I grow weary of knowing less about the infamous Simon bar Kokhba than I should, and have been collecting some of the relevant sources. I have gathered that there actually are not that many sources which one may call reliable, which may help explain why I feel like I know less than I should: there may not be a lot to know.
I have read "Hadrian's Actions in the Jerusalem Temple Mount According to Cassius Dio and Xiphilini Manus," by Yaron Z. Eliav, in Jewish Studies Quarterly
4.2, which argues for an interpolation in the text of Cassius Dio (and therefrom of his epitomizer, Xiphilini Manus). The interpolation of nonhistorical information into the only real summary from an historian that we possess would reduce our knowledge base even further, of course. That summary runs as follows:
Cassius Dio, Roman History 69.12.1-69.14.3:
12.1 At Jerusalem, Hadrian founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground, naming it Aelia Capitolina, and on the site of the temple of God, he raised a new temple to Jupiter [καὶ ἐς τὸν τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τόπον ναὸν τῷ Διὶ ἕτερον ἀντεγείραντος]. This brought on a war of no slight importance nor of brief duration, 2 for the Jews deemed it intolerable that foreign races should be settled in their city and foreign religious rites planted there. So long, indeed, as Hadrian was close by in Egypt and again in Syria, they remained quiet, save in so far as they purposedly made of poor quality such weapons as they were called upon to furnish, in order that the Romans might reject them and they themselves might thus have the use of them. But when Hadrian went farther away, they openly revolted. 3 To be sure, they did not dare try conclusions with the Romans in the open field, but they occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, in order that they might have places of refuge whenever they should be hard pressed, and might meet together unobserved under ground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.
13.1 At first, the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering toghether, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts. 2 Many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter. Then, indeed, Hadrian sent against them his best generals. First of these was Julius Severus, who was dispatched from Britain, where he was governor, against the Jews. 3 Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their desperation, but by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and his under-officers. By depriving them of food and shutting them up, he was able - rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparatively little danger - to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few of them in fact survived.
14.1 Fifty of their most important outposts and nine hundred and eighty-five of their most famous villages were razed to the ground. Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. 2 Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, a result of which the people had had forewarning before the war. For the tomb of Solomon, which the Jews regard as an object of veneration, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed, and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities. 3 Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war. Therefore Hadrian, in writing to the Senate, did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors, "If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the legions are in health."
I underline that phrase in chapter 12 because of its similarity, particularly with respect to the meaning of the phrase "temple of God," to the (pseudo-)Pauline passage thought by Eliav to have led to the interpolation:
2 Thessalonians 2.3-12: 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God [ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμα, ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσαι, ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός]. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
Simon bar Kokhba himself apparently wrote some letters
, fifteen of which have been preserved for us, and of which four are printed here:
Bar Kokhba letters:
1 Shimeon bar Kosiba to Yehonathan and to Masabala. Let all men from Tekoa and other places who are with you, be sent to me without delay. And if you shall not send them, let it be known to you, that you will be punished.
2 Letter of Shimeon bar Kosiba to Yehonathan, son of Be'ayan: Peace! My order is that whatever Elisha tells you, do to him and help him and those with him. Be well.
3 Shimeon to Yehudah bar Menashe in Qiryath 'Arabaya. I have sent to you two donkeys, and you must send with them two men to Yehonathan, son of Be'ayan and to Masabala, in order that they shall pack and send to the camp, towards you, palm branches and citrons. And you, from your place, send others who will bring you myrtles and willows. See that they are tithed and sent them to the camp. The request is made because the army is big. Be well.
4 From Shimeon bar Kosiba to the men of En-gedi. To Masabala and to Yehonathan bar Bey'ayan, peace! In comfort you sit, eat and drink from the property of the House of Israel, and care nothing for your brothers.
Very much to the point, all four of them. Here is another:
Brian Hale Burnstein, The Causes of the Bar Kokhba Revolt: A Critical Reassessment and New Comparisons, page 70: From Shimeon ben Kosiba to Yeshua ben Galgoula and to the men of the fort, peace. I take heaven to witness against me that unless you mobilize [destroy?] the Galileans who are with you every man I will put into fetters as I did to ben Aphlul.
Eusebius, of course, has a few words on the topic:
Eusebius, History of the Church 4.6.1-4:
1 As the rebellion of the Jews at this time grew much more serious, Rufus, governor of Judea, after an auxiliary force had been sent him by the emperor, using their madness as a pretext, proceeded against them without mercy, and destroyed indiscriminately thousands of men and women and children, and in accordance with the laws of war reduced their country to a state of complete subjection.
