Modern approaches to the problem of control loss of an occupying power - Rome and Judea


Karoline Resch

Rebellions and the fight against them have been known since the establishment of government. The only new thing is that nowadays one tries to put these two phenomena into a social, economic and religious context. Since several years already - because of the situation both in Iraq and Afghanistan - the term „counterinsurgency“ as a terminus technicus for Western-style fight against rebellions in the 21st century has been used in specialized literature. Rome was an occupying power. Although the Jewish elite came to an arrangement with it for the most part, the major part of the population could not detect any advantages in an occupation by Rome. Liberation movements emerging from the experience of an occupation are generally difficult to counter. A modification of single general conditions does not change the fact of occupation. In the case of the successful fight against the rebellions in Malaysia, the English Empire was only able to overcome the rebels by promising independence. Thus, the question of legitimacy was swept aside. Apparently, however, for Rome this was no feasible solution. For this reason, the rebellions should have been controlled with different means. For controlling the conflicts, identifying the real causes for the rebellions would have been important - the political, social and economic problems, which prompted parts of the population to support the insurgents. Here the Romans failed in the end. Certainly they tried to control some single factors to suit the one or other occasion, but as they did not change anything concerning the basic condition of a military occupation without any reference to cultural, social, economic and ideological means, they were only able to control the rebellion inasmuch as it did not break out. In this stage we can assume that the situation was stable. The ordeal of great parts of the population was not bad enough for an open revolt. The security situation remained uneasy for the Romans, however, because they concentrated on the active elements of the rebellion movement and neglected the reasons at the root of its support. The system was tipped over by those prefects who were considered open to bribery and unpredictable. Thus the belief in the possibility of taking advantage of the Roman reign rather than of bloody fight was troubled in so numerous groups of the population, that an outbreak became possible. The principle of containment was simply not followed. For a wider political solution, Rome as a central position of power would have had to show much stronger commitment. In this particular case also the basic problematic nature of applying modern concepts to historical examples becomes apparent. Only a sophisticated analysis of the historic conditions and of the assumed patterns of modern concepts, as well as a clear regulation of the new general set-up, make a correct and thus effective application to chronologically distant eras possible.