The War of the Jews



By Flavius Josephus


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Josephus: The War of the Jews

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7











1. NOW as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder,
because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, (for they
would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be
done,) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city
and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of
the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne;
and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall
was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as
were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what
kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had
subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even
with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was
left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been
inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of
those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and
of mighty fame among all mankind. 1
2. But Caesar resolved to leave there, as a guard, the tenth legion, with
certain troops of horsemen, and companies of footmen. So, having entirely
completed this war, he was desirous to commend his whole army, on
account of the great exploits they had performed, and to bestow proper
rewards on such as had signalized themselves therein. He had therefore a
great tribunal made for him in the midst of the place where he had formerly
encamped, and stood upon it with his principal commanders about him,
and spake so as to be heard by the whole arrmy in the manner following:
That he returned them abundance of thanks for their good-will which they
had showed to him: he commended them for that ready obedience they had
exhibited in this whole war, which obedience had appeared in the many
and great dangers which they had courageously undergone; as also for that
courage they had shown, and had thereby augmented of themselves their
country’s power, and had made it evident to all men, that neither the
multitude of their enemies, nor the strength of their places, nor the
largeness of their cities, nor the rash boldness and brutish rage of their
antagonists, were sufficient at any time to get clear of the Roman valor,
although some of them may have fortune in many respects on their side.
He said further, that it was but reasonable for them to put an end to this
war, now it had lasted so long, for that they had nothing better to wish for
when they entered into it; and that this happened more favorably for
them, and more for their glory, that all the Romans had willingly accepted
of those for their governors, and the curators of their dominions, whom
they had chosen for them, and had sent into their own country for that
purpose, which still continued under the management of those whom they
had pitched on, and were thankful to them for pitching upon them. That
accordingly, although he did both admire and tenderly regard them all,
because he knew that every one of them had gone as cheerfully about their
work as their abilities and opportunities would give them leave; yet, he
said, that he would immediately bestow rewards and dignities on those
that had fought the most bravely, and with greater force, and had
signalized their conduct in the most glorious manner, and had made his
army more famous by their noble exploits; and that no one who had been
willing to take more pains than another should miss of a just retribution
for the same; for that he had been exceeding careful about this matter, and
that the more, because he had much rather reward the virtues of his fellow
soldiers than punish such as had offended.
3. Hereupon Titus ordered those whose business it was to read the list of
all that had performed great exploits in this war, whom he called to him by
their names, and commended them before the company, and rejoiced in
them in the same manner as a man would have rejoiced in his own exploits.
He also put on their heads crowns of gold, and golden ornaments about
their necks, and gave them long spears of gold,. and ensigns that were made
of silver, and removed every one of them to a higher rank; and besides this,
he plentifully distributed among them, out of the spoils, and the other
prey they had taken, silver, and gold, and garments. So when they had all
these honors bestowed on them, according to his own appointment made
to every one, and he had wished all sorts of happiness to the whole army,
he came down, among the great acclamations which were made to him, and
then betook himself to offer thank-offerings [to the gods], and at once
sacrificed a vast number of oxen, that stood ready at the altars, and
distributed them among the army to feast on. And when he had staid three
days among the principal commanders, and so long feasted with them, he
sent away the rest of his army to the several places where they would be
every one best situated; but permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard
at Jerusalem, and did not send them away beyond Euphrates, where they
had been before. And as he remembered that the twelfth legion had given
way to the Jews, under Cestius their general, he expelled them out of all
Syria, for they had lain formerly at Raphanea, and sent them away to a
place called Meletine, near Euphrates, which is in the limits of Armenia
and Cappadocia; he also thought fit that two of the legions should stay
with him till he should go to Egypt. He then went down with his army to
that Cesarea which lay by the sea-side, and there laid up the rest of his
spoils in great quantities, and gave order that the captives should he kept
there; for the winter season hindered him then from sailing into Italy.
1. NOW at the same time that Titus Caesar lay at the siege of Jerusalem,
did Vespasian go on board a merchantship and sailed from Alexandria to
Rhodes; whence he sailed away,in ships with three rows of oars; and as he
touched at several cities that lay in his road, he was joyfully received by
them all, and so passed over from Ionia into Greece; whence he set sail
from Corcyra to the promontory of Iapyx, whence he took his journey by
land. But as for Titus, he marched from that Cesarea which lay by the
sea-side, and came to that which is named Cesarea Philippi, and staid there
a considerable time, and exhibited all sorts of shows there. And here a great
number of the captives were destroyed, some being thrown to wild beasts,
and others in multitudes forced to kill one another, as if they were their
enemies. And here it was that Titus was informed of the seizure of Simon
the son of Gioras, which was made after the manner following: This
Simon, during the siege of Jerusalem, was in the upper city; but when the
Roman army was gotten within the walls, and were laying the city waste,
he then took the most faithful of his friends with him, and among them
some that were stone-cutters, with those iron tools which belonged to their
occupation, and as great a quantity of provisions as would suffice them for
a long time, and let himself and all them down into a certain subterraneous
cavern that was not visible above ground. Now, so far as had been digged
of old, they went onward along it without disturbance; but where they met
with solid earth, they dug a mine under ground, and this in hopes that they
should be able to proceed so far as to rise from under ground in a safe
place, and by that means escape. But when they came to make the
experiment, they were disappointed of their hope; for the miners could
make but small progress, and that with difficulty also; insomuch that their
provisions, though they distributed them by measure, began to fail them.
And now Simon, thinking he might be able to astonish and elude the
Romans, put on a white frock, and buttoned upon him a purple cloak, and
appeared out of the ground in the place where the temple had formerly
been. At the first, indeed, those that saw him were greatly astonished, and
stood still where they were; but afterward they came nearer to him, and
asked him who he was. Now Simon would not tell them, but bid them call
for their captain; and when they ran to call him, Terentius Rufus 2 who
was left to command the army there, came to Simon, and learned of him
the whole truth, and kept him in bonds, and let Caesar know that he was
taken. Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and
savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen by those who
were his worst enemies; and this while he was not subdued by violence,
but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished, and that on
the very same account that he had laid false accusations against many
Jews, as if they were falling away to the Romans, and had barbarously
slain them for wicked actions do not escape the Divine anger, nor is justice
too weak to punish offenders, but in time overtakes those that transgress
its laws, and inflicts its punishments upon the wicked in a manner, so
much more severe, as they expected to escape it on account of their not
being punished immediately. 3 Simon was made sensible of this by falling
under the indignation of the Romans. This rise of his out of the ground did
also occasion the discovery of a great number of others Of the seditious at
that time, who had hidden themselves under ground. But for Simon, he was
brought to Caesar in bonds, when he was come back to that Cesarea which
was on the seaside, who gave orders that he should be kept against that
triumph which he was to celebrate at Rome upon this occasion.
1. WHILE Titus was at Cesarea, he solemnized the birthday of his brother
Domitian] after a splendid manner, and inflicted a great deal of the
punishment intended for the Jews in honor of him; for the number of those
that were now slain in fighting with the beasts, and were burnt, and fought
with one another, exceeded two thousand five hundred. Yet did all this
seem to the Romans, when they were thus destroyed ten thousand several
ways, to be a punishment beneath their deserts. After this Caesar came to
Berytus, 4 which is a city of Phoenicia, and a Roman colony, and staid
there a longer time, and exhibited a still more pompous solemnity about
his father’s birthday, both in the magnificence of the shows, and in the
other vast expenses he was at in his devices thereto belonging; so that a
great multitude of the captives were here destroyed after the same manner
as before.
2. It happened also about this time, that the Jews who remained at
Antioch were under accusations, and in danger of perishing, from the
disturbances that were raised against them by the Antiochians; and this
both on account of the slanders spread abroad at this time against them,
and on account of what pranks they had played not long before; which I
am obliged to describe without fail, though briefly, that I may the better
connect my narration of future actions with those that went before.
3. For as the Jewish nation is widely dispersed over all the habitable earth
among its inhabitants, so it is very much intermingled with Syria by reason
of its neighborhood, and had the greatest multitudes in Antioch by reason
of the largeness of the city, wherein the kings, after Antiochus, had
afforded them a habitation with the most undisturbed tranquillity; for
though Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, laid Jerusalem waste, and
spoiled the temple, yet did those that succeeded him in the kingdom
restore all the donations that were made of brass to the Jews of Antioch,
and dedicated them to their synagogue, and granted them the enjoyment of
equal privileges of citizens with the Greeks themselves; and as the
succeeding kings treated them after the same manner, they both multiplied
to a great number, and adorned their temple gloriously by fine ornaments,
and with great magnificence, in the use of what had been given them. They
also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually, and
thereby after a sort brought them to be a portion of their own body. But
about this time when the present war began, and Vespasian was newly
sailed to Syria, and all men had taken up a great hatred against the Jews,
then it was that a certain person, whose name was Antiochus, being one of
the Jewish nation, and greatly respected on account of his father, who was
governor of the Jews at Antioch 5 came upon the theater at a time when
the people of Antioch were assembled together, and became an informer
against his father, and accused both him and others that they had resolved
to burn the whole city in one night; he also delivered up to them some
Jews that were foreigners, as partners in their resolutions. When the
people heard this, they could not refrain their passion, but commanded
that those who were delivered up to them should have fire brought to burn
them, who were accordingly all burnt upon the theater immediately. They
did also fall violently upon the multitude of the Jews, as supposing that
by punishing them suddenly they should save their own city. As for
Antiochus, he aggravated the rage they were in, and thought to give them a
demonstration of his own conversion, arm of his hatred of the Jewish
customs, by sacrificing after the manner of the Greeks; he persuaded the
rest also to compel them to do the same, because they would by that
means discover who they were that had plotted against them, since they
would not do so; and when the people of Antioch tried the experiment,
some few complied, but those that would not do so were slain. As for
Ailtiochus himself, he obtained soldiers from the Roman commander, and
became a severe master over his own citizens, not permitting them to rest
on the seventh day, but forcing them to do all that they usually did on
other days; and to that degree of distress did he reduce them in this matter,
that the rest of the seventh day was dissolved not only at Antioch, but the
same thing which took thence its rise was done in other cities also, in like
manner, for some small time.
