What Happened to the Temple Menorah after the Hurban?
The Vandals, a Germanic tribe who had migrated through Gaul [today France] and Spain to North Africa, were the next usurpers of the Menorah. They attacked Rome [452 CE], looted the Peace Temple, and brought the Menorah --with other loot-- to their capital of Carthage, now in ruins. Then, the army of the Eastern Roman Empire --usually called the Byzantine Empire-- conquered Carthage [534 CE] led by its outstanding general Belisarius. He took the Menorah and other Temple loot back to his capital, Constantinople [today Istanbul, called in Hebrew Kusta], then ruled by Justinian. There too the Menorah was carried in a victory procession, as in Rome some 460 years before. The Menorah was deposited in the palace compound of the emperors in Kusta.
Then, according to Procopius, a Jew connected to the court warned the officials that the presence of the Menorah and other Jewish holy objects in Rome had brought disaster to the Romans, and likewise its presence in Carthage had done the same for the Vandals. He said that it would be right that they be placed in the Land where King Solomon had set them up. Supposedly, Justinian then ordered that they be transferred to one of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem. If the Menorah and other Jewish holy objects were deposited in one of the Jerusalem churches, then it is likely --according to Yohanan Levi-- that they were looted by the Persians in their invasion of 614.
However, Levi seems not to take into account that the Persians at the time were allied with the Jews living in Israel --still a substantial population at that time. The Jews would have been extremely eager to have the Menorah and the other objects restored to them. Levi considers that the guardians of the church depository of the Jewish objects might have buried or otherwise hidden them from the Persians. The church where Levi thinks they were placed was destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 8th century and not rebuilt [the Arab rulers did not allow rebuilding of destroyed religious buildings of dhimmis, non-Muslims; this prohibition was --and is-- part of the dhimma]. It is conjectured that this church was located facing the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. Hence, Levi conjectures, the holy objects might be located under the rubble of the church's ruins. Levi died an untimely death in 1945. Since the 1967 Six Day War, that area has been excavated without the holy objects of the Temple turning up.
Nevertheless, the 10th century Byzantine emperor, Constantinos Porphyrogennitos, reported that the Menorah was kept in the imperial palace and was lit on the occasion of holiday processions. A seventh century Jewish midrash reported that some of the holy Temple objects were kept in the House of Julian, a library built by the scholarly emperor Julian ["the Apostate"] in the palace compound [see Levi]. Maybe the Byzantine court kept the Menorah there too. Levi says that Titus looted two golden Menorahs from the Jerusalem Temple, according to Josephus. He considers the possibility that two menorahs were brought to Carthage and from there to Kusta, and that Justinian sent one to Jerusalem and kept the other in Kusta in the imperial palace compound [fn 11]. Levi goes on to speculate that the menorah that stayed in Kusta was looted by the Crusaders and Venetians in 1204, together with other valuable objects from the palace. If so, the objects looted in 1204 in Kusta may have been melted down for their simple worth as gold.
The depiction of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus in Rome is the model for the menorah on official Israeli documents. There are other models of what the Menorah looked like. These are found on ancient Jewish coins, for example, plus stone carvings, mosaic floors, and paintings in ancient synagogues in Israel and elsewhere, on ornamented glassware, amulets, seals, rings, etc. Representations of the Menorah are also found on Jewish sarcophagi and ossuaries, and in the Jewish catacombs of Rome [see "Menorah," Encyclopedia Judaica, vol 11]. Of course, all models have seven branches for seven lights and these branches are on a vertical plane.
Here is a description in Italian of the "Peace Temple" in Rome built by the Flavians. According to this description, the "Peace Temple" contained loot from Judea [IVDAEA] besides the objects looted from the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Templum Paci AEternae Sacrum
Questo fu certamente uno de' più grandiosi Templi dell'antica Roma, edificato nell'anno di nostra salute 75. dall'Imperator Vespasiano, e arricchito di molte Statue, non che delle Spoglie della soggiogata Giudea, e specialmente del Tempio di Gerusalemme. Vien chiamato questo Edificio da Erodiano = Opus cunctorum tota Urbe maximum.
Si vuole, che questo Edificio sia stato elevato sulle rovine del Portico della Casa aurea di Nerone; e v'è chi non crede, che questo fosse il Tempio della Pace, ma bensì il Tablinum del Palazzo de' Cesari. Non restano, che trè Arconi con pochi altri ruderi, da' quali s'inferisce, ch'era lungo circa a 300., e largo intorno a 200. piedi. Al davanti doveva esservi un Portico che abbracciava tutta la larghezza dell'Edificio.
La gran Navata di mezzo avea otto colonne corintie. . . [per di pi`u]
"Le Temple de la Paix a Rome," Histoire et Archeologie no. 82 (4/1984)
Johanan Levi, גורלם של כלי הקודש אחר חורבן הבית השני in עולמות נפגשים (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute 1969).
"Menorah," Encyclopedia Judaica, vol 11
Procopius, The War of the Goths.
______. The War of the Vandals.
GA Williamson, "Introduction" to Procopius' The Secret History.
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Coming: more on peace, Jews in Jerusalem, etc.