Containing The Interval Of Sixty-Nine Years
From The Death Of Herod Till Vespasian Was Sent
To Subdue The Jews By Nero.
WHAT CESTIUS DID AGAINST THE JEWS; AND HOW, UPON HIS BESIEGING JERUSALEM, HE RETREATED FROM THE CITY WITHOUT ANY JUST OCCASION IN THE WORLD. AS ALSO WHAT SEVERE CALAMITIES HE UNDER WENT FROM THE JEWS IN HIS RETREAT.
1. AND now Gallus, seeing nothing more that looked towards an innovation in Galilee, returned with his army to Cesarea: but Cestius removed with his whole army, and marched to Antipatris; and when he was informed that there was a great body of Jewish forces gotten together in a certain tower called Aphek, he sent a party before to fight them; but this party dispersed the Jews by affrighting them before it came to a battle: so they came, and finding their camp deserted, they burnt it, as well as the villages that lay about it. But when Cestius had marched from Antipatris to Lydda, he found the city empty of its men, for the whole multitude (28) were gone up to Jerusalem to the feast of tabernacles; yet did he destroy fifty of those that showed themselves, and burnt the city, and so marched forwards; and ascending by Betboron, he pitched his camp at a certain place called Gabao, fifty furlongs distant from Jerusalem.
2. But as for the Jews, when they saw the war approaching to their metropolis, they left the feast, and betook themselves to their arms; and taking courage greatly from their multitude, went in a sudden and disorderly manner to the fight, with a great noise, and without any consideration had of the rest of the seventh day, although the Sabbath was the day to which they had the greatest regard; but that rage which made them forget the religious observation [of the sabbath] made them too hard for their enemies in the fight: with such violence therefore did they fall upon the Romans, as to break into their ranks, and to march through the midst of them, making a great slaughter as they went, insomuch that unless the horsemen, and such part of the footmen as were not yet tired in the action, had wheeled round, and succored that part of the army which was not yet broken, Cestius, with his whole army, had been in danger: however, five hundred and fifteen of the Romans were slain, of which number four hundred were footmen, and the rest horsemen, while the Jews lost only twenty-two, of whom the most valiant were the kinsmen of Monobazus, king of Adiabene, and their names were Monobazus and Kenedeus; and next to them were Niger of Perea, and Silas of Babylon, who had deserted from king Agrippa to the Jews; for he had formerly served in his army.
When the front of the Jewish army had been cut off, the Jews retired into the city; but still Simon, the son of Giora, fell upon the backs of the Romans, as they were ascending up Bethoron, and put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carded the weapons of war, and led Shem into the city. But as Cestius tarried there three days, the Jews seized upon the elevated parts of the city, and set watches at the entrances into the city, and appeared openly resolved not to rest when once the Romans should begin to march.
3. And now when Agrippa observed that even the affairs of the Romans were likely to be in danger, while such an immense multitude of their enemies had seized upon the mountains round about, he determined to try what the Jews would agree to by words, as thinking that he should either persuade them all to desist from fighting, or, however, that he should cause the sober part of them to separate themselves from the opposite party. So he sent Borceus and Phebus, the persons of his party that were the best known to them, and promised them that Cestius should give them his right hand, to secure them of the Romans' entire forgiveness of what they had done amiss, if they would throw away their arms, and come over to them; but the seditious, fearing lest the whole multitude, in hopes of security to themselves, should go over to Agrippa, resolved immediately to fall upon and kill the ambassadors; accordingly they slew Phebus before he said a word, but Borceus was only wounded, and so prevented his fate by flying away. And when the people were very angry at this, they had the seditious beaten with stones and clubs, and drove them before them into the city.
4. But now Cestius, observing that the disturbances that were begun among the Jews afforded him a proper opportunity to attack them, took his whole army along with him, and put the Jews to flight, and pursued them to Jerusalem. He then pitched his camp upon the elevation called Scopus, [or watch-tower,] which was distant seven furlongs from the city; yet did not he assault them in three days' time, out of expectation that those within might perhaps yield a little; and in the mean time he sent out a great many of his soldiers into neighboring villages, to seize upon their corn. And on the fourth day, which was the thirtieth of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] when he had put his army in array, he brought it into the city. Now for the people, they were kept under by the seditious; but the seditious themselves were greatly affrighted at the good order of the Romans, and retired from the suburbs, and retreated into the inner part of the city, and into the temple. But when Cestius was come into the city, he set the part called Bezetha, which is called Cenopolis, [or the new city,] on fire; as he did also to the timber market; after which he came into the upper city, and pitched his camp over against the royal palace; and had he but at this very time attempted to get within the walls by force, he had won the city presently, and the war had been put an end to at once; but Tyrannius Priseus, the muster-master of the army, and a great number of the officers of the horse, had been corrupted by Florus, and diverted him from that his attempt; and that was the occasion that this war lasted so very long, and thereby the Jews were involved in such incurable calamities.
5. In the mean time, many of the principal men of the city were persuaded by Ananus, the son of Jonathan, and invited Cestius into the city, and were about to open the gates for him; but he overlooked this offer, partly out of his anger at the Jews, and partly because he did not thoroughly believe they were in earnest; whence it was that he delayed the matter so long, that the seditious perceived the treachery, and threw Ananus and those of his party down from the wall, and, pelting them with stones, drove them into their houses; but they stood themselves at proper distances in the towers, and threw their darts at those that were getting over the wall. Thus did the Romans make their attack against the wall for five days, but to no purpose.
