The History of Terrorism: Zealots

This short paper explains the early Zealots from the perspective of terrorist typology as inspired by the great book of Reza Aslan’s “Zealot: The Life and Time of Jesus of Nazareth”.

Zealots “bigoted”- one of the very first terrorist organizations of history who “practice systematic terror” was operated in first century Palestine. One particularly the Zealots extreme group, perhaps a subgroup of the Zealots, was known in Latin as sicarii, meaning “violent men” or “dagger men” (sing. sicarius, possibly a morphological reanalysis), because of their policy of killing Jews opposed to their call for war against Rome. Perhaps many Zealots were sicarii simultaneously, and they may be the biryonim of the Talmud that were feared even by the Jewish sages of the Mishnah.

Infact, Zealots were “one of the four ‘philosophical’ sects of Judea”and launched an organized revolt against the Roman authorities beginning in 4 B.C.E. when they sought independence from Rome. JosephusJewish Antiquities states that there were three main Jewish sects at this time, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Zealots were a “fourth sect”, founded by Judas of Galilee (also called Judas of Gamala) in the year 6 against Quirinius’ tax reform, shortly after the Roman Empire declared what had most recently been the tetrarchy of Herod Archelaus to be a Roman province, and that they “agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord.”

The Zealots, whose religious and political aims were intrinsically linked, were trying to employ a brand of violence which relied upon the terrorist strategy of provocation, intimidation propaganda of deed. The Zealots like so many other terrorist organizations that followed, were able to effectively channel the humiliation felt by the population and direct it against a perceived enemy. The effectiveness of their organization is evident not only by the popular support they enjoyed, but by the fact that they were able to remain afloat for over fifty years.