Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Sforza was a ruling family of Renaissance Italy, based in Milan.
The dynasty was founded by Muzio Attendolo, called Sforza (from sforzare, to exert or force, 1369-1424) a condottiero from Romagna serving the Angevin kings of Naples. He was the most successful dynast of the condottieri.

His son Francesco I Sforza ruled Milan for the first half of the Renaissance era, acquiring the title of Duke of Milan from the extinct Visconti family in 1447. While there were many good rulers in the family, there were also a number of despots, many of which were mentally unstable.

The family also held the seigniory of Pesaro, starting from Muzio Attendolo's second son, Alessandro (1409-1473). The Sforza held Pesaro until 1519, with the death of Galeazzo. Muzio's third son, Bosio (1411-1476), founded the branch of Santa Fiora, who held the title of count of Cotignola; the Sforza ruled the small county of Santa Fiora in southern Tuscany until 1624. Members of this family also held important ecclesiastical and political position in the Papal States, and moved to Rome in 1674.

The Sforza would later join with the Borgia Family, through the arranged marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to Giovanni (the illegitimate son of Costanzo I of Pesaro[1]).

Ludovico Sforza (also known as Ludovico il Moro, famous also for taking Leonardo da Vinci at his service) was defeated in 1500 by the French army of Louis XII of France - see also Italian Wars.
After the French were driven out by Imperial Swiss troops Maximilian Sforza, son of Ludovico, became Duke of Milan, until the French returned under Francis I of France and imprisoned him.

Sforza rulers of Duchy of Milan

Coat of arms of the House of Sforza

Francesco I 1450-1466
Galeazzo Maria 1466-1476
Gian Galeazzo 1476-1494
Ludovico 1494-1499
Ludovico (restored) 1500
Massimiliano 1512-1515
Caterina 1515-1535
Francesco II 1521-1535

Sforza rulers of Pesaro and Gradara

Costanzo I
Costanzo II

Sforza family treeGiacomo (Muzio) Attendolo, nicknamed Sforza

+-Francesco I (1401-1466), married Bianca Maria Visconti, daughter of Filippo Maria, 1450-66

+-Galeazzo Maria (14431476), 1466-76

+-Caterina Sforza (1463-1509) (Model for Mona Lisa?)

+-Bianca Maria (14721510), second wife of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I

+-Gian Galeazzo(1469-1494), married Isabella of Naples, 1476-94

+-Francesco (II), nominally duke under the regency of Ludovico Maria

+-Bona (1494-1557), second wife of king Sigismund I of Poland

+-Ascanio (1444-1505), Cardinal

+-Ippolita Maria (1446-1484), married king of Alfonso II d'Aragon of Naples

+-Ludovico il Moro (the Moor) (14511508) 1494-1500

+-Ercole Massimiliano (1493-1530), 151215

+-Francesco II (III) Maria (), 152135

+-Giovanni Paolo I (1497-1535), marquess of Caravaggio

+-Alessandro, first lord of Pesaro

+-Costanzo I

+ Galeazzo, last Sforza ruler of Pesaro

+-Giovanni (1466-1510), first husband of Lucrezia Borgia

+-Costanzo II (Giovanni Maria)

+-Bosio (count of Cotignola, lord of Castell'Arquato)

Other members

Bianca Maria Sforza, Empress
Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland, Duchess of Bari and Princess of Rossano
Sisto Riario Sforza, Cardinal

House of Sforza in popular culture

Thomas Harris' character Hannibal Lecter is a descendant of the House of Sforza.
Dennis "The Carpenter" Maxwell (aka Maxwell Carpenter), a character from White Wolf Game Studio's original World of Darkness setting, was a man who had risen from his own grave to take revenge on a Mafia family named 'Sforza.'

See also

External links

Rootsweb genealogy profile for Giovanni Sforza
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Sforza"


Caterina Sforza (1463May 10, 1509), countess of Forlì, was an illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Lucrecia Landriani.

In 1473, she was betrothed to Girolamo Riario, a nephew (though rumors persisted that he was a son) of Pope Sixtus IV, who was thus able to regain possession of Imola, that city being made a fief of the Riario family. After a triumphal entry into Imola in 1477, Caterina Sforza went to Rome with her husband, who, with the help of the pope, wrested the lordship of Forlì from Francesco V Ordelaffi.

Riario, by means of many crimes for which his wife seems to have blamed him, succeeded in accumulating great wealth, and on the death of Sixtus in August 1484, he sent Caterina to Rome to occupy the Castel Sant'Angelo, which she defended gallantly until, on October 25, she surrendered it by his order to the Sacred College. They then returned to their fiefs of Imola and Forlì, where they tried to win the favour of the people by erecting magnificent public buildings and churches and by abolishing taxes, but want of money obliged them to levy the taxes once more, which caused dissatisfaction.

