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Spoils of the Temple: After a Relief from the Arch of Titus, Rome

This source is a model of a stone relief carving on the inside of the Arch of Titus in Rome. It shows Romans and Jewish captives marching in a triumph held in Rome for Titus after he defeated the Jewish rebels and destroyed the Second Temple. The men are carrying a menorah and a table symbolizing the plunder that the Romans took from the temple.

Moitte, Jean-Guillaume
circa 1791

Jean-Guillaume Moitte, Spoils of the Temple: After a Relief from the Arch of Titus, Rome, France, circa 1791, Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

In 66 CE, some of the Jews in Judea/Palestine rebelled against control by Rome, government by pro-Roman Jewish leaders, and Hellenistic threats to their religion. The Romans led a brutal military campaign to put down the rebellion. In 70 CE, a Roman leader named Titus (who later became emperor) conquered the city of Jerusalem, plundered and destroyed the Second Temple, and burned the city to the ground. Titus and the Roman army took the plunder and 70,000 rebel captives back to Rome. Titus later built an arch in the Roman Forum celebrating his victory. The original of this carving is on the inside of the arch. What plunder do you think came from the Temple? According to Josephus, the Romans killed more than one million Jewish people and sold at least 70,000 Jews into slavery. The Temple was never rebuilt, so Jews could no longer make offerings, do sacrifices, or go on processions to Jerusalem to celebrate their holidays. Most Jews didn’t even live in or near Israel/Judea/Palestine anymore. Instead of priests, there were new religious leaders called rabbis. The Jewish religion had to change. 

Modern Customs: Tisha B’Av means the Ninth Day of Av and is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Religious Jews around the world fast for 25 hours as they mourn the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire. Fasting on this day means no eating or drinking, no washing or bathing, not even brushing your teeth! Religious Jews also read sad parts of the Tanakh and go to synagogue services.

When the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon, they rebuilt the Temple. The Second Temple was completed around 515 BCE and was completely refurbished and enlarged by King Herod the Great beginning around 20 BCE, only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the Great Revolt of Jews against Rome. This copy of the south panel of the Arch of Titus (which still stands in Rome) shows sacred objects taken from the Temple carried as trophies; note that the Golden Menorah takes a central place. A table and other sacred objects are also shown. Historical sources do not give a specific date for the destruction of the First Temple, but the association of the two destructions with Tisha B’Av became part of the tradition after the destruction of the Second Temple. In the rabbinic period (after 70 CE), rabbis established that the two events had happened on the same day, Tisha B’Av, along with many other persecutions of Jewish people. This became tradition.