The Antiquities of the Jews, 16.271–16.299

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

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2711. When Herod had been at Rome, and was come back again, a war arose between him and the Arabians, on the occasion following: The inhabitants of Trachonitis, after Caesar had taken the country away from Zenodorus, and added it to Herod, had not now power to rob, but were forced to plough the land, and to live quietly, which was a thing they did not like; 272and when they did take that pains, the ground did not produce much fruit for them. However, at the first the king would not permit them to rob, and so they abstained from that unjust way of living upon their neighbors, which procured Herod a great reputation for his care. 273But when he was sailing to Rome, it was at that time when he went to accuse his son Alexander, and to commit Antipater to Caesar’s protection, the Trachonites spread a report as if he were dead, and revolted from his dominion, and betook themselves again to their accustomed way of robbing their neighbors; 274at which time the king’s commanders subdued them during his absence; but about forty of the principal robbers, being terrified by those that had been taken, left the country, 275and retired into Arabia, Sylleus entertaining them, after he had missed of marrying Salome, and gave them a place of strength, in which they dwelt. So they overran not only Judea, but all Celesyria also, and carried off the prey, while Sylleus afforded them places of protection and quietness during their wicked practices. 276But when Herod came back from Rome, he perceived that his dominions had greatly suffered by them; and since he could not reach the robbers themselves, because of the secure retreat they had in that country, and which the Arabian government afforded them, and yet being very uneasy at the injuries they had done him, he went all over Trachonitis, and slew their relations; 277whereupon these robbers were more angry than before, it being a law among them to be avenged on the murderers of their relations by all possible means; so they continued to tear and rend every thing under Herod’s dominion with impunity. Then did he discourse about these robberies to Saturninus and Volumnius, and required that they should be punished; 278upon which occasion they still the more confirmed themselves in their robberies, and became more numerous, and made very great disturbances, laying waste the countries and villages that belonged to Herod’s kingdom, and killing those men whom they caught, till these unjust proceedings came to be like a real war, for the robbers were now become about a thousand;— 279at which Herod was sore displeased, and required the robbers, as well as the money which he had lent Obodas, by Sylleus, which was sixty talents, and since the time of payment was now past, he desired to have it paid him; 280but Sylleus, who had laid Obodas aside, and managed all by himself, denied that the robbers were in Arabia, and put off the payment of the money; about which there was a hearing before Saturninus and Volumnius, who were then the presidents of Syria. 281At last he, by their means, agreed, that within thirty days’ time Herod should be paid his money, and that each of them should deliver up the other’s subjects reciprocally. Now, as to Herod, there was not one of the other’s subjects found in his kingdom, either as doing any injustice, or on any other account, but it was proved that the Arabians had the robbers amongst them.

2822. When this day appointed for payment of the money was past, without Sylleus’s performing any part of his agreement, and he was gone to Rome, Herod demanded the payment of the money, and that the robbers that were in Arabia should be delivered up; 283and, by the permission of Saturninus and Volumnius, executed the judgment himself upon those that were refractory. He took an army that he had, and let it into Arabia, and in three days’ time marched seven mansions; and when he came to the garrison wherein the robbers were, he made an assault upon them, and took them all, and demolished the place, which was called Raepta, but did no harm to any others. 284But as the Arabians came to their assistance, under Naceb their captain, there ensued a battle, wherein a few of Herod’s soldiers, and Naceb, the captain of the Arabians, and about twenty of his soldiers, fell, while the rest betook themselves to flight. 285So when he had brought these to punishment, he placed three thousand Idumeans in Trachonitis, and thereby restrained the robbers that were there. He also sent an account to the captains that were about Phoenicia, and demonstrated that he had done nothing but what he ought to do, in punishing the refractory Arabians, which, upon an exact inquiry, they found to be no more than what was true.

2863. However, messengers were hasted away to Sylleus to Rome, and informed him what had been done, and, as is usual, aggravated every thing. 287Now Sylleus had already insinuated himself into the knowledge of Caesar, and was then about the palace; and as soon as he heard of these things, he changed his habit into black, and went in, and told Caesar that Arabia was afflicted with war, and that all his kingdom was in great confusion, upon Herod’s laying it waste with his army; 288and he said, with tears in his eyes, that two thousand five hundred of the principal men among the Arabians had been destroyed, and that their captain Nacebus, his familiar friend and kinsman, was slain; and that the riches that were at Raepta were carried off; and that Obodas was despised, whose infirm state of body rendered him unfit for war; on which account neither he, nor the Arabian army, were present. 289When Sylleus said so, and added invidiously, that he would not himself have come out of the country, unless he had believed that Caesar would have provided that they should all have peace one with another, and that, had he been there, he would have taken care that the war should not have been to Herod’s advantage; Caesar was provoked when this was said, and asked no more than this one question, both of Herod’s friends that were there, and of his own friends, who were come from Syria, Whether Herod had led an army thither? 290And when they were forced to confess so much, Caesar, without staying to hear for what reason he did it, and how it was done, grew very angry, and wrote to Herod sharply. The sum of his epistle was this, that whereas of old he had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject. 291Sylleus also wrote an account of this to the Arabians, who were so elevated with it, that they neither delivered up the robbers that had fled to them, nor paid the money that was due; they retained those pastures also which they had hired, and kept them without paying their rent, and all this because the king of the Jews was now in a low condition, by reason of Caesar’s anger at him. 292Those of Trachonitis also made use of this opportunity, and rose up against the Idumean garrison, and followed the same way of robbing with the Arabians, who had pillaged their country, and were more rigid in their unjust proceedings, not only in order to get by it, but by way of revenge also.

2934. Now Herod was forced to bear all this, that confidence of his being quite gone with which Caesar’s favor used to inspire him; for Caesar would not admit so much as an embassage from him to ‘make an apology for him; and when they came again, he sent them away without success. 294So he was cast into sadness and fear; and Sylleus’s circumstances grieved him exceedingly, who was now believed by Caesar, and was present at Rome, nay, sometimes aspiring higher. Now it came to pass that Obodas was dead; and Aeneas, whose name was afterward changed to Aretas, 295took the government, for Sylleus endeavored by calumnies to get him turned out of his principality, that he might himself take it; with which design he gave much money to the courtiers, and promised much money to Caesar, who indeed was angry that Aretas had not sent to him first before he took the kingdom; 296yet did Aeneas send an epistle and presents to Caesar, and a golden crown, of the weight of many talents. Now that epistle accused Sylleus as having been a wicked servant, and having killed Obodas by poison; and that while he was alive, he had governed him as he pleased; and had also debauched the wives of the Arabians; and had borrowed money, in order to obtain the dominion for himself: 297yet did not Caesar give heed to these accusations, but sent his ambassadors back, without receiving any of his presents. But in the mean time the affairs of Judea and Arabia became worse and worse, partly because of the anarchy they were under, and partly because, as bad as they were, nobody had power to govern them; 298for of the two kings, the one was not yet confirmed in his kingdom, and so had not authority sufficient to restrain the evil-doers; and as for Herod, Caesar was immediately angry at him for having avenged himself, and so he was compelled to bear all the injuries that were offered him. 299At length, when he saw no end of the mischief which surrounded him, he resolved to send ambassadors to Rome again, to see whether his friends had prevailed to mitigate Caesar, and to address themselves to Caesar himself; and the ambassador he sent thither was Nicolaus of Damascus.

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