Containing The Interval Of Sixty-Nine Years
From The Death Of Herod Till Vespasian Was Sent
To Subdue The Jews By Nero.
FESTUS SUCCEEDS FELIX WHO IS SUCCEEDED BY ALBINUS AS HE IS BY FLORUS; WHO BY THE BARBARITY OF HIS GOVERNMENT FORCES THE JEWS INTO THE WAR.
1. NOW it was that Festus succeeded Felix as procurator, and made it his business to correct those that made disturbances in the country. So he caught the greatest part of the robbers, and destroyed a great many of them. But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as the other had done; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it. Accordingly, he did not only, in his political capacity, steal and plunder every one's substance, nor did he only burden the whole nation with taxes, but he permitted the relations of such as were in prison for robbery, and had been laid there, either by the senate of every city, or by the former procurators, to redeem them for money; and no body remained in the prisons as a malefactor but he who gave him nothing.
At this time it was that the enterprises of the seditious at Jerusalem were very formidable; the principal men among them purchasing leave of Albinus to go on with their seditious practices; while that part of the people who delighted in disturbances joined themselves to such as had fellowship with Albinus; and every one of these wicked wretches were encompassed with his own band of robbers, while he himself, like an arch-robber, or a tyrant, made a figure among his company, and abused his authority over those about him, in order to plunder those that lived quietly. The effect of which was this, that those who lost their goods were forced to hold their peace, when they had reason to show great indignation at what they had suffered; but those who had escaped were forced to flatter him that deserved to be punished, out of the fear they were in of suffering equally with the others. Upon the Whole, nobody durst speak their minds, but tyranny was generally tolerated; and at this time were those seeds sown which brought the city to destruction.
2. And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus (18) who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been a most excellent person, upon the comparison; for the former did the greatest part of his rogueries in private, and with a sort of dissimulation; but Gessius did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a pompons manner; and as though he had been sent as an executioner to punish condemned malefactors, he omitted no sort of rapine, or of vexation; where the case was really pitiable, he was most barbarous, and in things of the greatest turpitude he was most impudent. Nor could any one outdo him in disguising the truth; nor could any one contrive more subtle ways of deceit than he did. He indeed thought it but a petty offense to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils they got. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces.
3. And truly, while Cestius Gallus was president of the province of Syria, nobody durst do so much as send an embassage to him against Florus; but when he was come to Jerusalem, upon the approach of the feast of unleavened bread, the people came about him not fewer in number than three millions (19) these besought him to commiserate the calamities of their nation, and cried out upon Florus as the bane of their country. But as he was present, and stood by Cestius, he laughed at their words. However, Cestius, when he had quieted the multitude, and had assured them that he would take care that Florus should hereafter treat them in a more gentle manner, returned to Antioch. Florus also conducted him as far as Cesarea, and deluded him, though he had at that very time the purpose of showing his anger at the nation, and procuring a war upon them, by which means alone it was that he supposed he might conceal his enormities; for he expected that if the peace continued, he should have the Jews for his accusers before Caesar; but that if he could procure them to make a revolt, he should divert their laying lesser crimes to his charge, by a misery that was so much greater; he therefore did every day augment their calamities, in order to induce them to a rebellion.
4. Now at this time it happened that the Grecians at Cesarea had been too hard for the Jews, and had obtained of Nero the government of the city, and had brought the judicial determination: at the same time began the war, in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, and the seventeenth of the reign of Agrippa, in the month of Artemisins [Jyar.] Now the occasion of this war was by no means proportionable to those heavy calamities which it brought upon us. For the Jews that dwelt at Cesarea had a synagogue near the place, whose owner was a certain Cesarean Greek: the Jews had endeavored frequently to have purchased the possession of the place, and had offered many times its value for its price; but as the owner overlooked their offers, so did he raise other buildings upon the place, in way of affront to them, and made working-shops of them, and left them but a narrow passage, and such as was very troublesome for them to go along to their synagogue. Whereupon the warmer part of the Jewish youth went hastily to the workmen, and forbade them to build there; but as Florus would not permit them to use force, the great men of the Jews, with John the publican, being in the utmost distress what to do, persuaded Florus, with the offer of eight talents, to hinder the work. He then, being intent upon nothing but getting money, promised he would do for them all they desired of him, and then went away from Cesarea to Sebaste, and left the sedition to take its full course, as if he had sold a license to the Jews to fight it out.
5. Now on the next day, which was the seventh day of the week, when the Jews were crowding apace to their synagogue, a certain man of Cesarea, of a seditious temper, got an earthen vessel, and set it with the bottom upward, at the entrance of that synagogue, and sacrificed birds.(20) This thing provoked the Jews to an incurable degree, because their laws were affronted, and the place was polluted. Whereupon the sober and moderate part of the Jews thought it proper to have recourse to their governors again, while the seditious part, and such as were in the fervor of their youth, were vehemently inflamed to fight. The seditions also among the Gentiles of Cesarea stood ready for the same purpose; for they had, by agreement, sent the man to sacrifice beforehand [as ready to support him;] so that it soon came to blows. Hereupon Jucundus, the master of the horse, who was ordered to prevent the fight, came thither, and took away the earthen vessel, and endeavored to put a stop to the sedition; but when he was overcome by the violence of the people of Cesarea, the Jews caught up their books of the law, and retired to Narbata, which was a place to them belonging, distant from Cesarea sixty furlongs. But John, and twelve of the principal men with him, went to Florus, to Sebaste, and made a lamentable complaint of their case, and besought him to help them; and with all possible decency, put him in mind of the eight talents they had given him; but he had the men seized upon, and put in prison, and accused them for carrying the books of the law out of Cesarea.
