The Antiquities of the Jews, 17.250–17.298

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 17.206–17.249 | J. AJ 17.250–17.298 | J. AJ 17.299–17.323 | About This Work »

2501. But before these things could be brought to a settlement, Malthace, Archelaus’s mother, fell into a distemper, and died of it; and letters came from Varus, the president of Syria, which informed Caesar of the revolt of the Jews; for after Archlaus was sailed, the whole nation was in a tumult. 251So Varus, since he was there himself, brought the authors of the disturbance to punishment; and when he had restrained them for the most part from this sedition, which was a great one, he took his journey to Antiocli, leaving one legion of his army at Jerusalem to keep the Jews quiet, who were now very fond of innovation. 252Yet did not this at all avail to put an end to that their sedition; for after Varus was gone away, Sabinus, Caesar’s procurator, staid behind, and greatly distressed the Jews, relying on the forces that were left there that they would by their multitude protect him; 253for he made use of them, and armed them as his guards, thereby so oppressing the Jews, and giving them so great disturbance, that at length they rebelled; for he used force in seizing the citadels, and zealously pressed on the search after the king’s money, in order to seize upon it by force, on account of his love of gain and his extraordinary covetousness.

2542. But on the approach of pentecost, which is a festival of ours, so called from the days of our forefathers, a great many ten thousands of men got together; nor did they come only to celebrate the festival, but out of their indignation at the madness of Sabinus, and at the injuries he offered them. A great number there was of Galileans, and Idumeans, and many men from Jericho, and others who had passed over the river Jordan, and inhabited those parts. This whole multitude joined themselves to all the rest, and were more zealous than the others in making an assault on Sabinus, in order to be avenged on him; 255so they parted themselves into three bands, and encamped themselves in the places following:—some of them seized on the hippodrome and of the other two bands, one pitched themselves from the northern part of the temple to the southern, on the east quarter; but the third band held the western part of the city, where the king’s palace was. Their work tended entirely to besiege the Romans, and to enclose them on all sides. 256Now Sabinus was afraid of these men’s number, and of their resolution, who had little regard to their lives, but were very desirous not to be overcome, while they thought it a point of puissance to overcome their enemies; so he sent immediately a letter to Varus, and, as he used to do, was very pressing with him, and entreated him to come quickly to his assistance, because the forces he had left were in imminent danger, and would probably, in no long time, be seized upon, and cut to pieces; 257while he did himself get up to the highest tower of the fortress Phasaelus, which had been built in honor of Phasaelus, king Herod’s brother, and called so when the Parthians had brought him to his death. So Sabinus gave thence a signal to the Romans to fall upon the Jews, although he did not himself venture so much as to come down to his friends, and thought he might expect that the others should expose themselves first to die on account of his avarice. 258However, the Romans ventured to make a sally out of the place, and a terrible battle ensued; wherein, though it is true the Romans beat their adversaries, yet were not the Jews daunted in their resolutions, even when they had the sight of that terrible slaughter that was made of them; 259but they went round about, and got upon those cloisters which encompassed the outer court of the temple, where a great fight was still continued, and they cast stones at the Romans, partly with their hands, and partly with slings, as being much used to those exercises. 260All the archers also in array did the Romans a great deal of mischief, because they used their hands dexterously from a place superior to the others, and because the others were at an utter loss what to do; for when they tried to shoot their arrows against the Jews upwards, these arrows could not reach them, insomuch that the Jews were easily too hard for their enemies. And this sort of fight lasted a great while, 261till at last the Romans, who were greatly distressed by what was done, set fire to the cloisters so privately, that those that were gotten upon them did not perceive it. This fire being fed by a great deal of combustible matter, caught hold immediately on the roof of the cloisters; 262so the wood, which was full of pitch and wax, and whose gold was laid on it with wax, yielded to the flame presently, and those vast works, which were of the highest value and esteem, were destroyed utterly, while those that were on the roof unexpectedly perished at the same time; for as the roof tumbled down, some of these men tumbled down with it, and others of them were killed by their enemies who encompassed them. 263There was a great number more, who, out of despair of saving their lives, and out of astonishment at the misery that surrounded them, did either cast themselves into the fire, or threw themselves upon their own swords, and so got out of their misery. But as to those that retired behind the same way by which they ascended, and thereby escaped, they were all killed by the Romans, as being unarmed men, and their courage failing them; their wild fury being now not able to help them, because they were destitute of armor, 264insomuch that of those that went up to the top of the roof, not one escaped. The Romans also rushed through the fire, where it gave them room so to do, and seized on that treasure where the sacred money was reposited; a great part of which was stolen by the soldiers, and Sabinus got openly four hundred talents.

