From 133 to 134 AD
The third stage of the rebellion is characterized by Hadrian’s understanding that this is not a small-scale event. Legions from across the empire begin gathering in Judea. Julius Severus – who proved his skills as commander many times – is entrusted with suppressing the revolt.
Bar Kokhba has already recruited many fighters emboldened by their general’s brilliant initial victories. Severus therefore chooses to use tactics of attrition rather than direct engagement – such as isolating villages before conquering them, razing them to the ground, and killing the local population. He also builds a network of fortresses to blockade roads and cut strongholds off from the rest of the country. As a result, Bar Kokhba’s infrastructures, food supply, and recruitment abilities are significantly damaged. Severus moreover sets up large military camps in the vicinities of Jericho, Hebron, and Beit Guvrin, and makes sure to ask for much reinforcement; in fact, at the peak of the conflict, a third of Rome’s legions have arrived in Judea.
Rome sends soldiers from all over the empire to suppress the rebellion in Judea. They destroy everything that stands in their way and bring darkness over the land. The rebels have no chance. However, Bar Kokhba’s steadfast adherence to his mission, together with his men’s unwavering loyalty, enables him to maintain his rule for some time – despite the Romans’ overwhelming military prowess and strength.
“Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their desperation, but by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and his under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up, he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparatively little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few of them in fact survived” (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 69, 13 sections 3)
Loyalty requires self-respect and the humility necessary to put others above ourselves.