Riario's enemies conspired against him with a view to making Franceschetto Cybo, nephew of Pope Innocent VIII, lord of Imola and Forlì in his stead. Riario thereupon instituted a system of persecution against all whom he suspected of treachery. In 1488 he was murdered by three conspirators, his palace was sacked, and his wife and children were taken prisoner. The chief conspirators were members of the Orsis, a noble family of Forlì.

The citadel of Forlì, however, held out in Caterina's interest. The countess convinced the conspirators that if she were allowed to go to the citadel she would arrange for the governor to hand it over. Leaving her children as hostages she went to the citadel, but once inside she let loose a barrage of threats and promises of vengeance against her former captors. When they threatened to kill her children still in captivity she exposed her genitals from the castle walls and said that she didn't mind as she was still capable of bearing more. With the assistance of her uncle Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, she was able to defeat her enemies and to regain possession of all her dominions; she wreaked vengeance on those who had opposed her and re-established her power.

As a widow she had several lovers, and by one of them, Giacomo Feo, whom she afterwards married, she had a son. Feo, who made himself hated for his cruelty and insolence, was murdered before the eyes of his wife in August 1495; Caterina had all the conspirators and their families, including the women and children, massacred. She established friendly relations with the new pope, Alexander VI, and with the Florentines, whose ambassador, Giovanni de' Medici il Popolano, she secretly married in 1496. Giovanni died in 1498, but Caterina managed with the aid of Ludovico il Moro and of the Florentines to save her dominions from the attacks of the Venetians.

Pope Alexander VI, however, angered at her refusal to agree to a union between his daughter Lucrezia Borgia and her son Ottaviano, and coveting her territories as well as the rest of Romagna for his son Cesare, issued a bull on March 9, 1499, declaring that the house of Riario had forfeited the lordship of Imola and Forlì and conferring those fiefs on Cesare Borgia.

The latter began his campaign of conquest with Caterina Sforza's dominions and attacked her with his whole army, reinforced by French troops and by Louis XII. Caterina placed her children in safety and took strenuous measures for defense. The castle of Imola was held by her henchman Dionigi Naldi of Brisighella, until resistance being no longer possible he surrendered in December 1499 with the honours of war. Caterina absolved the citizens of Forlì from their oath of fealty, and defended herself in the citadel. She repeatedly beat back the Borgia's onslaughts and refused all his offers of peace.

Finally, when her orders for the magazine to be blown up were ignored, Caterina surrendered after a battle in which large numbers were killed on both sides to Antoine Bissey, bailli of Dijon, entrusting herself to the honour of France (January 12, 1500). Thus her life was spared, but she was not saved from the outrages of the treacherous Cesare; she was afterwards taken to Rome and held a prisoner for a year in the Castel Sant'Angelo, whence she was liberated by the same bailli of Dijon to whom she had surrendered at Forlì.

She took refuge in Florence to escape from persecution from the Borgias, and the power of that sinister family having collapsed on the death of Alexander VI in 1503, she attempted to regain possession of her dominions. In this she failed owing to the hostility of his brother-in-law Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici and the latter's son Pierfrancesco, as they wished to get her son Ludovico (afterwards Giovanni dalle Bande Nere) into their hands. She took refuge with him in the convent of Annalena, where she remained until her death.

In her book The Warrior Queens: Boadicea's Chariot, British historian Antonia Fraser presents Caterina Sforza as a contrasting figure to her contemporary Isabella of Castile. Fraser points out that whilst the murders ordered by Caterina were no worse than the massacres ordered by Isabella, historians have been much harsher in their judgement of the former. Fraser accounts for this fact by pointing out that Isabella's actions were spiritually sanctioned, carried out in the name of Catholicism, whilst Caterina's were motivated by the personal, secular desire to preserve her property and rights.

See also

House of Sforza


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Machiavelli, The Discourses, English translation by Fr Leslie J. Walker, S.J. (1929). The countess is featured in Bk III, Ch 6 in relating examples of dangers that can arise subsequent to a successful conspiracy.


The Boys from Brazil is a 1978 Academy Award-nominated thriller made by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and produced by Stanley O'Toole and Martin Richards with Robert Fryer as executive producer. The screenplay, by Heywood Gould, is loosely based on the novel The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin. It bears no relation to another film Boys from Brazil from 1993 [1]. The music score was by Jerry Goldsmith and the cinematography by Henri Decae. As of August 2006, an updated remake of this film is in the works with New Line Cinema, featuring director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Richard Potter and Matthew Stravitz. Production is expected to start late in early 2008.[1]

The film was shot on location in Vienna, Austria; England; Portugal and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA.


