Masada Position Paper
At one of the lowest points on Earth, by the Dead Sea in Israel, a flat-topped mountain called Masada "became a metaphor for the new state of Israel-a place where, Jews making their last stand against the Romans, three years after Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D., finally chose mass suicide over surrender. "Never again will Masada fall" became the refrain (Ben-Yehuda et al, 1998)." According to historian Josephus Flavius in his writings in The Jewish War, over 900 zealots fled Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD to a fortress built by Herod called Masada where they held out under Roman siege until 73 AD when Roman troops finally breached its walls. Since it was late in the day, the Romans delayed the final attack until dawn when they came upon the Zealots, already dead save a few women and children who hid.
However, Josephus did not report a mass suicide, but really a mass murder where ten men killed the remaining families, one man killed the ten, and only one man actually committed suicide.
Additionally, while the broad outlines of the siege are confirmed by archeological evidence from Israeli archeologist, Yadin's, excavations from 1963-1965, the elements of Josephus's account that made Masada a national symbol does not seem plausible. Yes, a few bodies were found on Masada, but 25 of them were found with pig bones, and were therefore probably Roman (Ben-Yehuda et al, 1998.) Furthermore, that still leaves over 900 bodies undiscovered, although they could have been buried beneath the monastery during the Byzantine Empire, or thrown of the side of mountain and buried below (Ben-Yehuda et al, 1998). The ramp built up the western side of Masada, and the lots bearing names of Zealots including Ben Yair were also...