Nero came to Jerusalem with his army in 66 CE. He headed straight for Jerusalem from Caesarea. The priests had got wind of his coming and had fled to the fortresses they had previously captured. They took with them the manuscripts they had rifled from Agrippa's archives. Nero was let into Jerusalem and welcomed by the prophets who had been kept locked up in the temple by the priests.
There are only three places where there is archaeological evidence of Roman attacks in Judea during the first century: Qumran, Masada and Machaerus. The priests had captured these fortresses from their Idumean and Herodian guards. I would be happy to receive evidence otherwise. The Roman attacks on Qumran, Masada and Machaerus occurred almost at the same time, in the summer of 66 CE (see http://raphaelgolb.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/asor-blog-circumvallation-wall-at.html). The Roman strategy was to hit these fortresses hard and take them by storm.
66 was to be the year of the Romans made war on the priests, first for killing James and second Agrippa. There had been a revolt by the priests against the king. Nero's war against the priests was short and over in a few days. In the scheme of Roman wars, this was a small affair. Nero left the temple intact for the prophets. He also left Roman soldiery to guard Jerusalem. The war was followed by a period traditionally regarded by scholars as a period of five years, the so-called five years of revolt. It was in fact a period of peace.
The fictitious story of Cestius's defeat is Flavian propaganda created from Nero's free entry into Jerusalem. This was in Nero's twelfth year on the sixteenth of the month Arteisius (Jyar) (April to May 66) (see War 2.14.4 or 2.284). Cestius's defeat alludes to Nero's entry: "And now it was that a horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day" (War 2.19.6 or 2.538,539). Here Cestius should be Nero to whom the gates of Jerusalem were opened by the prophets. There was no siege and there is no archaeological evidence for a siege. The seditious were the priests who fled from Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not "captured" but left to the prophets and those who wanted peace. Nero was invited in.
In the writings attributed to Josephus (the writer must have had access to Nero's war records), Qumran in Judea was changed to Jotapata in Galilee. Josephus makes no mention of Qumran yet the archaeological evidence for a heavy Roman attack on Qumran is evident. At the same time there is no evidence of Vespasian ever having been to Galilee. The first account in Josephus of the attack on Qumran under Placidus (Nero) is falsified as a failed attack on Jotapata (see War 3.6.1 or 3.110-114) but the time given is correct. The second attack on Jotapata, supposedly under Vespasian, is elaborate, and of course successful (see War 3.7.3 to 3.8.8 or 3.141-392). A number of details of this exaggerated battle have been taken from Nero's war record of the actual attack on Qumran. The geographical similarities of Jotapata and Qumran cannot be mistaken. The actual date Qumran was stormed by Placidus (Nero) was given away by the Roman historians in War 3.7.29 or 3.282. This date was the Summer of 66 "on the twentieth day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66) " The Roman historians used the actual attack on Qumran to produce the two false attacks on Jotapata. The second attack was at the incorrect time.
Similarly in the text of Josephus, Masada that lay near Qumran was changed to "Japha that lay near to Jotapata". I believe Masada was stormed by Trajan "on the twenty-fifth day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66)" (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).
And Machaerus (east of the Dead Sea) was changed to Gamala (in a similar geographical position but east of the Sea of Galilee). I believe Machaerus was stormed (in "summer-time") by Cerealis the commander of the fifth legion "on the twenty-seventh day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66)" (War 3.7.32 or 3.315). This attack is said to be against Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. The attack on Gamala is in War 4.1.1-10 or 4.1-82. Mount Gerizim in Samaria becomes Mount Tabor in Galilee. Similar to the attack on Qumran, the Roman historians used the one account of a real attack on Machaerus to produce two false attacks, one on Mount Gerizim and one on Mount Tabor.
On page 394 of The Herodian Dynasty, Kokkinos tries to say that the revolt, (meaning war) began in 65. He writes, depending on Josephus: "The seven months siege of Gamala can only be true if the revolt began in 65." I say there was no attack on Gamala, Vespasian never went to Galilee, and the start date for the war was 66, as stated by Meshorer and Roth. The Roman side was led by Nero who went with his army from Rome in 66. Kokkinos appears anxious to find for the date 65 as the first year of the war.
Thus after entering Jerusalem, Nero's armies attacked Qumran, Masada and Machaerus in the space of seven days. Each of these attacks involved a different commander. The accounts are kept deliberately short and interspersed with other larger accounts (see War 3.7.29,31 and 32). This was to hide the significance of the shorter accounts and to exaggerate considerably the larger accounts.
