2. History’s First Terrorists Hailed From… The Holy Lands
The Zealots were 1st century AD Jewish radicals who sought to free the Holy Lands from Roman occupation. However, a splinter group known as the Sicarii thought the Zealots were too soft, so they upped the stakes and became history’s earliest identifiable terrorists. The Sicarii, named after their knives, or sicae, blended into crowds at public gatherings, then suddenly charged their victim, stabbed them, and vanished back into the crowd in the ensuing confusion. They primarily targeted the pro-Roman Jewish aristocracy, and their victims included a High Priest of the Jewish Temple, after whose killing they went on a terrifying assassination spree.
The Sicarii sought to provoke the Romans, who needed little provocation before resorting to massacres and collective punishment. That kept discontent smoldering, lit new flames of resentment, and furnished a steady stream of new recruits from the families and friends of Roman victims. The Sicarii also engaged in sabotage to worsen the public’s living conditions and keep it disgruntled. Gifted with an occupier ready to resort to indiscriminate violence, Sicarii invited massive Roman retaliation, to force the hands of fence sitters. They could do nothing and still end up massacred or enslaved by angry Romans in no mood to distinguish “good” natives from bad, or join the resistance in a bid to gain freedom, or at least the dignity of an honorable death.