Siege of Jerusalem (614)

Siege of Jerusalem (614)

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{{dablink|For other sieges laid upon the city of Jerusalem in history, see [[Siege of Jerusalem]].}} {{Campaignbox Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628}} The '''Siege of Jerusalem''' in 614 was part of the final phase of the [[Byzantine-Sassanid Wars]]. The Persian Shah [[Khosrau II]] appointed his generals to conquer the Byzantine controlled areas of the [[Near East]], establishing a [[Jewish revolt against Heraclius|strategic alliance]] with the Jewish population of the Sassanid Persia. Following [[Battle of Antioch (613)|Persian advances into Syria]] in the previous year, [[Shahrbaraz]]'s next target was [[Jerusalem]], the capital of [[Palaestina Prima]]. Providing direct access to the [[Mediterranean Sea]], the city would have also provided a strategic location for the Persian Empire to begin constructing a naval fleet, thereby threatening Byzantine hegemony in the Mediterranean. Reinforced by the Jewish army from Persia and local Jewish rebels under [[Benjamin of Tiberias]], the Persian army laid siege to [[Jerusalem]]. After 21 days of relentless [[siege warfare]], Jerusalem's walls yielded and the decisive Persian victory resulted in the territorial annexation of Jerusalem, and eventually all of Palaestina Prima.{{better source|date=September 2011}} == Background== {{main|Jewish revolt against Heraclius}} Following [[Battle of Antioch (613)|the victory in Antioch]], a joint Sassanid-Jewish army, commanded by [[Shahrbaraz]], arrived in Palaestina Prima and [[Siege of Caesarea (614)|conquered Caesaria Maritima]], the administrative capital of the province. [[Nehemiah ben Hushiel|Nehemiah]]'s Jewish troops and the Sassanid Persians were joined by [[Benjamin of Tiberias]] (according to Jewish sources – a man of immense wealth), who enlisted and armed additional Jewish soldiers from [[Tiberias]], [[Nazareth]] and the mountain cities of [[Galilee]], and together they marched on Jerusalem. == The Siege == Customary to military tradition, when the Persian force arrived outside Jerusalem, Shahrbaraz offered a peaceful transition of power should the city surrender without resistance.{{better source|date=September 2011}} The Sassanid general's offer was however rebuffed, and he consequently prepared his troops for a blockade. Shahrbaraz, alongside fellow general [[Shahin Vahmanzadegan|Shahin]], prepared for what would they believed would be a long and fierce [[siege]], given Jerusalem's powerful [[fortifications]]. For twenty days, the Persians army continually pounded the walls of Jerusalem with [[ballistas]] and other [[Siege engines|engines]].{{better source|date=September 2011}} While the Byzantine city was composed primarily of [[civilians]] and the [[priesthood]], there is mention of a formidable Greek force, which was gathered by monk Abba Modestus to assist Jerusalem.{{better source|date=September 2011}} However, once the [[Byzantine Empire|Greek]] troops caught sight of the overwhelming Persian army encamped outside the city walls, they fled, fearing a suicidal battle.{{better source|date=September 2011}} After the twenty-first day of [[bombardment]], the city's walls finally broke, and due notably to the Jewish allies' assistance to the Persian army, the interior was quickly overrun. The [[Jews]], who had long been marginalized and oppressed in their Roman-controlled homeland, viewed the Persian invaders favorably. Some 26,000 Jewish rebels joined the war against the Byzantine Christians, who prohibited Jews from settling in Jerusalem.{{verify source|date=September 2011}} ==Alleged massacre== The siege allegedly resulted in a massacre of the Christians in Jerusalem and destruction of Christian churches and other buildings, and notably the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcure. According to Antiochus, Shahrbaraz ordered a swift razing and looting of Jerusalem.{{better source|date=September 2011}} Having recognized the assistance of the Jews in the significant capture, he even gave them the opportunity to personally massacre their [[Christian]] enemies.