Simon bar Kokhba

Simon bar Kokhba

Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kokhva or Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader who led what is known as Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("prince," or "president"). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two-year war. He became the last king of Israel in history.

Originally named Shimon ben Kosba (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא or ben Kuziva, בן כוזיבא), he was given the surname Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for "Son of a Star", referring to the Star Prophecy of , "A star has shot off Jacob") by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.

After the failure of the revolt, many, including rabbinical writers, referred to Simon bar Kokhba as "Simon bar Kozeba" ("Son of the lie").

econd Jewish revolt

Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 CE), which left the population and countryside in ruins, a series of laws passed by Roman Emperors proved the incentive for the second rebellion. The last straw were laws enacted by Roman Emperor Hadrian, including an attempt to prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem, and a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, being built in its place. The second Jewish rebellion took place 60 years after the first and re-established an independent state lasting three years.

The state minted its own coins, known as Bar Kochba Revolt coinage, which were inscribed "the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel". Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of "Nasi". The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force (unlike during the First Jewish-Roman War, where Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem's walls and were fighting their way to the center). A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no fewer than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which reduced and demoralized the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war. Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting "If you and your children are well, all is well. For I and the army are all in good health.", and is the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.

In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). The new provincial designation was derived as an insult from the name of the enemies of the Jews, the Philistines who had occupied the coastal plain in ancient times.

Over the past few decades, much new information about the revolt has come to light, thanks mainly to the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the caves overlooking the Dead Sea. ["Texts on Bar Kochba: Bar Kochba's letters", retireved 25 May 2007. [] ] These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum. ["Bar Kokhba", Israel Museum:Jerusalem, retrieved 25 May 2007. [] ]

Bar Kokhba in the Arts

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Bar-Kochba has been the subject of numerous works of art (dramas, operas, novels, etc.), [ G. Boccaccini, "Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts" (Turin: Zamorani, 1992). ] including:

* "Harisot Betar: sipur `al dever gevurat Bar Kokhva ve-hurban Betar bi-yad Adriyanus kesar Roma" (1858), a Hebrew novel by Kalman Schulman
* "Bar Kokhba" (1882), a Yiddish operetta by Abraham Goldfaden (mus. and libr.). The work was written in the wake of pogroms against Jews following the 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia.
* "Bar Kokhba" (1884), a Hebrew drama by Yehudah Loeb Landau
* "The Son of a Star" (1888), an English novel by Benjamin Ward Richardson
* "Le fils de l’étoile" (1903), a French opera by Camille Erlanger (mus.) and Catulle Mendes (libr.)
* "Bar-Kochba" (1905), a German opera by Stanislaus Suda (mus.) and Karl Jonas (libr.)
* "Rabbi Aqiba und Bar-Kokhba" (1910), a Yiddish novel by David Pinsky
* "Bar-Kokhba" (1929), a Hebrew drama by Saul Tchernichovski
* "Bar-Kokhba" (1939), a Hebrew drama by Shmuel Halkin
* "Bar-Kokhba" (1941), a Yiddish novel by Abraham Raphael Forsyth
* "A csillag fia" (1943), a Hungarian drama by Lajos Szabolcsi
* "Steiersønne" (1952), a Danish novel by Poul Borchsenius
* "Prince of Israel" (1952), an English novel by Elias Gilner
* "Bar-Kokhba" (1953), a Hebrew novel by Joseph Opatoshu
* "If I Forget Thee" (1983), an English novel by Brenda Lesley Segal
* "Kokav mi-mesilato. Haye Bar-Kokhba " (1988), a Hebrew novel by S.J. Kreutner
* "Ha-mered ha-midbar. Roman hstoriah mi-tequfat Bar-Kokhba" (1988), a Hebrew novel by Yeroshua Perah
* "My Husband, Bar Kokhba" (2003), an English novel by Andrew Sanders

Another operetta on the subject of Bar Kokhba was written by the Russian-Jewish emigre composer Yaacov Bilansky Levanon in Palestine in the 1920s.

John Zorn's Masada Chamber Ensemble recorded an album called "Bar Kokhba", showing a photograph of the Letter of Bar Kokhba to Yeshua, son of Galgola on the cover.

The Bar Kokhba game

According to a legend, during his reign, Bar Kokhba was once presented a mutilated man, who had his tongue ripped out and hands cut off. Unable to talk or write, the victim was incapable of telling who his attackers were. Thus, Bar Kokhba decided to ask simple questions to which the dying man was able to nod or shake his head with his last movements; the murderers were consequently apprehended.

In Hungary, this legend spawned the "Bar Kokhba game", in which one of two players comes up with a word or object, while the other must figure it out by asking questions only to be answered with "yes" or "no". The verb "kibarkochbázni" ("to Bar Kochba out") became a common language verb meaning "retrieving information in an extremely tedious way". [hu icon [ kibarkochbázni] ]

In English speaking countries, this is known as Twenty Questions.

ee also

* Bar Kochba Revolt coinage
* Cave of letters
* Ulam's game



* W. Eck, 'The Bar Kokhba Revolt: the Roman point of view' in the "Journal of Roman Studies" 89 (1999) 76ff.

*David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick and Daniel Schwartz: "Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to the Bar Kohkba Revolt In Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls": Boston: Brill: 2001: ISBN 90-04-12007-6

*Richard Marks: "The Image of Bar Kokhba in Traditional Jewish Literature: False Messiah and National Hero": University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press: 1994: ISBN 0-271-00939-X

*Leibel Reznick: "The Mystery of Bar Kokhba:" Northvale: J.Aronson: 1996: ISBN 1-56821-502-9

*Peter Schafer: "The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered": Tübingen: Mohr: 2003: ISBN 3-16-148076-7

* David Ussishkin: "Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba's Last Stronghold", in: "Tel Aviv. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University" 20 (1993) 66ff.

*Yigael Yadin: "Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome": London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson: 1971: ISBN 0-297-00345-3

External links

* [ The Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.)] by Shira Schoenberg (Jewish Virtual Library)
* [ Bar Kochba] with links to all sources (

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