Containing The Interval Of Near Six Months
From The Coming Of Titus To Besiege Jerusalem, To The Great Extremity To Which The Jews Were Reduced.
HOW THE JEWS WERE CRUCIFIED BEFORE THE WALLS OF THE CITY CONCERNING ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES; AND HOW THE JEWS OVERTHREW THE BANKS THAT HAD BEEN RAISED BY THE ROMANS.
1. SO now Titus's banks were advanced a great way, notwithstanding his soldiers had been very much distressed from the wall. He then sent a party of horsemen, and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food. Some of these were indeed fighting men, who were not contented with what they got by rapine; but the greater part of them were poor people, who were deterred from deserting by the concern they were under for their own relations; for they could not hope to escape away, together with their wives and children, without the knowledge of the seditious; nor could they think of leaving these relations to be slain by the robbers on their account; nay, the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out; so nothing remained but that, when they were concealed from the robbers, they should be taken by the enemy; and when they were going to be taken, they were forced to defend themselves for fear of being punished; as after they had fought, they thought it too late to make any supplications for mercy; so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures, before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city.
This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more: yet it did not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way, and to set a guard over so many he saw would be to make such as great deal them useless to him. The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this, that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterwards be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies. (19)
2. But so far were the seditious from repenting at this sad sight, that, on the contrary, they made the rest of the multitude believe otherwise; for they brought the relations of those that had deserted upon the wall, with such of the populace as were very eager to go over upon the security offered them, and showed them what miseries those underwent who fled to the Romans; and told them that those who were caught were supplicants to them, and not such as were taken prisoners. This sight kept many of those within the city who were so eager to desert, till the truth was known; yet did some of them run away immediately as unto certain punishment, esteeming death from their enemies to be a quiet departure, if compared with that by famine. So Titus commanded that the hands of many of those that were caught should be cut off, that they might not be thought deserters, and might be credited on account of the calamity they were under, and sent them in to John and Simon, with this exhortation, that they would now at length leave off [their madness], and not force him to destroy the city, whereby they would have those advantages of repentance, even in their utmost distress, that they would preserve their own lives, and so find a city of their own, and that temple which was their peculiar.
He then went round about the banks that were cast up, and hastened them, in order to show that his words should in no long time be followed by his deeds. In answer to which the seditious cast reproaches upon Caesar himself, and upon his father also, and cried out, with a loud voice, that they contemned death, and did well in preferring it before slavery; that they would do all the mischief to the Romans they could while they had breath in them; and that for their own city, since they were, as he said, to be destroyed, they had no concern about it, and that the world itself was a better temple to God than this. That yet this temple would be preserved by him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing, because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only. These words were mixed with reproaches, and with them they made a mighty clamor.
3. In the mean time Antiochus Epiphanes came to the city, having with him a considerable number of other armed men, and a band called the Macedonian band about him, all of the same age, tall, and just past their childhood, armed, and instructed after the Macedonian manner, whence it was that they took that name. Yet were many of them unworthy of so famous a nation; for it had so happened, that the king of Commagene had flourished more than any other kings that were under the power of the Romans, till a change happened in his condition; and when he was become an old man, he declared plainly that we ought not to call any man happy before he is dead. But this son of his, who was then come thither before his father was decaying, said that he could not but wonder what made the Romans so tardy in making their attacks upon the wall.
Now he was a warlike man, and naturally bold in exposing himself to dangers; he was also so strong a man, that his boldness seldom failed of having success. Upon this Titus smiled, and said he would share the pains of an attack with him. However, Antiochus went as he then was, and with his Macedonians made a sudden assault upon the wall; and, indeed, for his own part, his strength and skill were so great, that he guarded himself from the Jewish darts, and yet shot his darts at them, while yet the young men with him were almost all sorely galled; for they had so great a regard to the promises that had been made of their courage, that they would needs persevere in their fighting, and at length many of them retired, but not till they were wounded; and then they perceived that true Macedonians, if they were to be conquerors, must have Alexander's good fortune also.
4. Now as the Romans began to raise their banks on the twelfth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] so had they much ado to finish them by the twenty-ninth day of the same month, after they had labored hard for seventeen days continually. For there were now four great banks raised, one of which was at the tower Antonia; this was raised by the fifth legion, over against the middle of that pool which was called Struthius. Another was cast up by the twelfth legion, at the distance of about twenty cubits from the other. But the labors of the tenth legion, which lay a great way off these, were on the north quarter, and at the pool called Amygdalon; as was that of the fifteenth legion about thirty cubits from it, and at the high priest's monument. And now, when the engines were brought, John had from within undermined the space that was over against the tower of Antonia, as far as the banks themselves, and had supported the ground over the mine with beams laid across one another, whereby the Roman works stood upon an uncertain foundation.
