Containing The Interval Of About One Year
From The Siege Of Gamala To The Coming Of Titus To Besiege Jerusalem.
HOW THE SOLDIERS, BOTH IN JUDEA AND EGYPT, PROCLAIMED VESPASIAN EMPEROR;AND HOW VESPASIAN RELEASED JOSEPHUS FROM HIS BONDS.
1. NOW about this very time it was that heavy calamities came about Rome on all sides; for Vitellius was come from Germany with his soldiery, and drew along with him a great multitude of other men besides. And when the spaces allotted for soldiers could not contain them, he made all Rome itself his camp, and filled all the houses with his armed men; which men, when they saw the riches of Rome with those eyes which had never seen such riches before, and found themselves shone round about on all sides with silver and gold, they had much ado to contain their covetous desires, and were ready to betake themselves to plunder, and to the slaughter of such as should stand in their way. And this was the state of affairs in Italy at that time.
2. But when Vespasian had overthrown all the places that were near to Jerusalem, he returned to Cesarea, and heard of the troubles that were at Rome, and that Vitellius was emperor. This produced indignation in him, although he well knew how to be governed as well as to govern, and could not, with any satisfaction, own him for his lord who acted so madly, and seized upon the government as if it were absolutely destitute of a governor. And as this sorrow of his was violent, he was not able to support the torments he was under, nor to apply himself further in other wars, when his native country was laid waste; but then, as much as his passion excited him to avenge his country, so much was he restrained by the consideration of his distance therefrom; because fortune might prevent him, and do a world of mischief before he could himself sail over the sea to Italy, especially as it was still the winter season; so he restrained his anger, how vehement soever it was at this time.
3. But now his commanders and soldiers met in several companies, and consulted openly about changing the public affairs; - and, out of their indignation, cried out, how
4. These were the discourses the soldiers had in their several companies; after which they got together in a great body, and, encouraging one another, they declared Vespasian emperor, (22) and exhorted him to save the government, which was now in danger. Now Vespasian's concern had been for a considerable time about the public, yet did he not intend to set up for governor himself, though his actions showed him to deserve it, while he preferred that safety which is in a private life before the dangers in a state of such dignity; but when he refused the empire, the commanders insisted the more earnestly upon his acceptance; and the soldiers came about him, with their drawn swords in their hands, and threatened to kill him, unless he would now live according to his dignity. And when he had shown his reluctance a great while, and had endeavored to thrust away this dominion from him, he at length, being not able to persuade them, yielded to their solicitations that would salute him emperor.
5. So upon the exhortations of Mucianus, and the other commanders, that he would accept of the empire, and upon that of the rest of the army, who cried out that they were willing to be led against all his opposers, he was in the first place intent upon gaining the dominion over Alexandria, as knowing that Egypt was of the greatest consequence, in order to obtain the entire government, because of its supplying of corn [to Rome]; which corn, if he could be master of, he hoped to dethrone Vitellius, supposing he should aim to keep the empire by force (for he would not be able to support himself, if the multitude at Rome should once be in want of food); and because he was desirous to join the two legions that were at Alexandria to the other legions that were with him. He also considered with himself, that he should then have that country for a defense to himself against the uncertainty of fortune; for Egypt (23) is hard to be entered by land, and hath no good havens by sea. It hath on the west the dry deserts of Libya; and on the south Siene, that divides it from Ethiopia, as well as the cataracts of the Nile, that cannot be sailed over; and on the east the Red Sea extended as far as Coptus; and it is fortified on the north by the land that reaches to Syria, together with that called the Egyptian Sea, having no havens in it for ships.
And thus is Egypt walled about on every side. Its length between Pelusium and Siene is two thousand furlongs, and the passage by sea from Plinthine to Pelusium is three thousand six hundred furlongs. Its river Nile is navigable as far as the city called Elephantine, the forenamed cataracts hindering ships from going any farther, The haven also of Alexandria is not entered by the mariners without difficulty, even in times of peace; for the passage inward is narrow, and full of rocks that lie under the water, which oblige the mariners to turn from a straight direction: its left side is blocked up by works made by men's hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, which is situated just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it, that ships may cast anchor a great way off in the night time, by reason of the difficulty of sailing nearer. About this island are built very great piers, the handiwork of men, against which, when the sea dashes itself, and its waves are broken against those boundaries, the navigation becomes very troublesome, and the entrance through so narrow a passage is rendered dangerous; yet is the haven itself, when you are got into it, a very safe one, and of thirty furlongs in largeness; into which is brought what the country wants in order to its happiness, as also what abundance the country affords more than it wants itself is hence distributed into all the habitable earth.
