Program Details

What Really Happened at Masada?

Ralph Nurnberger
Jewish Culture & History
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Masada is an ancient fortification located about 80 miles southeast of Jerusalem, overlooking the Dead Sea. Situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, it is one of Israel's most popular tourist attractions. Tour guides tell visitors that the final confrontation of the First Jewish–Roman War (66 – 73 CE) took place there when Roman troops laid siege to the fortress and constructed a massive ramp they used to enter the fortress. When they arrived, the Romans discovered that the 960 defenders had killed themselves, preferring "death to slavery." This version of the story has become one of the most significant and enduring sources of pride among Israelis. But what really happened at Masada? How accurate is the contemporary account written by Josephus? What have we learned from more recent archeological expeditions? Is there real evidence about what actually took place at Masada in 73? Let's find out.

About the Instructor

  • Ralph Nurnberger, Ph.D., is a widely acclaimed speaker who brings humor, current political insights, and historical background to his presentations. He taught history and international relations at Georgetown University for 38 years. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Graduate School of Liberal Studies in 2003. Nurnberger has given talks on a wide range of historical and political topics for the Lifelong Learning Program at Florida Atlantic University’s Boca and Jupiter campuses, where his talks frequently sell out. Nurnberger served on the professional staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; as a Legislative Liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC); as executive director of Builders for Peace (which had been established to assist the Arab-Israeli Peace Process); and as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is a senior partner in Nurnberger & Associates, Inc. He earned his bachelor's degree from Queens College, his master's degree from Columbia University, and his doctoral degree from Georgetown University.