Grave Digger – “Massada”

In 66 CE, as the tyrannical regime of the Roman emperor Nero began to crumble, a radical movement called the Zealots took possession of Jerusalem and raised the flag of revolt from the yoke of imperial rule. The revolution gained further momentum as the Romans found themselves distracted by a brutal civil war through the year 69 after Nero’s suicidal fall from power. The new emperor to emerge from the chaos, Vespasian, left his son Titus in charge of crushing the Jewish revolt once and for all. After a protracted siege, his troops at last stormed and sacked Jerusalem in 70 CE. Herod’s great temple was burned to the ground, never to be rebuilt.

Though Jerusalem had fallen, pockets of resistance remained, including a band of die-hards who had taken refuge atop the fortress of Masada. Herod the Great had built a palace atop this mesa of sheer, towering cliffs by the Dead Sea, and it seemed impregnable. Titus entrusted a subordinate commander, Lucius Flavius Silva, to take this final stronghold. Relying on the Roman virtues of patience and engineering skill, he combined the 10th Legion, auxiliaries, and Jewish prisoners, 10,000 in all, to construct a massive earthen ramp up to the top of Masada. The rebels watched helplessly as the ramp approached. At the moment the Romans were poised to storm the citadel, the rebels, so the story goes, made good on a mass-suicide pact. The Romans found them all dead. They chose to die free rather than live as slaves.

The German power metal band Grave Digger make “Massada” a fitting closer to their 2007 album titled Liberty or Death. It is a tribute to one of the most iconic acts of resistance to the Romans and to the forces of cultural imperialism that seek to erase one’s national identity. Through death in defense of liberty, they achieved true immortality.

Cliffs of the east edge 
Dropping off to the dead sea 
Cliffs so high not possible to climb 
Desert fortress of million stones 
And beaten earth
Soldiers of the enemy 
Are back for attack

Ancient legends will never die 
From the mighty rock Massada 
Hear their hopeless cries 
Women and children out for suicide 
For their faith to die 
And do the sacrifice

Thousand rebels called the zealots 
For liberty they pay the highest price 
Signs of salvation, 
Symbols of determination 
In their hearts Massada 
Lives on and on

Ancient legends will never die 
From the mighty rock Massada 
Hear their hopeless cries 
Women and children out for suicide 
For their faith to die 
And do the sacrifice

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