4. Now, after these misfortunes had happened to the Jews at Antioch, a
second calamity befell them, the description of which when we were going
about we premised the account foregoing; for upon this accident, whereby
the four-square market-place was burnt down, as well as the archives, and
the place where the public records were preserved, and the royal palaces,
(and it was not without difficulty that the fire was then put a stop to,
which was likely, by the fury wherewith it was carried along, to have gone
over the whole city,) Antiochus accused the Jews as the occasion of all the
mischief that was done. Now this induced the people of Antioch, who
were now under the immediate persuasion, by reason of the disorder they
were in, that this calumny was true, and would have been under the same
persuasion, even though they had not borne an ill-will at the Jews before,
to believe this man’s accusation, especially when they considered what
had been done before, and this to such a degree, that they all fell violently
upon those that were accused, and this, like madmen, in a very furious rage
also, even as if they had seen the Jews in a manner setting fire themselves
to the city; nor was it without difficulty that one Cneius Collegas, the
legate, could prevail with them to permit the affairs to be laid before
Caesar; for as to Cesennius Petus, the president of Syria, Vespasian had
already sent him away; and so it happened that he was not yet come back
thither. But when Collegas had made a careful inquiry into the matter, he
found out the truth, and that not one of those Jews that were accused by
Antiochus had any hand in it, but that all was done by some vile persons
greatly in debt, who supposed that if they could once set fire to the
market-place, and burn the public records, they should have no further
demands made upon them. So the Jews were under great disorder and
terror, in the uncertain expectations of what would be the upshot of these
accusations against them.
1. AND now Titus Caesar, upon the news that was brought him concerning
his father, that
his coming was much desired by all the Italian cities, and that Rome
especially received him with great alacrity and splendor, betook himself to
rejoicing and pleasures to a great degree, as now freed from the solicitude
he had been under, after the most agreeable manner. For all men that were
in Italy showed their respects to him in their minds before he came thither,
as if he were already come, as esteeming the very expectation they had of
him to be his real presence, on account of the great desires they had to see
him, and because the good-will they bore him was entirely free and
unconstrained; for it was, desirable thing to the senate, who well
remembered the calamities they had undergone in the late changes of their
governors, to receive a governor who was adorned with the gravity of old
age, and with the highest skill in the actions of war, whose advancement
would be, as they knew, for nothing else but for the preservation of those
that were to be governed. Moreover, the people had been so harassed by
their civil miseries, that they were still more earnest for his coming
immediately, as supposing they should then be firmly delivered from their
calamities, and believed they should then recover their secure tranquillity
and prosperity; and for the soldiery, they had the principal regard to him,
for they were chiefly apprized of his great exploits in war; and since they
had experienced the want of skill and want of courage in other
commanders, they were very desirous to be free from that great shame
they had undergone by their means, and heartily wished to receive such a
prince as might be a security and an ornament to them. And as this
good-will to Vespasian was universal, those that enjoyed any remarkable
dignities could not have patience enough to stay in Rome, but made haste
to meet him at a very great distance from it; nay, indeed, none of the rest
could endure the delay of seeing him, but did all pour out of the city in
such crowds, and were so universally possessed with the opinion that it
was easier and better for them to go out than to stay there, that this was
the very first time that the city joyfully perceived itself almost empty of
its citizens; for those that staid within were fewer than those that went
out. But as soon as the news was come that he was hard by, and those
that had met him at first related with what good humor he received every
one that came to him, then it was that the whole multitude that had
remained in the city, with their wives and children, came into the road, and
waited for him there; and for those whom he passed by, they made all
sorts of acclamations, on account of the joy they had to see him, and the
pleasantness of his countenance, and styled him their Benefactor and
Savior, and the only person who was worthy to be ruler of the city of
Rome. And now the city was like a temple, full of garlands and sweet
odors; nor was it easy for him to come to the royal palace, for the
multitude of the people that stood about him, where yet at last he
performed his sacrifices of thanksgiving to his household gods for his safe
return to the city. The multitude did also betake themselves to feasting;
which feasts and drink-offerings they celebrated by their tribes, and their
families, and their neighborhoods, and still prayed God to grant that
Vespasian, his sons, and all their posterity, might continue in the Roman
government for a very long time, and that his dominion might be preserved
from all opposition. And this was the manner in which Rome so joyfully
received Vespasian, and thence grew immediately into a state of great
2. But before this time, and while Vespasian was about Alexandria, and
Titus was lying at the siege of Jerusalem, a great multitude of the Germans
were in commotion, and tended to rebellion; and as the Gauls in their
neighborhood joined with them, they conspired together, and had thereby
great hopes of success, and that they should free themselves from the
dominion of the Romans. The motives that induced the Germans to this
attempt for a revolt, and for beginning the war, were these: In the first
place, the nature [of the people], which was destitute of just reasonings,
and ready to throw themselves rashly into danger, upon small hopes; in
the next place, the hatred they bore to those that were their governors,
while their nation had never been conscious of subjection to any but to the
Romans, and that by compulsion only. Besides these motives, it was the
opportunity that now offered itself, which above all the rest prevailed
with them so to do; for when they saw the Roman government in a great
internal disorder, by the continual changes of its rulers, and understood
that every part of the habitable earth under them was in an unsettled and
tottering condition, they thought this was the best opportunity that
couldd afford itself for themselves to make a sedition, when the state of
the Romans was so ill. Classicus 6 also, and Vitellius, two of their
commanders, puffed them up with such hopes. These had for a long time
been openly desirous of such an innovation, and were induced by the
present opportunity to venture upon the declaration of their sentiments;
the multitude was also ready; and when these men told them of what they
intended to attempt, that news was gladly received by them. So when a
great part of the Germans had agreed to rebel, and the rest were no better
disposed, Vespasian, as guided by Divine Providence, sent letters to
Petilius Cerealis, who had formerly had the command of Germany,
whereby he declared him to have the dignity of consul, and commanded
him to take upon him the government of Britain; so he went whither he
was ordered to go, and when he was informed of the revolt of the
Germans, he fell upon them as soon as they were gotten together, and put
his army in battle-array, and slew a great number of them in the fight, and
forced them to leave off their madness, and to grow wiser; nay, had he not
fallen thus suddenly upon them on the place, it had not been long ere they
would however have been brought to punishment; for as soon as ever the
news of their revolt was come to Rome, and Caesar Domitian was made
acquainted with it, he made no delay, even at that his age, when he was
exceeding young, but undertook this weighty affair. He had a courageous
mind from his father, and had made greater improvements than belonged to
such an age: accordingly he marched against the barbarians immediately;
whereupon their hearts failed them at the very rumor of his approach, and
they submitted themselves to him with fear, and thought it a happy thing
that they were brought under their old yoke again without suffering any
further mischiefs. When therefore Domitian had settled all the affairs of
Gaul in such good order, that it would not be easily put into disorder any
more, he returned to Rome with honor and glory, as having performed
such exploits as were above his own age, but worthy of so great a father.
3. At the very same time with the forementioned revolt of the Germans did
the bold attempt of the Scythians against the Romans occur; for those
Scythians who are called Sarmatians, being a very numerous people,
transported themselves over the Danube into Mysia, without being
perceived; after which, by their violence, and entirely unexpected assault,
they slew a great many of the Romans that guarded the frontiers; and as
the consular legate Fonteius Agrippa came to meet them, and fought
courageously against them, he was slain by them. They then overran all the
region that had been subject to him, tearing and rending every thing that fell
in their way. But when Vespasian was informed of what had happened,
and how Mysia was laid waste, he sent away Rubrius Gallus to punish
these Sarmatians; by whose means many of them perished in the battles he
fought against them, and that part which escaped fled with fear to their
own country. So when this general had put an end to the war, he provided
for the future security of the country also; for he placed more and more
numerous garrisons in the place, till he made it altogether impossible for
the barbarians to pass over the river any more. And thus had this war in
Mysia a sudden conclusion.
1. NOW Titus Caesar tarried some time at Berytus, as we told you before.
He thence removed, and exhibited magnificent shows in all those cities of
Syria through which he went, and made use of the captive Jews as public
instances of the destruction of that nation. He then saw a river as he went
along, of such a nature as deserves to be recorded in history; it runs in the
middle between Arcea, belonging to Agrippa’s kingdom, and Raphanea. It
hath somewhat very peculiar in it; for when it runs, its current is strong,
and has plenty of water; after which its springs fail for six days together,
and leave its channel dry, as any one may see; after which days it runs on
the seventh day as it did before, and as though it had undergone no change
at all; it hath also been observed to keep this order perpetually and
exactly; whence it is that they call it the Sabbatic River 7 that name being
taken from the sacred seventh day among the Jews.
2. But when the people of Antioch were informed that Titus was
approaching, they were so glad at it, that they could not keep within their
walls, but hasted away to give him the meeting; nay, they proceeded as far
as thirty furlongs, and more, with that intention. These were not the men
only, but a multitude of women also with their children did the same; and
when they saw him coming up to them, they stood on both sides of the
way, and stretched out their right hands, saluting him, and making all sorts
of acclamations to him, and turned back together with him. They also,
among all the acclamations they made to him, besought him all the way
they went to eject the Jews out of their city; yet did not Titus at all yield
to this their petition, but gave them the bare hearing of it quietly.
