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Simeon Bar Kochba

BAR KOCHBA, SIMEON. Simeon Bar Kochba was the leader of the Jews in the second war with Rome precipitated by Hadrian’s move in a.d. 132 to found a non-Jewish city, Aelia Capitolina, on the site of Jerusalem.

Bar Kochba proclaimed an independent Jewish state. He issued coinage struck from defaced Rom. currency. The Romans summoned Julius Severus from the governorship of Britain to crush the new rebellion, and it took three years to stamp resistance down. The rebel headquarters were in the wadis and cliffs where the Judaean wilderness breaks into the Dead Sea, and here, after photographic survey by helicopter, Yadin located a Rom. commando camp on a plateau, and the inaccessible cave-complex where the rebels hid, and were finally starved to death or committed suicide.

The cave was lined in one part by baskets of bones. There were metal objects made from looted Roman cult vessels. In March 1961 a basket was found containing a bundle of papyrus documents, women’s sandals, of the sort known among Israelis today as “Elath sandals,” together with farm and household implements. There was a file of twelve years’ content, ending significantly in a.d. 132, which gives a picture of life in one family a cent. after Christ. Along with the documents were beads, a mirror, a comb—a whole toilet set, in fact, along with a powder and perfume container.

Among the letters cached in a remote rear corner of the cave were some apparently from Bar Kochba himself. They are in varied hands, so we may not have the guerrilla leader’s own handwriting. One orders the arrest of Tahun Ben Ishmael, and the confiscation of his wheat. Another called for punishment on some who had repaired their homes, in defiance of some scorched earth policy.