God's Gold: A Quest for the Lost Temple Treasures of Jerusalemby Sean Kingsley
In 70 AD, the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus plundered the great Temple of Jerusalem, claiming for themselves a priceless hoard. The golden candelabrum, silver trumpets, the bejeweled Table of the Divine Presence—the central icons of the Jewish faith—were cast adrift in Mediterranean lands and exposed to centuries of turbulent history and the
In 70 AD, the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus plundered the great Temple of Jerusalem, claiming for themselves a priceless hoard. The golden candelabrum, silver trumpets, the bejeweled Table of the Divine Presence—the central icons of the Jewish faith—were cast adrift in Mediterranean lands and exposed to centuries of turbulent history and the rule of four different civilizations. Only an intriguing trail of clues remains to betray the treasure's ever-changing destiny—a trail eminent archaeologist Dr. Sean Kingsley has followed on one of the most remarkable quests of this or any other age: the search for the final resting place of God's gold.
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A Quest for the Lost Temple Treasures of Jerusalem
River of Gold
Yet there was no small quantity of the riches that had been in that city [Jerusalem] still found among its ruins, a great deal of which the Romans dug up . . . the gold and the silver, and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners had treasured up underground, against the uncertain fortunes of war . . . as for the leaders of the captives, Simon and John, with the other 700 men, whom he [Titus] had selected as being eminently tall and handsome of body, he gave order that they should be soon carried to Italy, as resolving to produce them in his triumph.
Jerusalem was lost, its ashes returned to the soil that gave birth to the holiest city on earth an eternity ago. The end of the world was nigh—just as the omens of impending doom had foretold. For months, strange portents had petrified the High Priests. A sword-shaped star hung over the great Jewish Temple; across Israel, chariots cavorted past the setting sun and armed battalions hurtled through the clouds. During the festival of Passover a sacrificial cow inexplicably gave birth to a lamb in the Temple court, surely the work of the devil. And finally the eastern gate of the Temple's inner court, crafted of bronze and so monumental that twenty men could hardly move it, opened of its own accord in the middle of the night. Terrified High Priests swore they heard the voice of God proclaim, "We are departing hence." The day was September 26 in the year 70, and Rome had just crushed the last drop of life out ofthe First Jewish Revolt of Israel.
Battleground Jerusalem was hell on earth, an inferno of blood, smoke, and tears. With typical Roman efficiency imperial troops razed the city. Fire consumed the Temple, one of the great wonders of the world. The holiest place on earth, where Abraham had prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord, was an inferno. The graceful architecture of the 500-foot-long precinct—the largest religious forum of classical antiquity—was one immense fireball.
Satanic flames danced across stores of holy oil used in animal sacrifice, shooting columns of fire and thick plumes of smoke high into the night's sky. The air reeked with the stench of burning flesh. Some Jewish zealots had been put to flight, while the bodies of other Jewish revolutionaries lay piled across the altar steps of the Temple's Holy of Holies. As the corpses burned, the cedar roof crumbled and the gold-plated ceiling crashed onto the elegant marble paving below, entombing the holy warriors.
All across the upper city, once home to the rich and famous of Jerusalem, fortunes were going up in smoke. Villas as opulent as any gracing the Bay of Naples, playground of Rome's aristocrats, fell to Titus's ruthless soldiers. No one had ever dared lock horns with the empire so brazenly. The result would be death and destruction.
Amid a landscape of Armageddon, the groans of hundreds of crucified Jews cut the night. Wooden crosses lined the streets as far as the eye could see. Roman soldiers maliciously taunted dying Jews with wine and beer; others downed food in front of famished prisoners who had not touched a morsel in days. The noose of the siege had strangled the city, and starvation alone would cause 11,000 deaths inside beleaguered Jerusalem. Jews over seventeen years old were chained together in readiness for the long march south to Egypt's desert, where forced labor awaited them in the imperial gold and granite mines; Jews under seventeen were simply sold into slavery.
And yet these were the fortunate minority: 1.1 million Jews were allegedly killed across Israel during the First Jewish Revolt. A further 97,000 prisoners became fodder for gladiatorial games in the Roman provinces, butchered by sword or wild beast in the name of entertainment. Perhaps these "performers" would have preferred crucifixion rather than death in a distant land in front of a crowd of foreigners baying for blood in alien tongues they could not fathom. All across the Temple Mount, Roman troops flushed out the revolutionaries hiding in dunghills and the rat-infested underground passages honeycombing the Temple complex.
At the end of one of the bloodiest and most savage battles of history, Rome was getting high on the spoils of war. Rumors abounded that the Temple was stuffed with the most fabulous and rarest treasures in the world. Jews trying to desert the front line and escape Jerusalem had taken to swallowing gold coins in a desperate attempt to conceal their surviving valuables from the enemy. But following a tip-off, Romans soldiers and their Arabian and Syrian mercenaries had reveled in slicing open and disemboweling Jewish deserters. Even though Titus expressly forbade this barbarism, 2,000 Jews were dissected on one night alone. The hunger for war booty was intoxicating.
But this was just loose change. The vision of the Temple, plated throughout with gold, had inspired the Roman soldiers during ferocious battles. They rightly assumed its secret storerooms overflowed with wealth, and they were thrilled to find vast money chests, piles of garments, and other valuables within the treasury chambers. Since the Temple was a sanctuary both holy and fortified, many High Priests and aristocrats had transferred their own personal wealth to this supposedly secure repository over the months. Now as fire consumed the dry cedar timbers, the precious wall plating melted into a river of gold at the soldiers' feet.
While low-ranking Roman soldiers dreamed of a little plunder to soften the blows of a weary battle campaign and to impress their wives and families back home, their generals were privately negotiating a highly delicate deal to secure the greatest sacred treasure known to man. Inside the Jewish sanctuary lay items of immeasurable wealth and religious value, the very symbols of state passed down from generation to generation and locked away in the Temple's secret places.God's Gold
A Quest for the Lost Temple Treasures of Jerusalem. Copyright © by Sean Kingsley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Sean Kingsley is a London-based archaeologist with fifteen years' experience running excavations and surveys, from Montenegro to Israel. He is the author of six books, the managing editor of Minerva: The International Review of Ancient Art and Archaeology, and a visiting fellow at the Research Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at Reading University.
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Welcome to The Mid-Evil Times Gods. We are the ancient gods of the temples around the world.
This book was no more than a tour of where the temple treasure must have been at various periods of time. Just a lot of informed speculation. I don't know why the author needed over 300 pages to come to the conclusion that one really knows what happened to the treasure.