Titus, the new heir to the imperial throne, at last appeared before Jerusalem in February, 70 A.D. He fully expected that he could force the city into submission. After all, it was almost a reproach to the Romans that this rebellious capital should have maintained her independence for four years. The prestige of the new imperial house seemed in some measure to depend upon the fall of Jerusalem; a protracted siege would necessarily imply weakness in the military power of Vespasian and his son.
On the whole, Titus was eagerly looking forward to the subjection of Judea. However, he could not complete his preparations for the siege of Jerusalem before the spring. He collected an army of not less than eighty thousand men in total. They came bringing with them the largest number of battering machines that any force had used in the warfare of that time. Three traitors amongst the Judeans were most useful to him in his laborious undertakings. King Agrippa, who not only brought a contingent of men but who also tried to influence the inhabitants of Jerusalem in favor of the Romans. Next, Tiberius Alexander, who sealed his apostasy from Judaism by going into battle against his own nation. Then Josephus, the constant companion of Titus. As a prisoner, had become a guide in the country which he knew so well.
The Siege Of Jerusalem Was Not In Titus’s Original Plans
Titus was not experienced enough in the art of war, and so he had the Judean apostate stand by his side and gave him the command of his own bodyguard (Praefectus praetorio). But the hostile factions had drawn together when this new danger threatened them. Shortly before the Passover festival, numbers of devoted men streamed into Jerusalem to defend their holy city. The elders and chiefs had sent messengers to the people living in the outlying provinces. They prayed for help and they had not made their request in vain. The Judeans had now fortified the walls of Jerusalem more strongly than ever.
At last Titus assembled his huge army from all sides and encamped at Scopus-Zophim, north of Jerusalem. First, he summoned the inhabitants to surrender; he demanded only submission, acknowledgment of the Roman rule, and payment of taxes. Eager as he was to return to Rome, where all the enjoyments belonging to his great position were awaiting him, he was ready to deal gently with the Judeans. Besides this, his devotion to a Judean princess who, despite her errors, still clung faithfully to the holy city, made him anxious to spare that city from destruction. But the Judeans refused all negotiation. They had sworn to defend their city with their lives, and would not hear of surrender. Then the siege began earnestly. The Romans unsparingly destroyed the gardens and groves to the north and west of Jerusalem. These were the first points of the attack.
The Siege Of Jerusalem Begins
Titus, eager to survey the ground, advanced with a few followers to the north wall where he narrowly escaped capture. The first feat of arms upon the part of the Judeans was successful and seemed to be a good sign for the future. A few days later, they surprised and defeated the Tenth Legion, who were pitching their tents on the Mount of Olives. But, unfortunately, this skirmish proved fruitless, because the Judeans always retreated to their fortresses, not, however, without having convinced the Romans that they would have a desperate foe to encounter. The besiegers then pitched their camps on three sides of the city and raised their engines against the outer wall.
Here’s another article that you may enjoy reading: The Siege Of Jerusalem (Part Two): The Battle Begins