Page images

for a Roman soldier to be taken prisoner, that he ordered him to be disarmed and cashiered, a punishment even worse than death in the opinion of a man of honour.

On the following day, it happened that the Romans routed the Jews from the lower town, on which occasion they set fire to all the buildings as far as Siloah, and were happy to see the destruction occasioned by the conflagration; but they acquired no treasure, for the insurgents had already safely deposited this in the upper town. It is worthy of remark, that the rebels were not of a disposition to lament any calamities their vices had occasioned; and they comported themselves with their accustomed pride, even when fortune appeared to be their determined foe. They seemed to behold the burning of the city with a degree of pleasure, and publicly said, that as affairs were then situated, the approach of death would not create in them the least degree of concern or regret. They had seen the destruction of the people almost to annihilation, they had been witnesses to the temple being burned to the ground,, they had viewed the city in flames, and were now pleased that the Romans, who were to succeed them, could not take possession of any thing that might afford them satisfaction.

While affairs were in this situation, Josephus exerted his utmost endeavours for the preservation of the few remaining inhabitants of a ruined and almost depopulated city. He applied himself to the passions of the people, by every art of invective complaint, advice, and encouragement: but all that he could say tended to answer no valuable purpose the Jews were not only bound by the sacred obligations of their oaths, but almost subdued by the superior numbers of the Romans, exclusive of which they were inured to blood and familiar with destruction.

In this unhappy situation of affairs, they dispersed themselves throughout the city, searching all the ruins, vaults, and other places of secretion, for such as had deserted. Great numbers of these being seized, they were all put to death; for they were so weak that they could not seek their safety by flight, and the dead bodies were thrown to the dogs. Still, however, famine threatened a death more dreadful than any other. Many of the Jews now deserted to the Romans in mere despair; for they could not entertain any other expectation, than that they might be immediately put to death to prevent the miseries of starving. The insurgents likewise shared the same fate, having been instigated by the same motives. There was not a single street but what was bestrewed with the bodies of the dead, some of whom had been starved, and the rest falling a sacrifice to the rage of the pestilence.

The insurgents placed their last hope in concealment. They sought every private place of retreat, vainly hoping that they might remain concealed till the contest should be at an end, and the Romans had abandoned their place: they then imagined that their escape might be safely effected, without reflecting that the all-seeing eye of justice could penetrate into the most secret recesses. The Jews who had taken possession of the subterraneous retreats were the authors of more calamity than the Romans in setting fire to the place. They first robbed and then murdered all who retired for safety to these places. The famine now raged to such a degree, that violent conten→ tions arose respecting the coarsest and most loathsome food. I am of opinion, that if the famine had continued for any considerable time longer, they who survived would have made no scruple of feeding on the bodies of the deceased.

Such was the situation of the upper town on crags and precipices, that Titus thought it would be an impossibility to get possession of it without the erection of new mounts: wherefore he ordered that these works should be commenced on the twentieth day of the month Lous. It has been heretofore remarked that carriage was very expensive, and attended with great trouble; for to the distance of one hundred furlongs from the

town, the materials had all been cut down for the construction of the works heretofore erected. The four legions now threw up a mount on the west side of the city opposite the royal palace; while the auxiliaries and the other forces threw up another mount near the gallery and the bridge, and fortified the place known by the name of Simon's tower, which had been constructed by Simon during his war with John.

At this period, some of the Idumean officers held a council together concerning how their whole body should go over to the interest of the Romans. Having fixed on their plan, they dispatched five deputies to Titus to make an offer of their services; and, by these, they sent a petition, imploring the emperor's mercy in the name of their whole people. It must be acknowledged that this application was made very late in point of time; but Titus, thinking that Simon and John would make no farther resistance after so capital a desertion, dismissed the deputies with an answer importing that he would grant the petitioners their lives; for the truth was that he deemed the Idumeans to be the most formidable of his opponents.

The above-mentioned plot having been discovered, Simon gave orders that the five deputies should be instantly put to death, and that imprisonment should be the lot of those from whom they had received their directions, of whom James, the son of Soas, was deemed to be the principal. As the leaders were now in subjection, no great mischief was apprehended from the common soldiers; notwithstanding which, a stricter guard was kept over the remainder of the Idumeans than had been heretofore thought necessary; but every effort that could be devised proved ineffectual to prevent their deserting to the Romans. It is true that many of them were slain in the attempt, but still greater numbers effected their escape, all of whom were received by Titus, who had so much generosity and benevolence, that he declined to press the rigorous execution of his former orders; while even the common soldiers, partly satiated with the blood that had been spilt, and partly in the hope of obtaining booty, began now to conduct themselves with more lenity and moderation than they had heretofore done.

By this time, there were none remaining but the inferior kind of people; and these, together with their wives and children, were publicly sold like beasts in the market; and at very low prices too, for the purchasers were but few in number. Titus, now reflecting on this circumstance, and on the proclamation which he himself had issued, directing that no inore of the Jews should desert to him singly, thought it his duty, as a man of humanity, to preserve as many of them as possible; and therefore determined to revoke his former order, and to receive as many of them as should come to him separately; but he would not receive any number together. He appointed proper persons to inquire into their characters, to discriminate between the worthy and the unworthy, and to treat every man according to his deserts.

