Paystub of Roman Soldier from Masada Siege Found: Proves Crime Doesn’t Pay

A remnant of papyrus found at the site of the encampment of the Roman army that lay siege to one of the last Jewish strongholds after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple showed that the soldiers sent to murder the Jews were left penniless for their evil acts.

Papyrus Payslip from Masada

A translation of writing from a scrap of papyrus found at the site of Masada revealed the payslip of a Roman soldier named Gaius Messius who presumably served during the siege that took place around the year 74 BCE. The translation revealed that after deductions, the poor soldier was left with practically nothing:

“The fourth consulate of Imperator Vespasianus Augustus. Accounts, salary. Gaius Messius, son of Gaius, of the tribe Fabia, from Beirut. I received my stipendium of 50 denarii, out of which I have paid barley money 16 denarii, food expenses 20 denarii, boots 5 denarii, leather strappings 2 denarii; linen tunic 7 denarii. I received my stipendium of 62 denarii, out of which I have paid barley money 16 denarii; food expenses 20 denarii.”

“Gaius Messius’ pay receipt, found in the camps outside of Masada,” the website Army of Roman Palestine noted. “Gaius Messius was an auxiliary soldier, though his unit is unknown.  It is interesting to observe how much of his pay went to mandatory expenses: clothing, food, etc. He seems effectively penniless after payday.”

The payslip was originally posted on Twitter in March 2019 by archaeologist Joanne Ball

Masada: What Really Happened?

The siege of Masada was one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, occurring from 73 to 74 CE on and around a large hilltop near the Dead Sea. The siege is known to history via a single source, Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans, in whose service he became a historian. According to Josephus, the siege led to the mass suicide of the Jewish rebels in the mountaintop palace built by King Herod in 37 BCE. This description of mass suicide is not supported by archaeological investigation.

The Roman army was unable to access the mountaintop via direct attack so they encamped at the base, building a wall around the mountain and lay siege. A ramp was built of beaten earth and the Romans finally breached the wall of the fortress on April 16, 73 CE. According to Josephus’ account, they discovered the food storerooms ablaze and the bodies of the rebels who had killed each other rather than be taken captive. 

“The Jews hoped that all of their nation beyond the Euphrates would join together with them to raise an insurrection,” Josephus wrote. 

William Whiston, who translated the works of Josephus in 1974,  two women survived the mass-suicide by hiding inside a cistern along with five children. Josephus recorded their reports of the speech by  Eleazar ben Ya’ir, the head of the zealots, before their final acts:

“Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice … We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.”

Suicide is expressly forbidden by Jewish law, casting further doubt on the account and despite the site being heralded as a symbol of Jewish heroism, a mass suicide actually does not symbolize Jewish values or any Biblical precedent.

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