Mary, a small child, hidden from soldiers?


In the Ewtn movie “Maria”, or sometimes called “Mary of Nazareth” (Alyssa Jung plays the grown Mary), there is a scene at the beginning which depicts Mary, as a small child, being hidden by her parents in a small space inside their house when they hear Roman soldiers thundering into their dusty little village on their horses. This scene takes place at the very beginning of the movie and is, if not, the first scene. It’s also the movie where the tempting voice of Satan is whispered by a woman, who turns out to be Queen Herodias.
What did these soldiers do, exactly? Did they just trample into these places, looking for Jews, to kill them?
Were they sent by the first Herod, known for his madness?


I didn’t see the movie and it sounds like I ought to be sorry I didn’t.

But it might not be mysterious or symbolic at all. Palestine was fairly lightly garrisoned by actual Roman soldiers. Nearby, though, in Syria, there were two full legions ready to pounce in any direction. Both were made of up Gauls and Teutons, a pretty wild and savage bunch. Rome enlisted a lot of “barbarians” into its armies. They were useful and the practice kept them out of their homelands where they might cause trouble. When they marched, you worried.

Those two legions were notorious for their savagery, and were very much dreaded in the region. It is probably not surprising that so many Syrians are very fair, many with blonde or red hair and blue eyes.

But if, in the movie, nothing came of the Romans coming through, but Satan spoke through Herodia, one might think of it as a juxtaposition between the serious but impersonal threat of earthly forces and the far more deadly spiritual threats to which we are sometimes subjected and which are intensely personal.

But then, I didn’t see the movie, so what do I know? :shrug:


This is actually a common thing nowadays in many Jesus movies. In order to make sure the audience knows the Jews were conquered by a foreign power (and to make the Romans look bad), there’s always this token scene where Roman soldiers roam the streets and randomly abuse the locals. :wink:

In reality thoughm the evidence seems to point to this being utter fiction - at least during the time of Jesus. Herod the Great, as a client king, had his own army. After his death, the kingdom was divided among his sons who apparently also had their own troops. So in the Galilee, all the soldiers and the tax collectors were Herod Antipas’. Roman soldiers had no reason being there.

In Judaea, the Roman prefect did command auxiliaries mostly recruited from non-Jews like Syrians or Samaritans (Jews were granted an exemption from military service by the Romans, so they were the only people in the region that did not serve in the Roman army), but many of these soldiers stayed with the prefect in Caesarea Maritima with other gentiles; the rest were deployed in garrisons and border forts across the province. Daily government and police duties were handled by native (Jewish, Samaritan) authorities; in Jerusalem this meant the high priest, the aristocrats and the Temple guards. Roman soldiers usually only moved into action when the local authorities could not handle any trouble on their own.


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