The film follows the attempts of aging Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Sir Laurence Olivier) to discover and thwart a diablolical plan by surviving Nazi death-camp doctor Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) to clone Adolf Hitler.

When well-intenioned young Barry Kohler stumbles upon a secret sect of Third Reich war criminals holding clandestine meetings in South America, he alerts Ezra Lieberman by phone. Lieberman is well aware that Dr. Mengele is alive and in hiding, but is highly sceptical otherwise.
Kohler is discovered and killed. Lieberman begins following the trail of the Nazis, traveling throughout Europe and North America to investigate the suspicious deaths of a number of civil servants. He meets several widows and is amazed to find an uncanny resemblance in their adopted, black-haired, blue-eyed sons.

His investigations unnerve Mengele's superiors, who demand that he abort his scheme. But the mad doctor has spent nearly thirty years pursuing this, having acquired skin and blood samples from Hitler to use as DNA in a sinister, far-ahead-of-its-time plan to recreate the Fuhrer body and soul.

For him it is now or never. Mengele risks traveling to rural Pennsylvania, where one of the young Hitler clones lives on a farm. There he murders the boy's father and lies in wait for his hated nemesis Lieberman, who is on his way.

They fight savagely until Mengele gains the upper hand. At that point, young Bobby arrives home from school. It is Mengele's first look in person at one of his "boys." Bobby can tell from the carnage that something is amiss. Lieberman tells him that Mengele has killed his father and to notify the police. The cruel young boy has other ideas. He sets a pack of vicious Doberman dogs on Mengele, relishing his bloody death.

Lieberman is encouraged by fellow Nazi hunters to expose the scheme and turn over a list identifying the names and whereabouts of the other "boys from Brazil" from around the world, so that they can be systematically killed before growing up. But they are mere children, in Lieberman's opinion, so he destroys the list.

Principal cast

Gregory Peck : Dr. Josef Mengele
Sir Laurence Olivier : Ezra Lieberman
James Mason : Eduard Seibert
Lilli Palmer : Esther Lieberman
Uta Hagen : Frieda Maloney
Steve Guttenberg : Barry Kohler
Denholm Elliott : Sidney Beynon
Gunter Meisner : Farnbach
Jeremy Black : Jack Curry/Simon Harrington/Erich Doring/Bobby Wheelock

Award and nominations

Academy Awards Nominations
Academy Award for Best Actor - Sir Laurence Olivier
Academy Award for Film Editing - Robert Swink
Academy Award for Original Music Score - Jerry Goldsmith
Golden Globe Awards Nomination
Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama - Gregory Peck
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award Nominations
Best Science Fiction Film
Best Actor - Sir Laurence Olivier
Best Director - Franklin J. Schaffner
Best Music - Jerry Goldsmith
Best Supporting Actress - Uta Hagen
Best Writing - Heywood Gould


The character of Ezra Lieberman (Yakov Liebermann in the novel) is thought by many to be modeled on the famous real life Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Olivier plays a Nazi hunter in this film whilst in Marathon Man (1976), he played Dr. Christian Szell, an evil Nazi doctor. Szell was known as 'The White Angel', whereas Mengele was known as the 'Angel of Death.'

Both of the lead actors, Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, played General Douglas MacArthur in films produced roughly the same time as The Boys From Brazil: Peck in MacArthur (1977) and Olivier in Inchon (1981). Coincidentally, Jerry Goldsmith was the composer for each of those films as well as for The Boys from Brazil.

Peck's performance as the evil Mengele contrasts with the heroic roles he was most famous for playing, notably Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. The role was also a complete inversion of the actor's real-life beliefs, which were strongly devoted to tolerance, civil rights, and general liberal political activities.

Bruno Ganz, who plays Professor Bruckner, went on to play Adolf Hitler in Der Untergang (2004).

Jeremy Black plays four teenaged Adolf Hitler clones; two of which are American, one British, and the other German (in all, Black performs using three different accents).

External links


The Lost Ark of the Covenant

By David Shyovitz

Judaism, as a general rule, rejects physical manifestations of spirituality, preferring instead to focus on actions and beliefs. Indeed, the story of Judaism begins with Abraham, the original iconoclast, who, according to ancient sources, shattered the idols that were the conventional method of religious observance at the time. Worship of graven images is harshly condemned throughout the Torah, and perhaps the greatest sin the Israelites collectively committed was the construction of the Golden Calf (in Ex. 32), intended to serve as a physical intermediary between them and God. Today, Jews do not venerate any holy relics or man-made symbols.

