Containing The Interval Of Eighteen Years.
From The Death Of Antigonus To The Finishing Of The Temple By Herod.
Concerning The Famine That Happened In Judea And Syria; And How Herod, After He Had Married Another Wife, Rebuilt Cesarea, And Other Grecian Cities.
1. NOW on this very year, which was the thirteenth year of the reign of Herod, very great calamities came upon the country; whether they were derived from the anger of God, or whether this misery returns again naturally in certain periods of time (14) for, in the first place, there were perpetual droughts, and for that reason the ground was barren, and did not bring forth the same quantity of fruits that it used to produce; and after this barrenness of the soil, that change of food which the want of corn occasioned produced distempers in the bodies of men, and a pestilential disease prevailed, one misery following upon the back of another; and these circumstances, that they were destitute both of methods of cure and of food, made the pestilential distemper, which began after a violent manner, the more lasting. The destruction of men also after such a manner deprived those that survived of all their courage, because they had no way to provide remedies sufficient for the distresses they were in.
When therefore the fruits of that year were spoiled, and whatsoever they had laid up beforehand was spent, there was no foundation of hope for relief remaining, but the misery, contrary to what they expected still increased upon them; and this not only on that year, while they had nothing for themselves left [at the end of it], but what seed they had sown perished also, by reason of the ground not yielding its fruits on the second year. (15) This distress they were in made them also, out of necessity, to eat many things that did not use to be eaten; nor was the king himself free from this distress any more than other men, as being deprived of that tribute he used to have from the fruits of the ground, and having already expended what money he had, in his liberality to those whose cities he had built; nor had he any people that were worthy of his assistance, since this miserable state of things had procured him the hatred of his subjects: for it is a constant rule, that misfortunes are still laid to the account of those that govern.
2. In these circumstances he considered with himself how to procure some seasonable help; but this was a hard thing to be done, while their neighbors had no food to sell them; and their money also was gone, had it been possible to purchase a little food at a great price. However, he thought it his best way, by all means, not to leave off his endeavors to assist his people; so he cut off the rich furniture that was in his palace, both of silver and gold, insomuch that he did not spare the finest vessels he had, or those that were made with the most elaborate skill of the artificers, but sent the money to Petronius, who had been made prefect of Egypt by Caesar; and as not a few had already fled to him under their necessities, and as he was particularly a friend to Herod, and desirous to have his subjects preserved, he gave leave to them in the first place to export corn, and assisted them every way, both in purchasing and exporting the same; so that he was the principal, if not the only person, who afforded them what help they had.
And Herod taking care the people should understand that this help came from himself, did thereby not only remove the ill opinion of those that formerly hated him, but gave them the greatest demonstration possible of his good-will to them, and care of them; for, in the first place, as for those who were able to provide their own food, he distributed to them their proportion of corn in the exactest manner; but for those many that were not able, either by reason of their old age, or any other infirmity, to provide food for themselves, he made this provision for them, the bakers should make their bread ready for them. He also took care that they might not be hurt by the dangers of winter, since they were in great want of clothing also, by reason of the utter destruction and consumption of their sheep and goats, till they had no wool to make use of, nor any thing else to cover themselves withal. And when he had procured these things for his own subjects, he went further, in order to provide necessaries for their neighbors, and gave seed to the Syrians, which thing turned greatly to his own advantage also, this charitable assistance being afforded most seasonably to their fruitful soil, so that every one had now a plentiful provision of food.
Upon the whole, when the harvest of the land was approaching, he sent no fewer than fifty thousand men, whom he had sustained, into the country; by which means he both repaired the afflicted condition of his own kingdom with great generosity and diligence, and lightened the afflictions of his neighbors, who were under the same calamities; for there was nobody who had been in want that was left destitute of a suitable assistance by him; nay, further, there were neither any people, nor any cities, nor any private men, who were to make provision for the multitudes, and on that account were in want of support, and had recourse to him, but received what they stood in need of, insomuch that it appeared, upon a computation, that the number of cori of wheat, of ten attic medimni apiece, that were given to foreigners, amounted to ten thousand, and the number that was given in his own kingdom was about fourscore thousand.
Now it happened that this care of his, and this seasonable benefaction, had such influence on the Jews, and was so cried up among other nations, as to wipe off that old hatred which his violation of some of their customs, during his reign, had procured him among all the nation, and that this liberality of his assistance in this their greatest necessity was full satisfaction for all that he had done of that nature, as it also procured him great fame among foreigners; and it looked as if these calamities that afflicted his land, to a degree plainly incredible, came in order to raise his glory, and to be to his great advantage; for the greatness of his liberality in these distresses, which he now demonstrated beyond all expectation, did so change the disposition of the multitude towards him, that they were ready to suppose he had been from the beginning not such a one as they had found him to be by experience, but such a one as the care he had taken of them in supplying their necessities proved him now to be.
