The battle raged for three weeks. The Jewish warriors were starving, exhausted, and far outnumbered by the Romans, but they continued to drive off the Romans. The last battle was on the morning of the Ninth of Av. The Jews fought valiantly, killing many Romans. Many of the structures adjoining the Temple were burnt or on fire, but that morning the Temple itself was still intact.

According to Josephus, Titus did not want the Temple to be burnt, apparently because a standing (but vanquished) Temple would reflect more on Rome's glory. It was a Roman soldier acting on his own initiative who, hoisted on the shoulders of another soldier, threw a firebrand into the Temple. Titus tried to put a stop to the fire, but in the chaos, his soldiers did not hear him. (Other historians contradict this account of Titus's enlightened perspective and report that Titus ordered the Temple destroyed.)

In either case, before long, the Temple was engulfed in flames. The Jews frantically tried to stop the fire, but were unsuccessful. In despair, many Jews threw themselves into the flames. The Roman soldiers rushed into the melee. Romans and Jews were crowded together, and their dead bodies fell on top of each other. The sound of screaming filled the air and the floor of the Temple was covered with bodies, with blood streaming down the steps.

The Romans brought idols into the Temple and offered sacrifices to it. They took the golden vessels of the Temple and killed everyone they found. Before the fire consumed the Temple completely, Titus entered the Holy of Holies and performed the most despicable acts. The still-surviving Jews in the Upper City could only watch as the Temple burned down to the foundations. It burnt well into the next day.

When the flames finally died down, left standing was the retaining wall on the western side of the Temple Mount. This is the Western Wall that still stands in Jerusalem today, where Jews over the centuries have gathered to pray.