Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kokhva or Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader who led what is known as Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("prince," or "president"). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two-year war. He became the last king of Israel in history.
Originally named Shimon ben Kosba (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא or ben Kuziva, בן כוזיבא), he was given the surname Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for "Son of a Star", referring to the Star Prophecy of , "A star has shot off Jacob") by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.
After the failure of the revolt, many, including rabbinical writers, referred to Simon bar Kokhba as "Simon bar Kozeba" ("Son of the lie").
The state minted its own coins, known as Bar Kochba Revolt coinage, which were inscribed "the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel". Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of "Nasi". The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force (unlike during the First Jewish-Roman War, where Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem's walls and were fighting their way to the center). A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no fewer than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which reduced and demoralized the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war. Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting "If you and your children are well, all is well. For I and the army are all in good health.", and is the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.
In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). The new provincial designation was derived as an insult from the name of the enemies of the Jews, the Philistines who had occupied the coastal plain in ancient times.
Over the past few decades, much new information about the revolt has come to light, thanks mainly to the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the caves overlooking the Dead Sea. These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, Bar-Kochba has been the subject of numerous works of art (dramas, operas, novels, etc.), including:
Another operetta on the subject of Bar Kokhba was written by the Russian-Jewish emigre composer Yaacov Bilansky Levanon in Palestine in the 1920s.
In Hungary, this legend spawned the "Bar Kokhba game", in which one of two players comes up with a word or object, while the other must figure it out by asking questions only to be answered with "yes" or "no". The verb "kibarkochbázni" ("to Bar Kochba out") became a common language verb meaning "retrieving information in an extremely tedious way".
In English speaking countries, this is known as Twenty Questions.