Thesis Title

Gamla: A Question of Ultimate Sacrifice


Joe K. Moore

Date of Graduation

Spring 2005


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

LaMoine DeVries


During the Jewish Revolt against Rome (67-73 CE) Josephus records several incidents of mass suicide that occur during the conflict. This is in spite of Josephus’s own claim that Jewish religion and tradition views this as contrary to God’s laws. In particular he states that the remaining population of the city of Gamla (5,000 people) committed suicide by jumping from the citadel of the city. The scope of this thesis will include historic and philosophical components. Historically, it will look at the origins of the city of Gamla and the battle that took place there. This battle ultimately signaled the end of the city in terms of people living in it. Specifically it is concerned with the significance of the city requiring a massive Roman assault (over 30,000 men) against a comparatively small defense. Secondly, the thesis evaluates the moral and philosophical components of the views concerning suicide. This part examines three elements. First it studies suicide in antiquity; the reasons for it and societies view of it. In addition, modern views are brought in to evaluate possible motivations for suicide, ranging from attaining sainthood to an innovation of guerilla warfare. Lastly it looks at the physically prospect of 5,000 people successfully committing suicide in the manner that Josephus describes. Finally, it discusses motives that Josephus might have for describing the demise of Gamla as a mass suicide.


Jewish Revolt, Josephus, suicide, Gamla, religion, archaeology

Subject Categories



© Joe K. Moore