I watched The Life of Brian and I heard this quotation:

And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.

Reg: Yes.

Stan: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.

Reg: All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Xerxes: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.

Masked Activist: And the sanitation!

Stan: Oh yes... sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: All right, I'll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done...

Matthias: And the roads...

Reg: (sharply) Well yes obviously the roads... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads...

Another Masked Activist: Irrigation...

Other Masked Voices: Medicine... Education... Health...

Reg: Yes... all right, fair enough...

Activist Near Front: And the wine...

Omnes: Oh yes! True!

Francis: Yeah. That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.

Masked Activist at Back: Public baths!

Stan: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.

Francis: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order... (general nodding)... let's face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this.

(more general murmurs of agreement)

Reg: All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?

Xerxes: Brought peace!

Reg: (very angry, he's not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh... (scornfully) Peace, yes... shut up!

Historically, what did the Romans do for Judea? Did they build aqueducts, roads, sanitation, etc.?

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    Romans did not care one little bit what religion the people they converted where. They treated all of them the same: as long as you paid taxes, did not rebel, worshipped the Roman gods (which really you are already doing under a different name) and allowed trade, you would be part of the Empire and as such ripe all its benefits. Jews, have a monotheistic religion were a little hard to sell on the "worship our gods" hence a lot of a tension -- but that is another question. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 8:07
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    @Sardathrion - I think the meat of Jim's question is, now much of those benefits of being part of the Empire were something brought to Judea by Romans and benefitting the populace - so there are 3 factors: the benefit was missing before Romans, the benefit was done by Romans, and the benefit actually benefitted the native populace (as opposed to merely the Roman army or Roman-installed king).
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 8:12
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    @Sardathrion - a large problem with Judea was that most of Roman influence was merely to benefit an especially "foreign" king (Herod) who possibly hasn't acted entirely in Jews' best interests. So any rebellions were plausibly not so much against Rome but against Herod.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 8:22
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    The place was already pretty Helenestic after Alexander- so probably not much of a change. It may have led to a bit more stability not worrying if the Seleucids or Egyptians were going to invade next. So allows for some good infighting between different groups of priests
    – none
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:03
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    @Jim Thio, for future reference there is a formatting guide next to the question field. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:09

2 Answers 2



Survival is not just a theme in Judaism, but a well-learned lesson. If you are not the threatening party, then you are the threatened party, and more often than not Judaism faced complete annihilation or enslavement at the hands of a larger and unfriendly force.

Aside from the ancillary wonders of societal, cultural, and technological advancements (for which they paid as much or more as any other governed people by taxation), as long as the Romans ruled the Jews, the Jews would survive. Their fate was less predictable under other large powers of the time, and the stability of those empires themselves were often called into question.

This would understate why the Jewish authority at the time took such a dim view of Jesus and others like him- Rome wanted no problems, and people like Jesus were nothing but a problem, running around and empowering people under a different 'master' than a Roman one. With Jesus having no actual power or influence amongst the Jewish authorities, it was a logical decision for them (and less predicated on egotistical ideologies) when Rome came a-knockin' - offer up Jesus, or the whole will take a real beating all around. It was a stability move.

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    No other answers. Yea Jesus is a trouble maker, being liberal and all. It's natural that he got screwed. It's funny how religious leaders bitch about that so much and then do the exact same thing toward people with new strange idea. It's also funny how ancient jews kill their own prophets (and hence trouble maker too), and Jesus told them that they're the same guy. It's like history repeating itself again and again. If we don't see this in terms of right and wrong, things look very natural.
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 7:04
  • This is a very interesting, unique perspective.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 14:52
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    @J.Chang The Jews didn't kill Jesus or their prophets, more broadly.
    – rougon
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 2:45
  • Well, Jesus, no. He's killed by Roman. Not sure how much involvements the jews have. The pharisee is on Jesus side warning him to stay away. The saducee? Who knows. Herod? About other prophets? Well, most prophets do die though.
    – user4951
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 4:46

Yes, the Romans built a whole lot in Judea/Palestine. Of course, the actual building was done by native laborers, so maybe it isn't the Romans that should be credited? :) But, I digress.

Herod, who ruled Judea from 37 BCE to 4 BCE, initiated lots of building projects. One was the renovation of the temple in Jerusalem - the center of the Jewish religion. Renovation is not the right word because it was a huge undertaking and completely changed the temple and its environs. The enormous courtyard Herod had built is still standing and is called Haram esh-Sharif or the Temple Mount. The temple that Herod built was the largest building complex in antiquity and attracted visitors from all over the empire. That construction began in 20 BCE but wasn't finished before 64 CE, six years before the temple's destruction, indicates how massive it was!

Herod's other great building project was a brand new city called Caesarea Maritima at the coast. Caesarea was a state-of-the-art Roman city with every kind luxurious facility: theater, hippodrome, pagan temples to various gods, administrative buildings, etc. The city had one of the largest ports in the eastern Mediterranean, rivaling Alexandria's and Athen's fabled ports. It was the largest artificial harbor ever built in the open sea up to that point. Prior to that, most ports were built in natural peninsulas.

In Herod's days, sacrificing in the temple in Jerusalem was a religious duty for Jews. Jews who could afford it regularly made pilgrimage to Jerusalem and many transited through Caesarea. If they didn't have an animal to sacrifice with them, they would purchase one from the locals. Even non-Jews could bring sacrifice to the temple. During major holidays Jerusalem would be packed with over a hundred thousand pilgrims, so temple sacrifice ought to have been very lucrative. Herod's building projects must have exponentially increased the pilgrimage traffic.

Caesarea and the new temple are just two of Herod's many building projects. He also built palaces for himself, a shrine called the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the fortress Masada, and completely rebuilt Jerusalem.

Herod has a bad rep because the New Testament falsely accuses him of infanticide. But in reality he probably wasn't that bad.

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    Herod <> Romans. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:04
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    Herod was a client king. Besides, the Romans continued many of Herod's building projects and also greatly extended Palestine's road network. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:44

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