“Give us Barabbas!”, from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910

Imagine a calm market day in Jerusalem. People stroll the square in front of the Temple and discuss their daily affairs and the topical themes. Someone goes on a pilgrimage to the Temple of God. On the square are Jews and gentiles and foreigners from all over the ancient world. Suddenly, five-six men scattered in the crowd secretly take out short knives from beneath their cloaks and start poking with them  unsuspecting Greeks, Romans, or Jew who cooperate with the foreign power over Israel. After the massacre in which had fallen dead, several dozen people directly on the square, people objectives bloody, and some still agonizing on the ground in the midst of terrible panic and fear that has occurred among many, the cries and screams, the terrorists throw тtheir short bloodied knives and join the crowd of mourners fallen victims so that no one is sure who took part in the massacre and who is just a victim. One of this terrorists is Barabbas who jewish crowd wanted to be released instead of Jesus Christ.

These people endanger their lives and carrying terror armed with short swords in hand in the middle of the square of Jerusalem called Sicarii by the name of short knives(sicarius) they use. The etymology is latin  (sicarius) is used to refer to the killers who have a special purpose.

In fact, this Latin term denotes Thracian knife used on the Balkans long before Rome to conquer them.


The first information about Sicarii are based on Josephus Flavius’s book “Jewish Antiquities” from greek occupation of Jerusalem. After the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom was divided into four parts among his generals. In Syria and Judea from 175 to 163 BC reignс Antiochus IV Epiphanes already Roman vassal.He prohibits Judaism. His policy is accompanied by a number repression, persecution and ostentatious sacrilege such as the slaughter of a pig inside Jerusalem’s Temple turned into a temple of Zeus. This is already too much for Jews and in 168/7 BC Jerusalem broke out in rebellion against the imposition of Antiochus IV forcible Hellenization of the Jews. After 165 BC he fought with great ferocity against insurgent Maccabees in Judea. Parallel with the uprising and Maccabees’s fight  in Judea begin and terrorism of Sicarii as the only possibility of the weaks to fight back. Fight in defense of the Temple, Judaism, the Jews and their homeland.

This fight launched by Sicarii continues to  the time of  Juses Christ. Sicarii are extreme Jewish fanatical extremists (rebels revolutionaries) not choosing the means of struggle, trying at all costs to drive the Romans out of Judea in the years immediately before and after Christ and to remove any alien, respectively Hellenistic, influence on the Jews. For this purpose they impinge except against officials but also against Jews who for one reason or another interact with the Romans. Hidden their aim is to thwart any possibility of negotiation and conclusion of peace between Romans and Jews until the final expulsion and the last Roman of the promised land and the removal of all foreign (idolatrous according to them) impact on the people of Israel.



Josephus Flavius distinguish several different groups among the Jewish community in his time Sicarii are part of Zealots. Zealot (Greek: Ζηλωτής – jealous supporter) are supporters of public-political and religious-eschatological teachings of Judaism during the Second Temple of Judea occurring at age of Maccabees in the second half of the 1st century BC as riot agaist Roman Empire. The movement existed until completion of the First Jewish-Roman War. Josephus describes it as one of the “four sects” at the time of the Second Temple Judaism.

Titus Flavius Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus

Hebrew term for zealot ekanai (קנאי, plural – channel, קנאים), meaning zealous, passionate about God. The concept comes from the Greek zelotes (ζηλωτής), meaning an ardent admirer or follower.


The main objectives to be pursued by the zealots (Jewish fanatics on the substance of professing their doctrine) is the removal of any Hellenistic influence over Judea and overthrow of Roman rule, in view of that whole approved the use of all means of resistance and war. By mid-1st century BC Zealots are grouped into a political party that fought with the king of Judea – Herod the Great. As in 70 BC Judea falls depending on Rome, the facade of the Temple in Jerusalem was placed by Herod Roman eagle that was shot down by zealots but as a symbol of Roman rule in Judea, but as an object of idolatry.

The requirement of Caligula be placed anywhere in the domain of the Roman Empire symbols idols of the power of Rome, coupled with the mishandling of the Roman soldiers to the Jewish temple and faith leads to a radicalization of the Jewish population and, accordingly, to fill the number Jewish supporters of zealots, fanatics. After the Roman procurator of Judea sequestered Big part of the temple’s silver,   Zealots organized so-called first Jewish revolt against Roman rule in Judea.

“Barabbas,” James Tissot, 1886-1894.


Zealots are fanatics and irreconcilable enemies of the Romans. They decide to fight them to a victorious end, claiming Izrael can be managed only by the Messiah – a descendant of David. The most radicalized and courageous zealots formed a separate faction, and are described as the Romans nicknamed Sicarii  killers. This radical wing of his actions lead to war with Rome. Under the command of one sikarii named Menachem, the son of Judah, was tipped roman garrizon of the fortress Masada, which remains the last free Jewish town during the First Jewish-Roman War.

simon zilot
Simon the Canaanite.

Real or artistic, but a collective image of sikarii is Barabbas – criminal  who crowd wants Pontius Pilate to be released on the account of Jesus Christ.

The most famous zealots are commanding the defense of Jerusalem and the Temple Simon bar Giora and John Ben Levy. According to the Bible, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ  is the zealot Simon the Canaanite.

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