"Won't you, Mariamne?"
The child nodded. The Romans were the bogey with which Jewish children had, for the last five years, been frightened; and she announced her intention of walking till her feet fell off.
"I will carry you, as much as I can," her mother said, "but it can only be for a short distance at a time; for I, too, am weak, and your weight is too much for me.
"And now, God bless you, my friend," she said, turning to John; "and may He keep you safe through the dangers of the siege, and lead you to your home and parents again!"
They made their way to the end of the passage together; climbed over the rubbish, which nearly blocked the entrance; crawled through the hole, and found themselves in the outer air. Thick low bushes covered the ground around them, and no sound was to be heard.
John rose to his feet, and looked round. Behind him, at the distance of more than a quarter of a mile, the light of the Roman watch fires showed where the legions were encamped. Beyond and above could be seen, here and there, a light in the city. No sound was to be heard, save the occasional call of a Roman sentinel. On the other side, all was dark; for the working parties always returned to camp, at night, in readiness to repel any sortie the Jews might make against the camps or working parties.
"It is a very dark night," John said, doubtfully. "Do you think you can find your way?"
"There are the stars," the woman replied, confidently. "Besides, I was born at Bethlehem, and know the country well. I shall keep on west for a while, and then turn off into the deep valleys leading down towards Masada.
"God be with you!" and, taking the child's hand, she emerged from the bushes, and glided noiselessly away into the darkness.
John set out on his return journey—which he found very much shorter than he had done coming, for the weight of a child for two hours, when walking over difficult ground, is trying even to a strong and active man. He carefully replaced the boards across the mouth of the pit, placed the lamps in a position so that he could find them in the dark and, upon going out of the house, closed the door carefully.
The next morning, that of the 29th of May, the Roman attack began. The Fifth and Twelfth Legions had raised embankments near the Struthion—or Soapwort—Pool, facing the Castle of Antonia; while the Tenth and Fifteenth raised theirs facing the great towers of Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne. They had not carried out their work unmolested, for the Jews had now learned the art of constructing and managing war machines; and had made three hundred scorpions for throwing arrows, and forty ballistae for hurling stones and, with these, they had caused terrible annoyance and great loss to the Romans.
But now, all was prepared. On the evening of the 28th, the last stroke had been given to the embankment; and on the following morning the engines were mounted, and the troops stood in readiness for the attack. Suddenly a smoke was seen, stealing up round the embankments facing Antonia; and the Roman officers called back their men, not knowing what was going to occur. Then a series of mighty crashes was heard. The great embankments, with their engines and battering rams, tottered and fell. Dense smoke shot up in columns, followed rapidly by tongues of fire, and soon the vast piles of materials, collected and put together with so much pains, were blazing fiercely; while the Jews laughed, and shouted in triumph, upon the walls.
The moment John of Gischala perceived where the Romans were going to construct their embankments, he had begun to run a mine from behind the walls towards them. When the gallery was extended under them, a great excavation was hollowed out; the roof being supported by huge beams, between which were piled up pitch and other combustibles. When the Romans were seen advancing to the attack, fire was applied and, as soon as the supports of the roof were burned away, the ground, with the embankments upon it, fell in.
Simon, on his side, was equally ready to receive the enemy, but he trusted rather to valour than stratagem; and as soon as the Roman engines facing the towers began to shake the walls, Tepthaus, Megassar, and Chagiras rushed out, with torches in their hands, followed by a crowd of Simon's soldiers. They drove the Romans before them, and set fire to the great machine.
The Romans crowded up to the assistance of the working parties but, as they advanced, they were received with showers of missiles from the walls; and attacked fiercely by the Jews, who poured out from the city in a continuous stream. The flames spread rapidly and, seeing no hope of saving their engines and embankments, the Romans retreated to their camp. The triumphant Jews pressed hard on their rear, rushed upon the intrenchments, and assailed the guards. Numbers of these were killed, but the rest fought resolutely, while the engines on the works poured showers of missiles among the Jews.
Careless of death, the assailants pressed forward, stormed the intrenchment; and the Romans were on the point of flight when Titus, who had been absent upon the other side, arrived with a strong body of troops, and fell upon the Jews. A desperate contest ensued, but the Jews were finally driven back into the city.
Their enterprise had, however, been crowned with complete success. The embankments, which had occupied the Romans seventeen days in building, were destroyed; and with them the battering rams, and the greater part of their engines. The work of reconstruction would be far more difficult and toilsome than at first, for the country had been denuded of timber, for many miles off. Moreover, the soldiers were becoming greatly disheartened by the failure of all their attacks upon the city.
Titus summoned a council, and laid before them three plans: one for an attempt to take the city by storm; the second to repair the works and rebuild the engines; the third to blockade the city, and starve it into surrender. The last was decided upon and, as a first step, the whole army was set to work, to build a trench and wall round the city. The work was carried on with the greatest zeal; and in three days the wall, nearly five miles in circumference, was completed. Thus there was no longer any chance of escape to the inhabitants; no more possibility of going out, at night, to search for food.
Now the misery of the siege was redoubled. Thousands died daily. A mournful silence hung over the city. Some died in their houses, some in the streets. Some crawled to the cemeteries, and expired there. Some sat upon their housetops, with their eyes fixed upon the Temple, until they sank back dead. No one had strength to dig graves, and the dead bodies were thrown from the walls into the ravines below.
The high priest Matthias, who had admitted Simon and his followers into the city, was suspected of being in communication with the Romans; and he and his three sons were led out on to the wall, and executed in sight of the besiegers, while fifteen of the members of the Sanhedrin were executed at the same time. These murders caused indignation even on the part of some of Simon's men, and one Judas, with ten others, agreed to deliver one of the towers to the enemy; but the Romans—rendered cautious by the treachery which had before been practised—hesitated to approach and, before they were convinced that the offer was made in good faith, Simon discovered what was going on, and the eleven conspirators were executed upon the walls, and their bodies thrown over.
Despair drove many, again, to attempt desertion. Some of these, on reaching the Roman lines, were spared; but many more were killed, for the sake of the money supposed to be concealed upon them. Up to the 1st of July, it was calculated that well-nigh six hundred thousand had perished, in addition to the vast numbers buried in the cemetery, and the great heaps of dead before the walls. Great numbers of the houses had become tombs, the inhabitants shutting themselves up, and dying quietly together.
But, while trusting chiefly to famine, the Romans had laboured steadily on at their military engines—although obliged to fetch the timber for ten miles—and, at the beginning of July, the battering rams began to play against Antonia. The Jews sallied out, but this time with less fury than usual; and they were repulsed without much difficulty by the Romans. All day long the battering rams thundered against the wall; while men, protected by hurdles and penthouses, laboured to dislodge the stones at the foot of the walls, in spite of the storm of missiles hurled down from above.
By nightfall, they had got out four large stones. It happened that these stones stood just over the part under which John of Gischala had driven his mine, when he destroyed the Roman embankments; and thus, doubly weakened, the wall fell with a crash during the night. John, however, had built another wall in the rear and, when the Romans rushed to the assault of the breach, in the morning, they found a new line of defence confronting them.
