In 63 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and made the Hebrew kingdom a Client state of Rome. In 40–39 BCE, Herod the Great was appointed King of the Hebrews by the Roman Senate, and in 6 CE the last ethnarch of Judea was deposed by the emperor Augustus, his territories combined with Idumea and Samaria and annexed as Iudaea Province under direct Roman administration. The name Judea (Iudaea) ceased to be used by Greco-Romans after the revolt of Simon Bar Kochba in 135 CE; the area was henceforth called Syria Palaestina (Greek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē; Latin: Palaestina).
After the death of Herod (4 BC), the kingdom, according to his last will, was to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus received Judea; Antipas, Galilee and Peraea; Philip, the border lands in the north. However, Archelaus was soon deposed by the Romans (6 AD), and Judea was made a part of the province of Syria, but was put under a special Roman procurator, who resided in Caesarea. These procurators (of whom the best known was Pontius Pilate, 26-36 AD), had no other object than to plunder the land and the people.
In this way a conflict was gradually generated between the people and their oppressors, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. As early as 40 AD this rupture almost took place, when the Syrian legate Petronius, at the command of Caligula, undertook to place a statue of the emperor in the temple of Jerusalem. On this occasion King Agrippa I, who was again ruling the whole territory of Herod, succeeded in adjusting the conflict. His son Agrippa II was given a much smaller kingdom (40-100 AD). He, too, sought to prevent the people from undertaking a struggle with the Romans, but in vain. By his unscrupulous treatment of the people, the procurator Gessius Florus drove the Hebrews into an insurrection. The party of the Zealots gained the upper hand. Florus was compelled to leave Jerusalem (66 AD). Even the good-sized army which Cestius Gallus commanded could not get control of the city, but was completely overpowered by the Hebrews on its retreat at Bethhoron. Now the entire country rose in rebellion. The Romans, under the leadership of Vespasian, advanced with considerable power and first conquered Galilee, then under Josephus (67 AD). In Jerusalem, in the meanwhile, different parties of the Hebrews were still fighting each other. Titus, the son of Vespasian, took the chief command after Vespasian had already conquered the East Jordan country and the western coast, but had hastened to Rome in order to become emperor. Titus completely surrounded the city a few days before the Passover festival in the year 70. On the northern side the Romans first broke through the first and newest city wall, and after that the second. The third offered a longer resistance, and at the same time famine wrought havoc in Jerusalem. At last the battle raged about the temple, during which this structure went up in flames. According to the full description by Josephus (BJ, VI, iv, 3 ff), Titus tried to prevent the destruction of the temple; according to Sulpicius Severus (Chron. II, 20), however, this destruction was just what he wanted. A few fortified places yet maintained themselves after the fall of Jerusalem, e.g. Macherus in the East Jordan country, but they could not hold out very long.
Once again the natural ambition for independence burst out in the insurrection of Bar-Cochba (132-35 AD). Pious teachers of the law, especially Rabbi Akiba, had enkindled this fire, in order to rid the country of the rule of the Gentiles. However, notwithstanding some temporary successes, this insurrection was hopeless. Both the city and the country were desolated by the enraged Romans still more fearfully, and were depopulated still more than in 70. From that time Jerusalem was lost to the Hebrews. They lived on without a country of their own, without any political organization, without a sanctuary, in the Diaspora among the nations.
The spiritual and religious life of the Hebrews during the period preceding the dissolution of the state was determined particularly by the legalistic character of their ideals and their opposition to Hellenism. Their religion had become formalistic to a great extent since their return from the exile. The greatest emphasis was laid on obedience to the traditional ordinances, and these latter were chiefly expositions of ceremonial usurpers.