However, the Jews were in a great deal of terrible fear, under the
uncertainty they were in what his opinion was, and what he would do to
them. For Titus did not stay at Antioch, but continued his progress
immediately to Zeugma, which lies upon the Euphrates, whither came to
him messengers from Vologeses king of Parthia, and brought him a crown
of gold upon the victory he had gained over the Jews; which he accepted
of, and feasted the king’s messengers, and then came back to Antioch. And
when the senate and people of Antioch earnestly entreated him to come
upon their theater, where their whole multitude was assembled, and
expected him, he complied with great humanity; but when they pressed
him with much earnestness, and continually begged of him that he would
eject the Jews out of their city, he gave them this very pertinent answer:
How can this be done, since that country of theirs, whither the Jews must
be obliged then to retire, is destroyed, and no place will receive them
besides?” Whereupon the people of Antioch, when they had failed of
success in this their first request, made him a second; for they desired that
he would order those tables of brass to be removed on which the Jews’
privileges were engraven. However, Titus would not grant that neither, but
permitted the Jews of Antioch to continue to enjoy the very same
privileges in that city which they had before, and then departed for Egypt;
and as he came to Jerusalem in his progress, and compared the melancholy
condition he saw it then in, with the ancient glory of the city, and called to
mind the greatness of its present ruins, as well as its ancient splendor, he
could not but pity the destruction of the city, so far was he from boasting
that so great and goodly a city as that was had been by him taken by force;
nay, he frequently cursed those that had been the authors of their revolt,
and had brought such a punishment upon the city; insomuch that it openly
appeared that he did not desire that such a calamity as this punishment of
theirs amounted to should be a demonstration of his courage. Yet was
there no small quantity of the riches that had been in that city still found
among its ruins, a great deal of which the Romans dug up; but the greatest
part was discovered by those who were captives, and so they carried it
away; I mean the gold and the silver, and the rest of that most precious
furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners had treasured up
under ground, against the uncertain fortunes of war.
3. So Titus took the journey he intended into Egypt, and passed over the
desert very suddenly, and came to Alexandria, and took up a resolution to
go to Rome by sea. And as he was accompanied by two legions, he sent
each of them again to the places whence they had before come; the fifth he
sent to Mysia, and the fifteenth to Pannonia: as for the leaders of the
captives, Simon and John, with the other seven hundred men, whom he
had selected out of the rest as being eminently tall and handsome of body,
he gave order that they should be soon carried to Italy, as resolving to
produce them in his triumph. So when he had had a prosperous voyage to
his mind, the city of Rome behaved itself in his reception, and their
meeting him at a distance, as it did in the case of his father. But what made
the most splendid appearance in Titus’s opinion was, when his father met
him, and received him; but still the multitude of the citizens conceived the
greatest joy when they saw them all three together, 8 as they did at this
time; nor were many days overpast when they determined to have but one
triumph, that should be common to both of them, on account of the
glorious exploits they had performed, although the senate had decreed each
of them a separate triumph by himself. So when notice had been given
beforehand of the day appointed for this pompous solemnity to be made,
on account of their victories, not one of the immense multitude was left in
the city, but every body went out so far as to gain only a station where
they might stand, and left only such a passage as was necessary for those
that were to be seen to go along it.
4. Now all the soldiery marched out beforehand by companies, and in their
several ranks, under their several commanders, in the night time, and were
about the gates, not of the upper palaces, but those near the temple of Isis;
for there it was that the emperors had rested the foregoing night. And as
soon as ever it was day, Vespasian and Titus came out crowned with
laurel, and clothed in those ancient purple habits which were proper to
their family, and then went as far as Octavian’s Walks; for there it was
that the senate, and the principal rulers, and those that had been recorded
as of the equestrian order, waited for them. Now a tribunal had been
erected before the cloisters, and ivory chairs had been set upon it, when
they came and sat down upon them. Whereupon the soldiery made an
acclamation of joy to them immediately, and all gave them attestations of
their valor; while they were themselves without their arms, and only in
their silken garments, and crowned with laurel: then Vespasian accepted of
these shouts of theirs; but while they were still disposed to go on in such
acclamations, he gave them a signal of silence. And when every body
entirely held their peace, he stood up, and covering the greatest part of his
head with his cloak, he put up the accustomed solemn prayers; the like
prayers did Titus put up also; after which prayers Vespasian made a short
speech to all the people, and then sent away the soldiers to a dinner
prepared for them by the emperors. Then did he retire to that gate which
was called the Gate of the Pomp, because pompous shows do always go
through that gate; there it was that they tasted some food, and when they
had put on their triumphal garments, and had offered sacrifices to the gods
that were placed at the gate, they sent the triumph forward, and marched
through the theatres, that they might be the more easily seen by the
5. Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows as they
deserve, and the magnificence of them all; such indeed as a man could not
easily think of as performed, either by the labor of workmen, or the
variety of riches, or the rarities of nature; for almost all such curiosities as
the most happy men ever get by piece-meal were here one heaped on
another, and those both admirable and costly in their nature; and all
brought together on that day demonstrated the vastness of the dominions
of the Romans; for there was here to be seen a mighty quantity of silver,
and gold, and ivory, contrived into all sorts of things, and did not appear
as carried along in pompous show only, but, as a man may say, running
along like a river. Some parts were composed of the rarest purple hangings,
and so carried along; and others accurately represented to the life what was
embroidered by the arts of the Babylonians. There were also precious
stones that were transparent, some set in crowns of gold, and some in
other ouches, as the workmen pleased; and of these such a vast number
were brought, that we could not but thence learn how vainly we imagined
any of them to be rarities. The images of the gods were also carried, being
as well wonderful for their largeness, as made very artificially, and with
great skill of the workmen; nor were any of these images of any other than
very costly materials; and many species of animals were brought, every
one in their own natural ornaments. The men also who brought every one
of these shows were great multitudes, and adorned with purple garments,
all over interwoven with gold; those that were chosen for carrying these
pompous shows having also about them such magnificent ornaments as
were both extraordinary and surprising. Besides these, one might see that
even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the
variety that was in their garments, and their fine texture, concealed from
the sight the deformity of their bodies. But what afforded the greatest
surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for
indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not
be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for
many of them were so made, that they were on three or even four stories,
one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one
both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of
gold. There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and
many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of
contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to
be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain;
while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with
walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines;
with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous
cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within
the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the
enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of
opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses
overthrown, and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out
of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor
as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every
side; for the Jews related that such a thing they had undergone during this
war. Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent
and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been
done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On
the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the
city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken. Moreover,
there followed those pageants a great number of ships; and for the other
spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in
the temple of Jerusalem, 9 they made the greatest figure of them all; that is,
the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that
was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that
which we made use of; for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the
small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the
likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of
brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven,
and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; and the
last of all the spoils, was carried the Law of the Jews. After these spoils
passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose
structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian
marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode
along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that
was worthy of admiration.
6. Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter
Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the
Romans’ ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the
general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras,
who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also
been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the
forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and
the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should
be slain there. Accordingly, when it was related that there was an end of
him, and all the people had set up a shout for joy, they then began to offer
those sacrifices which they had consecrated, in the prayers used in such
solemnities; which when they had finished, they went away to the palace.
And as for some of the spectators, the emperors entertained them at their
own feast; and for all the rest there were noble preparations made for
feasting at home; for this was a festival day to the city of Rome, as
celebrated for the victory obtained by their army over their enemies, for
the end that was now put to their civil miseries, and for the
commencement of their hopes of future prosperity and happiness.
7. After these triumphs were over, and after the affairs of the Romans
were settled on the surest foundations, Vespasian resolved to build a
temple to Peace, which was finished in so short a time, and in so glorious a
manner, as was beyond all human expectation and opinion: for he having
now by Providence a vast quantity of wealth, besides what he had
formerly gained in his other exploits, he had this temple adorned with
pictures and statues; for in this temple were collected and deposited all
such rarities as men aforetime used to wander all over the habitable world
to see, when they had a desire to see one of them after another; he also laid
up therein those golden vessels and instruments that were taken out of the
Jewish temple, as ensigns of his glory. But still he gave order that they
should lay up their Law, and the purple veils of the holy place, in the
royal palace itself, and keep them there.
1. NOW Lucilius Bassus was sent as legate into Judea, and there he
received the army from Cerealis Vitellianus, and took that citadel which
was in Herodium, together with the garrison that was in it; after which he
got together all the soldiery that was there, (which was a large body, but
dispersed into several parties,) with the tenth legion, and resolved to make
war upon Macherus; for it was highly necessary that this citadel should be
demolished, lest it might be a means of drawing away many into a
rebellion, by reason of its strength; for the nature of the place was very
capable of affording the surest hopes of safety to those that possessed it,
as well as delay and fear to those that should attack it; for what was
walled in was itself a very rocky hill, elevated to a very great height; which
circumstance alone made it very hard to he subdued. It was also so
contrived by nature, that it could not be easily ascended; for it is, as it
were, ditched about with such valleys on all sides, and to such a depth,
that the eye cannot reach their bottoms, and such as are not easily to be
passed over, and even such as it is impossible to fill up with earth. For
that valley which cuts it on the west extends to threescore furlongs, and
did not end till it came to the lake Asphaltitis; on the same side it was also
that Macherus had the tallest top of its hill elevated above the rest. But
then for the valleys that lay on the north and south sides, although they be
not so large as that already described, yet it is in like manner an
impracticable thing to think of getting over them; and for the valley that
lies on the east side, its depth is found to be no less than a hundred cubits.
It extends as far as a mountain that lies over against Macherus, with which
it is bounded.
2. Now when Alexander [Janneus], the king of the Jews, observed the
nature of this place, he was the first who built a citadel here, which
afterwards was demolished by Gabinius, when he made war against
Aristobulus. But when Herod came to be king, he thought the place to be
worthy of the utmost regard, and of being built upon in the firmest
manner, and this especially because it lay so near to Arabia; for it is seated
in a convenient place on that account, and hath a prospect toward that
country; he therefore surrounded a large space of ground with walls and
towers, and built a city there, out of which city there was a way that led
up to the very citadel itself on the top of the mountain; nay, more than
this, he built a wall round that top of the hill, and erected towers at the
corners, of a hundred and sixty cubits high; in the middle of which place he
built a palace, after a magnificent manner, wherein were large and beautiful
edifices. He also made a great many reservoirs for the reception of water,
that there might be plenty of it ready for all uses, and those in the
properest places that were afforded him there. Thus did he, as it were,
contend with the nature of the place, that he might exceed its natural
strength and security (which yet itself rendered it hard to be taken) by
those fortifications which were made by the hands of men. Moreover, he
put a large quantity of darts and other machines of war into it, and
contrived to get every thing thither that might any way contribute to its
inhabitants’ security, under the longest siege possible.
