Zealots

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Zealots

(zĕl`əts), Jewish faction traced back to the revolt of the Maccabees (2d cent. B.C.). The name was first recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus as a designation for the Jewish resistance fighters of the war of A.D. 66–73. This term applied to them because of their fervent veneration of the Torah and detestation of non-Jews and Jews lacking in religious fervor. The Zealots were organized as a party during the reign (37 B.C.–4 B.C.) of Herod the Great, whose idolatrous practices they resisted. Later (c.A.D. 6), when Cyrenius, the Roman governor of Syria, attempted to take a census, the Zealots, under Judas of GalileeJudas of Galilee,
fl. A.D. 6, a leader of the Zealots, a radical revolutionary Jewish sect. He raised an insurrection against the taxation census of Cyrenius (A.D. 6) on the grounds that no one but God was Israel's master, and he was killed. He is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.
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 and the priest Zadok, arose in revolt against what they considered a plot to subjugate the Jews. Thereafter the Zealots expressed their opposition by sporadic revolts and by violence against Jews who conformed to Roman ways. The Zealots played a role in the unsuccessful revolt in which the Temple was destroyed (A.D. 70) by the Romans. The Zealot garrison at Masada, a mountaintop fortress near the Dead Sea, was captured by the Romans only after its 900 defenders had committed mass suicide (A.D. 73) rather than be captured.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zealots

 

a political group in the 1340’s in Thessalonica (in the Byzantine Empire).

The Zealot movement arose during the intense struggle between the Constantinople government of Alexius Apocaucus, who was pursuing a policy of centralization of the state, and the feudal aristocracy, headed by John Cantacuzenus. The well-to-do merchants and the upper strata of the artisans made up the bulk of the Zealots, and sailors were the main armed force. Michael and Andrew, members of the aristocratic house of the Paleologui, were at the group’s head. The metropolitan Hyacinth sided with the Zealots, who supported the Constantinople government.

In 1342, after receiving military aid from Apocaucus, the Zealots seized power in the city with the support of the populace and expelled the feudal aristocracy from Thessalonica. From 1343 to 1345, the Zealots’ influence on the urban lower classes fell somewhat (apparently, the policy of the representatives of the prosperous strata did not meet the interests of the poorest part of the population). After the murder in Constantinople of Apocaucus in 1345 as the result of a coup, power in Thessalonica passed to the feudal aristocracy, who, after killing Michael Paleologus, decided to hand over the city to Cantacuzenus. The people, filled with indignation, slaughtered the feudal aristocracy in the summer of 1345. The Zealots again took possession of the city. After Cantacuzenus’ seizure of the Byzantine capital in 1347, the Zealots refused to recognize the new Constantinople government or to accept as metropolitan Gregory Palamas (who supported Cantacuzenus). In 1349, the Zealots’ movement was suppressed, and Cantacuzenus occupied Thessalonica.

The uprisings of the Zealots were an attempt by the wellto-do urban strata to alter the social system of the Byzantine city, to take power from the feudal lords, and to increase the role of the urban elite in the political life of the state. The causes for the failure of the Zealots’ movement include the weakness of the urban class in Byzantium and the intervention of Serbia and the Ottoman Turks to aid Cantacuzenus.

In Byzantine studies, questions about the Zealots’ social structure, their program, their relations with the plebeian masses, and their ties with the peasantry and with the Italian cities remain open to discussion. Until the end of the 1950’s, Byzantine scholars considered the works of Nicolas Cabasilas to be the basic source for the study of the Zealots’ program. In reality, these works throw light on later events having no bearing on the Zealots.

REFERENCES

Berger, A. “Demokraticheskaia revoliutsiia v Vizantii v XIV v.” In Arkhiv K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa, book 5. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930.
Verner, E. “Narodnaia eres’ ili dvizhenie za sotsial’no-politicheskie reformy?” In the collection Vizantiiskii vremennik, [vol.] 17, Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Siuziumov, M. la. “K voprosu o kharaktere vystupleniia zilotov v 1342–1349 gg.” Vizantiiskii vremennik, [vol.] 28. Moscow, 1968.
Kurbatov, G. L., and V. I. Rutenburg. “Ziloty i chompi.” Vizantiiskii vremennik, [vol.] 30. Moscow, 1969.
Ševčenko, I. “Nicolas Cabasilas’ ‘Anti-Zealot.’” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1957, vol. 11.

M. IA. SIUZIUMOV


Zealots

 

supporters of a sociopolitical and religioeschatological tendency that emerged in Judea in the second half of the first century B.C. and that became a well-defined movement in the early first century A.D. under Judah the Galilean. The zealots, supported by the lower and to some extent the middle classes, were the most consistent enemies of Roman power and the ruling Jewish classes. The zealots, with supporters of the extremely radical Sicarite movement, were the leaders of the rebels in the Jewish War of 66-73 A.D.

REFERENCES

Ranovich, A. B. “Sotsial’naia revoliutsiia v ludee v 66–73 gg.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1937, no. 1.
Livshits, G. M. Klassovaia bor’ba v ludee i vosstaniia protiv Rima. Minsk, 1957.
Hengel, M. Die Zeloten: Untersuchungen zur jüdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der Zeit von Herodes I bis 70 n. Chr. Leiden-Cologne, 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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