Titus addressed the troops, and called for volunteers. Sabinus, a Syrian, volunteered for the attack, and eleven men followed him. In spite of the storm of missiles he reached the top of the wall. The Jews, believing that many were behind him, turned to fly; but his foot slipped and he fell and, before he could regain his feet, the Jews turned round upon him and slew him. Three of his companions fell beside him, on the top of the wall; and the rest were carried back, wounded, to camp.
Two days later, in the middle of the night, twenty Roman soldiers, with a standard bearer and trumpeter, crept silently up to the breach, surprised, and slew the watch. The trumpeter blew the charge; and the Jews, believing that the whole Roman army was upon them, fled in a sudden panic. Titus at once advanced with his men, stormed the new wall, entered the Castle of Antonia, and then advanced along the cloisters which connected it with the Temple; but John of Gischala had by this time arrived at the spot, and opposed a desperate resistance to the assault; until Simon, crossing from the upper city by the bridge, came to his assistance; and John, finding that the Temple was attacked, also led his band across.
For ten hours, the struggle raged. Vast numbers fell, on both sides; till the dead formed a bank between the combatants. Titus, finding that even the courage and discipline of his troops did not avail, against the desperate resistance of the Jews, at last called them off from the assault—well satisfied with having captured Antonia.
During the fight the Romans had, several times, nearly penetrated into the Temple. Indeed, a centurion named Julian—a man of great strength, courage, and skill at arms—had charged the Jews with such fury that he had made his way, alone, as far as the inner court; when his mailed shoes slipped on the marble pavement, and he fell; and the Jews, rushing back, slew him—after a desperate resistance, to the end.
Titus commanded that the fortress of Antonia should be levelled to the ground; and then sent Josephus with a message to John of Gischala, offering him free egress for himself and his men, if he would come out to fight outside, in order that the Temple might be saved further defilement. John replied by curses upon Josephus, whom he denounced as a traitor; and concluded that he feared not that the city should be taken, for it was the city of God. Then Titus sent for a number of persons of distinction who had, from time to time, made their escape from the city; and these attempted, in vain, to persuade the people—if not to surrender—at least to spare the Temple from defilement and ruin. Even the Roman soldiers were adverse to an attack upon a place so long regarded as pre-eminently holy, and Titus himself harangued the Jews.
"You have put up a barrier," he said, "to prevent strangers from polluting your Temple. This the Romans have always respected. We have allowed you to put to death all who violated its precincts; yet you defile it, yourselves, with blood and carnage. I call on your gods—I call on my whole army—I call upon the Jews who are with me—I call on yourselves—to witness that I do not force you to this crime. Come forth and fight, in any other place, and no Roman shall violate your sacred edifice."
But John of Gischala, and the Zealots, would hear of no surrender. They doubted whether Titus would keep his promise, and feared to surrender the stronghold which was now their last hope. Above all, they still believed that God would yet interfere to save his Temple.
Titus, finding that the garrison were obstinate, raised his voice and called out:
"John—whom I met near Hebron—if you be there, bear witness that I have striven to keep my oath. I will strive to the end; but blame me not if, not through my fault, but by the obstinacy of these men, destruction comes upon the Temple."
John, who was standing within hearing, called out:
"I am here, Titus, and I bear witness; yet, I pray you, strive to the end to keep the oath which you swore to me."
"What is this oath, John?" Simon, who was standing close by, asked. "What compact have you with the Roman general?"
"We met in battle, alone," John said, quietly, "and it chanced that he fell. I might have slain him, but it came to me that it were better to try to save the Temple, than to slay one of its enemies; and therefore swore him to save the Temple, if it lay in his power. He has offered to spare it. It lay with you, and John of Gischala, to save the Temple from destruction by accepting his terms. You have not done so. If the Temple is destroyed, it is by the obstinacy of its defenders, not by the cruelty of the Romans."
"It would be madness to accept his offer," Simon said, angrily. "Titus knows well that, in the plains, we should be no match for his troops. Did you ever hear, before, of a garrison giving up a position so strong that it could not be taken from them, and going out to fight beyond the walls? Besides, who can tell that the Romans will keep their promises? Once we are at their mercy, they might level the Temple."
"In that case, the sin would be upon their heads. Besides, there is no occasion to retire beyond the walls. Why should not all the fighting men retire into the upper city, and leave the Temple to God? If it is his will that the Romans should destroy it, they will do so. If it is his will that they should respect it, they will do so. He can save, or destroy, at his will. If we retreat to the upper town, and break down the bridge after us, they could never take it."
"And how long could we hold out?" Simon said, with a hard laugh. "Is there a day's food left, in the city? If there is, my men are less sharp than I give them credit for. No, we will fight here, to the end, for the Temple; and the sooner the Romans attack, the better, for if they delay many days, there is not a single man will have strength enough to lift a sword."
Chapter 17: The Capture Of The Temple.
Although abhorring the general conduct of Simon and John of Gischala, and believing that conditions could be made with the Romans which would save the Temple, John still retained the hope—cherished by every Jew—that God would yet, himself, save Jerusalem, as in the old times. He was conscious that the people had forfeited all right to expect his aid; that, by their wickedness and forgetfulness of him—and more especially by the frightful scenes which had desecrated the city and Temple, during the last four years—they must have angered God beyond all hope of forgiveness. Still, the punishment which had been inflicted was already so terrible that he, like others, hoped that God's anger might yet relent, as it had done in old times, and that a remnant might yet be spared.
But above all, their hope lay in the belief that the Temple was the actual abode of the Lord; and that, though he might suffer the whole people to perish for their sins, he would yet protect, at the last, his own sanctuary. Surely, John thought, as he stood on the roof of the Temple, this glorious building can never be meant to be destroyed.
The Temple occupied a square, six hundred feet every way. The lofty rock on which it stood had been cased with solid masonry, so that it rose perpendicularly from the plain. On the top of this massive foundation was built a strong and lofty wall, round the whole area. Within this wall was a spacious double cloister, fifty-two and one half feet broad, supported by one hundred and sixty-two columns. On the south side the cloister was one hundred and five feet wide—being a triple cloister—and was here called the King's Cloister. Within the area surrounded by the cloisters was an open court, paved with marble; this was the Court of the Gentiles, and was separated from the second court—that of the Jews—by a stone railing, five feet high.
An ascent of fourteen steps led to a terrace, seventeen and one half feet wide, beyond which rose the wall of the inner court. This wall was seventy feet high on the outside, forty-four feet on the inside. Round the inner court was another range of cloisters. There were ten gates into the inner court. The doors of nine of these gateways were fifty-two and one half feet high, and half that breadth. The gateways rose to the height of seventy feet. The tenth, usually called the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, was larger than the rest; the gateway being eighty-seven and one half feet in height, the doors seventy feet. In the centre of the inner court was the Temple, itself. The great porch was one hundred and seventy-five feet in width, the gateway tower one hundred and thirty-two feet high and forty-three feet wide, and through it was seen the Beautiful Gate. The Temple itself was built of white marble, and the roof was covered with sharp golden spikes.