Then did he order such materials to be brought in as were daubed over with pitch and bitumen, and set them on fire; and as the cross beams that supported the banks were burning, the ditch yielded on the sudden, and the banks were shaken down, and fell into the ditch with a prodigious noise. Now at the first there arose a very thick smoke and dust, as the fire was choked with the fall of the bank; but as the suffocated materials were now gradually consumed, a plain flame brake out; on which sudden appearance of the flame a consternation fell upon the Romans, and the shrewdness of the contrivance discouraged them; and indeed this accident coming upon them at a time when they thought they had already gained their point, cooled their hopes for the time to come. They also thought it would be to no purpose to take the pains to extinguish the fire, since if it were extinguished, the banks were swallowed up already [and become useless to them].
5. Two days after this, Simon and his party made an attempt to destroy the other banks; for the Romans had brought their engines to bear there, and began already to make the wall shake. And here one Tephtheus, of Garsis, a city of Galilee, and Megassarus, one who was derived from some of queen Mariamne's servants, and with them one from Adiabene, he was the son of Nabateus, and called by the name of Chagiras, from the ill fortune he had, the word signifying "a lame man," snatched some torches, and ran suddenly upon the engines. Nor were there during this war any men that ever sallied out of the city who were their superiors, either in their boldness, or in the terror they struck into their enemies. For they ran out upon the Romans, not as if they were enemies, but friends, without fear or delay; nor did they leave their enemies till they had rushed violently through the midst of them, and set their machines on fire. And though they had darts thrown at them on every side, and were on every side assaulted with their enemies' swords, yet did they not withdraw themselves out of the dangers they were in, till the fire had caught hold of the instruments; but when the flame went up, the Romans came running from their camp to save their engines.
Then did the Jews hinder their succors from the wall, and fought with those that endeavored to quench the fire, without any regard to the danger their bodies were in. So the Romans pulled the engines out of the fire, while the hurdles that covered them were on fire; but the Jews caught hold of the battering rams through the flame itself, and held them fast, although the iron upon them was become red hot; and now the fire spread itself from the engines to the banks, and prevented those that came to defend them; and all this while the Romans were encompassed round about with the flame; and, despairing of saying their works from it, they retired to their camp. Then did the Jews become still more and more in number by the coming of those that were within the city to their assistance; and as they were very bold upon the good success they had had, their violent assaults were almost irresistible; nay, they proceeded as far as the fortifications of the enemies' camp, and fought with their guards.
Now there stood a body of soldiers in array before that camp, which succeeded one another by turns in their armor; and as to those, the law of the Romans was terrible, that he who left his post there, let the occasion be whatsoever it might be, he was to die for it; so that body of soldiers, preferring rather to die in fighting courageously, than as a punishment for their cowardice, stood firm; and at the necessity these men were in of standing to it, many of the others that had run away, out of shame, turned back again; and when they had set the engines against the wall, they put the multitude from coming more of them out of the city, [which they could the more easily do] because they had made no provision for preserving or guarding their bodies at this time; for the Jews fought now hand to hand with all that came in their way, and, without any caution, fell against the points of their enemies' spears, and attacked them bodies against bodies; for they were now too hard for the Romans, not so much by their other warlike actions, as by these courageous assaults they made upon them; and the Romans gave way more to their boldness than they did to the sense of the harm they had received from them.
6. And now Titus was come from the tower of Antonia, whither he was gone to look out for a place for raising other banks, and reproached the soldiers greatly for permitting their own walls to be in danger, when they had taken the wails of their enemies, and sustained the fortune of men besieged, while the Jews were allowed to sally out against them, though they were already in a sort of prison. He then went round about the enemy with some chosen troops, and fell upon their flank himself; so the Jews, who had been before assaulted in their faces, wheeled about to Titus, and continued the fight. The armies also were now mixed one among another, and the dust that was raised so far hindered them from seeing one another, and the noise that was made so far hindered them from hearing one another, that neither side could discern an enemy from a friend. However, the Jews did not flinch, though not so much from their real strength, as from their despair of deliverance. The Romans also would not yield, by reason of the regard they had to glory, and to their reputation in war, and because Caesar himself went into the danger before them; insomuch that I cannot but think the Romans would in the conclusion have now taken even the whole multitude of the Jews, so very angry were they at them, had these not prevented the upshot of the battle, and retired into the city. However, seeing the banks of the Romans were demolished, these Romans were very much east down upon the loss of what had cost them so long pains, and this in one hour's time. And many indeed despaired of taking the city with their usual engines of war only.
(19) Reland very properly takes notice here, how justly this judgment came upon the Jews, when they were crucified in such multitudes together, that the Romans wanted room for the crosses, and crosses for the bodies of these Jews, since they had brought this judgment on themselves by the crucifixion of their Messiah.