At this period, there was a priest named Jesus, the son of Thebuth, who compounded for his life with the emperor, on the condition of his delivering up several of the ornaments belonging to the temple, with some vessels and other articles that had been presented thereto. In pursuance of this contract, he conveyed out of the temple and handed over the wall several tables, goblets, and cups, with a pair of candlesticks, all made of the finest gold. He likewise presented the emperor with a considerable number of the vessels used in sacrifice, with precious stones, veils, and the habits used by the priests.

About this time, likewise, Phineas, the keeper of the sacred treasure, being taken prisoner, he gave up a vast number of the habits and girdles belonging to the priests, together with scarlet and purple stuffs which had been carefully laid by for future use, He likewise made a discovery of a quantity of cinnamon, cassia, gums, and perfumes, which were used for the incense daily offered, together with a number of sacred orna

ments and effects which were the property of private persons. Now though Phineas was a lawful prisoner, regularly taken in open war, yet, in consideration of these discoveries, he was treated with as much lenity as if he had made them through the mere effect of his own inclination.

After the expiration of eighteen days, the erection of the mounts was completed on the seventh day of the month Gorpiæus, (answering to September) at which time the Romans advanced with their engines for battery. Many of the insurgents, now despairing to hold possession of the place any longer, abandoned the walls and retired to the castle, while others concealed themselves in vaults and subterraneous passages. Still, however, there were some more obstinate than the rest, who were etermined to oppose those who had the management of the batteries. In the mean time, the enemy was greatly superior to them in numbers and strength; and the Romans had the farther advantage, that their troops were in full health and spirits, and animated with the success they had obtained over an enemy that, having been unfortunate in their undertakings, were dejected by their losses, and almost abandoned to despair.

As often as any of the Jews observed a flaw in the wall, or that any of the turrets yielded to the impression made by the battering engines, they sought their safety by immediate flying from the place of apprehended danger; till, at length, even Simon and John were terrified even to the borders of despair, and fled before the Romans were advanced within such a distance as to be able to do them a personal injury; for their fears operated to such a degree, that they were frightened at danger whether real or apprehended. Though these men were some of the most abandoned of the human race, yet the extreme calamity they endured could scarcely fail of exciting pity in the breasts of those who so lately knew them boasting of their imagined consequence, and triumphing in all the height of presuming arrogance. The change in their affairs was, indeed, very great, and distressing in the highest degree.

John and Simon now made an attempt on the wall which had been erected round the city by the Romans. They succeeded, in fact, so far in this attempt, as to make a breach in the wall; and their intention was to have attacked the guards, and by that means to have effected their escape. But when they expected to have been properly supported in this attack, they found that all their friends had abandoned them: wherefore they retreated in confusion, as they were led by their fears and apprehensions.

In this distracted state of affairs, every man told such a tale as was inspired by his own apprehensions. While one brought intelligence that the whole of the wall to the westward was overthrown, others asserted the Romans were at the foot of this wall; and a third party declared that they had entered the city, and that some of them were in actual possession of the towers. Their imaginations appeared to realize their fears: they fell prostrate on the ground, lamenting their unhappy fate, bewailing their follies, and remained in a state of desperation of which no language can convey an idea.

The goodness and the power of God were remarkable and likewise equally conspicuous on this singular occasion: for the tyrannical leaders of the opposition were eventually the occasion of their own destruction, by abandoning those forts of their own accord which could never have been taken unless the besieged had been starved out; and this they did after the Jews had in vain spent much time on other erections of inferior strength. By this providential turn of affairs, the Romans became masters of three impregnable forts, which they could never have acquired in any other manner; for the three towers were absolutely proof against battery of every kind.

No sooner had Simon and John, influenced by the impulse of a judicial frenzy, abandoned the towers above mentioned, than they hurried away to the vale of Siloah, where they reposed themselves for a short time after the fatigue they had undergone

Having refreshed themselves and recalled their scattered ideas, they assaulted the new wall at the above-mentioned place; but their efforts were so feeble, that they were easily repulsed by the guards; for their misery, despair, and fatigue, had so reduced them, that they had no strength remaining, and were glad to creep away with their adherents, and conceal themselves in vaults and caverns.

The walls being now in possession of the Romans, they hoisted their colours on the towers, and exulted with the most cheerful acclamations at the happy conclusion of a war which promised so little in the commencement for they were compelled to believe that the war was at length ended, unless they had been disposed to discredit the evidence of their own senses.

By this time the soldiers had spread themselves into every part of the city, ranging through the streets with drawn swords, and sacrificing to their rage every one they saw without distinction. They set fire to the houses, and burnt them and all their contents to the ground. In many houses into which they entered in search of plunder, they found every person of the families dead, and the houses in a manner filled with the bodies of those who had perished through hunger: wherefore, shocked at such a sight, they frequently returned without seizing their intended booty. Yet, notwithstanding this apparent respect they shewed to the deceased, they gave no proofs of their humanity to the living; for they put every man to the sword who fell in their way, till at length the bodies of the dead filled up all the alleys and narrow passes, while their blood flowed to such a degree as to run down the channels of the city in streams. Towards night they gave over the practice, but renewed their depredations by means of fire...