Now that it was evident that on the side of the Temple, alone, could the enemy make an attack, the division between Simon and John of Gischala's men was no longer kept up. All gathered for the defence of the Temple. The Jews kept up a vigilant watch, for the Romans could assemble in great force in Antonia, unseen by them; and could advance, under cover, by the cloisters which flanked the platform connecting Antonia with the Temple, on either side. The interval between Antonia and the Temple was but three hundred feet. The cloisters were considered to form part of the Temple, and the Jews were therefore reluctant to destroy them, although they greatly facilitated the attack of the Romans.
Finding that his offers were all rejected, Titus spent seven days in the destruction of a large portion of Antonia, and then prepared for a night attack. As the whole army could not make the assault, thirty men were picked from each hundred. Tribunes were appointed over each thousand, Cerealis being chosen to command the whole. Titus himself mounted a watchtower in Antonia, in order that he might see and reward each act of bravery.
The assault began between two and three o'clock in the morning. The Jews were on the watch and, as soon as the massive columns moved forward, the cries of the guards gave the alarm; and the Jews, sleeping in and around the Temple, seized their arms and rushed down to the defence. For a time, the Romans had the advantage. The weight of their close formation enabled them to press forward against the most obstinate resistance and, even in the darkness, there was no fear of mistaking friend for foe; while the Jews, fighting in small parties, often mistook each other for enemies, and as many fell by the swords of their friends as by those of the enemy. The loss was all the greater, since the troops of John of Gischala and Simon had no common password and, coming suddenly upon each other, often fought desperately before they discovered their mistake; but as daylight began to break, these mistakes became less frequent. The presence and example of their leaders animated the Jews to the greatest exertions, while the knowledge that Titus was watching them inspired the Romans with even more than their usual courage and obstinacy. For nine hours, the conflict raged; and then the Romans, unable to make the slightest impression upon the resistance of the Jews, fell back again into Antonia.
Finding that, in hand-to-hand conflict, his soldiers could not overcome the Jews, Titus ordered the erection of small embankments—two on the platform between the cloisters, the other two outside the cloister walls. But the work proceeded slowly, owing to the difficulty of procuring wood. The Jews, as usual, hindered the work as much as possible, with showers of missiles; and attempted to create a diversion, by a sortie and attack upon the camp of the Tenth Legion, on the Mount of Olives. This, however, was repulsed by the Romans, without great difficulty.
As the cloisters leading to Antonia afforded great assistance to the Romans, in their attacks, the Jews set fire to the end of the cloisters touching the Temple wall; and a length of from twenty to thirty feet of each cloister was destroyed. The Romans destroyed a further portion, so as to afford more room for the men at work upon the embankments. The action of the Jews was, to a certain extent, a necessity; but it depressed the spirits of the inhabitants, for there was a prophecy: "When square the walls, the Temple falls!" Hitherto, Antonia and the connecting cloisters had been considered as forming part of the Temple, and had given it an irregular form; but the destruction of these cloisters left the Temple standing a massive square.
The embankments presently rose above the height of the wall, and it was evident that this would soon be taken. The Jews retired from the roof of the cloister facing the embankment, as if despairing of further resistance; but they had previously stored great quantities of combustibles in the space between the cedar roof of the cloisters and the upper platform. The Romans on the embankment—seeing that the Jews had retired—without waiting for orders ran down and, planting ladders, scaled the wall.
The Jews set up cries, as if of despair; and the Romans poured up on to the wall until a great mass of men were collected on the roof of the cloister. Then, on a sudden, flames shot up in all directions beneath their feet, and they found themselves enveloped in a sea of fire. Many were burned, or smothered by the smoke. Some stabbed themselves with their swords. Some leaped down into the outer court, and were there killed by the Jews. Many jumped down outside the walls, and were picked up dead or with broken limbs. Others ran along upon the top of the walls, until they were shot down by the Jewish missiles.
But one man seems to have escaped. A soldier named Artorius, standing on the wall, shouted to the Romans below, "Whoever catches me shall be my heir."
A soldier ran forward to accept the terms. Artorius jumped down upon him; killing him by his fall, but himself escaping unhurt.
The fire extended along the whole of the western cloister; and the northern cloister was, next day, burned by the Romans and, thus, on the west and north sides the inner Temple was now exposed to the invader.
All this time, famine had been continuing its work. The fighting men were so weakened that they had scarcely strength to drag their limbs along, or to hold their weapons; while horrible tales are told of the sufferings of such of the inhabitants who still survived—one woman, maddened by despair, cooking and eating her own infant. Occasionally a baggage animal or a Roman cavalry horse strayed near the walls, when a crowd of famishing wretches would pour out, kill and devour it. Titus, however, cut off even this occasional supply; by ordering a soldier, whose horse had thus fallen into the hands of the Jews, to be put to death for his carelessness.
John's band had been greatly diminished in number, in the two days they had been fighting opposite Antonia. The stores they had brought to the city were now exhausted; although, for a long time, only the smallest amount had been issued, daily, to eke out the handful of grain still served out to each of the fighting men. A few only had, in their sufferings, refused to obey the orders of John and their officers, and had joined the bands of Simon and John of Gischala in the revolting cruelties which they practised, to extort food from the inhabitants. These had not been allowed to rejoin the band; which was now reduced to a little over fifty stern, gaunt, and famine-worn figures—but still unshaken in their determination to fight to the end.
The Romans now pushed on a bank, from the western wall across the smouldering ruins of the cloister and inner court; and a battering ram began to play against the inner Temple but, after six days' efforts, and bringing up their heaviest battering ram, the Romans gave it up in despair; for the huge stones which formed the masonry of the wall defied even the ponderous machines which the Romans brought to play against it. An embankment, from the northern side, was also carried across the outer court to the foot of the most easterly of the four northern gates of the inner Temple.
Still anxious to save the Temple itself, and its cloisters if possible, Titus would not resort to the use of fire; but ordered his men to force the gate, with crowbars and levers. After great efforts, a few of the stones of the threshold were removed; but the gates, supported by the massive walls and the props behind, defied all their efforts.
Titus now ordered his soldiers to carry the walls by storm. Ladders were brought up; and the soldiers, eager for revenge upon the foe who had so long baffled and humiliated them, sprang to the assault with shouts of exultation. The Jews offered no resistance, until the Romans reached the top of the wall but, as they leaped down on to the roof of the cloister, they threw themselves upon them. Numbers were slain, as they stepped off the ladders on to the wall; and many of the ladders were hurled backward, crushing the soldiers crowded upon them on the pavement beneath.
Then Titus ordered the standards of the legions to be carried up, thinking that the soldiers would rally round these, the emblems of military honour. The Jews, however, permitted the standards and numbers of the legionaries to ascend on to the roof of the cloisters; and then again fell upon them, with such fury that the Romans were overpowered, the standards were taken, and their defenders killed. Not one of the Romans who had mounted the wall retired from it.
