When Titus saw he could not conquer them by force, he decided to starve the Jews into submission. He built a stone wall around the city and sealed all the exits, allowing only Romans with passes to pass through.

A terrible hunger now ravaged the overcrowded city. Soon the last stores of food dwindled down. Rich people gave all their wealth for a bit of food. Even leather was cooked and eaten. At first the Zealots had not been affected by hunger because they took other people's food, but eventually they too became desperately hungry, eating their horses and even their horses' dung and saddles.

In Josephus's account (The Jewish Wars, 5:10): "The roofs were filled with women and small children expiring from hunger, and the corpses of old men were piled in the streets. Youths swollen with hunger wandered like shadows in the marketplace until they collapsed. No one mourned the dead, because hunger had deadened all feeling. Those who fell to the ground turned their eyes for the last time to the Holy Temple and beheld the defenders still fighting and holding out." The best of friends would snatch food from each other. The Talmud recounts the sorry tale of a woman who killed and consumed her own baby, recalling the verse in Leviticus 26:29, "You will eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters you will eat."

The streets were soon filled with corpses, and, as it was hot summer weather, terrible epidemics broke out. Hundreds of people were found dead every morning. In their despair, many of the Jews tried to leave the enclosure of Jerusalem under the cover of night to seek something edible in the fields. They were easily captured, and Titus had them crucified in plain view of the city's defenders on the wall. In one night, Josephus tells us, five thousand Jews were discovered searching for food and were all crucified.