But early in the history of the Jewish people, there was one exception to this rule, one man-made object that was considered intrinsically holy. The Ark of the Covenant, constructed during the Israelites' wanderings in the desert and used until the destruction of the First Temple, was the most important symbol of the Jewish faith, and served as the only physical manifestation of God on earth. The legends associated with this object, and the harsh penalties ascribed for anyone who misuses it, confirm the Ark's centrality to the Jewish faith of that period; the fact that Jews and non-Jews alike continue to study and imitate it confirms its centrality even today.
Building the Ark

The construction of the Ark is commanded by God to Moses while the Jews were still camped at Sinai (Ex. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). The Ark was a box with the dimensions of two-and-a-half cubits in length, by one-and-a-half cubits in heights, by one-and-a-half cubits in width (a cubit is about 18 inches). It was constructed of acacia wood, and was plated with pure gold, inside and out. On the bottom of the box, four gold rings were attached, through which two poles, also made of acacia and coated in gold, were put. The family of Kehath, of the tribe of Levi, would carry the ark on their shoulders using these poles.

One artist's rendition of what the Ark looked like.

Covering the box was the kapporet, a pure gold covering that was two-and-a-half by one-and-a-half cubits. Attached to the kapporet were two sculpted Cherubs, also made of pure gold. The two Cherubs faced one another, and their wings, which wrapped around their bodies, touched between them.

The contents of the Ark has been debated through the centuries. The general consensus is that the first tablets containing the Ten Commandments, which were broken by Moses, and the second tablets, which remained intact, were contained in the Ark (Bava Batra 14b). According to one opinion in the Talmud, both Tablets were together in the Ark; according to another, there were two Arks, and each contained one set of Tablets (Berakhot 8b).

The Ark was built by Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, who constructed the entire Tabernacle – the portable Temple used in the desert and during the conquest of the land of Israel. The Tabernacle was the resting place for the Ark, and also contained other vessels that were used in the physical worship of God. The Biblical commentators argue over why God commanded Moses to build a Tabernacle in the first place: According to Rashi (Ex. 31:18), God realized after the sin of the Golden Calf that the Israelites needed an outlet for physical worship, and commanded that they build the Tabernacle as a way of expressing their own need for physical representation of God. According to Nachmanides (Ex. 25:1), however, the Jews were commanded to build the Tabernacle even before the sin of the Golden Calf; rather than filling a human need, the Tabernacle was God's method of achieving continuous revelation in the Israelites' camp. These two opinions as to whether the Tabernacles, and the Temples that followed them, were an a priori necessity or a necessary evil demonstrate the controversial role of physical worship in Judaism as a whole.

The Role of the Ark

The Ark was used in the desert and in Israel proper for a number of spiritual and pragmatic purposes. Practically, God used the Ark as an indicator of when he wanted the nation to travel, and when to stop. In the traveling formation in the desert, the Ark was carried 2000 cubits ahead of the nation (Num. R. 2:9). According to one midrash, it would clear the path for the nation by burning snakes, scorpions, and thorns with two jets of flame that shot from its underside (T. VaYakhel, 7); another midrash says that rather than being carried by its bearers, the Ark in fact carried its bearers inches above the ground (Sotah 35a). When the Israelites went to war in the desert and during the conquering of Canaan, the Ark accompanied them; whether its presence was symbolic, to provide motivation for the Jews, or whether it actually aided them in fighting, is debated by commentators.

Spiritually, the Ark was the manifestation of God's physical presence on earth (the shekhina). When God spoke with Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the desert, he did so from between the two Cherubs (Num. 7:89). Once the Ark was moved into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, it was accessible only once a year, and then, only by one person. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) could enter the Holy of Holies to ask forgiveness for himself and for all the nation of Israel (Lev. 16:2).

The relationship between the Ark and the shekhina is reinforced by the recurring motif of clouds. God's presence is frequently seen in the guise of a cloud in the Bible (Ex. 24:16), and the Ark is constantly accompanied by clouds: When God spoke from between the Cherubs, there was a glowing cloud visible there (Ex. 40:35); when the Jews traveled, they were led by the Ark and a pillar of clouds (Num. 10:34); at night, the pillar of clouds was replaced by a pillar of fire, another common descriptor of God's appearance (Ex. 24:17); and when the High Priest entered presence of the Ark on Yom Kippur, he did so only under the cover of a cloud of incense, perhaps intended to mask the sight of the shekhina in all its glory (Lev. 16:13).

The holiness of the Ark also made it dangerous to those who came in contact with it. When Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, brought a foreign flame to offer a sacrifice in the Tabernacle, they were devoured by a fire that emanated "from the Lord" (Lev. 10:2). During the saga of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines, numerous people, including some who merely looked at the Ark, were killed by its power. Similarly, the Priests who served in the Tabernacle and Temple were told that viewing the Ark at an improper time would result in immediate death (Num. 4:20).