Titus could no longer resist the appeals of his infuriated soldiers who, maddened by the losses they had suffered, and the disgrace of the loss of the standards, could not understand why this loss was entailed upon them—when such an easy way of destroying the gate, and entering the Temple, was in their power. Most reluctantly, Titus gave the permission they clamoured for, and allowed his troops to set fire to the gate. The dry woodwork caught like tinder, and the flames mounted instantly. The silver plates which covered the woodwork melted, and ran down in streams; and the fire at once communicated with the cloisters inside the wall.
Appalled at the sight of the inner court in flames, the Jews stood despairing; while the shouts of triumph of the Romans rose high in the air. During the rest of the day, and all through the night, the conflagration continued and extended all round the cloisters. Thus the Temple, itself, was surrounded by a ring of fire.
The next day, the 4th of August, Titus called a council of his generals, to deliberate on the fate of the Temple. There were present, besides Titus, Tiberias Alexander, the second in command; the commanders of the Fifth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Legions; Fronto, the commander of the Alexandrian troops; and Marcus Antonius Julianus, the procurator of Judea.
Some were for levelling the Temple to the ground. Others advised that, if abandoned by the Jews, it might be preserved; but if defended as a citadel, it ought to be destroyed. Titus listened to the opinions of the others; and then declared his own—which was that, whatever the use the Jews made of it, it ought to be preserved. Alexander, Cerealis, and Fronto went over to the opinion of Titus; and therefore, by a majority of one, it was agreed that the Temple should be spared, however fiercely the Jews might resist. Orders were given to prevent the fire spreading to the Temple, and to clear the ground for an assault against it.
The 5th of August broke. It was on that day that the Temple of Solomon had been burned, by Nebuchadnezzar; but the courage of the Jews was not depressed by the omen. The brief pause had enabled them to recover from the despair which they had felt, in seeing the inner cloister in flames; and at eight o'clock in the morning, sallying from the Eastern Gate, they rushed down upon the Romans. The latter formed in close order and, covered by their shields, received the onslaught calmly. But so desperately did the Jews fight, and in such numbers did they pour out from the Temple, that the Romans had begun to give way; when Titus arrived, with great reinforcements. But even then, it was not until one o'clock that the Jews were driven back, again, into the walls of the inner Temple.
Titus, having seen his troops victorious, retired to his tent; and the soldiers continued their work of clearing the platform, and extinguishing the smouldering fire of the cloisters. Suddenly the Jewish bands burst out again, and another deadly struggle commenced. Then one of the Roman soldiers, seizing a burning brand from the cloisters, hurled it into the window of one of the side chambers that inclosed the Temple on the north.
In the furious struggle that was going on, none noticed the action; and it was not until the flames were seen, rushing out of the window, that the Jews perceived what had happened. With a cry of anguish, they discontinued the conflict, and rushed back to try and extinguish the flames. But the woodwork, dried by the intense heat of the August sun, was ripe for burning and, in spite of the most desperate efforts, the fire spread rapidly.
The news that the Temple was on fire reached Titus and, starting up, accompanied by his bodyguard of spearmen—commanded by Liberatus—he hastened to the spot. His officers followed him and, as the news spread, the whole of the Roman legionaries rushed, with one accord, to the spot. Titus pushed forward into the first court of the inner Temple—the Court of the Women—and then into the inner court and, by shouts and gestures, implored his own soldiers, and the Jews alike, to assist in subduing the flames.
But the clamour and din drowned his voice. The legionaries, pouring in after him, added to the confusion. So great was the crowd that many of the soldiers were crushed to death; while many fell among the ruins of the still smouldering cloisters, and were either smothered or burned. Those who reached the sanctuary paid no attention to the remonstrances, commands, or even threats of Titus; but shouted to those in front of them to complete the work of destruction.
Titus pressed forward, with his guards, to the vestibule; and then entered, first the Holy, and then the Holy of Holies. After one glance at the beauty and magnificence of the marvellous shrine, he rushed back and again implored his soldiers to exert themselves to save it; and ordered Liberatus to strike down any who disobeyed. But the soldiers were now altogether beyond control, and were mad with triumph, fury, and hate. One of the bodyguard, as Titus left the sanctuary, seized a brand and applied it to the woodwork. The flames leaped up, and soon the whole Temple was wrapped in fire.
The soldiers spread through the building, snatching at the golden ornaments and vessels, and slaying all they met—unarmed men, priests in their robes, women and children. Many of the Jews threw themselves into the flames. Some of the priests found their way on to the broad wall of the inner Temple; where they remained, until compelled by famine to come down, when they were all executed. Six thousand of the populace took refuge on the roof of the Royal Cloister, along the south side of the outer Temple. The Romans set fire to this, and every soul upon it perished.
As soon as they felt that their efforts to extinguish the fire were vain, and that the Temple was indeed lost, John of Gischala, Simon, and John called their men together and, issuing out, fell with the fury of desperation upon the dense ranks of the Roman soldiers in the inner court and, in spite of their resistance, cut their way through to the outer court; and gained the bridge leading from the southwest corner, across the Valley of the Tyropceon, to the upper city; and were therefore, for a time, in safety.
John, bewildered, exhausted, and heartbroken from the terrible events of the past few days, staggered back to his house, and threw himself on his couch; and lay there for a long time, crushed by the severity of the blow. Until now he had hoped that Titus would, in the end, spare the Temple; but he recognized, now, that it was the obstinacy of the Jews that had brought about its destruction.
"It was God's will that it should perish," he said, to himself; "and Titus could no more save it than I could do."
After some hours, he roused himself and descended to the room now occupied by the remnant of the band. Jonas and ten others, alone, were gathered there. Some had thrown themselves down on the ground. Some sat in attitudes of utter dejection. Several were bleeding from wounds received in the desperate fight of the morning. Others were badly burned in the desperate efforts they had made to extinguish the flames. Exhausted by want of food, worn out by their exertions, filled with despair at the failure of their last hopes, the members of the little band scarce looked up when their leader entered.
"My friends," he said, "listen to me, if but for the last time. We, at least, have nothing to reproach ourselves with. We have fought for the Temple, to the last; and if we failed to save it, it is because it was the will of God that it should perish. At any rate, our duty is done. God has not given us our lives, and preserved them through so many fights, that we should throw them away. It is our duty, now, to save our lives, if we can. Now that the Temple has fallen, we are called upon to do no more fighting.
"Let the bands of John of Gischala, and Simon, fight to the last. They are as wild beasts, inclosed in the snare of the hunter; and they merit a thousand deaths, for it is they who have brought Jerusalem to this pass, they who have robbed and murdered the population, they who have destroyed the granaries which would have enabled the city to exist for years, they who refused the terms by which the Temple might have been saved, they who have caused its destruction in spite of the efforts of Titus to preserve it. They are the authors of all this ruin and woe. They have lived as wild beasts, so let them die!