2 The leader of the Jews at this time was a man by the name of Barcocheba (which signifies a star), who possessed the character of a robber and a murderer, but nevertheless, relying upon his name, boasted to them, as if they were slaves, that he possessed wonderful powers; and he pretended that he was a star that had come down to them out of heaven to bring them light in the midst of their misfortunes.
3 The war raged most fiercely in the eighteenth year of Adrian, at the city of Bithara, which was a very secure fortress, situated not far from Jerusalem. When the siege had lasted a long time, and the rebels had been driven to the last extremity by hunger and thirst, and the instigator of the rebellion had suffered his just punishment, the whole nation was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Adrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers. Such is the account of Aristo of Pella.
4 And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Aelia, in honor of the emperor Aelius Adrian. And as the church there was now composed of Gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it after the bishops of the circumcision was Marcus.
The Jewish Virtual Library has this to say
Shimon Bar-Kokhba was the leader of the Jewish revolt against Rome between 132 and 135 C.E. Bar-Kokhba united his army in Judea and led the Jews in battle. This rebellion later became known as the Bar-Kokhba revolt.
There are few sources about Bar-Kokhba. Those that exist in Talmud, Midrash and Church Father Euseblus are largely legendary. Even his name is uncertain. His first name, Shimon, was found written on coins from the time of the revolt. His last name, however, is written with many variations, such as Ben Koziva or Bar Kozevah, in different documents. It is probable that his name was originally Bar Koseva, which is either his father's name or the name of a Judean settlement. It was likely changed to Bar-Kokhba during the revolt, as a reference to a verse in the Bible referring to the Messiah as a star (kokhav). This would be fitting as Bar-Kokhba was descended from the Davidic dynasty (which is the Messianic dynasty according to Jewish tradition) and the Messianic hopes of the nation centered around him.
Bar-Kokhba was an imperious dictator who was in charge of both the army and the economy during the Jewish revolt against Rome. He held the title of Nasi, which could be a Messianic allusion or could simply refer to the one in charge of army, administration and economy. Bar-Kokhba had unlimited authority over his army and was concerned with even the most minor details. He was not afraid to threaten senior officers of his army with punishment. The 400,000 soldiers in his army were said to have been initiated either by having a finger cut off or by being forced to uproot a cedar tree. Bar-Kokhba relied on his own powers and, according to aggada, when he went to battle he asked God to "neither assist nor discourage us."
Despite this attitude, Bar-Kokhba strictly adhered to Jewish laws including Sabbath, tithes and holidays. Letters written in his name between 132 and 134 C.E., found in the Judean desert between 1952 and 1961, reveal his concern for Jewish observance. These letters also show his preoccupation with everyday issues such as supplying food to the camp and solving problems of land ownership.
Before and during the rebellion, Bar-Kokhba and his men controlled large amounts of land in the Judean hills, Judean desert and Bet Guvrin. They also maintained contact with Jews in other areas. Bar-Kokhba led the Jewish army through three and a half years of revolt. He died in a massive battle at Bethar, in the Judean hills. He was succeeded as ruler by his son Rufus, who was followed by Rufus' son Romulus.
However, Andrew Criddle has commented as follows
concerning the rebel's alleged sons:
The earliest source for the claim that Simon bar Kochba had a son named Rufus (and a grandson named Romulus !!!) seems to be Ibrahim ibn Daud in the Book of Tradition (Sefer Ha-Qabbalah) in c 1161 CE.
Possibly there is a confusion with the contemporary Roman governor Rufus, but ibn Daud's account is rather strange. Koziva (Kochba) revolts in the time of Domitian and the revolt is continued by his son Rufus and his grandson Romulus. Hadrian makes war against Romulus ben Rufus ben Koziva and kills him in the sack of Betar. (Source Richard Marks The Image of Bar Kokhba)
It is unlikely that this has any relation to the historical Simon bar Kochba.
Stuart weighs in
on the topic of Hadrian having installed a statue of himself on the Temple Mount:
This may seem like a nit, but there are several problems with the account of an Equestrian statute of Hadrian on what we call Temple Mount today.
This first and foremost is that it is generally thought by historians that the equestrian statues (we have no examples of Hadrian on horse, as we do with Trajan and Marcus Aurelius) and other glorification monuments to Hadrian were in fact erected by Antoninus in an effort to get his predecessor deified by the Roman Senate, and honor they declined for many years. His efforts were so great and continuous until the Senate yielded that he became known as Pius.