History of the Ark

The Ark accompanied the Jews throughout their time in the desert, traveling with them and accompanying them to their wars with Emor and Midian. When the Jews crossed into the land of Canaan, the waters of the Jordan River miraculously split and the Ark led them through (Josh. 3). Throughout their conquest of the land, the Jews were accompanied by the Ark. The most dramatic demonstration of its power comes when the Jews breached the walls of Jericho merely by circling them, blowing horns and carrying the Ark (Josh. 6).

After the conquest was completed, the Ark, and the entire Tabernacle, were set up in Shiloh (Josh. 18) . There they remained until the battles of the Jews with the Philistines during the Priesthood of Eli. The Jews, after suffering a defeat at the Philistines' hands, took the Ark from Shiloh to Even-Ezer in hopes of winning the next battle. But the Jews were routed, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. Back in Shiloh, Eli, the High Priest, immediately died upon hearing the news (I Sam. 4).

The Philistines took the Ark back to Ashdod, their capital city in the south of Canaan, where they placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. The next day, however, they found the idol fallen on its face. After replacing the statue, they found it the next day decapitated, with only its trunk remaining, and soon afterward, the entire city of Ashdod was struck with a plague. The Philistines moved the Ark to the city of Gath, and from there to Ekron, but whatever city the Ark was in, the inhabitants were struck with plague. After seven months, the Philistines decided to send the Ark back to the Israelites, and accompanied it with expensive gifts. The Ark was taken back to Beit Shemesh, and, according to midrash, the oxen pulling the Ark burst into song as soon as it was once again in Israel's possession (A.Z. 22b). The actual text of the story, however, tells a much grimmer tale: The men of Beit Shemesh were punished for staring disrespectfully at the Ark, and many were killed with a plague.

From Beit Shemesh, the Ark was transported to Kiryat Yearim, where it remained for twenty years. From there, King David transported it to Jerusalem. En route, however, the oxen pulling it stumbled, and when Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, he died immediately. As a result of this tragedy, David decided to leave the Ark at the home of Obed-edom the Gittite. Three months later, he moved it to Jerusalem, the seat of his kingdom, where it remained until the construction of the First Temple by David's son Solomon (I Sam. 5-6). When the Ark was finally placed in the Temple, the midrash reports that the golden tree decorations that adorned the walls blossomed with fruit that grew continuously until the Temple's destruction (Yoma 39b).

The Ark's Whereabouts

The Church of St. Mary. The Treasury that is said to contain the Ark is in the background on the left.

The Ark remained in the Temple until its destruction at the hand of the Babylonian empire, led by Nebuchadnezzar. What happened to it afterward is unknown, and has been debated and pondered for centuries. It is unlikely that the Babylonians took it, as they did the other vessels of the Temple, because the detailed lists of what they took make no mention of the Ark. According to some sources, Josiah, one of the final kings to reign in the First Temple period, learned of the impending invasion of the Babylonians and hid the Ark. Where he hid it is also questionable – according to one midrash, he dug a hole under the wood storehouse on the Temple Mount and buried it there (Yoma 53b). Another account says that Solomon foresaw the eventual destruction of the Temple, and set aside a cave near the Dead Sea, in which Josiah eventually hid the Ark (Maimonides, Laws of the Temple, 4:1).

Aerial view of the courtyard of the St. Mary Church in Axum, Ethiopia.

One of the most fascinating possibilities is advanced by Ethiopian Christians who claim that they have the Ark today. In Axum, Ethiopia, it is widely believed that the Ark is currently being held in the Church of Saint Mary of Zion, guarded by a monk known as the "Keeper of the Ark," who claims to have it in his possesion. According to the Axum Christian community, they acquired the Ark during the reign of Solomon, when his son Menelik, whose mother was the Queen of Sheba, stole the Ark after a visit to Jerusalem. While in the not-so-distant past the "Ark" has been brought out for Christian holidays, its keeper has not done so for several years due to the tumultuous political situation in the country. The claim has thus been impossible to verify, for no one but the monk is allowed into the tent.

A more plausible claim is that of archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer, who has conducted research on the Temple Mount and inside the Dome of the Rock. He claims to have found the spot on the Mount where the Holy of Holies was located during the First Temple period. In the precise center of that spot is a section of bedrock cut out in dimensions that may match those of the Ark as reported in Exodus. This section of the mount, incidentally, is the one from which the creation of the world began, according to midrash (T. Kedoshim, 10). Based on his findings, Ritmeyer has postulated that the Ark may be buried deep inside the Temple Mount. However, it is unlikely that any excavation will ever be allowed on the Mount by the Muslim or Israeli authorities.