"But there is no reason why we should die with them, for their guilt is not upon our heads. We have done our duty in fighting for the Temple, and have robbed and injured none. Therefore, I say, let us save our lives."
"Would you surrender to the Romans?" one of the band asked, indignantly. "Do you, whom we have followed, counsel us to become traitors?"
"It is not treachery to surrender, when one can no longer resist," John said, quietly. "But I am not thinking of surrendering. I am thinking of passing out of the city, into the country around.
"But first, let us eat. I see you look surprised but, although the store we brought hither is long since exhausted, there is still a last reserve. I bought it, with all the money that I had with me, from one of Simon's men, upon the day when we came hither from the lower town. He had gained it, doubtless, in wanton robbery for, at that time, the fighting men had plenty of food; but as it was his, I bought it, thinking that the time might come when one meal might mean life to many of us. I have never touched it, but it remains where I hid it, in my chamber. I will fetch it, now."
John ascended to his chamber, and brought down a bag containing about fifteen pounds of flour.
"Let us make bread of this," he said. "It will give us each a good meal, now; and there will be enough left to provide food for each, during the first day's journey."
The exhausted men seemed inspired with new life, at the sight of the food. No thought of asking how they were to pass through the Roman lines occurred to them. The idea of satisfying their hunger overpowered all other feelings.
The door was closed to keep out intruders. Dough was made, and a fire kindled with pieces of wood dry as tinder, so that no smoke should attract the eye of those who were constantly on the lookout for such a sign that some family were engaged in cooking. The flat dough cakes were placed over the glowing embers, the whole having been divided into twenty-four portions. Some of the men would hardly wait until their portions were baked; but John urged upon them that, were they to eat it in a half-cooked state, the consequences might be very serious, after their prolonged fast. Still, none of them could resist breaking off little pieces, to stay their craving.
"Let us eat slowly," John said, when the food was ready. "The more slowly we eat, the further it will go. When it is eaten, we will take a sleep for four hours, to regain our strength. There is no fear of our being called upon to aid in the defence. The Romans must be as exhausted as we are; and they will need thought, and preparation, before they attack our last stronghold, which is far stronger than any they have yet taken. If we had food, we could hold Mount Zion against them for months."
As soon as the meal was over, all lay down to sleep. None had asked any question as to how their escape was to be effected. The unexpected meal, which John's forethought had prepared for them, had revived all their confidence in him; and they were ready to follow him, wherever he might take them.
It was night when John called them to awake, but the glare of the vast pile of the burning Temple lit up every object. The brightness almost equalled that of day.
"It is time," John said, as the men rose to their feet and grasped their arms. "I trust that we shall have no occasion to use weapons; but we will carry them so that, if we should fall into the hands of the Romans, we may fall fighting, and not die by the torments that they inflict upon those who fall into their hands. If I could obtain a hearing, so as to be brought before Titus, he might give us our lives; but I will not trust to that. In the first place, they would cut us down like hunted animals, did they come upon us; and in the second, I would not, now, owe my life to the clemency of the Romans."
A fierce assent was given by his followers.
"Now," John went on, "let each take his piece of bread, and put it in his bosom. Leave your bucklers and javelins behind you, but take your swords.
"Jonas, bring a brand from the fire.
"Now, let us be off."
None of those with him, except Jonas, had the least idea where he was going; but he had instructed the lad in the secret of the pit and, one day, had taken him down the passages to the aqueduct.
"You and I found safety before, Jonas, together, and I trust may do so again; but should anything happen to me, you will now have the means of escape."
"If you die, I will die with you, master," Jonas said.
And indeed, in the fights he had always kept close to John, following every movement, and ready to dash forward when his leader was attacked by more than one enemy; springing upon them like a wildcat, and burying his knife in their throats. It was to his watchful protection and ready aid that John owed it that he had passed through so many combats, comparatively unharmed.
"Not so, Jonas," he said, in answer to the lad's declaration that he would die with him. "It would be no satisfaction to me that you should share my fate, but a great one to know that you would get away safely. If I fall, I charge you to pass out by this underground way; and to carry to my father, and mother, and Mary, the news that I have fallen, fighting to the last, in the defence of the Temple. Tell them that I thought of them to the end, and that I sent you to them to be with them; and to be to my father and mother a son, until they shall find for Mary a husband who may fill my place, and be the stay of their old age. My father will treat you as an adopted son, for my sake; and will bestow upon you a portion of his lands.
"You have been as a brother to me, Jonas; and I pray you, promise me to carry out my wishes."
Jonas had reluctantly given the pledge but, from that hour until John had declared that he would fight no more, Jonas had been moody and silent. Now, however, as he walked behind his friend, his face was full of satisfaction. There was no chance, now, that he would have to take home the news of his leader's death. Whatever befell them, they would share together.
They soon reached the door of the house in which the pit was situated. It was entered, and the door closed behind them. The lamps were then lit. John led the way to the cellar, and bade the men remove the boards.
"I will go first, with one of the lamps," he said. "Do you, Jonas, take the other, and come last in the line.
"Keep close together, so that the light may be sufficient for all to see."
Strengthened by the meal, and by their confidence in John's promise to lead them through the Romans, the band felt like new men; and followed John with their usual light, active gait, as he led the way. Not a word was spoken, till they reached the hole leading into the aqueduct.
"This is the Conduit of King Hezekiah," John said. "When we emerge at the other end, we shall be beyond the Roman lines."
Exclamations of satisfaction burst from the men. Each had been wondering, as he walked, where their leader was taking them. All knew that the ground beneath Jerusalem was honeycombed by caves and passages; but that their leader could not intend to hide there was evident, for they had but one meal with them. But that any of these passages should debouch beyond the Roman lines had not occurred to them.
Each had thought that the passages they were following would probably lead out, at the foot of the wall, into the Valley of Hinnom or of Jehoshaphat; and that John intended to creep with them up to the foot of the Roman wall, and to trust to activity and speed to climb it, and make their way through the guard placed there to cut off fugitives. But none had even hoped that they would be able to pass the wall of circumvallation without a struggle.
An hour's walking brought them to the chamber over the springs.
"Now," John said, "we will rest for half an hour, before we sally out. Let each man eat half the food he has brought with him. The rest he must keep till tomorrow, for we shall have to travel many miles before we can reach a spot that the Romans have not laid desolate, and where we may procure food.
"I trust," he went on, "that we shall be altogether unnoticed. The sentries may be on the alert, on their wall, for they will think it likely that many may be trying to escape from the city; but all save those on duty will be either asleep after their toils, or feasting in honour of their success. The fact, too, of the grcat glare of light over Jerusalem will render the darkness more intense, when they look in the other direction.
"But if we should be noticed, it is best that we should separate, and scatter in the darkness; each flying for his life, and making his way home as best he may. If we are not seen, we will keep together. There is no fear of meeting with any Roman bands, when we are once fairly away. The parties getting wood will have been warned, by the smoke, of what has taken place; and will have hurried back, to gain their share of the spoil."