2653. But this calamity of the Jews’ friends, who fell in this battle, grieved them, as did also this plundering of the money dedicated to God in the temple. Accordingly, that body of them which continued best together, and was the most warlike, encompassed the palace, and threatened to set fire to it, and kill all that were in it. Yet still they commanded them to go out presently, and promised, that if they would do so, they would not hurt them, nor Sabinus neither; 266at which time the greatest part of the king’s troops deserted to them, while Rufus and Gratus, who had three thousand of the most warlike of Herod’s army with them, who were men of active bodies, went over to the Romans. There was also a band of horsemen under the command of Ruffis, which itself went over to the Romans also. 267However, the Jews went on with the siege, and dug mines under the palace walls, and besought those that were gone over to the other side not to be their hinderance, now they had such a proper opportunity for the recovery of their country’s ancient liberty; 268and for Sabinus, truly he was desirous of going away with his soldiers, but was not able to trust himself with the enemy, on account of what mischief he had already done them; and he took this great [pretended] lenity of theirs for an argument why he should not comply with them; and so, because he expected that Varus was coming, he still bore the siege.

2694. Now at this time there were ten thousand other disorders in Judea, which were like tumults, because a great number put themselves into a warlike posture, either out of hopes of gain to themselves, or out of enmity to the Jews. 270In particular, two thousand of Herod’s old soldiers, who had been already disbanded, got together in Judea itself, and fought against the king’s troops, although Achiabus, Herod’s first cousin, opposed them; but as he was driven out of the plains into the mountainous parts by the military skill of those men, he kept himself in the fastnesses that were there, and saved what he could.

2715. There was also Judas, the son of that Ezekias who had been head of the robbers; which Ezekias was a very strong man, and had with great difficulty been caught by Herod. This Judas, having gotten together a multitude of men of a profligate character about Sepphoris in Galilee, made an assault upon the palace [there,] and seized upon all the weapons that were laid up in it, and with them armed every one of those that were with him, and carried away what money was left there; 272and he became terrible to all men, by tearing and rending those that came near him; and all this in order to raise himself, and out of an ambitious desire of the royal dignity; and he hoped to obtain that as the reward not of his virtuous skill in war, but of his extravagance in doing injuries.

2736. There was also Simon, who had been a slave of Herod the king, but in other respects a comely person, of a tall and robust body; he was one that was much superior to others of his order, and had had great things committed to his care. This man was elevated at the disorderly state of things, and was so bold as to put a diadem on his head, 274while a certain number of the people stood by him, and by them he was declared to be a king, and thought himself more worthy of that dignity than any one else. He burnt down the royal palace at Jericho, and plundered what was left in it. He also set fire to many other of the king’s houses in several places of the country, and utterly destroyed them, and permitted those that were with him to take what was left in them for a prey; 275and he would have done greater things, unless care had been taken to repress him immediately; for Gratus, when he had joined himself to some Roman soldiers, took the forces he had with him, and met Simon, 276and after a great and a long fight, no small part of those that came from Perea, who were a disordered body of men, and fought rather in a bold than in a skillful manner, were destroyed; and although Simon had saved himself by flying away through a certain valley, yet Gratus overtook him, and cut off his head. 277The royal palace also at Amathus, by the river Jordan, was burnt down by a party of men that were got together, as were those belonging to Simon. And thus did a great and wild fury spread itself over the nation, because they had no king to keep the multitude in good order, and because those foreigners who came to reduce the seditious to sobriety did, on the contrary, set them more in a flame, because of the injuries they offered them, and the avaricious management of their affairs.