The Role of the Ark Today

The Ark remains a topic of study even today, over 2000 years after it was last seen. A great deal of research has attempted to explain the wonders that are attributed to the Ark in the Bible. One recent study suggests the possibility that the Ark represented man's first harnessing of electricity. The accounts given of peoples' sudden deaths from touching the Ark are consistent with death by a high voltage, lethal electrical charge. Such a charge could have resulted from the constant exposure of the box to static electricity, which builds up quickly in a hot, dry climate like the Middle East. The materials that the Ark was made of further support this theory: gold is one of the most powerful electrical conductors, and wood is an excellent insulator.

The only remnant of the Ark in Jewish life today is the Holy Ark in which Torah scrolls are kept in synagogues. These Arks often are decorated with copies of the Tablets, reminiscent of the contents of the actual Ark of ancient times. The Ark itself plays no role in Jewish life today. Nonetheless, it remains a potent symbol of the Jewish peoples' past, and of the messianic era many believe is waiting in the future.

Ironically, the Ark is most famous today as the subject of the 1981 film "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." The movie tells of a hero's attempt to prevent the Ark from falling into the hands of the Nazis, who would harness its power for evil. While there is no evidence of Hitler ever having had an interest in the Ark, the movie does an admirable job of capturing the mystique of one of the worlds' most ancient unsolved mysteries.

Sources: Graham Hancock. The Sign and the Seal : The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Touchstone Books, 1993.Encyclopedia Judaica. "Ark of the Covenant."Ritmeyer, L., 1996. "The Ark of the Covenant: Where it Stood in Solomon's Temple". Biblical Archaeology Review 22/1: 46-55, 70-73.The Discovery Channel Online. "The Lost Ark."

Photo Credits:

Painting courtesy of Bible Topics.
Movie poster courtesy of Tim Dirks.

Ethiopia photos courtesy of Your Dot Com for Africa.


The Temple
The crowning achievement of King Solomon's reign was the erection of a magnificent Temple (Beit ha-Midkash) in Jerusalem. His father, King David, had wanted to build a great Temple for God a generation earlier, as a permanent resting place for the Ark containing the Ten Commandments. A divine edict, however, had forbidden him from doing so. "You will not build a house for My name," God said to him, "for you are a man of battles and have shed blood" (I Chronicles 28:3).

The Bible's description of Solomon's Temple suggests that the inside ceiling was was 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The highest point on the Temple that King Solomon built was actually 120 cubits tall (about 20 stories or about 207 feet). According to the Tanach (II Chronicles):

3:3 The length by cubits after the ancient measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits.

3:4 And the porch that was before the house, the length of it, according to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and the height a hundred and twenty; and he overlaid it within with pure gold.

He spares no expense in the building's creation. He orders vast quantities of cedar from King Hiram of Tyre (I Kings 5:20­25), has huge blocks of the choicest stone quarried, and commands that the building's foundation be laid with hewn stone. To complete the massive project, he imposes forced labor on all his subjects, drafting people for work shifts lasting a month at a time. Some 3,300 officials are appointed to oversee the Temple's erection (5:27­30). Solomon assumes such heavy debts in building the Temple that he is forced to pay off King Hiram with twenty towns in the Galilee (I Kings 9:11).

When the Temple is completed, Solomon inaugurates it with prayer and sacrifice, and even invites non­Jews to come and pray there. He urges God to pay particular heed to their prayers: "Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built" (I Kings 8:43).

Until the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians some four hundred years later, in 586 B.C.E., sacrifice was the predominant mode of divine service there. Seventy years later, a second Temple was built on the same site, and sacrifices again resumed. During the first century B.C.E., Herod greatly enlarged and expanded this Temple. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., after the failure of the Great Revolt.

As glorious and elaborate as the Temple was, its most important room contained almost no furniture at all. Known as the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kodashim), it housed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, the tablets disappeared when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple, and during the Second Temple era, the Holy of Holies was a small, entirely bare room. Only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest would enter this room and pray to God on Israel's behalf. A remarkable monologue by a Hasidic rabbi in the Yiddish play The Dybbuk conveys a sense of what the Jewish throngs worshiping at the Temple must have experienced during this ceremony:

God's world is great and holy. The holiest land in the world is the land of Israel. In the land of Israel the holiest city is Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the holiest place was the Temple, and in the Temple the holiest spot was the Holy of Holies.... There are seventy peoples in the world. The holiest among these is the people of Israel. The holiest of the people of Israel is the tribe of Levi. In the tribe of Levi the holiest are the priests. Among the priests, the holiest was the High Priest.... There are 354 days in the [lunar] year. Among these, the holidays are holy. Higher than these is the holiness of the Sabbath. Among Sabbaths, the holiest is the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath of Sabbaths.... There are seventy languages in the world. The holiest is Hebrew. Holier than all else in this language is the holy Torah, and in the Torah the holiest part is the Ten Commandments. In the Ten Commandments the holiest of all words is the name of God.... And once during the year, at a certain hour, these four supreme sanctities of the world were joined with one another. That was on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and there utter the name of God. And because this hour was beyond measure holy and awesome, it was the time of utmost peril not only for the High Priest but for the whole of Israel. For if in this hour there had, God forbid, entered the mind of the High Priest a false or sinful thought, the entire world would have been destroyed.

