

Other sources describe similar anti-Semitic mimes in other cities, from Philo to papyri dated from the period after the Second Jewish War (see Weiss 1999, n. 50), suggesting that not only were they not unusual, but that were popular throughout the Imperial period. We can safely assume that they probably continued into the Byzantine period when Christianity became the dominant religion and Jews were persecuted as "Christ-killers".


A theatre in Antioch, an Odeon in Caesarea - if one just added a circus and an amphitheatre one would have a full set of Roman places of entertainment.

Of course Titus and his father Vespasian built the Colosseum in Rome, probably their best known monument. The funding, building and restoration of the amphitheatre were recorded in a series of inscriptions, such as the one below recording repairs under Theodosius II and Valentinian III.

Then in 2001 a professor from Heidelberg took another look at one of the architrave blocks from the Colosseum, and found a 'ghost' inscription, made up of the pin holes that once held bronze letters: Géza Alföldy, Eine Bauinschrift aus dem Colosseum, ZPE 109, 1995, 195-226. (JSTOR - his reconstructions).

Nero's inscription on the Parthenon was added in this way, and shadow inscriptions of this sort take great skill to piece together.

The architrave blocks from the Temple of Athena at Ilion also had the original 'inscription' added in bronze letters by Lysimachus, its funder. At Ilion this led to confusion for the excavators, since the bronze letters were subsequently removed, and replaced by a later carved inscription. The secong inscription was added by Augustus - he takes credit for the building, a claim similarly inaccurate to the one he makes in the Res Gestae: "'I found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble" ...

(For more on Ilion and on building inscriptions, see D. King, "The Doric Order and its Sculptural Decoration, c. 375-100 BC", PhD 2000, London; available on Kindle).

Dedicatory inscriptions were rare in Classical Greece, popularised by the Hecatomnids of Caria in the fourth century BC, and became almost de rigeur under the Romans. Alexander the Great offered to fund the completion of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, if he could have his name carved on it. The Ephesians declined, but the people of Priene were happy to add this inscription to Pytheos' temple: "King Alexander built the shrine of Athena Polias". The inscription is now in the British Museum (image from Livius.org).

The Rome Colosseum inscription was a fascinating discovery, and what it says turned out to be ground-breaking, confirmation of Malalas' claim about the dedicatory inscription at Daphne. Prof Alföldy suggested two versions of the original inscription.

I[mp(erator)] Caes(ar) Vespasi[anus Aug(ustus)]
amphitheatru[m novum (?)]
[ex] manubìs (vac.) [fieri iussit].

The only campaign of Vespasian's that this can be linked to is the one in Judaea; his many victories in Britain may have sounded good on paper, but are unlikely to have funded a Colosseum. The spoils could therefore have been the coin that made up Temple Treasure from Jerusalem.

Titus showed the Colosseum on his coins, although those depicting Judea Capta are better known:


It is important to differentiate between the money in the treasury of the Temple of Jerusalem, which probably was used to fund these structures, and the physical Treasures in the Temple, such as the candelabra, which will be discussed in a subsequent post. For now I will simply say that the most important physical treasures can be traced through sources until Justinian, and so we probably not melted down. Lesser items may well have been sold off, but there is no record of this to be certain either way.

Aulus Gellius, writing in the later second century, provides a lengthy discussion of the  terms used in the Daphne and Rome inscriptions (Attic Nights, XIII.25 source):
"Ex manubiis is the same as ex praeda; for manubiae is the term for booty which is taken manu, that is 'by hand.' "
"From the booty (ex praeda), from the proceeds of the spoils (ex manubiis), from the crown-money."
 One can argue semantics until the cows come home, but the terms as used in the inscriptions were synonymous, and do not imply that the main ritual objects from Jerusalem were either melted down or sold off. Cash sufficed to fund Titus' post-Judean building program.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.