2787. But because Athronges, a person neither eminent by the dignity of his progenitors, nor for any great wealth he was possessed of, but one that had in all respects been a shepherd only, and was not known by any body; yet because he was a tall man, and excelled others in the strength of his hands, he was so bold as to set up for king. This man thought it so sweet a thing to do more than ordinary injuries to others, that although he should be killed, he did not much care if he lost his life in so great a design. 279He had also four brethren, who were tall men themselves, and were believed to be superior to others in the strength of their hands, and thereby were encouraged to aim at great things, and thought that strength of theirs would support them in retaining the kingdom. Each of these ruled over a band of men of their own; for those that got together to them were very numerous. 280They were every one of them also commanders; but when they came to fight, they were subordinate to him, and fought for him, while he put a diadem about his head, and assembled a council to debate about what things should be done, and all things were done according to his pleasure. 281And this man retained his power a great while; he was also called king, and had nothing to hinder him from doing what he pleased. He also, as well as his brethren, slew a great many both of the Romans and of the king’s forces, an managed matters with the like hatred to each of them. The king’s forces they fell upon, because of the licentious conduct they had been allowed under Herod’s government; and they fell upon the Romans, because of the injuries they had so lately received from them. 282But in process of time they grew more cruel to all sorts of men, nor could any one escape from one or other of these seditions, since they slew some out of the hopes of gain, and others from a mere custom of slaying men. They once attacked a company of Romans at Emmaus, who were bringing corn and weapons to the army, and fell upon Arius, the centurion, who commanded the company, and shot forty of the best of his foot soldiers; 283but the rest of them were affrighted at their slaughter, and left their dead behind them, but saved themselves by the means of Gratus, who came with the king’s troops that were about him to their assistance. Now these four brethren continued the war a long while by such sort of expeditions, and much grieved the Romans; but did their own nation also a great deal of mischief. 284Yet were they afterwards subdued; one of them in a fight with Gratus, another with Ptolemy; Archelaus also took the eldest of them prisoner; while the last of them was so dejected at the other’s misfortune, and saw so plainly that he had no way now left to save himself, his army being worn away with sickness and continual labors, that he also delivered himself up to Archelaus, upon his promise and oath to God [to preserve his life.] But these things came to pass a good while afterward.

2858. And now Judea was full of robberies; and as the several companies of the seditious lighted upon any one to head them, he was created a king immediately, in order to do mischief to the public. They were in some small measure indeed, and in small matters, hurtful to the Romans; but the murders they committed upon their own people lasted a long while.

2869. As soon as Varus was once informed of the state of Judea by Sabinus’s writing to him, he was afraid for the legion he had left there; so he took the two other legions, (for there were three legions in all belonging to Syria,) and four troops of horsemen, with the several auxiliary forces which either the kings or certain of the tetrarchs afforded him, and made what haste he could to assist those that were then besieged in Judea. 287He also gave order that all that were sent out for this expedition, should make haste to Ptolemais. The citizens of Berytus also gave him fifteen hundred auxiliaries as he passed through their city. Aretas also, the king of Arabia Petrea, out of his hatred to Herod, and in order to purchase the favor of the Romans, sent him no small assistance, besides their footmen and horsemen; 288and when he had now collected all his forces together, he committed part of them to his son, and to a friend of his, and sent them upon an expedition into Galilee, which lies in the neighborhood of Ptolemais; 289who made an attack upon the enemy, and put them to flight, and took Sepphoris, and made its inhabitants slaves, and burnt the city. But Varus himself pursued his march for Samaria with his whole army; yet did not he meddle with the city of that name, because it had not at all joined with the seditious; but pitched his camp at a certain village that belonged to Ptolemy, whose name was Arus, 290which the Arabians burnt, out of their hatred to Herod, and out of the enmity they bore to his friends; whence they marched to another village, whose name was Sampho, which the Arabians plundered and burnt, although it was a fortified and a strong place; and all along this march nothing escaped them, but all places were full of fire and of slaughter. 291Emmaus was also burnt by Varus’s order, after its inhabitants had deserted it, that he might avenge those that had there been destroyed. 292From thence he now marched to Jerusalem; whereupon those Jews whose camp lay there, and who had besieged the Roman legion, not bearing the coming of this army, left the siege imperfect: 293but as to the Jerusalem Jews, when Varus reproached them bitterly for what had been done, they cleared themselves of the accusation, and alleged that the conflux of the people was occasioned by the feast; that the war was not made with their approbation, but by the rashness of the strangers, while they were on the side of the Romans, and besieged together with them, rather than having any inclination to besiege them. 294There also came beforehand to meet Varus, Joseph, the cousin-german of king Herod, as also Gratus and Rufus, who brought their soldiers along with them, together with those Romans who had been besieged; but Sabinus did not come into Varus’s presence, but stole out of the city privately, and went to the sea-side.

29510. Upon this, Varus sent a part of his army into the country, to seek out those that had been the authors of the revolt; and when they were discovered, he punished some of them that were most guilty, and some he dismissed: now the number of those that were crucified on this account were two thousand. 296After which he disbanded his army, which he found no way useful to him in the affairs he came about; for they behaved themselves very disorderly, and disobeyed his orders, and what Varus desired them to do, and this out of regard to that gain which they made by the mischief they did. 297As for himself, when he was informed that ten thousand Jews had gotten together, he made haste to catch them; but they did not proceed so far as to fight him, but, by the advice of Achiabus, they came together, and delivered themselves up to him: hereupon Varus forgave the crime of revolting to the multitude, but sent their several commanders to Caesar, 298many of whom Caesar dismissed; but for the several relations of Herod who had been among these men in this war, they were the only persons whom he punished, who, without the least regard to justice, fought against their own kindred.

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