At the end of the half hour, John rose to his feet and led the way along the passage to the entrance. When he came to the spot where it was nearly blocked up, he blew out his light, and crawled forward over the rubbish, until he reached the open air. The others followed, until all were beside him. Then he rose to his feet. The Temple was not visible, but the whole sky seemed on fire above Jerusalem; and the outline of the three great towers of the Palace of Herod, and of the buildings of the upper city, stood black against the glare.
There was no sign of life or movement near as, with a quick, noiseless step, the little party stole away. None of them knew more than the general direction which they had to follow, but the glare of the great fire served as a guide as to their direction and, even at this distance, made objects on the ground plainly visible; so that they were enabled to pick their way among the stumps of the fallen plantations and orchards, through gardens, and by ruined villas and houses, until they reached the edge of the plateau, and plunged down into the valleys descending to the Dead Sea. After walking for two hours, John called a halt.
"We can walk slowly now," he said, "and avoid the risk of breaking our legs among the rocks. We are safe, here; and had best lie down until morning, and then resume our way. There is no fear, whatever, of the Romans sending out parties, for days. They have the upper city to take, yet, and the work of plunder and division of the spoil to carry out. We can sleep without anxiety."
It was strange, to them all, to lie down to sleep among the stillness of the mountains, after the din and turmoil of the siege when, at any moment, they might be called upon to leap up to repel an attack. But few of them went off to sleep, for some time. The dull feeling of despair, the utter carelessness of life, the desire for death and the end of trouble which had so long oppressed them—these had passed away, now that they were free, and in the open air; and the thoughts of the homes they had never thought to see again, and of the loved ones who would greet them, on their return, as men who had almost come back from the dead, fell upon them. They could go back with heads erect, and clear consciences. They had fought, so long as the Temple stood. They had, over and over again, faced the Romans hand to hand, without giving way a foot. They had taken no share in the evil deeds in the city, and had wronged and plundered no one. They did not return as conquerors, but that was the will of God, and no fault of theirs.
At daybreak they were on their feet again, and now struck off more to the left; following mountain paths among the hills until, at last, they came down to the plain, within half a mile of the upper end of the Dead Sea. John here called his companions round him.
"Here, my friends," he said, "I think it were best that we separated; laying aside our swords and, singly or in pairs, finding the way back to our homes. We know not in what towns there may be Roman garrisons, or where we may meet parties of their soldiers traversing the country. Alone, we shall attract no attention. One man may conceal himself behind a tree, or in the smallest bush; but the sight of a party, together, would assuredly draw them upon us. Therefore, it were best to separate. Some of you will find it shorter to cross the ford of the Jordan, three miles away; while others had best follow this side of the river."
All agreed that this would be the safer plan and, after a short talk, each took leave of his leader and comrades, and strode away; until Jonas, alone, remained with John.
"Will you cross the river, John, or follow this side?" Jonas asked.
"I think we had best keep on this side, Jonas. On the other the country is hilly, and the villages few. Here, at least, we can gather fruit and corn, as we go, from the deserted gardens and fields; and two days' walking will take us to Tarichea. We can cross there, or take a boat up the lake."
After waiting until the last of their comrades had disappeared from sight, John and his companion continued their way, keeping about halfway between Jericho and the Jordan. They presently bore to the left, until on the great road running north from Jericho. This they followed until nightfall, rejoicing in the grapes and figs which they picked by the roadside where, but a few months since, little villages had nestled thickly.
Just before darkness fell they came upon a village which, although deserted, had not been burned—probably owing to some body of Roman soldiers having taken up their post there for a time. They entered one of the houses, lay down, and were soon fast asleep.
Chapter 18: Slaves.
John was roused from sleep by being roughly shaken. He sprang to his feet, and found a number of men—some of whom were holding torches—in the room. Two of these had the appearance of merchants. The others were armed and, by their dress, seemed to be Arabs.
"What are you doing here?" one of the men asked him.
"We are peaceful travellers," John said, "injuring no one, and came in here to sleep the night."
"You look like peaceful travellers!" the man replied. "You have two wounds yet unhealed on your head. Your companion has one of his arms bandaged. You are either robbers, or some of the cutthroats who escaped from Jerusalem. You may think it Iucky you have fallen into my hands, instead of that of the Romans, who would have finished you off without a question.
"Bind them," he said, turning to his men.
Resistance was useless. The hands of John and Jonas were tied behind their backs, and they were taken outside the house. Several fires were burning in the road, and lying down were three or four hundred men and women; while several men, with spears and swords, stood as a guard over them. John saw, at once, that he had fallen into the hands of a slave dealer—one of the many who had come, from various parts, to purchase the Jews whom the Romans sold as slaves—and already the multitude sold was so vast that it had reduced the price of slaves throughout Italy, Egypt, and the East to one-third of their former value. There were, however, comparatively few able-bodied men among them. In almost every case the Romans had put these to the sword, and the slave dealers, finding John and Jonas, had congratulated themselves on the acquisition; knowing well that no complaint that the captives might make would be listened to, and that their story would not be believed, even if they could get to tell it to anyone of authority.
John and Jonas were ordered to lie down with the rest, and were told that, if they made any attempt to escape, they would be scourged to death.
"The villains!" Jonas muttered, as they lay down. "Is it not enough to drive one mad to think that, after having escaped the Romans, we should fall into the hands of these rogues!"
"We must not grumble at fate. Hitherto, Jonas, we have been marvellously preserved. First of all, we two were alone saved from Jotapata; then we, with ten others, alone out of six hundred escaped alive from Jerusalem. We have reason for thankfulness, rather than repining. We have been delivered out of the hands of death; and remember that I have the ring of Titus with me, and that—when the time comes—this will avail us."
From the day the siege had begun, John had carried the signet ring of Titus; wearing it on his toe, concealed by the bands of his sandals. He knew that, were he to fall into the hands of the Romans, he would get no opportunity of speaking but, even if not killed at once, would be robbed of any valuable he might possess; and that his assertion that the ring was a signet, which Titus himself had given him would, even if listened to, be received with incredulity. He had therefore resolved to keep it concealed, and to produce it only when a favourable opportunity seemed to offer.
"At any rate, Jonas, let us practise patience, and be thankful that we are still alive."
In the morning, the cavalcade got into motion. John found that the majority of his fellow captives were people who had been taken captive when Titus, for the second time, obtained possession of the lower city. They had been sent up to Tiberias, and there sold, and their purchaser was now taking them down to Egypt. The men were mostly past middle age, and would have been of little value as slaves, had it not been that they were all craftsmen—workers in stone or metal—and would therefore fetch a fair price, if sold to masters of these crafts. The rest were women and children.
The men were attached to each other by cords, John and Jonas being placed at some distance apart; and one of the armed guards placed himself near each, as there was far more risk of active and determined young men trying to make their escape than of the others doing so, especially after the manner in which they had been kidnapped. All their clothes were taken from them, save their loincloths; and John trembled lest he should be ordered also to take off his sandals, for his present captors would have no idea of the value of the ring, but would seize it for its setting.
