This Day in Jewish History / Galilee Jews Revolt Against the Caesar of the East

The rebels headed by Isaac of Sepphoris and Patricius gained control of wide areas of the Galilee. It didn't last.

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On May 7, 351 C.E., a revolt against the Roman Empire broke out among the Jewish population of the Galilee, against Gallus, the caesar of the East.

After the Bar-Kochba revolt ended in 136 CE, the spiritual life of the Jewish population in Israel became centered in the Galilee. Tzippori, or Sepphoris in Latin, became the spiritual life in the region. For a time it was even the seat of the Sanhedrin, the high rabbinical court, although that eventually moved to Tiberias.

In 324, the Emperor Constantine established the new capital of the Roman Empire in Byzantium, which he renamed for himself – Constantinople. He divided administrative responsibilities for the empire between Constantinople and Rome. In 351, Constantine's second son assumed the role of emperor, under the name of Constantinus II.

To oversee the eastern part of the empire, he appointed Constantius Gallus, a cousin, to the position of caesar, which was subordinate to emperor.

Constantius Gallus' link to the emperor was also fortified by his marriage to the emperor’s sister, who had the surprising name of Constantina. The royal couple set up house in Antioch, in in what is today Turkey, on May 7, 351.

The same day, a revolt erupted in Palestine.

The revolt was a response to severe anti-Jewish oppression by the Romans, and was led, according to sources, by two men, Isaac of Sepphoris and a man called Patricius in Greek and Natrona, a Messianic term in Hebrew. The Jews managed to gain control of the Roman garrison inSepphoris (in Hebrew Tzippori and called Diocaesarea by the Romans) and of several other towns, including Tiberias.

The rebels destroyed the Roman garrison and attacked non-Jewish residents of the city. At this point, Gallus ordered his senior military official, Ursicinius, to put down the rebellion. He reconquered Tiberias and Diospolis (now better known as Lod), and overcame and then destroyed Tzippori. Several thousand rebels were killed as well.

Although Tzippori/Diocaesarea was rebuilt, it was destroyed again a few years later, in 363, this time by a massive earthquake.

For his part, Gallus soon earned the distrust of the emperor and was put to death in 354. His brother, Julian, eventually became emperor, and it was he who allowed Jews to move back to Jerusalem and gave them permission to rebuild the Temple. That plan, however, was never realized, due to the same earthquake.

A golden solidus showing Gallus, the caesar of the east, minted in Thessalonika.Credit: Wikimedia Commons
One of many stunning mosaics found in Tzippori.Credit: Moshe Gilad

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