6. Moreover, as to the citizens of Jerusalem, although they took this matter very ill, yet did they restrain their passion; but Florus acted herein as if he had been hired, and blew up the war into a flame, and sent some to take seventeen talents out of the sacred treasure, and pretended that Caesar wanted them. At this the people were in confusion immediately, and ran together to the temple, with prodigious clamors, and called upon Caesar by name, and besought him to free them from the tyranny of Florus. Some also of the seditious cried out upon Florus, and cast the greatest reproaches upon him, and carried a basket about, and begged some spills of money for him, as for one that was destitute of possessions, and in a miserable condition. Yet was not he made ashamed hereby of his love of money, but was more enraged, and provoked to get still more; and instead of coming to Cesarea, as he ought to have done, and quenching the flame of war, which was beginning thence, and so taking away the occasion of any disturbances, on which account it was that he had received a reward [of eight talents], he marched hastily with an army of horsemen and footmen against Jerusalem, that he might gain his will by the arms of the Romans, and might, by his terror, and by his threatenings, bring the city into subjection.
7. But the people were desirous of making Florus ashamed of his attempt, and met his soldiers with acclamations, and put themselves in order to receive him very submissively. But he sent Capito, a centurion, beforehand, with fifty soldiers, to bid them go back, and not now make a show of receiving him in an obliging manner, whom they had so foully reproached before; and said that it was incumbent on them, in case they had generous souls, and were free speakers, to jest upon him to his face, and appear to be lovers of liberty, not only in words, but with their weapons also. With this message was the multitude amazed; and upon the coming of Capito's horsemen into the midst of them, they were dispersed before they could salute Florus, or manifest their submissive behavior to him. Accordingly, they retired to their own houses, and spent that night in fear and confusion of face.
8. Now at this time Florus took up his quarters at the palace; and on the next day he had his tribunal set before it, and sat upon it, when the high priests, and the men of power, and those of the greatest eminence in the city, came all before that tribunal; upon which Florus commanded them to deliver up to him those that had reproached him, and told them that they should themselves partake of the vengeance to them belonging, if they did not produce the criminals; but these demonstrated that the people were peaceably disposed, and they begged forgiveness for those that had spoken amiss; for that it was no wonder at all that in so great a multitude there should be some more daring than they ought to be, and, by reason of their younger age, foolish also; and that it was impossible to distinguish those that offended from the rest, while every one was sorry for what he had done, and denied it out of fear of what would follow: that he ought, however, to provide for the peace of the nation, and to take such counsels as might preserve the city for the Romans, and rather for the sake of a great number of innocent people to forgive a few that were guilty, than for the sake of a few of the wicked to put so large and good a body of men into disorder.
9. Florus was more provoked at this, and called out aloud to the soldiers to plunder that which was called the Upper Market-place, and to slay such as they met with. So the soldiers, taking this exhortation of their commander in a sense agreeable to their desire of gain, did not only plunder the place they were sent to, but forcing themselves into every house, they slew its inhabitants; so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes, and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children, (for they did not spare even the infants themselves,) was about three thousand and six hundred. And what made this calamity the heavier was this new method of Roman barbarity; for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped (21) and nailed to the cross before his tribunal; who, although they were by birth Jews, yet were they of Roman dignity notwithstanding.
(18) Not long after this beginning of Florus, the wickedest of all the Roman procurators of Judea, and the immediate occasion of the Jewish war, at the twelfth year of Nero, and the seventeenth of Agrippa, or A.D. 66, the history in the twenty books of Josephus's Antiquities ends, although Josephus did not finish these books till the thirteenth of Domitian, or A.D. 93; twenty-seven years afterward; as he did not finish their Appendix, containing an account of his own life, till Agrippa was dead, which happened in the third year of Trajan, or A. D. 100, as I have several times observed before.
(19) Here we may note, that three millions of the Jews were present at the passover, A.D. 65; which confirms what Josephus elsewhere informs us of, that at a passover a little later they counted two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred paschal lambs, which, at twelve to each lamb, which is no immoderate calculation, come to three millions and seventy-eight thousand. See B. VI. ch. 9. sect. 3.
(20) Take here Dr. Hudson's very pertinent note.
"By this action," says he, "the killing of a bird over an earthen vessel, the Jews were exposed as a leprous people; for that was to be done by the law in the cleansing of a leper, Leviticus 14. It is also known that the Gentiles reproached the Jews as subject to the leprosy, and believed that they were driven out of Egypt on that account. This that eminent person Mr. Reland suggested to me."
(21) Here we have examples of native Jews who were of the equestrian order among the Romans, and so ought never to have been whipped or crucified, according to the Roman laws. See almost the like case in St. Paul himself, Acts 22:25-29.