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Sicarii

Sicarii - A pejorative term that literally meant "daggers" and was the plural of Sicarius - a dagger. Originally, in the ancient world it referred to assassins, thieves or highway robbers and was applied in that sense in Jewish documents as well. A law against assassins promulgated by Sulla, the "Lex Cornelia de Sicariis" refers to assassins. In the Mishnah, the word סיקריקין  has about the same general meaning (Bik. i. 2, ii. 3; Git. v. 6; Maksh. i. 6). The Mishnah mentions a "Sikarikon" law stated that title to a piece of property held by a sikarikon may be taken in case it has been first purchased from the owner and then from the Sikarikon. But according to at least one source ref , this "Sikarikon" is from "kaisarikion" and refers to crown land or land that was bought cheaply by Romans on speculation.   

Josephus is the major source for the alleged role of "Sicarii" in the Jewish revolt against Rome that ended in 73. Josephus alleges that the "Sicarii" were responsible for the revolt, for the killing of innocents and priests, for disturbances and civil war in Jerusalem and for holding Masada which they supposedly used as a base for predations. According to Josephus, the Sicarri with their concealed Sicae (daggers) killed Romans and Jews who would not join them. The high Priest Jonathan was allegedly assassinated by Jewish sicarii . While Cumanus was procurator, they assassinated his Imperial servant near Beit Horon. Festus had to contend with the Sicarii,  but Albinus, in return for money and other presents, left them in peace, and even convicted Sicarii were released on promising to spare their opponents. They  kidnapped the secretary of Eleazar, governor of the Temple, but liberated him in exchange for ten of their comrades .

At the beginning of the war against the Romans, the Sicarii, with the help of other Zealots, gained secret access to Jerusalem, where they committed atrocious acts. Their leaders, including Menahem ben Yair, Eleazar ben Yair and Shimon Bar Giora, were among the important figures of this war. 

Josephus makes it clear in his histories that he had no sympathy for the revolt, even though he was a leader of that revolt.  Likewise, all others, such as Rabbi Nathan who used the word "Sicarii" to apply to these rebels were likely to be those who opposed them. It is therefore almost certain that "Sicarii" is a pejorative term like "terrorists." We must realize that we have no unbiased or balanced source for the character of the "Sicarii" of the Jewish revolt or their motives, nor do we know what they actually called themselves.   


Synonyms and alternate spellings

Further Information:


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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This work and individual entries are copyright © 2005-2009 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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