{{better source|date=September 2011}} Given that [[Khosrau II]] generally practiced [[religious tolerance]] and did treat Christians respectfully, it is not known why Shahrbaraz would have ordered such a massacre. One reason could have been Shahrbaraz's rage at the resistance that had been offered by Jerusalem's Christian populace.{{cn|date=September 2011}} The Christian accounts of the massacre however highly vary in their estimations, and could represent exaggerations of the real events. Historian Elliot Horowitz considers the common modern writing about the destruction to be "historiographical stonewalling". ===Antiochus' account=== According to [[Antiochus Strategos]], shortly after the Persian army entered Jerusalem, an "unprecedented looting and sacrilege" took place. In his words "church after church was burned down alongside the innumerable Christian artifacts, which were stolen or damaged by the ensuing arson".{{better source|date=September 2011}} [[Antiochus Strategos]] further claimed that captive Christians were gathered near [[Mamilla Pool|Mamilla reservoir]] and the Jews offered to help them escape death if they "become Jews and deny Christ". The Christian captives refused, and the Jews in anger purchased the Christians from the Persians and massacred them on the spot. Antiochus wrote:
''Then the Jews... as of old they bought the Lord from the Jews with silver, so they purchased Christians out of the reservoir; for they gave the Persians silver, and they bought a Christian and slew him like a sheep.''
According to Antiochus, the total Christian death toll was 66,509, of which 24,518 corpses were found at [[Mamilla]], many more than were found anywhere else in the city.{{cn|date=September 2011}} Other sources give a figure of 60,000 slain. ===Archaeological evidence=== Despite the claims of large scale destruction, the archaeological evidence do not reveal layers of destruction to be associated with Persian conquest. There was also no hard evidence found for the destruction of churches. A significant number of burial sites with bones were allocated in accordance to Christian sources. A mass burial grave at [[Mamilla]] cave was discovered in 1989 by Israeli [[archeologist]] [[Ronny Reich]]. Yet, excavations of Jerusalem show a continuous habitation in Jerusalem neighborhoods and essentially little impact of population during the period of Persian governorship. As stated by archaeologist Gideon Avni: :''... all excavated sites in Jerusalem show a clear pattern of continuity, with no evidence for destruction by the Persian conquest of 614 or the Arab conquest of 636.'' Demographic continuity might have resulted of population exchange by the victorious Jewish rebels, but apparently also the Christian habitation remained relatively constant, despite the disturbance by the Persian conquest, and no significant impact on the population of Jerusalem was made during the following period of [[Jewish revolt against Heraclius|Sassanid-Jewish dominance]]. == Aftermath == According to Jewish sources, Jerusalem was handed to the Jewish rebels, under the leadership of [[Nehemiah ben Hushiel]] and [[Benjamin of Tiberias]], becoming the capital of shortly lived [[Jewish_revolt_against_Heraclius#The_Sassanid_Jewish_Commonwealth|Jewish-Sassanid Commonwealth]]. Persia's most devastating crime in the eyes of the Byzantines was the capture of the [[True Cross]] and its removal to [[Ctesiphon]] as a battle-captured holy [[relic]].{{better source|date=September 2011}} The conquered city and the Holy Cross would remain in Sassanid hands for some fifteen years until Heraclius recovered them in [[629]]. ==Other sources== The fall of Palaestina Prima to the Persians was mentioned as a contemporary event in the thirtieth ''sūrah'' of the Qur'an, [[ar-Rum|Sūrat al-Rūm]]. It went on to predict the imminent defeat of the Persians by the Byzantines: "The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by, but after this defeat of theirs they will soon be victorious, within a few years" (Qur'an 30:2-4). == Sources == * [http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/antiochus_strategos_capture.htm Antiochus Strategos, ''The Capture of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614 AD''], [[F. C. Conybeare]], English Historical Review 25 (1910) pp. 502–517. {{coord missing|Israel}} {{DEFAULTSORT:Jerusalem 614}}