3. Now within this place there grew a sort of rue 10 that deserves our
wonder on account of its largeness, for it was no way inferior to any fig
tree whatsoever, either in height or in thickness; and the report is, that it
had lasted ever since the times of Herod, and would probably have lasted
much longer, had it not been cut down by those Jews who took
possession of the place afterward. But still in that valley which
encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called
Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself 11 its color is
like to that of flame, and towards the evenings it sends out a certain ray
like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes
from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the
urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even
then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang
the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be
taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite
round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a
dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root
is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of
the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be
afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is
only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to
sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no
other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and
kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. Here are also
fountains of hot water, that flow out of this place, which have a very
different taste one from the other; for some of them are bitter, and others
of them are plainly sweet. Here are also many eruptions of cold waters,
and this not only in the places that lie lower, and have their fountains near
one another, but, what is still more wonderful, here is to be seen a certain
cave hard by, whose cavity is not deep, but it is covered over by a rock
that is prominent; above this rock there stand up two [hills or] breasts, as
it were, but a little distant one from another, the one of which sends out a
fountain that is very cold, and the other sends out one that is very hot;
which waters, when they are mingled together, compose a most pleasant
bath; they are medicinal indeed for other maladies, but especially good for
strengthening the nerves. This place has in it also mines of sulfur and alum.
4. Now when Bassus had taken a full view of this place, he resolved to
besiege it, by filling up the valley that lay on the east side; so he fell hard
to work, and took great pains to raise his banks as soon as possible, and
by that means to render the siege easy. As for the Jews that were caught in
this place, they separated themselves from the strangers that were with
them, and they forced those strangers, as an otherwise useless multitude,
to stay in the lower part of the city, and undergo the principal dangers,
while they themselves seized on the upper citadel, and held it, and this
both on account of its strength, and to provide for their own safety. They
also supposed they might obtain their pardon, in case they should [at last]
surrender the citadel. However, they were willing to make trial, in the first
place, whether the hopes they had of avoiding a siege would come to any
thing; with which intention they made sallies every day, and fought with
those that met them; in which conflicts they were many of them slain, as
they therein slew many of the Romans. But still it was the opportunities
that presented themselves which chiefly gained both sides their victories;
these were gained by the Jews, when they fell upon the Romans as they
were off their guard; but by the Romans, when, upon the others’ sallies
against their banks, they foresaw their coming, and were upon their lard
when they received them. But the conclusion of this siege did not depend
upon these bickerings; but a certain surprising accident, relating to what
was done in this siege, forced the Jews to surrender the citadel. There was
a certain young man among the besieged, of great boldness, and very active
of his hand, his name was Eleazar; he greatly signalized himself in those
sallies, and encouraged the Jews to go out in great numbers, in order to
hinder the raising of the banks, and did the Romans a vast deal of mischief
when they came to fighting; he so managed matters, that those who sallied
out made their attacks easily, and returned back without danger, and this
by still bringing up the rear himself. Now it happened that, on a certain
time, when the fight was over, and both sides were parted, and retired
home, he, in way of contempt of the enemy, and thinking that none of
them would begin the fight again at that time, staid without the gates, and
talked with those that were upon the wall, and his mind was wholly intent
upon what they said. Now a certain person belonging to the Roman camp,
whose lame was Rufus, by birth an Egyptian, ran upon him suddenly,
when nobody expected such a thing, and carried him off, with his armor
itself; while, in the mean time, those that saw it from the wall were under
such an amazement, that Rufus prevented their assistance, and carried
Eleazar to the Roman camp. So the general of the Romans ordered that he
should be taken up naked, set before the city to be seen, and sorely
whipped before their eyes. Upon this sad accident that befell the young
man, the Jews were terribly confounded, and the city, with one voice,
sorely lamented him, and the mourning proved greater than could well be
supposed upon the calamity of a single person. When Bassus perceived
that, he began to think of using a stratagem against the enemy, and was
desirous to aggravate their grief, in order to prevail with them to surrender
the city for the preservation of that man. Nor did he fail of his hope; for he
commanded them to set up a cross, as if he were just going to hang Eleazar
upon it immediately; the sight of this occasioned a sore grief among those
that were in the citadel, and they groaned vehemently, and cried out that
they could not bear to see him thus destroyed. Whereupon Eleazar
besought them not to disregard him, now he was going to suffer a most
miserable death, and exhorted them to save themselves, by yielding to the
Roman power and good fortune, since all other people were now
conquered by them. These men were greatly moved with what he said,
there being also many within the city that interceded for him, because he
was of an eminent and very numerous family; so they now yielded to their
passion of commiseration, contrary to their usual custom. Accordingly,
they sent out immediately certain messengers, and treated with the
Romans, in order to a surrender of the citadel to them, and desired that
they might be permitted to go away, and take Eleazar along with them.
Then did the Romans and their general accept of these terms; while the
multitude of strangers that were in the lower part of the city, hearing of
the agreement that was made by the Jews for themselves alone, were
resolved to fly away privately in the night time; but as soon as they had
opened their gates, those that had come to terms with Bassus told him of
it; whether it were that they envied the others’ deliverance, or whether it
were done out of fear, lest an occasion should be taken against them upon
their escape, is uncertain. The most courageous, therefore, of those men
that went out prevented the enemy, and got away, and fled for it; but for
those men that were caught within they
5. When Bassus had settled these affairs, he marched hastily to the forest
of Jarden, as it is called; for he had heard that a great many of those that
had fled from Jerusalem and Macherus formerly were there gotten
together. When he was therefore come to the place, and understood that
the former news was no mistake, he, in the first place, surrounded the
whole place with his horsemen, that such of the Jews as had boldness
enough to try to break through might have no way possible for escaping,
by reason of the situation of these horsemen; and for the footmen, he
ordered them to cut down the trees that were in the wood whither they
were fled. So the Jews were under a necessity of performing some glorious
exploit, and of greatly exposing themselves in a battle, since they might
perhaps thereby escape. So they made a general attack, and with a great
shout fell upon those that surrounded them, who received them with great
courage; and so while the one side fought desperately, and the others
would not yield, the fight was prolonged on that account. But the event of
the battle did not answer the expectation of the assailants; for so it
happened, that no more than twelve fell on the Roman side, with a few
that were wounded; but not one of the Jews escaped out of this battle, but
they were all killed, being in the whole not fewer in number than three
thousand, together with Judas, the son of Jairus, their general, concerning
whom we have before spoken, that he had been a captain of a certain band
at the siege of Jerusalem, and by going down into a certain vault under
ground, had privately made his escape.
6. About the same time it was that Caesar sent a letter to Bassus, and to
Liberius Maximus, who was the procurator [of Judea], and gave order that
all Judea should be exposed to sale 12 for he did not found any city there,
but reserved the country for himself. However, he assigned a place for
eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he
gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus, 13 and is distant from
Jerusalem threescore furlongs. He also laid a tribute upon the Jews
wheresoever they were, and enjoined every one of them to bring two
drachmae every year into the Capitol, as they used to pay the same to the
temple at Jerusalem. And this was the state of the Jewish affairs at this
1. AND now, in the fourth year of the reign of Vespasian, it came to pass
that Antiochus, the king of Commagene, with all his family, fell into very
great calamities. The occasion was this: Cesennius Petus, who was
president of Syria at this time, whether it were done out of regard to truth,
or whether out of hatred to Antiochus, (for which was the real motive was
never thoroughly discovered,) sent an epistle to Caesar, and therein told
him that Antiochus, with his son Epiphanes, had resolved to rebel against
the Romans, and had made a league with the king of Parthia to that
purpose; that it was therefore fit to prevent them, lest they prevent us,
and begin such a war as may cause a general disturbance in the Roman
empire. Now Caesar was disposed to take some care about the matter,
since this discovery was made; for the neighborhood of the kingdoms made
this affair worthy of greater regard; for Samoseta, the capital of
Commagene, lies upon Euphrates, and upon any such design could afford
an easy passage over it to the Parthians, and could also afford them a
secure reception. Petus was accordingly believed, and had authority given
him of doing what he should think proper in the case; so he set about it
without delay, and fell upon Commagene before Antiochus and his people
had the least expectation of his coming: he had with him the tenth legion,
as also some cohorts and troops of horsemen. These kings also came to his
assistance: Aristobulus, king of the country called Chalcidene, and
Sohemus, who was called king of Emesa. Nor was there any opposition
made to his forces when they entered the kingdom; for no one of that
country would so much as lift up his hand against them. When Antiochus
heard this unexpected news, he could not think in the least of making war
with the Romans, but determined to leave his whole kingdom in the state
wherein it now was, and to retire privately, with his wife and children, as
thinking thereby to demonstrate himself to the Romans to be innocent as
to the accusation laid against him. So he went away from that city as far as
a hundred and twenty furlongs, into a plain, and there pitched his tents.
2. Petus then sent some of his men to seize upon Samosate, and by their
means took possession of that city, while he went himself to attack
Antiochus with the rest of his army. However, the king was not prevailed
upon by the distress he was in to do any thing in the way of war against
the Romans, but bemoaned his own hard fate, and endured with patience
what he was not able to prevent. But his sons, who were young, and
unexperienced in war, but of strong bodies, were not easily induced to bear
this calamity without fighting. Epiphanes, therefore, and Callinicus,
betook themselves to military force; and as the battle was a sore one, and
lasted all the day long, they showed their own valor in a remarkable
manner, and nothing but the approach of night put a period thereto, and
that without any diminution of their forces; yet would not Antiochus,
upon this conclusion of the fight, continue there by any means, but took
his wife and his daughters, and fled away with them to Cilicia, and by so
doing quite discouraged the minds of his own soldiers. Accordingly, they
revolted, and went over to the Romans, out of the despair they were in of
his keeping the kingdom; and his case was looked upon by all as quite
desperate. It was therefore necessary that Epiphanes and his soldiers
should get clear of their enemies before they became entirely destitute of
any confederates; nor were there any more than ten horsemen with him,
who passed with him over Euphrates, whence they went undisturbed to
Vologeses, the king of Parthie, where they were not disregarded as
fugitives, but had the same respect paid them as if they had retained their
ancient prosperity.