Fortunately, however, this was not the case. The guards all wore sandals and had, therefore, no motive in taking those of the captives, especially as they were old and worn. The party soon turned off from the main road, and struck across the hills to the west; and John bitterly regretted that he had not halted, for the night, a few miles further back than he did, in which case he would have avoided the slave dealers' caravan.
The heat was intense, and John pitied the women and children, compelled to keep up with the rest. He soon proposed, to a woman who was burdened with a child about two years old, to place it on his shoulders; and as the guard saw in this a proof that their new captives had no idea of endeavouring to escape, they offered no objection to the arrangement which, indeed, seemed so good to them that, as the other mothers became fatigued, they placed the children on the shoulders of the male prisoners; loosing the hands of the latter, in order that they might prevent the little ones from losing their balance.
The caravan halted for the night at Sichem, and the next day crossed Mount Gerizim to Bethsalisa, and then went on to Jaffa. Here the slave dealers hired a ship, and embarked the slaves. They were crowded closely together, but otherwise were not unkindly treated, being supplied with an abundance of food and water—for it was desirable that they should arrive in the best possible condition at Alexandria, whither they were bound.
Fortunately the weather was fine and, in six days, they reached their destination. Alexandria was at that time the largest city, next to Rome herself, upon the shores of the Mediterranean. It had contained a very large Jewish population prior to the great massacre, five years before and, even now, there were a considerable number remaining. The merchant had counted upon this and, indeed, had it not been for the number of Jews scattered among the various cities of the East, the price of slaves would have fallen even lower than it did. But the Jewish residents, so far as they could afford it, came forward to buy their country men and women, in order to free them from slavery.
When, therefore, the new arrivals were exposed in the market, many assuring messages reached them from their compatriots; telling them to keep up their courage, for friends would look after them. The feeling against the Jews was still too strong for those who remained in Alexandria to appear openly in the matter, and they therefore employed intermediaries, principally Greeks and Cretans, to buy up the captives. The women with children were the first purchased, as the value of these was not great. Then some of the older men, who were unfit for much work, were taken. Then there was a pause, for already many cargoes of captives had reached Alexandria, and the resources of their benevolent countrymen were becoming exhausted.
No one had yet bid for John or Jonas, as the slave dealers had placed a high price upon them as being strong and active, and fitted for hard work. Their great fear was that they should be separated; and John had, over and over again, assured his companion that should he, as he hoped, succeed in getting himself sent to Titus, and so be freed, he would, before proceeding home, come to Egypt and purchase his friend's freedom.
The event they feared, however, did not happen. One day a Roman, evidently of high rank, came into the market and, after looking carelessly round, fixed his eyes upon John and his companion, and at once approached their master. A few minutes were spent in bargaining; then the dealer unfastened the fetters which bound them, and the Roman briefly bade them follow him.
He proceeded through the crowded streets, until they were in the country outside the town. Here, villas with beautiful gardens lined the roads. The Roman turned in at the entrance to one of the largest of these mansions. Under a colonnade, which surrounded the house, a lady was reclining upon a couch. Her two slave girls were fanning her.
Illustration: 'Lesbia,' the Roman said, 'I have brought you two more slaves.'
"Lesbia," the Roman said, "you complained, yesterday, that you had not enough slaves to keep the garden in proper order, so I have bought you two more from the slave market. They are Jews, that obstinate race that have been giving Titus so much trouble. Young as they are, they seem to have been fighting, for both of them are marked with several scars."
"I dare say they will do," the lady said. "The Jews are said to understand the culture of the vine and fig better than other people, so they are probably accustomed to garden work."
The Roman clapped his hands, and a slave at once appeared.
"Send Philo here."
A minute later a Greek appeared.
"Philo, here are two slaves I have brought from the market. They are for work in the garden. See that they do it, and let me know how things go on. We shall know how to treat them, if they are troublesome."
Philo at once led the two new slaves to the shed, at a short distance from the house, where the slaves employed out of doors lodged.
"Do you speak Greek?" he asked.
"As well as my native language," John replied.
"My lord Tibellus is a just and good master," Philo said, "and you are fortunate in having fallen into his hands. He expects his slaves to work their best and, if they do so, he treats them well; but disobedience and laziness he punishes, severely. He is an officer of high rank in the government of the city. As you may not know the country, I warn you against thinking of escape. The Lake of Mareotis well-nigh surrounds the back of the city and, beyond the lake, the Roman authority extends for a vast distance, and none would dare to conceal runaway slaves."
"We shall not attempt to escape," John said, quietly, "and are well content that we have fallen in such good hands. I am accustomed to work in a garden, but my companion has not had much experience at such work; therefore, I pray you be patient with him, at first."
John had agreed with Jonas that, if they had the good fortune to be sold to a Roman, they would not, for a time, say anything about the ring. It was better, they thought, to wait until Titus returned to Rome—which he would be sure to do, after the complete conquest of Jerusalem. Even were they sent to him there, while he was still full of wrath and bitterness against the Jews—for the heavy loss that they had inflicted upon his army, and for the obstinacy which compelled him to destroy the city which he would fain have preserved, as a trophy of his victory—they might be less favourably received than they would be after there had been some time for the passions awakened by the strife to abate; especially after the enjoyment of the triumph which was sure to be accorded to him, on his return after his victory.
The next day the ring, the badge of slavery, was fastened round the necks of the two new purchases. John had already hidden in the ground the precious ring, as he rightly expected that he would have to work barefooted. They were at once set to work in the garden. John was surprised at the number and variety of the plants and trees which filled it; and at the beauty and care with which it was laid out, and tended. Had it not been for the thought of the grief that they would be suffering, at home, he would—for a time—have worked contentedly. The labour was no harder than that on his father's farm; and as he worked well and willingly Philo, who was at the head of the slaves employed in the garden—which was a very extensive one—did not treat him with harshness.
Jonas, although less skilful, also gave satisfaction; and two months passed without any unpleasant incident. The Roman slaves, save in exceptional instances, were all well treated by their masters, although these had power of life and death over them. They were well fed and, generally, had some small money payment made them. Sometimes, those who were clever at a handicraft were let out to other masters, receiving a portion of the wages they earned; so that they were frequently able, in old age, to purchase their freedom.
There were four other slaves who worked in the garden. Two of these were Nubians, one a Parthian, the other a Spaniard. The last died, of homesickness and fever, after they had been there six weeks; and his place was filled up by another Jew, from a cargo freshly arrived.
From him, John learned what had taken place after he had left Jerusalem. The bands of Simon and John of Gischala were so much weakened, by death and desertion, and were so enfeebled by famine, that they could not hope to withstand the regular approaches of the Roman arms, for any length of time. The two leaders therefore invited Titus to a parley; and the latter, being desirous of avoiding more bloodshed, of saving the Palace of Herod and the other great buildings in the upper city, and of returning to Rome at once, agreed to meet them. They took their places at opposite ends of the bridge across the Tyropceon Valley.
