After months of preparation, the Romans were ready to attack Masada. The siege began near this Roman camp (upper left). On April 16, 73, they pummeled the fort with torches while painstakingly rolling an 82 foot tall siege tower up their ramp. A hidden battering ram pounded the three-layer casement wall. When they breached the final defense, the soldiers stormed the fortress. They expected a fierce resistance. Instead, they were met with an eerie silence and a grim scene. The Sicarii rebels had decided they would rather die free than live as Roman slaves. Their leader, Eleazar ben Ya’ir, had developed a plan where ten men were selected by lots to kill the 950 others including wives and children. Then, in turn, they murdered each other until only one was left to commit suicide. The rebels also set the buildings ablaze. Only two women and five children were found alive. The Romans found them hiding in a cistern.