Dedicated to the memory of Shmarya Gutmann (1909–1996)
The siege and battle of Gamla are described in detail by Josephus (War IV: 1; §1–83) . Elsewhere (Life 11, 24, 35, 37, 58–61, 71–72; War II, 20,6) Josephus tells of the prelude to these events: how Gamla was initially loyal to the Romans because it was in the hands of Agrippa II; how it turned rebellious under the influence of the refugees flowing in; how Josephus helped the inhabitants fortify the city and how Agrippa besieged it. He also tells of the skirmish between him and Sylla, general of Agrippa II, who tried to block the roads leading from Galilee to the Golan, and especially to Gamla.
Vespasian had two reasons for taking Gamla. First, Roman strategy called for the elimination of all resistance, no matter how remote or slight. Second, the Jews were expecting help from their brethren of the Babylonian Diaspora and military intervention from Parthia, even if the majority saw in this a messianic expectation rather than a realistic one (Rappaport 1989:375,377,378). The only district of Judaea or Galilee with direct access to Parthia, with no hostile pagan cities blocking the way, was Jewish Gaulanitis and its capital, Gamla. Hence, its capture was of importance to Vespasian.
In the following pages I will attempt to assess the events at Gamla during the revolt, as reported by Josephus and filtered through the archaeological evidence .