To this day, traditional Jews pray three times a day for the Temple's restoration. During the centuries the Muslims controlled Palestine, two mosques were built on the site of the Jewish Temple. (This was no coincidence; it is a common Islamic custom to build mosques on the sites of other people's holy places.) Since any attempt to level these mosques would lead to an international Muslim holy war (jihad) against Israel, the Temple cannot be rebuilt in the foreseeable future.

Source: Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author.


Betar was the last standing Jewish fortress in the Bar Kochba revolt of the 2nd century AD, destroyed by the Roman army on Tisha B'av.

The site of historic Betar (also spelled Beitar or Bethar), next to the modern Palestinian village of Battir southwest of Jerusalem, was known as Khirbet al-Yahudi, Arabic for "the Jew's ruins".
The destruction of Betar put an end to the last great revolt against Rome, and effectively quashed any Jewish dreams of freedom. Accounts of the event in Talmudic and Midrashic writings thus reflect and amplify its importance in the Jewish psyche and oral tradition in the subsequent period. The best known is from the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-b:

"Through the shaft of a litter Bethar was destroyed." It was the custom when a boy was born to plant a cedar tree and when a girl was born to plant a pine tree, and when they married, the tree was cut down and a canopy made of the branches. One day the daughter of the Emperor was passing when the shaft of her litter broke, so they lopped some branches off a cedar tree and brought it to her. The Jews thereupon fell upon them and beat them. They reported to the Emperor that the Jews were rebelling, and he marched against them.

[In explanation of the verse] "He hath cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel." R. Zera said in the name of R. Abbahu who quoted R. Johanan: These are the eighty thousand battle trumpets which assembled in the city of Bethar, when it was taken and men, women and children were slain in it until their blood ran into the Great Sea [=Mediterranean]. Do you think this was near? It was a whole mil away.

It has been taught: R. Eleazar the Great said: There are two streams in the valley of Yadaim, one running in one direction and one in another, and the Sages estimated that [at that time] they ran with two parts water to one of blood.

In a Baraitha it has been taught: 'For seven years [after the massacre at Beitar] the gentiles [Roman settlers in the land Hadrian then named Palestina] fertilized their vineyards with the blood of Israel without using manure.'

...Rab Judah reported Samuel as saying in the name of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel; What is signified by the verse, "Mine eye affecteth my soul, because of all the daughters of my city?" There were four hundred synagogues in the city of Bethar, and in every one were four hundred teachers of children, and each one had under him four hundred pupils, and when the enemy entered there they pierced them with their staves, and when the enemy prevailed and captured them, they wrapped them in their scrolls and burnt them with fire.
Other Midrashic sources can be seen here.


David Ussishkin: "Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba's Last Stronghold", in: Tel Aviv. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 20 (1993) 66ff.

See also

Battir (Arab village near Betar ruins)
Betar Illit (Jewish city near Betar)
Mevo Betar (Jewish town near Betar)
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betar_%28fortress%29"
Categories: Archaeological sites in the West Bank Jewish history


Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kokhva or Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader who led what is known as Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("prince," or "president"). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 CE following a two-year war. He became the last king of Israel in history.

Originally named Simon ben Kosba (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא or ben Koziba, בן כוזיבא), he was given the surname Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for "Son of a Star", referring to the Star Prophecy of Numbers 24:17, "A star has shot off Jacob") by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.

After the failure of the revolt, many, including rabbinical writers, referred to Simon bar Kokhba as "Simon bar Kozeba" ("Son of the lie").

Second Jewish revolt

Main article: Bar Kokhba's revolt

Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War (6673 CE), which left the population and countryside in ruins, a series of laws passed by Roman Emperors proved the incentive for the second rebellion. The last straw were laws enacted by Roman Emperor Hadrian, including an attempt to prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem, and a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, being built in its place. The second Jewish rebellion took place 60 years after the first and re-established an independent state lasting three years.

The state minted its own coins, which were inscribed "the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel". Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of "Nasi". The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force (unlike during the First Jewish-Roman War, where Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem's walls and were fighting their way to the center). A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no less than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which decimated the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war. Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting "I and my army are well", and is the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.

