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After the destruction of the Second Temple, 900 Jewish zealots hold out against a 5000 man Roman legion on the mountaintop fortress of Masada.

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Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 3 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »




Series cast summary:
Peter O'Toole ...  General Cornelius Flavius Silva 4 episodes, 1981
Peter Strauss ...  Eleazar ben Yair 4 episodes, 1981
Barbara Carrera ...  Sheva 4 episodes, 1981
Alan Feinstein ...  Aaron 4 episodes, 1981
Giulia Pagano Giulia Pagano ...  Miriam 4 episodes, 1981
Anthony Quayle ...  Rubrius Gallus 4 episodes, 1981
Paul L. Smith ...  Gideon 4 episodes, 1981
David Warner ...  Falco 4 episodes, 1981
Clive Francis ...  Attius, Head Tribune 4 episodes, 1981
David Opatoshu ...  Shimon 4 episodes, 1981
Richard Pierson Richard Pierson ...  Ephraim 4 episodes, 1981
Joseph Wiseman ...  Jerahmeel, Head Essene 4 episodes, 1981
David A. Block David A. Block ...  Reuben 4 episodes, 1981
Vernon Dobtcheff ...  Chief Priest 4 episodes, 1981
David Mauro David Mauro ...  Epos 4 episodes, 1981
Alexander Peleg ...  Zidon 4 episodes, 1981
Joey Sagal ...  Seth 4 episodes, 1981
Michael Shillo Michael Shillo ...  Ezra 4 episodes, 1981
Christopher Biggins ...  Albinus 3 episodes, 1981
Heinz Bernard Heinz Bernard ...  Elder 3 episodes, 1981
Warren Clarke ...  Plinius 3 episodes, 1981
Ken Hutchison ...  Fronto 3 episodes, 1981
Reuven Bar-Yotam ...  Butcher 3 episodes, 1981
Denis Quilley ...  General Marcus Quadratus 2 episodes, 1981
Anthony Valentine ...  Merovius, Head Tribune 2 episodes, 1981
Jack Watson ...  Decurion 2 episodes, 1981
Derek Newark Derek Newark ...  Engineering Officer 2 episodes, 1981
Michael Elphick ...  Vettius 2 episodes, 1981
Nick Brimble ...  Milades 2 episodes, 1981
Michael Schneider Michael Schneider ...  Surgeon 2 episodes, 1981


Flavius Silva, commander in Roman Judea, wants to reach a reasonable compromise with the Jewish Zealots and withdraw his legion. Events and personalities in Rome, however, lead to his besieging the fortress of Masada. There the engineering genius of the Romans must fight both the harsh climate and landscape, and the passion and ingenuity of Eleazar Ben Yair and his people. Written by Cleo <frede005@maroon.tc.umn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama | History


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Release Date:

5 April 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Масада See more »

Filming Locations:

Masada, Judean Desert, Israel See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (theatrical) | (cut) (theatrical)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


British actors are cast as the Romans and American actors are playing the Jews. See more »


During the scene in which the Jews are ascending the trail up to the summit of Masada, a vehicle the size of a bus can clearly be seen travelling on a road in the background See more »


Kophar: [in a patronizing tone] Your excellency, what an honor.
Cornelius Flavius Silva: Hello, Kophar. I see you're still one step ahead of leprosy.
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Alternate Versions

An extremely edited, two-hour version was released on video c. 1982. See more »

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User Reviews

Epic TV film about the breathtaking fortress held defiantly against the might of the Roman Empire by a group of freedom fighters
23 April 2017 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

In 66 CE, set in Judea , a group of Jewish rebels, the Sicarii, overcame the Roman garrison of Masada with the aid of a ruse . After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop after slaughtering the Roman garrison . According to Josephus , the Sicarii were an extremist Jewish splinter group antagonistic to a larger grouping of Jews referred to as the Zealots led by Eliazar (Peter Strauss), who carried the main burden of the rebellion . Josephus said that the Sicarii raided nearby Jewish villages including Ein Gedi , where they massacred 700 women and children . In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Iudaea , Lucius Flavius Silva (Peter O'Toole , the only cast member who didn't fall ill) , headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada . The Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau .

This is an interminable , but still good version , adapted from Ernest K. Gann's novel titled ¨The antagonists¨ during the first Century AD about a handful of Jews fighting to retrieve their freedom , recreating faithfully the siege of the impregnable fortress . The series is formed by 4 episodes , but there is an abridged rendition from the original TV presentation . This is a sort of would-be Jew epic with propaganda and jingoist overtones . The main cast is frankly well , though they give rating interpretations . The Jewish leader is well played by Peter Strauss , he is nice and as tough and two-fisted as a brave Zionist guerrilla should be ; while the Roman commander who feels of the loneliness colonial administrator , finely performed by Peter O'Toole , ponders the badness and goodness of the attacks . Support cast is pretty good , plenty of known and prestigious secondaries , giving enjoyable acting , as American actors are playing the Jews and British actors are cast as the Romans , such as : Barbara Carrera , Anthony Quayle , Paul L. Smith , David Warner , David Opatoshu , Joseseph Wiseman , Denis Quilley , Alan Feinstein , Clive Francis , Warren Clarke , Nick Brimble , and Timothy West as emperor Vespasiano , among others. This ¨Masada¨ film displays a rousing and imaginative musical score by the great Jerry Goldsmith . And an evocative cinematography by Paul Lohmann , being shot on location in Israel, where the historic events took place . The series was compellingly directed by Boris Sagal .

Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau , akin to a mesa , being the Zionist headquarter for a group of Jews freedom fighters . It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert , overlooking the Dead Sea 20 km east of Arad . Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE . After the sack of Jerusalem Jews fled to Masada to get their freedom and their homeland . According to Josephus , the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.

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