The fortress of Masada, the last place to fall to the Romans in the Great Revolt of Judea against Rome, was taken on Passover day of the year 73 AD. The defenders had decided that the last thing they could do on earth was to deny the Romans the pleasure of torturing them and abusing their wives and children if they fell into captivity. They therefore decided to kill their families and themselves rather than to fall into the hands of the Romans. The lots they cast, replicas of which are presented here by Biblical Reproductions, are evidence and testimony of that terrible event.

But how do we know all this? The Romans did not record details of this story and the witness to it were, except for two women, dead. It was in fact left to Josephus Flavius to tell the tale.  Born Yosef ben Mattatyahu, (he later Latinized his name to Josephus Flavius), he was a Jewish aristocrat of a priestly family, born in Jerusalem about the year 37 AD, who became a general in charge of the Galilee in the Great Revolt. Deserting his own side in the middle of the war, he defected to the Romans, an act which has made him hated by Jewish tradition ever since. He survived the war and settled in Rome writing massive histories of the Jewish people in general and of The Jewish War, his most famous book, in particular.

Josephus was not an admirable man, but he was a great historian. We trust his descriptions of events as a general rule, and follow him as he tells of those terrible events in the middle of the first century AD. He alone told of the happenings of Masada. The story is otherwise unknown in both Roman and Jewish literature.

Exquisite reproductions of the lots discovered at Masada to be offered by Biblical Reproductions, which is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Author:  Walter Zanger