3. About this time it was that he sent five hundred chosen men out of the guards of his body as auxiliaries to Caesar, whom Aelius Gallus (16) led to the Red Sea, and who were of great service to him there. When therefore his affairs were thus improved, and were again in a flourishing condition, he built himself a palace in the upper city, raising the rooms to a very great height, and adorning them with the most costly furniture of gold, and marble scats, and beds; and these were so large that they could contain very many companies of men. These apartments were also of distinct magnitudes, and had particular names given them; for one apartment was called Caesar's, another Agrippa's. He also fell in love again, and married another wife, not suffering his reason to hinder him from living as he pleased.
The occasion of this his marriage was as follows: There was one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there; this man had a daughter, who was esteemed the most beautiful woman of that time; and when the people of Jerusalem began to speak much in her commendation, it happened that Herod was much affected with what was said of her; and when he saw the damsel, he was smitten with her beauty, yet did he entirely reject the thoughts of using his authority to abuse her, as believing, what was the truth, that by so doing he should be stigmatized for violence and tyranny; so he thought it best to take the damsel to wife. And while Simon was of a dignity too inferior to be allied to him, but still too considerable to be despised, he governed his inclinations after the most prudent manner, by augmenting the dignity of the family, and making them more honorable; so he immediately deprived Jesus, the son of Phabet, of the high priesthood, and conferred that dignity on Simon, and so joined in affinity with him [by marrying his daughter].
4. When this wedding was over, he built another citadel in that place where he had conquered file Jews when he was driven out of his government, and Antigonus enjoyed it. This citadel is distant from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. It was strong by nature, and fit for such a building. It is a sort of a moderate hill, raised to a further height by the hand of man, till it was of the shape of a woman's breast. It is encompassed with circular towers, and hath a strait ascent up to it, which ascent is composed of steps of polished stones, in number two hundred. Within it are royal and very rich apartments, of a structure that provided both for security and for beauty. About the bottom there are habitations of such a structure as are well worth seeing, both on other accounts, and also on account of the water which is brought thither from a great way off, and at vast expenses, for the place itself is destitute of water. The plain that is about this citadel is full of edifices, not inferior to any city in largeness, and having the hill above it in the nature of a castle.
5. And now, when all Herod's designs had succeeded according to his hopes, he had not the least suspicion that any troubles could arise in his kingdom, because he kept his people obedient, as well by the fear they stood in of him, for he was implacable in the infliction of his punishments, as by the provident care he had showed towards them, after the most magnanimous manner, when they were under their distresses. But still he took care to have external security for his government as a fortress against his subjects; for the orations he made to the cities were very fine, and full of kindness; and he cultivated a seasonable good understanding with their governors, and bestowed presents on every one of them, inducing them thereby to be more friendly to him, and using his magnificent disposition so as his kingdom might be the better secured to him, and this till all his affairs were every way more and more augmented.
But then this magnificent temper of his, and that submissive behavior and liberality which he exercised towards Caesar, and the most powerful men of Rome, obliged him to transgress the customs of his nation, and to set aside many of their laws, and by building cities after an extravagant manner, and erecting temples, - not in Judea indeed, for that would not have been borne, it being forbidden for us to pay any honor to images, or representations of animals, after the manner of the Greeks; but still he did thus in the country [properly] out of our bounds, and in the cities thereof (17) The apology which he made to the Jews for these things was this: That all was done, not out of his own inclinations, but by the commands and injunctions of others, in order to please Caesar and the Romans, as though he had not the Jewish customs so much in his eye as he had the honor of those Romans, while yet he had himself entirely in view all the while, and indeed was very ambitious to leave great monuments of his government to posterity; whence it was that he was so zealous in building such fine cities, and spent such vast sums of money upon them.
6. Now upon his observation of a place near the sea, which was very proper for containing a city, and was before called Strato's Tower, he set about getting a plan for a magnificent city there, and erected many edifices with great diligence all over it, and this of white stone. He also adorned it with most sumptuous palaces and large edifices for containing the people; and what was the greatest and most laborious work of all, he adorned it with a haven, that was always free from the waves of the sea. Its largeness was not less than the Pyrmum [at Athens], and had towards the city a double station for the ships. It was of excellent workmanship; and this was the more remarkable for its being built in a place that of itself was not suitable to such noble structures, but was to be brought to perfection by materials from other places, and at very great expenses. This city is situate in Phoenicia, in the passage by sea to Egypt, between Joppa and Dora, which are lesser maritime cities, and not fit for havens, on account of the impetuous south winds that beat upon them, which rolling the sands that come from the sea against the shores, do not admit of ships lying in their station; but the merchants are generally there forced to ride at their anchors in the sea itself.