3. Now when Antiochus was come to Tarsus in Cilicia, Petus ordered a
centurion to go to him, and send him in bonds to Rome. However,
Vespasian could not endure to have a king brought to him in that manner,
but thought it fit rather to have a regard to the ancient friendship that had
been between them, than to preserve an inexorable anger upon pretense of
this war. Accordingly, he gave orders that they should take off his bonds,
while he was still upon the road, and that he should not come to Rome,
but should now go and live at Lacedemon; he also gave him large revenues,
that he might not only live in plenty, but like a king also. When
Epiphanes, who before was in great fear for his father, was informed of
this, their minds were freed from that great and almost incurable concern
they had been under. He also hoped that Caesar would be reconciled to
them, upon the intercession of Vologeses; for although he lived in plenty,
he knew not how to bear living out of the Roman empire. So Caesar gave
him leave, after an obliging manner, and he came to Rome; and as his father
came quickly to him from Lacedemon, he had all sorts of respect paid him
there, and there he remained.
4. Now there was a nation of the Alans, which we have formerly
mentioned some where as being Scythians and inhabiting at the lake
Meotis. This nation about this time laid a design of falling upon Media,
and the parts beyond it, in order to plunder them; with which intention
they treated with the king of Hyrcania; for he was master of that passage
which king Alexander [the Great] shut up with iron gates. This king gave
them leave to come through them; so they came in great multitudes, and
fell upon the Medes unexpectedly, and plundered their country, which
they found full of people, and replenished with abundance of cattle, while
nobody durst make any resistance against them; for Paeorus, the king of
the country, had fled away for fear into places where they could not easily
come at him, and had yielded up every thing he had to them, and had only
saved his wife and his concubines from them, and that with difficulty also,
after they had been made captives, by giving them a hundred talents for
their ransom. These Alans therefore plundered the country without
opposition, and with great ease, and proceeded as far as Armenia, laying all
waste before them. Now Tiridates was king of that country, who met
them, and fought them, but had like to have been taken alive in the battle;
for a certain man threw a net over him from a great distance, and had soon
drawn him to him, unless he had immediately cut the cord with his sword,
and ran away, and prevented it. So the Alans, being still more provoked by
this sight, laid waste the country, and drove a great multitude of the men,
and a great quantity of the other prey they had gotten out of both
kingdoms, along with them, and then retreated back to their own country.
1. WHEN Bassus was dead in Judea, Flavius Silva succeeded him as
procurator there; who, when he saw that all the rest of the country was
subdued in this war, and that there was but one only strong hold that was
still in rebellion, he got all his army together that lay in different places,
and made an expedition against it. This fortress was called Masada. It was
one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had
seized upon it. He was a descendant from that Judas who had persuaded
abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the
taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one; for then it was
that the Sicarii got together against those that were willing to submit to the
Romans, and treated them in all respects as if they had been their enemies,
both by plundering them of what they had, by driving away their cattle,
and by setting fire to their houses; for they said that they differed not at
all from foreigners, by betraying, in so cowardly a manner, that freedom
which Jews thought worthy to be contended for to the utmost, and by
owning that they preferred slavery under the Romans before such a
contention. Now this was in reality no better than a pretense and a cloak
for the barbarity which was made use of by them, and to color over their
own avarice, which they afterwards made evident by their own actions; for
those that were partners with them in their rebellion joined also with them
in the war against the Romans, and went further lengths with them in their
impudent undertakings against them; and when they were again convicted
of dissembling in such their pretenses, they still more abused those that
justly reproached them for their wickedness. And indeed that was a time
most fertile in all manner of wicked practices, insomuch that no kind of
evil deeds were then left undone; nor could any one so much as devise any
bad thing that was new, so deeply were they all infected, and strove with
one another in their single capacity, and in their communities, who should
run the greatest lengths in impiety towards God, and in unjust actions
towards their neighbors; the men of power oppressing the multitude, and
the multitude earnestly laboring to destroy the men of power. The one
part were desirous of tyrannizing over others, and the rest of offering
violence to others, and of plundering such as were richer than themselves.
They were the Sicarii who first began these transgressions, and first
became barbarous towards those allied to them, and left no words of
reproach unsaid, and no works of perdition untried, in order to destroy
those whom their contrivances affected. Yet did John demonstrate by his
actions that these Sicarii were more moderate than he was himself, for he
not only slew all such as gave him good counsel to do what was right, but
treated them worst of all, as the most bitter enemies that he had among all
the Citizens; nay, he filled his entire country with ten thousand instances
of wickedness, such as a man who was already hardened sufficiently in his
impiety towards God would naturally do; for the food was unlawful that
was set upon his table, and he rejected those purifications that the law of
his country had ordained; so that it was no longer a wonder if he, who was
so mad in his impiety towards God, did not observe any rules of
gentleness and common affection towards men. Again, therefore, what
mischief was there which Simon the son of Gioras did not do? or what
kind of abuses did he abstain from as to those very free-men who had set
him up for a tyrant? What friendship or kindred were there that did not
make him more bold in his daily murders? for they looked upon the doing
of mischief to strangers only as a work beneath their courage, but thought
their barbarity towards their nearest relations would be a glorious
demonstration thereof. The Idumeans also strove with these men who
should be guilty of the greatest madness! for they [all], vile wretches as
they were, cut the throats of the high priests, that so no part of a religious
regard to God. might be preserved; they thence proceeded to destroy
utterly the least remains of a political government, and introduced the
most complete scene of iniquity in all instances that were practicable;
under which scene that sort of people that were called zealots grew up,
and who indeed corresponded to the name; for they imitated every wicked
work; nor, if their memory suggested any evil thing that had formerly been
done, did they avoid zealously to pursue the same; and although they gave
themselves that name from their zeal for what was good, yet did it agree to
them only by way of irony, on account of those they had unjustly treated
by their wild and brutish disposition, or as thinking the greatest mischiefs
to be the greatest good. Accordingly, they all met with such ends as God
deservedly brought upon them in way of punishment; for all such miseries
have been sent upon them as man’s nature is capable of undergoing, till the
utmost period of their lives, and till death came upon them in various
ways of torment; yet might one say justly that they suffered less than
they had done, because it was impossible they could be punished
according to their deserving. But to make a lamentation according to the
deserts of those who fell under these men’s barbarity, this is not a proper
place for it; — I therefore now return again to the remaining part of the
present narration.
2. For now it was that the Roman general came, and led his army against
Eleazar and those Sicarii who held the fortress Masada together with him;
and for the whole country adjoining, he presently gained it, and put
garrisons into the most proper places of it; he also built a wall quite round
the entire fortress, that none of the besieged might easily escape; he also
set his men to guard the several parts of it; he also pitched his camp in
such an agreeable place as he had chosen for the siege, and at which place
the rock belonging to the fortress did make the nearest approach to the
neighboring mountain, which yet was a place of difficulty for getting
plenty of provisions; for it was not only food that was to be brought from
a great distance [to the army], and this with a great deal of pain to those
Jews who were appointed for that purpose, but water was also to be
brought to the camp, because the place afforded no fountain that was near
it. When therefore Silva had ordered these affairs beforehand, he fell to
besieging the place; which siege was likely to stand in need of a great deal
of skill and pains, by reason of the strength of the fortress, the nature of
which I will now describe.
3. There was a rock, not small in circumference, and very high. It was
encompassed with valleys of such vast depth downward, that the eye
could not reach their bottoms; they were abrupt, and such as no animal
could walk upon, excepting at two places of the rock, where it subsides, in
order to afford a passage for ascent, though not without difficulty. Now,
of the ways that lead to it, one is that from the lake Asphaltiris, towards
the sun-rising, and another on the west, where the ascent is easier: the one
of these ways is called the Serpent, as resembling that animal in its
narrowness and its perpetual windings; for it is broken off at the
prominent precipices of the rock, and returns frequently into itself, and
lengthening again by little and little, hath much ado to proceed forward;
and he that would walk along it must first go on one leg, and then on the
other; there is also nothing but destruction, in case your feet slip; for on
each side there is a vastly deep chasm and precipice, sufficient to quell the
courage of every body by the terror it infuses into the mind. When,
therefore, a man hath gone along this way for thirty furlongs, the rest is
the top of the hill — not ending at a small point, but is no other than a
plain upon the highest part of the mountain. Upon this top of the hill,
Jonathan the high priest first of all built a fortress, and called it Masada:
after which the rebuilding of this place employed the care of king Herod to
a great degree; he also built a wall round about the entire top of the hill,
seven furlongs long; it was composed of white stone; its height was
twelve, and its breadth eight cubits; there were also erected upon that wall
thirty-eight towers, each of them fifty cubits high; out of which you might
pass into lesser edifices, which were built on the inside, round the entire
wall; for the king reserved the top of the hill, which was of a fat soil, and
better mould than any valley for agriculture, that such as committed
themselves to this fortress for their preservation might not even there be
quite destitute of food, in case they should ever be in want of it from
abroad. Moreover, he built a palace therein at the western ascent; it was
within and beneath the walls of the citadel, but inclined to its north side.
Now the wall of this palace was very high and strong, and had at its four
corners towers sixty cubits high. The furniture also of the edifices, and of
the cloisters, and of the baths, was of great variety, and very costly; and
these buildings were supported by pillars of single stones on every side;
the walls and also the floors of the edifices were paved with stones of
several colors. He also had cut many and great pits, as reservoirs for water,
out of the rocks, at every one of the places that were inhabited, both above
and round about the palace, and before the wall; and by this contrivance he
endeavored to have water for several uses, as if there had been fountains
there. Here was also a road digged from the palace, and leading to the very
top of the mountain, which yet could not be seen by such as were without
[the walls]; nor indeed could enemies easily make use of the plain roads;
for the road on the east side, as we have already taken notice, could not be
walked upon, by reason of its nature; and for the western road, he built a
large tower at its narrowest place, at no less a distance from the top of the
hill than a thousand cubits; which tower could not possibly be passed by,
nor could it be easily taken; nor indeed could those that walked along it
without any fear (such was its contrivance) easily get to the end of it; and
after such a manner was this citadel fortified, both by nature and by the
hands of men, in order to frustrate the attacks of enemies.