The eventual destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was not a part of the war which was against the priests. The temple was destroyed four or five years later on the orders of Vespasian who was aspiring to the top job in the Roman Empire and needed the finances. It was the prophets who were attacked on this occasion. Vespasian took eight hundred or so prophets to Rome for his triumph. There was now a potential for a much bigger war as the Romans had betrayed the prophets who previously had been pro Roman.
Golb and DeVaux were wrong about the date of the attack on Qumran
The Roman Tenth Legion came "by way of Jericho" (see Page 13, Line 12 of Golb's book Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and War 5.2.3 or 5.69). This pass "that led into the city", Jerusalem was supposedly guarded by Roman forces. Vespasian is said to have captured the pass earlier from a vague "certain party of armed men" who had "lain" there. It smacks of Roman propaganda. Based on Nero's war records (destroyed by Vespasians's historians), the Roman army must have come by way of Caesarea on their way to Jerusalem. The Roman armies under Nero disembarked at Caesarea the port built by Herod. From his intelligence information, Nero knew that the priests had captured Qumran, Masada and Machaerus from their Herodian guards. He probably also knew that the priests had fled from Jerusalem.
Golb says on page 12 of his book Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, that de Vaux was of the view that the capture of Qumran was in the summer of CE 68, before Jerusalem was captured. Golb says that the reasons de Vaux gave for the date of the attack were the dates on some Roman and Jewish coins found at Qumran. The Roman coins were minted in Caesarea and had a date of CE 67-68. He also says the earliest Jewish coins found at Qumran were dated Year III. Year III is usually accepted as the third year of the Jewish revolt. I have said elsewhere that Year III was the third year of a four or five year period of peace (see http://raphaelgolb.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/asor-blog-circumvallation-wall-at.html) . After this date, Roman soldiers and Jews visited the Qumran site. Thus these coins were dropped by people who were friends and allies. De Vaux was wrong. Golb accepts Josephus's version, and has the attack on Qumran (and the attack on Masada and Machaerus) following the capture of Jerusalem in CE 70. Jerusalem was never captured as such. And Qumran was captured in the summer of 66 CE. De Vaux's interpretation was two years late. But, his view was at least before CE 70 and not after.
On page 13, Golb says that if Romans had "stormed" the Qumran site earlier than 68 CE, they would have moved promptly southward to take Herodium. This was despite Herodium being a Herodian stronghold. Golb then makes no mention of Masada and Machaerus being captured, but follows the writings attributed to Josephus. I believe Nero did move southward in 66 CE, but directly from Jerusalem to take first Qumran, then Masada and then Machaerus, all by storm. Nero knew that these fortresses were defended by priests who were no match for the Roman army. Vespasian's propaganda painted a completely different picture. Masada became the key base for the Roman army. Thus contrary to Golb, I say the Roman troops did move south, but directly from Jerusalem. "Storming" was the order of the day, not siege.
The real war was a rebellion by the priests who numbered about 30000 in total. There was no mass uprising of the whole Jewish population. The priests were defeated by Nero who mounted a direct campaign. There were no great battles of Vespasian and Titus as portrayed in the propaganda attributed to Josephus. Vespasian never fought his way through Galilee and Samaria. There is no archaeological evidence of Vespasian having been there, unlike the Roman camps at Masada. War Books 3 and 4 are fabricated to fill in some of the time of the four or five years of peace.
On page 13, I consider that Golb makes another false deduction. He says that Josephus explains that at the beginning of the siege of the capital, the Roman Tenth Legion arrived at the arrived at the Mount of Olives "having come by way of Jericho where a party of soldiers had been posted to guard the pass formerly taken by Vespasian." In accepting that Josephus is telling the truth, Golb says that this strongly implies there were no Roman troops stationed south of this pass. I believe that the statement "where a party of of soldiers had been posted to guard the pass formerly taken by Vespasian" has all the hallmarks of retrospective propaganda. Golb claims that this move allowed the Romans to surround Jerusalem entirely, not just on three sides. I show, in fact, that before capturing Qumran, Masada and Machaerus, Nero's forces were let into Jerusalem by the prophets in 66 (see http://raphaelgolb.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/asor-blog-circumvallation-wall-at.html). There was no siege of Jerusalem - the archaeologists and historians argue there was a siege wall, but there is no archaeological evidence for such a wall. Yet the archaeologists say that the wall around Masada was a siege wall, still visible, and built by the Roman military. I argue that it was built by Herod for defence.
