Masada is an American television miniseries that aired on ABC in April 1981. Advertised by the network as an "ABC Novel for Television," it was a fictionalized account of the historical siege of the Masada citadel in Israel by legions of the Roman Empire in AD 73. The TV series' script is based on the novel The Antagonists by Ernest Gann. The siege ended when the Roman armies entered the fortress, only to discover the mass suicide by the Jewish defenders when defeat became imminent.
Masada was one of several historical miniseries produced in the early 1980s following the success of the miniseries Roots that aired on the ABC Network in 1977 and Shogun which aired on NBC in 1980.
The miniseries starred Peter O'Toole as Roman legion commander Lucius Flavius Silva, Peter Strauss as the Jewish commander Eleazar ben Ya'ir, and Barbara Carrera as Silva's Jewish mistress. David Warner, as Pomponius Falco, won an Emmy Award for his role. O'Toole was nominated for an Emmy for his performance. It was his first appearance in an American miniseries.
The music for Parts I and II were composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Because of myriad production delays, Goldsmith was forced to move on to other previously contracted scoring commitments. Parts III and IV were composed by Morton Stevens, based on the themes and motifs Goldsmith had written. Jerry Goldsmith received his fourth Emmy for his score to Part II, with Morton Stevens nominated for his score Part IV.
Masada was filmed on location at the site of the ancient fortress, in the Judean Desert, Israel. Remains of a ramp, created during the filming to simulate the ramp built by the Romans to take the fortress, can still be seen at the site. ABC, concerned that the audience would be unfamiliar with the historical background of the story, commissioned a 30-minute documentary, Back To Masada. Starring Peter O'Toole, it recounts the history of the Jewish revolt against Rome. The network gave the documentary to its affiliates to run in the weeks before the premiere of the miniseries.
As was the case with Shogun, an edited, feature film-length version of the miniseries was made for theatrical release in other countries under the title The Antagonists. This was the version that became available on home video. The complete Masada miniseries first made it to the video market on four VHS tapes in 2001. A two-disc DVD release titled Masada — The Complete Epic Mini-Series was released on September 11, 2007. A Region 2 UK, two-disc DVD was released on 19 January 2009.
In 1981 MCA Records released on vinyl and cassette a re-recording of selections of Goldsmith's music performed by the UK's National Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer's baton; Intrada Records issued a 2-CD set of the original recording of the complete score in 2011.