4. As for the furniture that was within this fortress, it was still more
wonderful on account of its splendor and long continuance; for here was
laid up corn in large quantities, and such as would subsist men for a long
time; here was also wine and oil in abundance, with all kinds of pulse and
dates heaped up together; all which Eleazar found there, when he and his
Sicarii got possession of the fortress by treachery. These fruits were also
fresh and full ripe, and no way inferior to such fruits newly laid in,
although they were little short of a hundred years 14 from the laying in
these provisions [by Herod], till the place was taken by the Romans; nay,
indeed, when the Romans got possession of those fruits that were left,
they found them not corrupted all that while; nor should we be mistaken,
if we supposed that the air was here the cause of their enduring so long;
this fortress being so high, and so free from the mixture of all terrain and
muddy particles of matter. There was also found here a large quantity of
all sorts of weapons of war, which had been treasured up by that king, and
were sufficient for ten thousand men; there was east iron, and brass, and
tin, which show that he had taken much pains to have all things here ready
for the greatest occasions; for the report goes how Herod thus prepared
this fortress on his own account, as a refuge against two kinds of danger;
the one for fear of the multitude of the Jews, lest they should depose him,
and restore their former kings to the government; the other danger was
greater and more terrible, which arose from Cleopatra queen of Egypt, who
did not conceal her intentions, but spoke often to Antony, and desired him
to cut off Herod, and entreated him to bestow the kingdom of Judea upon
her. And certainly it is a great wonder that Antony did never comply with
her commands in this point, as he was so miserably enslaved to his
passion for her; nor should any one have been surprised if she had been
gratified in such her request. So the fear of these dangers made Herod
rebuild Masada, and thereby leave it for the finishing stroke of the Romans
in this Jewish war.
5. Since therefore the Roman commander Silva had now built a wall on the
outside, round about this whole place, as we have said already, and had
thereby made a most accurate provision to prevent any one of the besieged
running away, he undertook the siege itself, though he found but one single
place that would admit of the banks he was to raise; for behind that tower
which secured the road that led to the palace, and to the top of the hill
from the west; there was a certain eminency of the rock, very broad and
very prominent, but three hundred cubits beneath the highest part of
Masada; it was called the White Promontory. Accordingly, he got upon
that part of the rock, and ordered the army to bring earth; and when they
fell to that work with alacrity, and abundance of them together, the bank
was raised, and became solid for two hundred cubits in height. Yet was not
this bank thought sufficiently high for the use of the engines that were to
be set upon it; but still another elevated work of great stones compacted
together was raised upon that bank; this was fifty cubits, both in breadth
and height. The other machines that were now got ready were like to those
that had been first devised by Vespasian, and afterwards by Titus, for
sieges. There was also a tower made of the height of sixty cubits, and all
over plated with iron, out of which the Romans threw darts and stones
from the engines, and soon made those that fought from the walls of the
place to retire, and would not let them lift up their heads above the works.
At the same time Silva ordered that great battering ram which he had made
to be brought thither, and to be set against the wall, and to make frequent
batteries against it, which with some difficulty broke down a part of the
wall, and quite overthrew it. However, the Sicarii made haste, and
presently built another wall within that, which should not be liable to the
same misfortune from the machines with the other; it was made soft and
yielding, and so was capable of avoiding the terrible blows that affected
the other. It was framed after the following manner: They laid together
great beams of wood lengthways, one close to the end of another, and the
same way in which they were cut: there were two of these rows parallel to
one another, and laid at such a distance from each other as the breadth of
the wall required, and earth was put into the space between those rows.
Now, that the earth might not fall away upon the elevation of this bank to
a greater height, they further laid other beams over cross them, and thereby
bound those beams together that lay lengthways. This work of theirs was
like a real edifice; and when the machines were applied, the blows were
weakened by its yielding; and as the materials by such concussion were
shaken closer together, the pile by that means became firmer than before.
When Silva saw this, he thought it best to endeavor the taking of this wall
by setting fire to it; so he gave order that the soldiers should throw a great
number of burning torches upon it: accordingly, as it was chiefly made of
wood, it soon took fire; and when it was once set on fire, its hollowness
made that fire spread to a mighty flame. Now, at the very beginning of this
fire, a north wind that then blew proved terrible to the Romans; for by
bringing the flame downward, it drove it upon them, and they were almost
in despair of success, as fearing their machines would be burnt: but after
this, on a sudden the wind changed into the south, as if it were done by
Divine Providence, and blew strongly the contrary way, and carried the
flame, and drove it against the wall, which was now on fire through its
entire thickness. So the Romans, having now assistance from God,
returned to their camp with joy, and resolved to attack their enemies the
very next day; on which occasion they set their watch more carefully that
night, lest any of the Jews should run away from them without being
6. However, neither did Eleazar once think of flying away, nor would he
permit any one else to do so; but when he saw their wall burned down by
the fire, and could devise no other way of escaping, or room for their
further courage, and setting before their eyes what the Romans would do
to them, their children, and their wives, if they got them into their power,
he consulted about having them all slain. Now as he judged this to be the
best thing they could do in their present circumstances, he gathered the
most courageous of his companions together, and encouraged them to take
that course by a speech 15 which he made to them in the manner following:
“Since we, long ago, my generous friends, resolved never to be servants to
the Romans, nor to any other than to God himself, who alone is the true
and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make
that resolution true in practice. And let us not at this time bring a reproach
upon ourselves for self-contradiction, while we formerly would not
undergo slavery, though it were then without danger, but must now,
together with slavery, choose such punishments also as are intolerable; I
mean this, upon the supposition that the Romans once reduce us under
their power while we are alive. We were the very first that revolted from
them, and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it
as a favor that God hath granted us, that it is still in our power to die
bravely, and in a state of freedom, which hath not been the case of others,
who were conquered unexpectedly. It is very plain that we shall be taken
within a day’s time; but it is still an eligible thing to die after a glorious
manner, together with our dearest friends. This is what our enemies
themselves cannot by any means hinder, although they be very desirous to
take us alive. Nor can we propose to ourselves any more to fight them,
and beat them. It had been proper indeed for us to have conjectured at the
purpose of God much sooner, and at the very first, when we were so
desirous of defending our liberty, and when we received such sore
treatment from one another, and worse treatment from our enemies, and to
have been sensible that the same God, who had of old taken the Jewish
nation into his favor, had now condemned them to destruction; for had he
either continued favorable, or been but in a lesser degree displeased with
us, he had not overlooked the destruction of so many men, or delivered his
most holy city to be burnt and demolished by our enemies. To be sure we
weakly hoped to have preserved ourselves, and ourselves alone, still in a
state of freedom, as if we had been guilty of no sins ourselves against God,
nor been partners with those of others; we also taught other men to
preserve their liberty. Wherefore, consider how God hath convinced us
that our hopes were in vain, by bringing such distress upon us in the
desperate state we are now in, and which is beyond all our expectations;
for the nature of this fortress which was in itself unconquerable, hath not
proved a means of our deliverance; and even while we have still great
abundance of food, and a great quantity of arms, and other necessaries
more than we want, we are openly deprived by God himself of all hope of
deliverance; for that fire which was driven upon our enemies did not of its
own accord turn back upon the wall which we had built; this was the
effect of God’s anger against us for our manifold sins, which we have been
guilty of in a most insolent and extravagant manner with regard to our own
countrymen; the punishments of which let us not receive from the
Romans, but from God himself, as executed by our own hands; for these
will be more moderate than the other. Let our wives die before they are
abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we
have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another
mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral
monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by
fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that
they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fall of our wealth
also; and let us spare nothing but our provisions; for they will be a
testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of
necessaries, but that, according to our original resolution, we have
preferred death before slavery.”
7. This was Eleazar’s speech to them. Yet did not the opinions of all the
auditors acquiesce therein; but although some of them were very zealous to
put his advice in practice, and were in a manner filled with pleasure at it,
and thought death to be a good thing, yet had those that were most
effeminate a commiseration for their wives and families; and when these
men were especially moved by the prospect of their own certain death,
they looked wistfully at one another, and by the tears that were in their
eyes declared their dissent from his opinion. When Eleazar saw these
people in such fear, and that their souls were dejected at so prodigious a
proposal, he was afraid lest perhaps these effeminate persons should, by
their lamentations and tears, enfeeble those that heard what he had said
courageously; so he did not leave off exhorting them, but stirred up
himself, and recollecting proper arguments for raising their courage, he
undertook to speak more briskly and fully to them, and that concerning the
immortality of the soul. So he made a lamentable groan, and fixing his eyes
intently on those that wept, he spake thus: “Truly, I was greatly mistaken
when I thought to be assisting to brave men who struggled hard for their
liberty, and to such as were resolved either to live with honor, or else to
die; but I find that you are such people as are no better than others, either
in virtue or in courage, and are afraid of dying, though you be delivered
thereby from the greatest miseries, while you ought to make no delay in
this matter, nor to await any one to give you good advice; for the laws of
our country, and of God himself, have from ancient times, and as soon as
ever we could use our reason, continually taught us, and our forefathers
have corroborated the same doctrine by their actions, and by their bravery
of mind, that it is life that is a calamity to men, and not death; for this last
affords our souls their liberty, and sends them by a removal into their own
place of purity, where they are to be insensible of all sorts of misery; for
while souls are tied clown to a mortal body, they are partakers of its
miseries; and really, to speak the truth, they are themselves dead; for the
union of what is divine to what is mortal is disagreeable. It is true, the
power of the soul is great, even when it is imprisoned in a mortal body; for
by moving it after a way that is invisible, it makes the body a sensible
instrument, and causes it to advance further in its actions than mortal
nature could otherwise do. However, when it is freed from that weight
which draws it down to the earth and is connected with it, it obtains its
own proper place, and does then become a partaker of that blessed power,
and those abilities, which are then every way incapable of being hindered
in their operations. It continues invisible, indeed, to the eyes of men, as
does God himself; for certainly it is not itself seen while it is in the body;
for it is there after an invisible manner, and when it is freed from it, it is
still not seen. It is this soul which hath one nature, and that an
incorruptible one also; but yet it is the cause of the change that is made in
the body; for whatsoever it be which the soul touches, that lives and
flourishes; and from whatsoever it is removed, that withers away and dies;
such a degree is there in it of immortality. Let me produce the state of
sleep as a most evident demonstration of the truth of what I say; wherein
souls, when the body does not distract them, have the sweetest rest
depending on themselves, and conversing with God, by their alliance to
him; they then go every where, and foretell many futurities beforehand.