Here is an example of one Hadrian Statue from Tel Shalem commemorating the crushing of Bar Kokhba and reorganisation of Judaea into a new province named Syria-Palestina:
Roman statues tended to be placed either in front of temples, or on top of arches. So Hadrian's statue logically would have been at the gate of Aelia Capitonlina or at the town's temples. In Aelia Capitolina the temples were not on "Temple Mount" but instead to the west. You can make it out the temples off the main straight road to the left (west) in the Madaba map
The temple mount seems not to have been part of the city. This cannot be the abomination, even if 4th century Christian writers thought so. But they had so much wrong about the Bar Kokhba conflict, that to have another detail wrong is par for the course.
Hadrian's purported visit to Jerusalem seems relevant, so it does not seem out of bounds to offer the text of an inscription
discovered in two parts in Jerusalem. The first part of the inscription was discovered in the late nineteenth century and first published in 1903 by Charles Clermont-Ganneau; it is listed as number 715 in CIIP volume 1, part 2. The second part of the inscription was discovered in 2014. Together they read:
Impertori Caesar/(ari di)v[i Traiani]
Parthic(i) F/[ilio divi Nerv]ae nep(oti)
Traiano H/(adri)ano August[o]
Pont[ifici] maxim/[o] tribunicia pot[estate] XIIII
Co[n]/s[uli] III P[atri] P[atrie]
[L]egio X F/retensis Antonianae
To the Emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus, son of the deified Trajan defeater of the Parthians, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power XIV, consul III, father of the country, [dedicated by] the Tenth Legion Fretensis Antoniniana.
(The slash marks signify the break between the two parts of the inscription.)
We have coins from the era of bar Kokhba: https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/24 ... Bar-Kokhba
There are also some interesting snippets of sources on this thread: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3319
(refer especially to MrMacSon's post, or to the link from which he quotes).
So... what else is there? Might someone be able to provide some of the relevant Talmudic or Midrashic texts? (I do not have consistent access to most of the late Midrash material, so the entire passages would be great; I do have access to the Soncino translation of the Talmud, so a list of references would work.) Any other relevant ancient sources would be most welcome, as well.
Some rabbinical sources:
Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit 4.5: 5 .... R. Simeon b. Yohai taught, “Aqiba, my master, would interpret the following verse: ‘A star [kokhab] shall come forth out of Jacob’ (= Numbers 24.17), as ‘a disappointment [kozeba] shall come forth out of Jacob.’” R. Aqiba, when he saw Bar Kozeba, said, “This is the King Messiah [דין הוא מלכא משיחא].” Said to him R. Yohanan ben Toreta, “Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks, and the son of David [בן דוד] will not vet have come!” Said R. Yohanan, “Upon orders of Caesar Hadrian in Betar they killed 80,000 myriads.” Said R. Yohanan, “There were 80,000 pairs of trumpeters that surrounded Betar. Each one was in charge of a number of troops. Ben Kozebah was there, and he had 200,000 troops who had cut off their little finger. Sages sent word to him, ‘How 'How long are you going to turn Israel into a maimed people?’ He said to them, ‘How otherwise is it possible to test them?’ They replied to him, ‘Whoever cannot uproot a cedar of Lebanon while riding on his horse will not be registered in your army.’ So there were 200,000 who qualified in one way, and another 200,000 who qualified in another way.” ....
Lamentations Rabbah 2.2 §4: “R. Yohanan said, ‘Rabbi used to expound, “A star goes out from Jacob” (= Numbers 24.17) thusly: “Do not read star [כוכב] but liar [כוזב].”’” [Rabbi Akiba is not named in this version!]
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 93b: 93b .... Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, "I am the Messiah [אנא משיח]." They answered, "Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges. Let us see whether he can do so." When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him. ....
Babylonian Talmud, Hagigah 14a: 14a .... One passage says, "His throne was fiery flames" (= Daniel 7.9), and another passage says, "Till thrones were placed, and One that was ancient of days did sit" (= Daniel 7.9 again). There is no contradiction: one for Him, and one for David; this is the view of R. Akiba. [Did Akiba have Simon bar Kokhba in mind as the rightful occupant of that second throne?]
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 38b: 38b .... How to explain, "Till thrones were placed," one was for Himself and one for David. Even as it has been taught, "One was for Himself and one for David; this is R. Akiba's view." .... [Ditto.]