Containing The Interval Of Sixty-Nine Years
From The Death Of Herod Till Vespasian Was Sent
To Subdue The Jews By Nero.
CAIUS COMMANDS THAT HIS STATUE SHOULD BE SET UP IN THE TEMPLE ITSELF; AND WHAT PETRONIUS DID THEREUPON.
1. NOW Caius Caesar did so grossly abuse the fortune he had arrived at, as to take himself to be a god, and to desire to be so called also, and to cut off those of the greatest nobility out of his country. He also extended his impiety as far as the Jews. Accordingly, he sent Petronius with an army to Jerusalem, to place his statues in the temple, (11) and commanded him that, in case the Jews would not admit of them, he should slay those that opposed it, and carry all the rest of the nation into captivity: but God concerned himself with these his commands. However, Petronius marched out of Antioch into Judea, with three legions, and many Syrian auxiliaries. Now as to the Jews, some of them could not believe the stories that spake of a war; but those that did believe them were in the utmost distress how to defend themselves, and the terror diffused itself presently through them all; for the army was already come to Ptolemais.
2. This Ptolemais is a maritime city of Galilee, built in the great plain. It is encompassed with mountains: that on the east side, sixty furlongs off, belongs to Galilee; but that on the south belongs to Carmel, which is distant from it a hundred and twenty furlongs; and that on the north is the highest of them all, and is called by the people of the country, The Ladder of the Tyrians, which is at the distance of a hundred furlongs. The very small river Belus (12) runs by it, at the distance of two furlongs; near which there is Menmon's monument, (13) and hath near it a place no larger than a hundred cubits, which deserves admiration; for the place is round and hollow, and affords such sand as glass is made of; which place, when it hath been emptied by the many ships there loaded, it is filled again by the winds, which bring into it, as it were on purpose, that sand which lay remote, and was no more than bare common sand, while this mine presently turns it into glassy sand. And what is to me still more wonderful, that glassy sand which is superfluous, and is once removed out of the place, becomes bare common sand again. And this is the nature of the place we are speaking of.
3. But now the Jews got together in great numbers with their wives and children into that plain that was by Ptolemais, and made supplication to Petronius, first for their laws, and, in the next place, for themselves. So he was prevailed upon by the multitude of the supplicants, and by their supplications, and left his army and the statues at Ptolemais, and then went forward into Galilee, and called together the multitude and all the men of note to Tiberias, and showed them the power of the Romans, and the threatenings of Caesar; and, besides this, proved that their petition was unreasonable, because while all the nations in subjection to them had placed the images of Caesar in their several cities, among the rest of their gods, for them alone to oppose it, was almost like the behavior of revolters, and was injurious to Caesar.
4. And when they insisted on their law, and the custom of their country, and how it was not only not permitted them to make either an image of God, or indeed of a man, and to put it in any despicable part of their country, much less in the temple itself, Petronius replied,
"And am not I also," said he, "bound to keep the law of my own lord? For if I transgress it, and spare you, it is but just that I perish; while he that sent me, and not I, will commence a war against you; for I am under command as well as you."
Hereupon the whole multitude cried out that they were ready to suffer for their law. Petronius then quieted them, and said to them,
"Will you then make war against Caesar?"
The Jews said,
"We offer sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people;"
but that if he would place the images among them, he must first sacrifice the whole Jewish nation; and that they were ready to expose themselves, together with their children and wives, to be slain. At this Petronius was astonished, and pitied them, on account of the inexpressible sense of religion the men were under, and that courage of theirs which made them ready to die for it; so they were dismissed without success.
5. But on the following days he got together the men of power privately, and the multitude publicly, and sometimes he used persuasions to them, and sometimes he gave them his advice; but he chiefly made use of threatenings to them, and insisted upon the power of the Romans, and the anger of Caius; and besides, upon the necessity he was himself under [to do as he was enjoined]. But as they could be no way prevailed upon, and he saw that the country was in danger of lying without tillage; (for it was about seed time that the multitude continued for fifty days together idle;) so he at last got them together, and told them that it was best for him to run some hazard himself;
"for either, by the Divine assistance, I shall prevail with Caesar, and shall myself escape the danger as well as you, which will he matter of joy to us both; or, in case Caesar continue in his rage, I will be ready to expose my own life for such a great number as you are."
Whereupon he dismissed the multitude, who prayed greatly for his prosperity; and he took the army out of Ptolemais, and returned to Antioch; from whence he presently sent an epistle to Caesar, and informed him of the irruption he had made into Judea, and of the supplications of the nation; and that unless he had a mind to lose both the country and the men in it, he must permit them to keep their law, and must countermand his former injunction. Caius answered that epistle in a violent-way, and threatened to have Petronius put to death for his being so tardy in the execution of what he had commanded. But it happened that those who brought Caius's epistle were tossed by a storm, and were detained on the sea for three months, while others that brought the news of Caius's death had a good voyage. Accordingly, Petronins received the epistle concerning Caius seven and twenty days before he received that which was against himself.
(11) Tacitus owns that Caius commanded the Jews to place his effigies in their temple, though he be mistaken when he adds that the Jews thereupon took arms.
(12) This account of a place near the mouth of the river Belus in Phoenicia, whence came that sand out of which the ancients made their glass, is a known thing in history, particularly in Tacitus and Strabo, and more largely in Pliny.
(13) This Memnon had several monuments, and one of them appears, both by Strabo and Diodorus, to have been in Syria, and not improbably in this very place.