So Herod endeavored to rectify this inconvenience, and laid out such a compass towards the land as might be sufficient for a haven, wherein the great ships might lie in safety; and this he effected by letting down vast stones of above fifty feet in length, not less than eighteen in breadth, and nine in depth, into twenty fathom deep; and as some were lesser, so were others bigger than those dimensions. This mole which he built by the sea-side was two hundred feet wide, the half of which was opposed to the current of the waves, so as to keep off those waves which were to break upon them, and so was called Procymatia, or the first breaker of the waves; but the other half had upon it a wall, with several towers, the largest of which was named Drusus, and was a work of very great excellence, and had its name from Drusus, the son-in-law of Caesar, who died young. There were also a great number of arches where the mariners dwelt.
There was also before them a quay, [or landing place,] which ran round the entire haven, and was a most agreeable walk to such as had a mind to that exercise; but the entrance or mouth of the port was made on the north quarter, on which side was the stillest of the winds of all in this place: and the basis of the whole circuit on the left hand, as you enter the port, supported a round turret, which was made very strong, in order to resist the greatest waves; while on the right hand, as you enter, stood two vast stones, and those each of them larger than the turret, which were over against them; these stood upright, and were joined together. Now there were edifices all along the circular haven, made of the politest stone, with a certain elevation, whereon was erected a temple, that was seen a great way off by those that were sailing for that haven, and had in it two statues, the one of Rome, the other of Caesar.
The city itself was called Cesarea, which was also itself built of fine materials, and was of a fine structure; nay, the very subterranean vaults and cellars had no less of architecture bestowed on them than had the buildings above ground. Some of these vaults carried things at even distances to the haven and to the sea; but one of them ran obliquely, and bound all the rest together, that both the rain and the filth of the citizens were together carried off with ease, and the sea itself, upon the flux of the tide from without, came into the city, and washed it all clean. Herod also built therein a theater of stone; and on the south quarter, behind the port, an amphitheater also, capable of holding a vast number of men, and conveniently situated for a prospect to the sea. So this city was thus finished in twelve years; (18) during which time the king did not fail to go on both with the work, and to pay the charges that were necessary.
(14) Here we have an eminent example of the language of Josephus in his writing to Gentiles, different from that when he wrote to Jews; in his writing to whom he still derives all such judgments from the anger of God; but because he knew many of the Gentiles thought they might naturally come in certain periods, he complies with them in the following sentence. See the note on the War B. I. Ch. 33. Sect. 2.
(15) This famine for two years that affected Judea and Syria, the thirteenth mid fourteenth years of Herod, which are the twenty-third and twenty-fourth years before the Christian era, seems to have been more terrible during this time than was that in the days of Jacob, Genesis 41., 42. And what makes the comparison the more remarkable is this, that now, as well as then, the relief they had was from Egypt also; then from Joseph the governor of Egypt, under Pharaoh king of Egypt; and now from Petronius the prefect of Egypt, under Augustus the Roman emperor. See almost the like case, Antiq. B. XX. Ch. 2. Sect. 6. It is also well worth our observation here, that these two years were a Sabbatic year, and a year of jubilee, for which Providence, during the theocracy, used to provide a triple crop beforehand; but became now, when the Jews had forfeited that blessing, the greatest years of famine to them ever since the days of Ahab, 1 Kings 17., 18.
(16) This Aelius Gallus seems to be no other than that Aelius Lagus whom Dio speaks of as conducting an expedition that was about this time made into Arabia Felix, according to Betarius, who is here cited by Spanheim. See a full account of this expedition in Prideaux, at the years 23 and 24.
(17) One may here take notice, that how tyrannical and extravagant soever Herod were in himself, and in his Grecian cities, as to those plays, and shows, and temples for idolatry, mentioned above, Ch. 8. Sect. 1, and here also; yet durst even he introduce very few of them into the cities of the Jews, who, as Josephus here notes, would not even then have borne them, so zealous were they still for many of the laws of Moses, even under so tyrannical a government as this was of Herod the Great; which tyrannical government puts me naturally in mind of Dean Prideaux's honest reflection upon the like ambition after such tyrannical power in Pompey and Caesar:
"One of these (says he, at the year 60) could not bear an equal, nor the other a superior; and through this ambitions humor and thirst after more power in these two men, the whole Roman empire being divided into two opposite factions, there was produced hereby the most destructive war that ever afflicted it; and the like folly too much reigns in all other places. Could about thirty men be persuaded to live at home in peace, without enterprising upon the rights of each other, for the vain glory of conquest, and the enlargement of power, the whole world might be at quiet; but their ambition, their follies, and their humor, leading them constantly to encroach upon and quarrel with each other, they involve all that are under them in the mischiefs thereof; and many thousands are they which yearly perish by it; so that it may almost raise a doubt, whether the benefit which the world receives from government be sufficient to make amends for the calamities which it suffers from the follies, mistakes, and real-administrations of those that manage it."
(18) Cesarea being here said to be rebuilt and adorned in twelve years, and soon afterwards in ten years, Antiq. B. XVI. Ch. 5. Sect. 1, there must be a mistake in one of the places as to the true number, but in which of them it is hard positively to determine.