But on the next day Cestius took a great many of his choicest men, and with them the archers, and attempted to break into the temple at the northern quarter of it; but the Jews beat them off from the cloisters, and repulsed them several times when they were gotten near to the wall, till at length the multitude of the darts cut them off, and made them retire; but the first rank of the Romans rested their shields upon the wall, and so did those that were behind them, and the like did those that were still more backward, and guarded themselves with what they call Testudo, [the back of] a tortoise, upon which the darts that were thrown fell, and slided off without doing them any harm; so the soldiers undermined the wall, without being themselves hurt, and got all things ready for setting fire to the gate of the temple.
6. And now it was that a horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day. (30)
7. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen; and now Cestius lay all night at the camp which was at Scopus; and as he went off farther next day, he thereby invited the enemy to follow him, who still fell upon the hindmost, and destroyed them; they also fell upon the flank on each side of the army, and threw darts upon them obliquely, nor durst those that were hindmost turn back upon those who wounded them behind, as imagining that the multitude of those that pursued them was immense; nor did they venture to drive away those that pressed upon them on each side, because they were heavy with their arms, and were afraid of breaking their ranks to pieces, and because they saw the Jews were light, and ready for making incursions upon them. And this was the reason why the Romans suffered greatly, without being able to revenge themselves upon their enemies; so they were galled all the way, and their ranks were put into disorder, and those that were thus put out of their ranks were slain; among whom were Priscus, the commander of the sixth legion, and Longinus, the tribune, and Emilius Secundus, the commander of a troop of horsemen.
So it was not without difficulty that they got to Gabao, their former camp, and that not without the loss of a great part of their baggage. There it was that Cestius staid two days, and was in great distress to know what he should do in these circumstances; but when on the third day he saw a still much greater number of enemies, and all the parts round about him full of Jews, he understood that his delay was to his own detriment, and that if he staid any longer there, he should have still more enemies upon him.
8. That therefore he might fly the faster, he gave orders to cast away what might hinder his army's march; so they killed the mules and other creatures, excepting those that carried their darts and machines, which they retained for their own use, and this principally because they were afraid lest the Jews should seize upon them. He then made his army march on as far as Bethoron. Now the Jews did not so much press upon them when they were in large open places; but when they were penned up in their descent through narrow passages, then did some of them get before, and hindered them from getting out of them; and others of them thrust the hinder-most down into the lower places; and the whole multitude extended themselves over against the neck of the passage, and covered the Roman army with their darts.
In which circumstances, as the footmen knew not how to defend themselves, so the danger pressed the horsemen still more, for they were so pelted, that they could not march along the road in their ranks, and the ascents were so high, that the cavalry were not able to march against the enemy; the precipices also and valleys into which they frequently fell, and tumbled down, were such on each side of them, that there was neither place for their flight, nor any contrivance could be thought of for their defense; till the distress they were at last in was so great, that they betook themselves to lamentations, and to such mournful cries as men use in the utmost despair: the joyful acclamations of the Jews also, as they encouraged one another, echoed the sounds back again, these last composing a noise of those that at once rejoiced and were in a rage. Indeed, things were come to such a pass, that the Jews had almost taken Cestius's entire army prisoners, had not the night come on, when the Romans fled to Bethoron, and the Jews seized upon all the places round about them, and watched for their coming out [in the morning].
9. And then it was that Cestius, despairing of obtaining room for a public march, contrived how he might best run away; and when he had selected four hundred of the most courageous of his soldiers, he placed them at the strongest of their fortifications, and gave order, that when they went up to the morning guard, they should erect their ensigns, that the Jews might be made to believe that the entire army was there still, while he himself took the rest of his forces with him, and marched, without any noise, thirty furlongs. But when the Jews perceived, in the morning, that the camp was empty, they ran upon those four hundred who had deluded them, and immediately threw their darts at them, and slew them; and then pursued after Cestius. But he had already made use of a great part of the night in his flight, and still marched quicker when it was day; insomuch that the soldiers, through the astonishment and fear they were in, left behind them their engines for sieges, and for throwing of stones, and a great part of the instruments of war. So the Jews went on pursuing the Romans as far as Antipatris; after which, seeing they could not overtake them, they came back, and took the engines, and spoiled the dead bodies, and gathered the prey together which the Romans had left behind them, and came back running and singing to their metropolis; while they had themselves lost a few only, but had slain of the Romans five thousand and three hundred footmen, and three hundred and eighty horsemen. This defeat happened on the eighth day of the month Dius, [Marchesvan,] in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero.
(28) Here we have an eminent example of that Jewish language, which Dr. Wail truly observes, we several times find used in the sacred writings; I mean, where the words "all" or" whole multitude,"etc. are used for much the greatest part only; but not so as to include every person, without exception; for when Josephus had said that "the whole multitude" [all the males] of Lydda were gone to the feast of tabernacles, he immediately adds, that, however, no fewer than fifty of them appeared, and were slain by the Romans. Other examples somewhat like this I have observed elsewhere in Josephus, but, as I think, none so remarkable as this. See Wall's Critical Observations on the Old Testament, p. 49, 50.
We have also, in this and the next section, two eminent facts to be observed, viz. the first example, that I remember, in Josephus, of the onset of the Jews' enemies upon their country when their males were gone up to Jerusalem to one of their three sacred festivals; which, during the theocracy, God had promised to preserve them from, Exodus 34:24. The second fact is this, the breach of the sabbath by the seditions Jews in an offensive fight, contrary to the universal doctrine and practice of their nation in these ages, and even contrary to what they themselves afterward practiced in the rest of this war. See the note on Antiq. B. XVI. ch. 2. sect. 4.
(30) There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that "when they should see the abomination of desolation" [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] "stand where it ought not;" or, "in the holy place;" or, "when they should see Jerusalem compassed with armies;" they should then "flee to the mountains." By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential conduct than this retreat of Cestius, visible during the whole siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a "great tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, nor ever should be." --Ibid. p. 70-71