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In a word, the rashness excited by despair on the one side, and determined courage on the other, combined to render the engagement equally obstinate and violent. In the end, however, the Romans obtained the advantage with the loss of only twelve men slain, and a small number wounded; whereas every man of the Jews was killed in the action, amounting in the whole to the number of three thousand. Among these was the commander in chief, named Judas, the son of Jair, of whom mention has been made in a former part of this work. This Judas was an officer during the siege of Jerusalem, from whence he effected his escape through a subterraneous passage.
At this juncture, the emperor sent a letter to his officer Tiberius Maximus, commissioning him to expose the lands of the Jews to sale; and declaring that he would not rebuild any of their cities, but seize them all to his own use. Tiberius was directed to leave eight bundred soldiers in Emmaus, which is situated about sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. The emperor likewise issued orders that the Jews should pay a poll-tax of two drachmas annually; and this money was to be paid into the capitol, as similar taxes had been formerly paid at the temple.
The death of Bassus, which happened in Judea, made room for the advancement of Flavius Silva, who succeeded to his government. Silva being informed that all the country was in due subjection, one castle only excepted, he collected all the forces he was able, with a determination to make an attack on it. The name of this castle was Massada, and it was under the command of Eleazar, the leader of the Sicarii, who had obtained possession of this fortress.
The Roman general, Silva, now marched to lay siege to Massada, in which was a garrison of the Sicarii, commanded by Eleazar, who was the chief of the people bearing that name. Silva soon possessed himself of the adjacent country, and with very little difficulty: he then disposed of his troops in the most commodious manner possible, and ran up a wall round the castle, at once to secure his soldiers, and to prevent the escape of the enemy. He now looked out for a place the most convenient for the station of his camp, which he found to be on the spot where the adjacent mountain communicated with the rock on which the castle stood. One great inconvenience now attended Silva; for the provisions with which his army was supplied by the Jews were brought from a very great distance; and, as there was no fountain near the place, the procuring of water was likewise attended with very great difficulty.
As soon as the above-mentioned disposition of affairs had taken place, Silva prepared to commence the siege, which, as will appear from the situation of the castle, was likely to cost much time, and to be attended with great difficulty. This castle was situated on a large and high rock, which was surrounded by deep and craggy precipices. They who stood at the top could not see the bottom, on account of the higher rocks hanging over those that are beneath. Even the beasts could not climb this rock, so difficult was the access, except by two passages; one of which is from the cast side from the lake Asphaltites, and the other from the west side, the former being much more dangerous than the latter. One of these passages bears the name of the Snake, from the number of turnings that there were in the ascent; for in many parts of it the stones so intersected each other, that passengers were obliged to go backwards and forwards to pass them; and the road was so narrow that the traveller could not keep both his feet on the ground at the same time. Exclusive of all things, one false step would have plunged a man to the bottom of a most horrid precipice. This road was deemed thirty furlongs from the bottom to the top of the mountain; and on this eminence there was a plain, on which the high-priest Jonathan caused a castle to be built, to which he gave the name of Massada, and claimed the honour of being the founder of this castle, which was afterwards fortified and adorned, with immense labour, and at a large
expence, by Herod the Great; a wall being also built round it by Herod, eight cubits in breadth, and twelve in height, with white stones of considerable value. Herod likewise caused seven and twenty turrets, each of fifty cubits high, to be erected; and made a communication between these turrets and the buildings on the interior side of the wall. The nature of the soil of the plain being found to be extremely rich, Herod gave orders that it should be well cultivated, with a view that those who might in future times have occasion to take refuge in the castle, might be certain of being supplied with the necessaries of life. Within the limits of the castle, he caused a sumptuous and magnificent palace to be erected for his own accommodation. The entrance of this palace was situated so as to front the north-west; the walls of it were of great strength, and remarkably high; and at each of the four corners was a tower of the height of sixty cubits. The variety, decorations, ornaments, richuess, and splendor, of the several apartments, baths, and galleries, exceeded all description. The whole was supported with pillars, each of one entire stone, and so disposed as to give proof of the strength of the structure and the judgment of the architect. The pavement and the walls were diversified with stones of a variety of colours. A great number of large cisterns, hewed out of the rock, for the preservation of water, were dispersed in the different quarters of the palace to the castle, which was quite invisible from the outside, and, as hath been heretofore observed, the other passage was rendered altogether impassable; ind, with regard to the western passage, it was totally blocked up by a tower that vas erected in the narrowest part of it, at about the distance of a thousand cubits from the castle. This will serve to shew how strongly the place was fortified by art as wel as nature, and how difficult the conquest of it must have been even with the slightest pposition.