And why are we afraid of death, while we are pleased with the rest that we
have in sleep? And how absurd a thing is it to pursue after liberty while
we are alive, and yet to envy it to ourselves where it will be eternal! We,
therefore, who have been brought up in a discipline of our own, ought to
become an example to others of our readiness to die. Yet, if we do stand in
need of foreigners to support us in this matter, let us regard those Indians
who profess the exercise of philosophy; for these good men do but
unwillingly undergo the time of life, and look upon it as a necessary
servitude, and make haste to let their souls loose from their bodies; nay,
when no misfortune presses them to it, nor drives them upon it, these have
such a desire of a life of immortality, that they tell other men beforehand
that they are about to depart; and nobody hinders them, but every one
thinks them happy men, and gives them letters to be carried to their
familiar friends [that are dead], so firmly and certainly do they believe that
souls converse with one another [in the other world]. So when these men
have heard all such commands that were to be given them, they deliver
their body to the fire; and, in order to their getting their soul a separation
from the body in the greatest purity, they die in the midst of hymns of
commendations made to them; for their dearest friends conduct them to
their death more readily than do any of the rest of mankind conduct their
fellow-citizens when they are going a very long journey, who at the same
time weep on their own account, but look upon the others as happy
persons, as so soon to be made partakers of the immortal order of beings.
Are not we, therefore, ashamed to have lower notions than the Indians?
and by our own cowardice to lay a base reproach upon the laws of our
country, which are so much desired and imitated by all mankind? But put
the case that we had been brought up under another persuasion, and taught
that life is the greatest good which men are capable of, and that death is a
calamity; however, the circumstances we are now in ought to he an
inducement to us to bear such calamity courageously, since it is by the will
of God, and by necessity, that we are to die; for it now appears that God
hath made such a decree against the whole Jewish nation, that we are to be
deprived of this life which [he knew] we would not make a due use of. For
do not you ascribe the occasion of our present condition to yourselves, nor
think the Romans are the true occasion that this war we have had with
them is become so destructive to us all: these things have not come to pass
by their power, but a more powerful cause hath intervened, and made us
afford them an occasion of their appearing to be conquerors over us. What
Roman weapons, I pray you, were those by which the Jews at Cesarea
were slain? On the contrary, when they were no way disposed to rebel,
but were all the while keeping their seventh day festival, and did not so
much as lift up their hands against the citizens of Cesarea, yet did those
citizens run upon them in great crowds, and cut their throats, and the
throats of their wives and children, and this without any regard to the
Romans themselves, who never took us for their enemies till we revolted
from them. But some may be ready to say, that truly the people of
Cesarea had always a quarrel against those that lived among them, and that
when an opportunity offered itself, they only satisfied the old rancor they
had against them. What then shall we say to those of Scythopolis, who
ventured to wage war with us on account of the Greeks? Nor did they do it
by way of revenge upon the Romans, when they acted in concert with our
countrymen. Wherefore you see how little our good-will and fidelity to
them profiled us, while they were slain, they and their whole families, after
the most inhuman manner, which was all the requital that was made them
for the assistance they had afforded the others; for that very same
destruction which they had prevented from falling upon the others did
they suffer themselves from them, as if they had been ready to be the
actors against them. It would be too long for me to speak at this time of
every destruction brought upon us; for you cannot but know that there
was not any one Syrian city which did not slay their Jewish inhabitants,
and were not more bitter enemies to us than were the Romans themselves;
nay, even those of Damascus, 16 when they were able to allege no tolerable
pretense against us, filled their city with the most barbarous slaughters of
our people, and cut the throats of eighteen thousand Jews, with their
wives and children. And as to the multitude of those that were slain in
Egypt, and that with torments also, we have been informed they were
more than sixty thousand; those indeed being in a foreign country, and so
naturally meeting with nothing to oppose against their enemies, were killed
in the manner forementioned. As for all those of us who have waged war
against the Romans in our own country, had we not sufficient reason to
have sure hopes of victory? For we had arms, and walls, and fortresses so
prepared as not to be easily taken, and courage not to be moved by any
dangers in the cause of liberty, which encouraged us all to revolt from the
Romans. But then these advantages sufficed us but for a short time, and
only raised our hopes, while they really appeared to be the origin of our
miseries; for all we had hath been taken from us, and all hath fallen under
our enemies, as if these advantages were only to render their victory over
us the more glorious, and were not disposed for the preservation of those
by whom these preparations were made. And as for those that are already
dead in the war, it is reasonable we should esteem them blessed, for they
are dead in defending, and not in betraying their liberty; but as to the
multitude of those that are now under the Romans, who would not pity
their condition? and who would not make haste to die, before he would
suffer the same miseries with them? Some of them have been put upon the
rack, and tortured with fire and whippings, and so died. Some have been
half devoured by wild beasts, and yet have been reserved alive to be
devoured by them a second time, in order to afford laughter and sport to
our enemies; and such of those as are alive still are to be looked on as the
most miserable, who, being so desirous of death, could not come at it. And
where is now that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which
vas fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses
and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments
prepared for the war, and which had so many ten thousands of men to
fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself
inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath
nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that
hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins; some unfortunate old
men also lie upon the ashes of the temple, and a few women are there
preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach. Now
who is there that revolves these things in his mind, and yet is able to bear
the sight of the sun, though he might live out of danger? Who is there so
much his country’s enemy, or so unmanly, and so desirous of living, as not
to repent that he is still alive? And I cannot but wish that we had all died
before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies,
or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner.
But since we had a generous hope that deluded us, as if we might perhaps
have been able to avenge ourselves on our enemies on that account, though
it be now become vanity, and hath left us alone in this distress, let us make
haste to die bravely. Let us pity ourselves, our children, and our wives
while it is in our own power to show pity to them; for we were born to
die, 17 as well as those were whom we have begotten; nor is it in the power
of the most happy of our race to avoid it. But for abuses, and slavery, and
the sight of our wives led away after an ignominious manner, with their
children, these are not such evils as are natural and necessary among men;
although such as do not prefer death before those miseries, when it is in
their power so to do, must undergo even them, on account of their own
cowardice. We revolted from the Romans with great pretensions to
courage; and when, at the very last, they invited us to preserve ourselves,
we would not comply with them. Who will not, therefore, believe that
they will certainly be in a rage at us, in case they can take us alive?
Miserable will then be the young men who will be strong enough in their
bodies to sustain many torments! miserable also will be those of elder
years, who will not be able to bear those calamities which young men
might sustain! One man will be obliged to hear the voice of his son implore
help of his father, when his hands are bound. But certainly our hands are
still at liberty, and have a sword in them; let them then be subservient to
us in our glorious design; let us die before we become slaves under our
eneimies, and let us go out of the world, together with our children and our
wives, in a state of freedom. This it is that our laws command us to do this
it is that our wives and children crave at our hands; nay, God himself hath
brought this necessity upon us; while the Romans desire the contrary, and
are afraid lest any of us should die before we are taken. Let us therefore
make haste, and instead of affording them so much pleasure, as they hope
for in getting us under their power, let us leave them an example which
shall at once cause their astonishment at our death, and their admiration of
our hardiness therein.”
1. NOW as Eleazar was proceeding on in this exhortation, they all cut him
off short, and made haste to do the work, as full of an unconquerable ardor
of mind, and moved with a demoniacal fury. So they went their ways, as
one still endeavoring to be before another, and as thinking that this
eagerness would be a demonstration of their courage and good conduct, if
they could avoid appearing in the last class; so great was the zeal they
were in to slay their wives and children, and themselves also! Nor indeed,
when they came to the work itself, did their courage fail them, as one
might imagine it would have done, but they then held fast the same
resolution, without wavering, which they had upon the hearing of
Eleazar’s speech, while yet every one of them still retained the natural
passion of love to themselves and their families, because the reasoning
they went upon appeared to them to be very just, even with regard to
those that were dearest to them; for the husbands tenderly embraced their
wives, and took their children into their arms, and gave the longest parting
kisses to them, with tears in their eyes. Yet at the same time did they
complete what they had resolved on, as if they had been executed by the
hands of strangers; and they had nothing else for their comfort but the
necessity they were in of doing this execution, to avoid that prospect they
had of the miseries they were to suffer from their enemies. Nor was there
at length any one of these men found that scrupled to act their part in this
terrible execution, but every one of them despatched his dearest relations.
Miserable men indeed were they! whose distress forced them to slay their
own wives and children with their own hands, as the lightest of those evils
that were before them. So they being not able to bear the grief they were
under for what they had done any longer, and esteeming it an injury to
those they had slain, to live even the shortest space of time after them,
they presently laid all they had upon a heap, and set fire to it. They then
chose ten men by lot out of them to slay all the rest; every one of whom
laid himself down by his wife and children on the ground, and threw his
arms about them, and they offered their necks to the stroke of those who
by lot executed that melancholy office; and when these ten had, without
fear, slain them all, they made the same rule for casting lots for themselves,
that he whose lot it was should first kill the other nine, and after all should
kill himself. Accordingly, all these had courage sufficient to be no way
behind one another in doing or suffering; so, for a conclusion, the nine
offered their necks to the executioner, and he who was the last of all took a
view of all the other bodies, lest perchance some or other among so many
that were slain should want his assistance to be quite despatched, and
when he perceived that they were all slain, he set fire to the palace, and
with the great force of his hand ran his sword entirely through himself, and
fell down dead near to his own relations. So these people died with this
intention, that they would not leave so much as one soul among them all
alive to be subject to the Romans. Yet was there an ancient woman, and
another who was of kin to Eleazar, and superior to most women in
prudence and learning, with five children, who had concealed themselves in
caverns under ground, and had carried water thither for their drink, and
were hidden there when the rest were intent upon the slaughter of one
another. Those others were nine hundred and sixty in number, the women
and children being withal included in that computation. This calamitous
slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan].