The conflagration of the city of Jerusalem ended on the eighth day of the month Gorpiæus. Jerusalem was a city that must undoubtedly have been the envy of the universe in all the prosperity that attended it from its original foundation, had it borne any.proportion to the misfortunes and calamities which befel it in the course of the siege above mentioned; and what aggravated these judgments was, that her own sons proved her destruction, and that she had nursed a race of vipers to prey on the body of the parent.

Titus employed himself in taking a survey of the ruins of this distinguished city: while admiring the works and fortifications, and particularly the fortresses which the usurpers, in the extravagance of their folly, had abandoned-while he was contemplating the situation, dimensions, and elevation of the towers, with the elegance of the structures, the curiosity of the design and workmanship, and the masterly execution of the whole, he expressed himself in the following manner: "If our military operations had not been aided by the immediate interposition of heaven, it would have been impossible that we should ever have possessed ourselves of these fortresses. In a word, it was God who fought for and aided us against the Jews; for a deed has been accom plished, which the hands of men or the force of engines could never have effected."

Titus having delivered himself to this effect, and said much more to the same purė pose, his next business was to restore to liberty all those prisoners whom the oppressors had left in the towers. This being done, and the razing and demolition of the city completed, these towers alone excepted, he gave orders for the sparing them as a memorial of his good fortune and success; for unless they had been abandoned, this success could never have arisen.

By this time the soldiers were perfectly fatigued with the work of slaughter, notwithstanding much appeared yet to be done. However, Titus commanded his men to desist so far as to the sparing all who should not be found in arms, or offer to make resistance: yet, notwithstanding these directions, the soldiers exceeded their orders,

and put to death the sick and the aged without pity or remorse. They who appeared to be in full health, and fit for service, were imprisoned in the temple, and in that quarter heretofore destined to the use of women. Fronto, one of the freed-men and friends of Titus, was deputed to inquire into the cases of the prisoners, and to treat them according to their deserts. The abandoned, the seditious, and those who mutually charged each other with crimes, were put to death without mercy: but Titus preserved the young and healthy, particularly those of a comely appearance, to grace his triumph on his entrance into Rome. All those who remained after this selection, and were above seventeen years of age, were sent in chains into Egypt to be employed as slaves; and those who were under seventeen exposed to sale, some only excepted, who were sent into the various provinces of the empire to he engaged as gladiators in the several theatres.

In the interim, no less than eleven thousand of the prisoners, who were under the care of Fronto, were starved to death; partly owing to their own obstinacy in the refusal of provisions, and partly to the severity of their overseers, who neglected to supply them in a proper manner but one great cause which aggravated this calamity was the want of sufficient provisions for such an immense number.

Thus ended the important and melancholy siege; and the Roman soldiers having no living object on which to wreak their further vengeance, (for if they had, that vengeance would have been continued) Titus gave orders that they should reduce the city and temple to a level with the ground, and not to leave any building standing, except the three distinguished towers so often mentioned, which bore the names of Hippocos, Phasael, and Mariamne; and a part of the wall to the westward of the city, on which he intended to erect a garrison. The towers were ordered to remain as an evidence to future times of the skill and power of the Romans in becoming possessed of them. This order was executed with the utmost strictness, and the rest of the city totally demolished and rased even to the ground; so that it scarcely appeared to have been the residence of human creatures. Thus the factious multitude, whose seditions had created all the misfortunes, were reduced; and thus, likewise, was reduced the most distinguished city on the face of the earth.

About this period, Simon, the son of Giaras, was made a prisoner, in consequence of the following singular circumstance: When Jerusalem was so closely besieged, that Simon was compelled to take refuge in the upper town, and when the Romans had actually got into the city, he was almost distracted to know how to dispose of himself; and at length he adopted the following plan. Having sent for a number of stone-cutters, miners, smiths, and persons well skilled in iron works; and having provided a great number of tools and materials proper for their purpose, and provisions for a considerable time, they descended all together into a dark and private vault. In this place, they worked their way as far as they were able; but, finding the passage too narrow to answer their intentions, they began to dig and mine, with a view to open a passage through which they might effect their escape; but though they managed their provisions in the most frugal manner possible, they fell short before they had made any considerable progress in their work, by which means the whole plan failed. Reduced to the utmost necessity, Simon had recourse to a singular device to terrify the Romans. In pursuance of his plan, he dressed himself in a white garment, which was buckled round him, over which was thrown a purple cloak. Thus habited, he ascended from the ground, under the ruins of the late temple, to the astonishment of the soldiers, and others who beheld the apparition. As he advanced towards them, the soldiers assumed sufficient courage to demand his name and business: but Simon refused to auswer their questions, and demanded to speak with the captain of the guard

« PreviousContinue »