Thus fortited, this castle had the appearance of being proof, not only against force, but was unlikely to be subdued by famine; for, when it was surprized by Eleazar and the Sicarii, there were found in it great treasures of corn, wine, oil, pulse, dates, &c. equal to the consumption of many years; and these articles were said by Josephus to be as fresh as if they had been but newly deposited, though they had been treasured up a hundred years. Perhaps this circumstance might be owing to the extreme purity and salubrious quality of the air in so clevated a situation. Agreeably to the king's order, there was likewise laid up a magazine of various kinds of arms for the accommodation of ten thousand men, and also an immense quantity of unwrought iron, brass, lead, and other articles, which, it is presumed, were intended for some capital enterprize.
The Jews being now so closely pent up within the walls of Massada, that it was utterly impossible that they should effect an escape, Silva advanced with his machines to the only place which he could find up, in order to raise a mount. Beyond the tower which blocked up the western passage to the palace and castle, there was a large rock, which bore the name of Leuce; this rock was larger than that on which the castle of Massada stood, but no so high by about three hundred cubits. Silva had no sooner taken possession of this rock, than he issued orders to his soldiers to raise a mount upon it; and they were so diligent in this business, that they soon got it up to the height of two hundred cubits; but finding that it was not of sufficient strength to support the machines, they raised on it a kind of platform composed of large stones, fifty cubits in height, and of the same breadth. On this platform they built a tower of the height of sixty cubits, which they fortified with iron. Exclusive of their common machines, they had another kind which had been invented by Vespasian, and were afterwards improved by litus.
From the tower above mentioned, the Romans assailed the besieged with such
impetuous showers of stones and flights of arrows, that they were afraid to appear on the walls. In the interim, Silva directed his battering-rams against the wall, tili at length it was damaged in some places. In consequence hereof, the Sicarii instantly ran up another wall behind it, which was composed of such materials as to deaden the shock, and sustain no kind of damage. This wall was built in the following manner : A row of large pieces of timber was mortised into another of equal size, and a space was left between them equal to the thickness of the wall. This space was filled with the earth of the nature of clay, and boards were nailed across the frame to prevent the earth from falling. Thus prepared, it was as strong as the wall of a house; and the more violently it was battered, the stronger it became, the earth being more firmly closed by each stroke it received.
Silva, finding that the battering with his machines did not produce the consequence he expected, ordered his soldiers to provide themselves with fire-brands to destroy the works of the enemy. The new wall being hollow, and chiefly composed of timberwork, it immediately took fire, and the flames raged with the utmost violence; but the wind being in the north, it drove the fire with such rapidity on the Romans, that they expected the almost instant destruction of their machines: but, just at this juncture, the wind veered to the south, and beat so violently on the wall, that the whole of it was in flames in a moment. The Romans, grateful for this providential stroke in their favour, returned to their camp full of spirits, and with a fixed determinatior to attack the enemy by break of day on the following morning; and, in the mean time, to place strong guards, that their opponents might not escape in the night.
However, Eleazar had no idea of departing himself, or of permitting any of his people to evacuate the place; but as the wall was now totally consumel, and there appeared to be no longer any chance either of relief or security, it became necessary to consider how their wives and children might be most effectually preserved from the violences to be expected from the Romans on their taking possession of the place. Having seriously reflected on this affair, Eleazar determined in his own mind, that a death of glory would be greatly preferable to a life of infamy; and that the most magnanimous resolution they could form would be to disdain the idea of surviving their liberties. His own sentiments being thus formed, he resolved to endeavour to inspire others with the same; and, for that purpose, he summoned a number of his friends and associates, whom he addressed in a speech strongly recommending suicide.
This was received in a very different manner by his different auditors some of whom were charmed with his proposal, and ready to execute it, deeming death an object of, desire in their present situation; while others, from the tenderness of their nature, were equally terrified at the thought of destroying their friends, or becoming their own executioners. They regarded each other with looks of the utmost anxiety, while their flowing tears testified the sentiments of their minds. Elcazar was greatly clagrined at what he deemed a weakness, that degraded the dignity of his plan, and might tempt those who had appeared to be determined to abandon their resolutions. He therefore pursued his plan of exhorting the people, but in a different manner; for he now discoursed on the immortality of the soul, addressing himself particularly and with the utmost earnestness to those who were weeping.
Eleazar would have proceeded long on this subject, but that the people interrupted him with the warmest expressions of their readiness to dopt the plan he bad recommended, each being ambitious to excel the other in giving this distinguishing proof of his wisdom and courage; thus passionately were these people devoted to the.. destruction of themselves and their families. It was very extraordinary, that when they came to give proof of their resolution; not a man of then failed in the arduous
trial. They retained their kindest affections for each other to the last moment, conceiving that they could not render a more acceptable office, or give a more perfect proof of their regard. While they embraced their wives and children for the last time, they wept over and stabbed them in the same moment, rejoicing, however, that this work was not left to be performed by their enemics. They considered the necessity of the action as their excuse, and reflected that they only destroyed their dearest friends to prevent their falling by the hands of the Romans. In a word, there was not one man who wanted the necessary courage on the occasion, and they killed their dearest friends and relations without distinction: and they thought the destruction of their wives and children far preferable to the evils to which they would otherwise be exposed.