6. Justly, therefore, did Vespasian desire to obtain that government, in order to corroborate his attempts upon the whole empire; so he immediately sent to Tiberius Alexander, who was then governor of Egypt and of Alexandria, and informed him what the army had put upon him, and how he, being forced to accept of the burden of the government, was desirous to have him for his confederate and supporter. Now as soon as ever Alexander had read this letter, he readily obliged the legions and the multitude to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, both which willingly complied with him, as already acquainted with the courage of the man, from that his conduct in their neighborhood. Accordingly Vespasian, looking upon himself as already intrusted with the government, got all things ready for his journey [to Rome]. Now fame carried this news abroad more suddenly than one could have thought, that he was emperor over the east, upon which every city kept festivals, and celebrated sacrifices and oblations for such good news; the legions also that were in Mysia and Pannonia, who had been in commotion a little before, on account of this insolent attempt of Vitellius, were very glad to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, upon his coming to the empire. Vespasian then removed from Cesarea to Berytus, where many embassages came to him from Syria, and many from other provinces, bringing with them from every city crowns, and the congratulations of the people. Mucianus came also, who was the president of the province, and told him with what alacrity the people [received the news of his advancement], and how the people of every city had taken the oath of fidelity to him.
7. So Vespasian's good fortune succeeded to his wishes every where, and the public affairs were, for the greatest part, already in his hands; upon which he considered that he had not arrived at the government without Divine Providence, but that a righteous kind of fate had brought the empire under his power; for as he called to mind the other signals, which had been a great many every where, that foretold he should obtain the government, so did he remember what Josephus had said to him when he ventured to foretell his coming to the empire while Nero was alive; so he was much concerned that this man was still in bonds with him. He then called for Mucianus, together with his other commanders and friends, and, in the first place, he informed them what a valiant man Josephus had been, and what great hardships he had made him undergo in the siege of Jotapata. After that he related those predictions of his (24) which he had then suspected as fictions, suggested out of the fear he was in, but which had by time been demonstrated to be Divine.
"It is a shameful thing (said he) that this man, who hath foretold my coming to the empire beforehand, and been the minister of a Divine message to me, should still be retained in the condition of a captive or prisoner."
So he called for Josephus, and commanded that he should be set at liberty; whereupon the commanders promised themselves glorious things, froth this requital Vespasian made to a stranger. Titus was then present with his father, and said,
"O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all."
For that is the usual method as to such as have been bound without a cause. This advice was agreed to by Vespasian also; so there came a man in, and cut the chain to pieces; while Josephus received this testimony of his integrity for a reward, and was moreover esteemed a person of credit as to futurities also.
(20) The Roman authors that now remain say Vitellius had children; whereas Josephus introduces here the Roman soldiers in Judea saying he had none. Which of these assertions was the truth I know not. Spanheim thinks he hath given a peculiar reason for calling Vitellius "childless," though he really had children, Diss. de Num. p. 649, 650; to which it appears very difficult to give our assent.
(21) This brother of Vespasian was Flavius Sabinus, as Suetonius informs us, in Vitell. sect. 15; and in Vespas. sect. 2. He is also named by Josephus presently ch. 11. sect. 4.
(22) It is plain by the nature of the thing, as well as by Josephus and Eutropius, that Vespasian was first of all saluted emperor in Judea, and not till some time afterward in Egypt. Whence Tacitus's and Suetonius's present copies must be correct text, when they both say that he was first proclaimed in Egypt, and that on the calends of July, while they still say it was the fifth of the Nones or Ides of the same July before he was proclaimed in Judea. I suppose the month they there intended was June, and not July, as the copies now have it; nor does Tacitus's coherence imply less. See Essay on the Revelation, p. 136.
(23) Here we have an authentic description of the bounds and circumstances of Egypt, in the days of Vespasian and Titus.
(24) As Daniel was preferred by Darius and Cyrus, on account of his having foretold the destruction of the Babylonian monarchy by their means, and the consequent exaltation of the Medes and Persians, Daniel 5:6 or rather, as Jeremiah, when he was a prisoner, was set at liberty, and honorably treated by Nebuzaradan, at the command of Nebuchadnezzar, on account of his having foretold the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Jeremiah 40:1-7; so was our Josephus set at liberty, and honorably treated, on account of his having foretold the advancement of Vespasian and Titus to the Roman empire. All these are most eminent instances of the interposition of Divine Providence and of the certainty of Divine predictions in the great revolutions of the four monarchies. Several such-like examples there are, both in the sacred and other histories, as in the case of Joseph in Egypt, and of Jaddua the high priest, in the days of Alexander the Great, etc.