A Brief History
On June 7, 2021, we have had the opportunity to read and review a great new historical examination of “the Roman campaign to crush the Jewish revolt,” as the book calls itself. Conquering Jerusalem, by Stephen Dando-Collins, is just about 200 pages long, long enough to address detail while compact enough to keep the reader engaged. (By the way, this reviewer has personally been to Jerusalem, a fascinating place.)
We found the text highly readable, while retaining academic accuracy and serious addressing of facts and events, the flow of the book is more like a novel that is not only informative but is also enjoyable to read. Both serious historians and casual readers alike should find this book entertaining and engaging. Instead of merely reciting passages from original sources, Dando-Collins makes logical inferences from known or alleged facts and accounts, filling in the blanks with a literary interpolation that gives life to the people and events described. For example, he uses the word “scampered” to describe the movement of a person early in the book, a word certainly not in the historical record! The reader will not be weighed down with interminable references cited in footnotes, either, though at times the source of information discussed is mentioned.
Conquering Jerusalem is especially worthy of assignment as undergraduate studies reading, as its easy flowing nature and clearly understood layout is particularly appropriate for undergrads that will never find the text boring. The author brings life to the historical characters and makes them real to the reader. In the regard, Dando-Collins has a true gift as an author, while his research seems extensive and accurate, again, appropriate for college level study.
(One small criticism we have with the “facts” is a couple of references to Roman’s and Jews growing and eating corn in the 66 AD time frame. Corn was a plant introduced to the Old World after the voyages of Columbus in the late 15th Century AD and was unknown to people in Judea in 66 AD. Perhaps another grain such as wheat or rye was the intended foodstuff.)
We also find the subject of the book, the Roman oppression of Israel in the first Century AD, to be a topical reference for today’s reader, one that helps provide some background understanding to the long history of Jerusalem and Israel, especially in light of the 2021 armed conflict taking place in and around Gaza and the long festering violence and wars between Israel and her neighbors. Jerusalem, and greater Jerusalem, often referred to as “the Holy Land,” has been an area of conflict and contention for many centuries, even thousands of years! Thus, the history of the place is of critical importance and relevance to today’s readers, making this book therefore relevant.
The author of about three dozen books, Stephen Dando-Collins is an Australian born in 1950. While his writings generally concern ancient history, he has also published children’s novels and has a highly readable writing style. Many of his books deal with Rome and its empire, so he already has an extensive background on the subject, though he has also addressed more recent events such as World War I and World War II. Of course, in addition to writing books, Dando-Collins also writes articles on historical subjects and lectures on the content of his research.
At the beginning of the tale of the Great Jewish Revolt (just one of many names for the conflict), the reader is shown how different Jewish factions had differing goals and impetus for taking action. Some of the revolt was against the Jewish satraps of the Romans, and no intention to draw Rome into the struggle was sought. Other rebels sought to dislodge the Romans right from the start. In any case, the Romans were indeed drawn fully into the battle for Jerusalem and Judea, with particular savagery displayed by both the Romans and the Jews during the conflict. At time, Jewish treatment of fellow Jews that were not aligned with the former was equally brutal. Throughout the story of the brutal war, Dando-Collins does not take sides, calling the shots as they be.
By the end of the book, Jerusalem has fallen and been put to the torch, its walls and the Second Temple have been demolished. Jewish rebels are defeated and any pretense at Jewish independence has been crushed. The great city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, will face many more conflicts and its streets will again run with blood, but that is another story!
We strongly recommend Conquering Jerusalem for all readers, students, academics, and casual historians. Lay people with no historical background are likely to find the read entertaining and insightful. Any person seeking to find background information into the history of Jerusalem and the struggle of the Israeli/Jewish people will also find the book a must read. Enjoy!
(Look for this book July 13, 2021, from Turner Publishing, available on Amazon.)
Question for students (and subscribers): What sites in Jerusalem or the Holy Land would you most like to visit? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Cline, Eric. Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel. University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Dando-Collins, Stephen. Conquering Jerusalem. Turner, 2021.
Dando-Collins, Stephen. Legions of Rome: The definitive history of every Roman legion. Quercus Publishing, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a painting by David Roberts (1796–1864) of The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1926.