They who had been the principal agents in the slaughter above mentioned, penetrated as they were with grief for the necessity that had occasioned it, resolved not to survive those they had slain; and immediately collecting all their effects together, set them on fire. This being done, they cast lots for the selection of ten men out of their number to destroy the rest; and these being chosen, the devoted victims embraced the bodies of their deceased friends, and then ranging themselves near them, cheerfully resigned themselves to the hands of the executioners. When these ten men had discharged the disagreeable task they had undertaken, they again cast lots which of the ten should kill the other nine, having previously agreed, that the man to whose lot it might fall should sacrifice himself on the bodies of his companions; so great was the trust that these people reposed in each other. The nine devoted victims died with the same resolution as their brethren had done; and the surviving man, having surveyed the bodies, and found that they were all absolutely dead, threw himself on his sword among his companions, but not till he had first set fire to the palace.
This melancholy scene, which happened on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus, was now concluded; and the deceased had imagined that not a single Jew would fall into the hands of the Romans: but it afterwards appeared that an old woman, and another woman who was related to Eleazar, together with five children, had escaped the general massacre by concealing themselves in a common sewer. Including women and children, no less than nine hundred and fifty persons were slain on this occasion. On the dawn of the following morning, the Romans prepared their scaling-ladders in order to make an attack; but they were astonished in the highest degree on not hearing any noise but the cracking of the flames, and were totally at a loss what conjecture to form. On this they gave a loud shout, (such as is customary when a battery is played of) in expectation of receiving an answer. This noise alarmed the women in their place of retreat, who, immediately coming out, related the truth to the Romans. as it really had happened. The story, however, appeared so extraordinary, that they could not give credit to it: but they exerted themselves in extinguishing the fire; and being employed in this service till they came to the palace, there they found the bodies of the deceased lying in heaps. Far, however, from exulting in the triumph of joy that might have been expected from enemies, they united to admire what they deemed the steady virtue and dignity of mind with which the Jews had been inspired, and wondered at that generous contempt of death by which such numbers had been bound in one solemn compact.
The temple and holy city thus destroyed and levelled with the ground, and the whole nation either miserably buried under its ruins, or dispersed into other countries, might, one would think, have opened the eyes of the poor remains of that once favoured people, and crushed at once all hopes and expectations of any other deliverer but him whom they had rejected and crucified. Many of them were indeed moved; but the far greater part remained in their infatuated state, and, according to Christ's own prediction,
have been dispersed ever since over all the world, to attest his truth and their own obdurate blindness, till the happy time comes when the veil shall be taken off their eyes. When that will be, is one of those secrets which God has been pleased to leave as yet unrevealed, and which it would be vain and presumptuous to search too curiously after.
After the reduction of Jerusalem and Judea, Agrippa and his sister retired to Rome, probably with Titus, who was excessive fond of both, but especially of Berenice. We have seen, through the course of this last war, how serviceable the brother had been to that general, accompanying him in person, and assisting him with men and ammunition, for which we were told Titus got his kingdom enlarged by the emperor, and procured him prætorian honours. But his extraordinary friendship for that prince flowed chiefly from his special fondness for his sister, as if she had been his real wife. Titus, nevertheless, had promised her marriage, and would in all probability have kept his word, had he not found that the Romans were wholly averse from it, partly on account of her being a Jewess, and partly on that of her royal descent: To pave himself, therefore, the way to the empire, he was forced to discard her, in opposition to both their inclinations. What became of her afterwards is not worth enquiring. As for Agrippa, he was the last of the Herodian race that bore the royal title, and is supposed to have died at Rome about the seventieth year of his age, and in the ninetieth of Jesus Christ. Josephus has this remarkable saying on the Herodian line, that they all failed within a hundred years, though they were at first so numerous, as we have seen them in the genealogy of Herod the Great.
We have already had occasion to mention the number of the slain, as well as of the prisoners, according to Josephus. A curious author has sinte taken the pain s to make a fresh computation out of him of all that perished in the several places throughout that kingdom, and out of it from the beginning to the conclusion of the war, in which we believe our readers will be glad to see the whole amount of the several bloody, a ticles, as it were, at one view. They are as follows:
In a fight at Ascalon
In an ambush
Slew themselves at Massada
At the taking of Aphec
Upon mount Gerazim
In Cyrene, by the governor Catulus 11,600 Perished at Jerusalem by sword, famine, 4,200 pestilence, and during the siege
Drowned at Joppa by a sudden storm
According to this account, the whole amounts to 1,337,490; besides a vast multitude that died in the caves, woods, wildernesses, common sewers, in banishment, and many other ways, of whom no computation could be made; and ten thousand that vere slain at Jotapata more than our author has reckoned. For Josephus mentions expressly forty thousand, but he only thirty thousand.
Brightly, Printer, Bungay.]