2. Now for the Romans, they expected that they should be fought in the
morning, when, accordingly, they put on their armor, and laid bridges of
planks upon their ladders from their banks, to make an assault upon the
fortress, which they did; but saw nobody as an enemy, but a terrible
solitude on every side, with a fire within the place, as well as a perfect
silence. So they were at a loss to guess at what had happened. At length
they made a shout, as if it had been at a blow given by the battering ram, to
try whether they could bring any one out that was within; the women
heard this noise, and came out of their under-ground cavern, and informed
the Romans what had been done, as it was done; and the second of them
clearly described all both what was said and what was done, and this
manner of it; yet did they not easily give their attention to such a
desperate undertaking, and did not believe it could be as they said; they
also attempted to put the fire out, and quickly cutting themselves a way
through it, they came within the palace, and so met with the multitude of
the slain, but could take no pleasure in the fact, though it were done to
their enemies. Nor could they do other than wonder at the courage of their
resolution, and the immovable contempt of death which so great a number
of them had shown, when they went through with such an action as that
1. WHEN Masada was thus taken, the general left a garrison in the fortress
to keep it, and he himself went away to Cesarea; for there were now no
enemies left in the country, but it was all overthrown by so long a war.
Yet did this war afford disturbances and dangerous disorders even in
places very far remote from Judea; for still it came to pass that many Jews
were slain at Alexandria in Egypt; for as many of the Sicarii as were able to
fly thither, out of the seditious wars in Judea, were not content to have
saved themselves, but must needs be undertaking to make new
disturbances, and persuaded many of those that entertained them to assert
their liberty, to esteem the Romans to be no better than themselves, and to
look upon God as their only Lord and Master. But when part of the Jews
of reputation opposed them, they slew some of them, and with the others
they were very pressing in their exhortations to revolt from the Romans;
but when the principal men of the senate saw what madness they were
come to, they thought it no longer safe for themselves to overlook them.
So they got all the Jews together to an assembly, and accused the madness
of the Sicarii, and demonstrated that they had been the authors of all the
evils that had come upon them. They said also that “these men, now they
were run away from Judea, having no sure hope of escaping, because as
soon as ever they shall be known, they will be soon destroyed by the
Romans, they come hither and fill us full of those calamities which belong
to them, while we have not been partakers with them in any of their sins.”
Accordingly, they exhorted the multitude to have a care, lest they should
be brought to destruction by their means, and to make their apology to the
Romans for what had been done, by delivering these men up to them; who
being thus apprized of the greatness of the danger they were in, complied
with what was proposed, and ran with great violence upon the Sicarii, and
seized upon them; and indeed six hundred of them were caught
immediately: but as to all those that fled into Egypt 18 and to the Egyptian
Thebes, it was not long ere they were caught also, and brought back,
whose courage, or whether we ought to call it madness, or hardiness in
their opinions, every body was amazed at. For when all sorts of torments
and vexations of their bodies that could be devised were made use of to
them, they could not get any one of them to comply so far as to confess,
or seem to confess, that Caesar was their Lord; but they preserved their
own opinion, in spite of all the distress they were brought to, as if they
received these torments and the fire itself with bodies insensible of pain,
and with a soul that in a manner rejoiced under them. But what was most
of all astonishing to the beholders was the courage of the children; for not
one of these children was so far overcome by these torments, as to name
Caesar for their Lord. So far does the strength of the courage [of the soul]
prevail over the weakness of the body.
2. Now Lupus did then govern Alexandria, who presently sent Caesar
word of this commotion; who having in suspicion the restless temper of
the Jews for innovation, and being afraid lest they should get together
again, and persuade some others to join with them, gave orders to Lupus
to demolish that Jewish temple which was in the region called Onion, 19
and was in Egypt, which was built and had its denomination from the
occasion following: Onias, the son of Simon, one of the Jewish high priests
fled from Antiochus the king of Syria, when he made war with the Jews,
and came to Alexandria; and as Ptolemy received him very kindly, on
account of hatred to Antiochus, he assured him, that if he would comply
with his proposal, he would bring all the Jews to his assistance; and when
the king agreed to do it so far as he was able, he desired him to give him
leave to build a temple some where in Egypt, and to worship God
according to the customs of his own country; for that the Jews would then
be so much readier to fight against Antiochus who had laid waste the
temple at Jerusalem, and that they would then come to him with greater
good-will; and that, by granting them liberty of conscience, very many of
them would come over to him.
3. So Ptolemy complied with his proposals, and gave him a place one
hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis. 20 That Nomos was
called the Nomos of Hellopolls, where Onias built a fortress and a temple,
not like to that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower. He built it of
large stones to the height of sixty cubits; he made the structure of the altar
in imitation of that in our own country, and in like manner adorned with
gifts, excepting the make of the candlestick, for he did not make a
candlestick, but had a [single] lamp hammered out of a piece of gold, which
illuminated the place with its rays, and which he hung by a chain of gold;
but the entire temple was encompassed with a wall of burnt brick, though
it had gates of stone. The king also gave him a large country for a revenue
in money, that both the priests might have a plentiful provision made for
them, and that God might have great abundance of what things were
necessary for his worship. Yet did not Onias do this out of a sober
disposition, but he had a mind to contend with the Jews at Jerusalem, and
could not forget the indignation he had for being banished thence.
Accordingly, he thought that by building this temple he should draw away
a great number from them to himself. There had been also a certain ancient
prediction made by [a prophet] whose name was Isaiah, about six hundred
years before, that this temple should be built by a man that was a Jew in
Egypt. And this is the history of the building of that temple.
4. And now Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, upon the receipt of
Caesar’s letter, came to the temple, and carried out of it some of the
donations dedicated thereto, and shut up the temple itself. And as Lupus
died a little afterward, Paulinns succeeded him. This man left none of those
donations there, and threatened the priests severely if they did not bring
them all out; nor did he permit any who were desirous of worshipping
God there so much as to come near the whole sacred place; but when he
had shut up the gates, he made it entirely inaccessible, insomuch that there
remained no longer the least footsteps of any Divine worship that had
been in that place. Now the duration of the time from the building of this
temple till it was shut up again was three hundred and forty-three years.
1. AND now did the madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reach as far as
the cities of Cyrene; for one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a
weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer
sort to give ear to him; he also led them into the desert, upon promising
them that he would show them signs and apparitions. And as for the other
Jews of Cyrene, he concealed his knavery from them, and put tricks upon
them; but those of the greatest dignity among them informed Catullus, the
governor of the Libyan Pentapolis, of his march into the desert, and of the
preparations he had made for it. So he sent out after him both horsemen
and footmen, and easily overcame them, because they were unarmed men;
of these many were slain in the fight, but some were taken alive, and
brought to Catullus. As for Jonathan, the head of this plot, he fled away at
that time; but upon a great and very diligent search, which was made all
the country over for him, he was at last taken. And when he was brought
to Catullus, he devised a way whereby he both escaped punishment
himself, and afforded an occasion to Catullus of doing much mischief; for
he falsely accused the richest men among the Jews, and said that they had
put him upon what he did.
2. Now Catullus easily admitted of these his calumnies, and aggravated
matters greatly, and made tragical exclamations, that he might also be
supposed to have had a hand in the finishing of the Jewish war. But what
was still harder, he did not only give a too easy belief to his stories, but he
taught the Sicarii to accuse men falsely. He bid this Jonathan, therefore, to
name one Alexander, a Jew (with whom he had formerly had a quarrel, and
openly professed that he hated him); he also got him to name his wife
Bernice, as concerned with him. These two Catullus ordered to be slain in
the first place; nay, after them he caused all the rich and wealthy Jews to
be slain, being no fewer in all than three thousand. This he thought he
might do safely, because he confiscated their effects, and added them to
Caesar’s revenues.
3. Nay, indeed, lest any Jews that lived elsewhere should convict him of
his villainy, he extended his false accusations further, and persuaded
Jonathan, and certain others that were caught with him, to bring an
accusation of attempts for innovation against the Jews that were of the
best character both at Alexandria and at Rome. One of these, against whom
this treacherous accusation was laid, was Josephus, the writer of these
books. However, this plot, thus contrived by Catullus, did not succeed
according to his hopes; for though he came himself to Rome, and brought
Jonathan and his companions along with him in bonds, and thought he
should have had no further inquisition made as to those lies that were
forged under his government, or by his means; yet did Vespasian suspect
the matter and made an inquiry how far it was true. And when he
understood that the accusation laid against the Jews was an unjust one, he
cleared them of the crimes charged upon them, and this on account of
Titus’s concern about the matter, and brought a deserved punishment
upon Jonathan; for he was first tormented, and then burnt alive.
4. But as to Catullus, the emperors Were so gentle to him, that he
underwent no severe condemnation at this time; yet was it not long before
he fell into a complicated and almost incurable distemper, and died
miserably. He was not only afflicted in body, but the distemper in his
mind was more heavy upon him than the other; for he was terribly
disturbed, and continually cried out that he saw the ghosts of those whom
he had slain standing before him. Whereupon he was not able to contain
himself, but leaped out of his bed, as if both torments and fire were
brought to him. This his distemper grew still a great deal worse and worse
continually, and his very entrails were so corroded, that they fell out of his
body, and in that condition he died. Thus he became as great an instance of
Divine Providence as ever was, and demonstrated that God punishes
wicked men.
5. And here we shall put an end to this our history; wherein we formerly
promised to deliver the same with all accuracy, to such as should be
desirous of understanding after what manner this war of the Romans with
the Jews was managed. Of which history, how good the style is, must be