I know that the Asarah Harugei Malchus took place over generations. Nonetheless, who is recognized as being the original antagonist? Who is the one who went to Chazal about the claim about Yosef's brothers?

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    Somehow I doubt there was ever any such Roman leader who went to the sages with this argument. That would have demanded killing ten sages then and there, but obviously this didn't happen since, as you said, the killings spanned generations. I think it's a symbolic-aggadic opening intended to connect their deaths together and perhaps offer some reasoning too.
    – Harel13
    Oct 7, 2022 at 8:20
  • @Harel13 so then R’ Yishmael never went up to shomayim to ask if the gezeira was real? That’s a real far fetched sorry to make up.
    – Chatzkel
    Oct 7, 2022 at 11:50
  • @Chatzkel Don't know, but I think a number of mefarshim ask about what's happening in the piyut, since it cannot possibly be literal. Once you say that it's a metaphor for something happening in shamayim (which I think some of them do), that will apply to many parts of the piyut.
    – MichoelR
    Oct 7, 2022 at 11:56
  • @Chatzkel However, the details of the actual deaths of many of the chachamim there do come from midrashim and gemaros.
    – MichoelR
    Oct 7, 2022 at 11:57
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    We know Hadrian was the one who killed Rabbi Akiva. According to third Wikipedia entry, he was the one who was the antagonist of the story with the brothers. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Martyrs
    – Chatzkel
    Oct 7, 2022 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


Can’t give you a source but from all the different versions that I’ve heard of the story, it was either Turnus Rufus (the brutal governor who had a particular quarrel with Rabbi Akiva since he stole his wife) or Hadrian. And btw if you want a really great and detailed account of the Ten Martyrs with background, watch this video: https://youtu.be/PZwXmZE87_s

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    So you identify the Rabban/Rabbi Shimon in the story with Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai or Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel II and Rabbi Yishmael ben Kohen Gadol with a post-destruction tanna?
    – Harel13
    Oct 10, 2022 at 18:57
  • @Harel13 no why do you say that? I believe like most people do that those two figured were killed before the others, around the time of the churban. I think I agree with your comment above of how the whole story of them being summoned by the Roman leader is merely for dramatic effect and symbolism Oct 10, 2022 at 20:23
  • The above suggestions are some other opinions for whom Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yishmael in the aggadata are, based on different versions of it. So if I understand you correctly, you think on the one hand that the opening was written to be symbolic yet on the other hand you think that the author did have a certain Roman leader in mind, but for whatever reason decided not to include his name?
    – Harel13
    Oct 10, 2022 at 20:29
  • Idk whatever it doesn’t really matter what I think. Though from the fact that different sources say either Hadrian or Turnus Rufus, that shows that there is some discrepancy and a possible answer could simply be that it’s symbolic but each different account chose a different Roman to villainize Oct 10, 2022 at 22:37
  • Well, this is your answer and very likely based on what you think. Are the sources you're referring to sources about the versions of Asseret Harugei Malchut or simply sources regarding the deaths of different sages?
    – Harel13
    Oct 10, 2022 at 22:47

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