In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). The new provincial designation was derived as an insult from the name of the enemies of the Jews, the Philistines who had occupied the coastal plain in ancient times.

Over the past few decades, much new information about the revolt has come to light, thanks mainly to the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the caves overlooking the Dead Sea.[1] These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum.[2]

Bar Kokhba in the Arts

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Bar-Kochba has been the subject of numerous works of art (dramas, operas, novels, etc.), [3] including:

Harisot Betar: sipur `al dever gevurat Bar Kokhva ve-hurban Betar bi-yad Adriyanus kesar Roma (1858), a Hebrew novel by Kalman Schulman

Bar Kokhba (1882), a Yiddish operetta by Abraham Goldfaden (mus. and libr.). The work was written in the wake of pogroms against Jews following the 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia.

Bar Kokhba (1884), a Hebrew drama by Yehudah Loeb Landau
The Son of a Star (1888), an English novel by Benjamin Ward Richardson
Le fils de l’étoile (1903), a French opera by Camille Erlanger (mus.) and Catulle Mendes (libr.)
Bar-Kochba (1905), a German opera by Stanislaus Suda (mus.) and Karl Jonas (libr.)
Rabbi Aqiba und Bar-Kokhba (1910), a Yiddish novel by David Pinsky
Bar-Kokhba (1929), a Hebrew drama by Saul Tchernichovski
Bar-Kokhba (1939), a Hebrew drama by Shmuel Halkin
Bar-Kokhba (1941), a Yiddish novel by Abraham Raphael Forsyth
A csillag fia (1943), a Hungarian drama by Lajos Szabolcsi
Steiersønne (1952), a Danish novel by Poul Borchsenius
Prince of Israel (1952), an English novel by Elias Gilner
Bar-Kokhba (1953), a Hebrew novel by Joseph Opatoshu
If I Forget Thee (1983), an English novel by Brenda Lesley Segal

Kokav mi-mesilato. Haye Bar-Kokhba 1988), a Hebrew novel by S.J. Kreutner

Ha-mered ha-midbar. Roman hstoriah mi-tequfat Bar-Kokhba (1988), a Hebrew novel by Yeroshua Perah

My Husband, Bar Kokhba (2003), an English novel by Andrew Sanders

Another operetta on the subject of Bar Kokhba was written by the Russian-Jewish emigre composer Yaacov Bilansky Levanon in Palestine in the 1920s.

John Zorn's Masada Chamber Ensemble recorded an album called Bar Kokhba, showing a photograph of the Letter of Bar Kokhba to Yeshua, son of Galgola on the cover.

The Bar Kokhba game

According to a legend, during his reign, Bar Kokhba was once presented a mutilated man, who had his tongue ripped out and hands cut off. Unable to talk or write, the victim was incapable of telling who his attackers were. Thus, Bar Kokhba decided to ask simple questions to which the dying man was able to nod or shake his head with his last movements; the murderers were consequently apprehended.

In Hungary, this legend spawned the "Bar Kokhba game", in which one of two players comes up with a word or object, while the other must figure it out by asking questions only to be answered with "yes" or "no". The verb "kibarkochbázni" ("to Bar Kochba out") became a common language verb meaning "retrieving information in an extremely tedious way".[4]
In English speaking countries, this is known as Twenty Questions.

See also


1-^ "Texts on Bar Kochba: Bar Kochba's letters", retireved 25 May 2007.[1]
2-^ "Bar Kokhba", Israel Museum:Jerusalem, retrieved 25 May 2007.[2]
3-^ G. Boccaccini, Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts (Turin: Zamorani, 1992).
4-^ (Hungarian) kibarkochbázni


W. Eck, 'The Bar Kokhba Revolt: the Roman point of view' in the Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999) 76ff.

David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick and Daniel Schwartz: Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to the Bar Kohkba Revolt In Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Boston: Brill: 2001: ISBN 90-04-12007-6

Richard Marks: The Image of Bar Kokhba in Traditional Jewish Literature: False Messiah and National Hero: University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press: 1994: ISBN 0-271-00939-X

Leibel Reznick: The Mystery of Bar Kokhba: Northvale: J.Aronson: 1996: ISBN 1-56821-502-9

Peter Schafer: The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: Tübingen: Mohr: 2003: ISBN 3-16-148076-7
David Ussishkin: "Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba's Last Stronghold", in: Tel Aviv. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 20 (1993) 66ff.

Yigael Yadin: Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome: London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson: 1971: ISBN 0-297-00345-3

External links

The Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.) by Shira Schoenberg (Jewish Virtual Library)
Bar Kochba with links to all sources (livius.org)
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