Josephus reports two battles for Jotapata
Of course, retrospectively, Josephus has it that Nero, full of "consternation and terror" at the prospect of war, "found no one but Vespasian equal to the task, and able to to undergo the great burden of so mighty a war" (see War 3.1.1,2 or 3.1-5). Never mind that Nero led a large army out of Rome in 66 CE, as Suetonius mockingly stated in his Vespasian. The Roman propaganda is obvious. Nero actually invited Vespasian to be a general in his army. His experience in Britain would be invaluable. Nero was to lead the army.
In War, shortly after Vespasian's apparent appointment as leader of the army, and after some preliminary text about Galilee, Samaria and Judea, followed by a description of the Roman army and a few skirmishes, there is the first battle supposedly against the city of Jotapata in Galilee (see War 3.6.1 or 3.110 - 114) This was led by Placidus "who had supposedly overrun Galiliee" apparently before Vespasian's arrival, but had only killed "the weaker part of the 'Galileans', and such as who were of fearful souls". Josephus reports that the people of Jotapata were expecting Placidus, and "easily put the Romans to flight". "Placidus, finding himself unable to assault the city, ran away", would you believe. This was Vespasian mocking Nero. This probably alluded to the time when Vespasian left the battle to attend to his Emperor who had been injured by an arrow in his foot.
Bear in mind de Vaux's view that Qumran was captured before Jerusalem in the summer of 68.
In a seemingly insignificant account, Placidus's fight for Jotapata in Galilee was really Nero's battle for Qumran in 66. That is why this first battle is played down . Placidus lost the battle and fled. Vespasian could then claim the victory when he comes on the scene for a second fictitious attack on Jotapata.
Nero's plan was to take Qumran by surprise or storm. The priests having previously captured the fortress of Qumran from a number of Idumean guards, were prepared for fighting and expecting the Romans. Significantly, the priests had their wives and children with them, as supported by the evidence of the bones from the adjacent cemetery. It was the Jews who were "easily put to flight" (opposite to the the extant text) by the Roman army who killed seven of them and wounded many who probably also died from their wounds. Josephus has reversed the casualty figures. Thus, three of the Roman side were killed and a few wounded. This battle would have been over in less than a day. "And thus did Vespasian march with his army, and came to the bounds of Galilee, where he pitched his camp and restrained his soldiers, who were eager for war". You can rest assured that you are in for some real propaganda for the protracted second battle (see War 3.7.3-29 or 3.127-338). The second battle for Jotapata is said to have occurred on the twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) or May to June - "This fight happened on the twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.36 or 3.338). It is described as a fight over one day. Yet the long account of Vespasian's battle includes a siege. Clearly this slip-up of a "fight over one day" was probably extracted from Nero's war records. It must refer to the first attack which was by storm under Nero.
Galilee with its lake, was easy for the Roman historians to duplicate and exaggerate what really happened around the Dead Sea. Vespasian never went to Galilee. The two years between 66 and 68 were filled with the activities of one Josephus supposedly building defenses in Galilee. It was at Jotapata that Josephus is supposed to have surrendered, in a most unlikely fashion. Vespasian's battle for Jotapata, and Josephus's account are fictional. They were the creations of Roman historians for Vespasian's phoney war.
Josephus reports a battle for Japha
Slipped-in with account of the second battle for Jotapata is another short seemingly insignificant account of the battle for Japha in Galilee (see War 3.7.31 or 3.289-306). So could this be similar to the first battle for Jotapata (Qumran) with Japha in reality somewhere near the Dead Sea? I suggest this short account about Japha was in fact the taking of Masada by storm. The forces were again under Nero. Japha is said to have fallen on the twenty-fifth of the month Desius (Sivan), approximately four or five days after the first battle for Qumran (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).
Thus I have the dates of the battles for Qumran, Masada and Machaerus as:
Qumran - twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.36 or 3.338).
Masada - twenty-fifth of the month Desius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).
Machaerus - twenty-seventh day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66) (See War 3.7.32 or 3.315).
Golb is right and de Vaux wrong about the purpose of the Qumran site - Qumran always was a fortress.