The Zealots (adherents / supporters) were members of a social, political and religious-eschatological movement in Judea which appeared during the second half of the first century BC.
The Zealot community began to form during the Maccabee epoch at this time, but this process ended only by the middle of the first century AD.
The goal of the Zealots was to eliminate the influence of the Hellenes and to bring the Roman power down. Any method was considered suitable to do so. The main task was the overthrowing of Herod I the Great, the king of Judea. With this aim, the Zealots united, having formed a political party as far back as the middle of the first century AD. The Zealots believed that the golden eagle decorating the façade of the Temple of Jerusalem supported idol worship and illustrated the supremacy of the Romans, thus they brought it down.
The emperor Caligula insisted on setting his idols in all corners of his dominion. The Roman soldiers’ attitude towards the Jewish religion and the Temple was dismissive, which led to radicalization of the Jews, and they joined the ranks of the Zealots. After the embezzlement of silver belonging to the temple by the procurator of Rome, the Zealots revolted against this illegal action and the non-acceptance of their community. The Great Jewish Revolt (as later named by historians) led to a war from 66 to 73 AD. The angered Zealots left no chance for their opponents and the rebels defeated the Roman troops that arrived. As a result of this, Judea was defeated by the Roman army and the Second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
As the uncompromising opponents of the Romans, the Zealots decided to fight until death, defending their belief that only the missionary, the real Messiah and the descendant of David may be appointed to the leadership of Israel. The bravest Zealot warriors that the Romans called Sicarii (killers / daggers) united into a separate wing. Their excessively aggressive military tactics led to the beginning of the war with Rome. The son of Judas, who killed a whole Roman post after taking over the Masada fortress, was remarkable among warriors.
The most famous Zealots were Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala. The traditions and morals of the Zealots provided a base for calling them the fourth sect along with the Essenes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Flavius Josephus, the recorder of military activities, mentioned them. It is known from his writings that the creators of the fourth sect were Judas of Galilee and Zadok the Pharisee.
The Bible mentioned the Zealot Simon as one of Jesus’s apostles. It is suggested in the book ‘Jesus and Caesar’ by Oscal Cullmann that the well-known apostles, Judas, Peter and his brother Andrew were Zealots also.
The Zealots left a significant mark in history. Many modern Israelites remember their deeds and take a lead from their courage and perseverance.