Titus spoke first, and expostulated with them on the obstinacy which had already led to the destruction of the Temple, and the greater part of the city. He said that all the world, even to the distant Britons, had done homage to the Romans, and that further resistance would only bring destruction upon them. Finally, he offered their lives to all, if they would lay down their arms and surrender themselves as prisoners of war.
Simon and John replied that they and their followers had bound themselves, by a solemn oath, never to surrender themselves into the hands of the Romans; but they expressed their willingness to retire, with their wives and families, into the wilderness, and leave the Romans in possession of the city. Titus considered this language, for men in so desperate a position, to be a mockery; and answered sternly that, henceforth, he would receive no deserters, and show no mercy, and that they might fight their hardest. He at once ordered the destruction of all the buildings standing round the Temple.
The flames spread as far as the Palace of Helena, on Ophel, to the south of the Temple platform. Here the members of the royal family of Adiabene dwelt, and also in the Palaces of Grapte and Monobazus; and the descendants of Helena now went over to the Romans, and Titus, although he had declared that he would in future spare none, did not take their lives, seeing that they were of royal blood.
Simon and John of Gischala, when they heard that the Adiabene princes had gone over to the Romans, rushed to the Palace of Helena, sacked it, and murdered all who had taken refuge in the building—seven thousand in number. They then sacked the rest of the outer lower town, and retired with their booty into the high town.
Titus, furious at this conduct, ordered all the outer lower town to be burned; and soon, from the Temple platform to the Fountain of Siloam, a scene of desolation extended. The Roman soldiers then commenced to throw up banks, the one against Herod's Palace, the other near the bridge across the valley close to the Palace of Agrippa.
The Idumeans, under Simon, were opposed to further resistance, and five of their leaders opened communication with Titus, who was disposed to treat with them; but the conspiracy was discovered by Simon, and the five leaders executed. Still, in spite of the watchfulness of Simon and John, large numbers of the inhabitants made their escape to the Romans who, tired of slaying, spared their lives, but sold the able-bodied as slaves, and allowed the rest to pass through their lines.
On the 1st of September, after eighteen days' incessant labour, the bank on the west against Herod's Palace was completed, and the battering rams commenced their work. The defenders were too enfeebled, by famine, to offer any serious resistance and, the next day, a long line of the wall fell to the ground.
Simon and John at first thought of cutting their way through the Roman ranks but, when they saw how small was the body of followers gathered round them, they gave up the attempt. They hesitated, for a moment, whether they should throw themselves into the three great towers, and fight to the last; or endeavour to fight their way through the wall of circumvallation.
They chose the latter course, hurried down to the lower end of the upper city and, sallying out from the gate, they rushed at the Roman wall; but they had no engines of war to batter it, they were few in number and weakened by famine; and when they tried to scale the wall the Roman guards, assembling in haste, beat them back; and they returned into the city and, scattering, hid themselves in the underground caves.
The Romans advanced to the great towers, and found them deserted. Titus stood amazed at their strength and solidity; and exclaimed that God, indeed, was on their side for that by man, alone, these impregnable towers could never have been taken.
All resistance having now ceased, the Romans spread themselves through the city, slaughtering all whom they met, without distinction of age or sex. They were, however, aghast at the spectacle which the houses into which they burst presented. Some of these had been used as charnel houses, and had been filled with dead bodies. In others were found the remains of whole families who, with their servants, had shut themselves up to die of hunger. Everywhere the dead far outnumbered the living.
The next day, Titus issued an order that only such as possessed arms should be slain, and that all others should be taken prisoners; but the Roman soldiers were too infuriated at the losses and defeats they had suffered even to obey the orders of Titus, and all save the able-bodied, who would be of value as slaves, were slaughtered. A vast number of those fit for slaves were confined in the charred remains of the Women's Court and, so weakened were these, by the ravages of famine, that eleven thousand of them are said to have perished. Of the survivors, some were selected to grace the triumphal procession at Rome. Of the remainder, all under the age of seventeen were sold as slaves. A part of those above that age were distributed, among the amphitheatres of Syria, to fight as gladiators against the wild beasts; and the rest were condemned to labour in the public works, in Egypt, for the rest of their lives.
When all above the surface had been slain, or made prisoners, the Romans set to work methodically to search the conduits, sewers, and passages under the city. Multitudes of fugitives were found here, and all were slain as soon as discovered. Then the army was set to work, to raze the city to the ground. Every building and wall were thrown down, the only exception being a great barrack adjoining Herod's Palace—which was left for the use of one of the legions, which was to be quartered there for a time—and the three great towers—Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne—which were left standing, in order that they might show to future generations how vast had been the strength of the fortifications which Roman valour had captured.
John of Gischala and Simon had both so effectually concealed themselves thate for a time, they escaped the Roman searchers. At the end of some days, however, John was compelled by famine to come out, and surrender. Simon was much longer, before he made his appearance. He had taken with him into his hiding place a few of his followers, and some stone masons with their tools, and an effort was made to drive a mine beyond the Roman outposts. The rock however was hard, and the men enfeebled by famine; and the consequence was that Simon, like his fellow leader, was compelled to make his way to the surface.
The spot where he appeared was on the platform of the Temple, far from the shaft by which he had entered the underground galleries. He appeared at night, clad in white, and the Roman guards at first took him for a spectre; and he thus escaped instant death, and had time to declare who he was. Titus had already left; but Terentius Rufus—who commanded the Tenth Legion, which had been left behind—sent Simon in chains to Titus, at Caesarea; and he, as well as John of Gischala, were taken by the latter to Rome, to grace his triumph.
"It is strange," John said, when he heard the story, "that the two men who have brought all these woes upon Jerusalem should have both escaped with their lives. The innocent have fallen, and the guilty escaped—yet not escaped, for it would have been better for them to have died fighting, in the court of the Temple, than to live as slaves in the hands of the Romans."
A month later, John learned the fate that had befallen the two Jewish leaders. Both were dragged in the triumphal procession of Titus through the streets of Rome; then, according to the cruel Roman custom, Simon was first scourged and then executed, as the bravest of the enemies of Rome, while John of Gischala was sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The day after the news of the return to Rome and triumph of Titus arrived, John asked Philo to tell Tibellus that he prayed that he would hear him, as he wished to speak to him on a subject connected with Titus. Wondering what his Jewish slave could have to say about the son of the emperor, Tibellus, upon hearing from Philo of the request, at once ordered John to be brought to him.
"Let me bring my companion, also, with me," John said to Philo. "He is my adopted brother, and can bear evidence to the truth of my statements."
When they reached the colonnade Philo told them to stop there and, a minute later, Tibellus came out.
"Philo tells me that you have something to say to me, concerning Titus."
"I have, my lord," John said, and he advanced and held out the ring.
The Roman took it, and examined it.
"It is a signet ring of Titus!" he said, in surprise. "How came you by this? This is a grave matter, slave; and if you cannot account satisfactorily as to how you came possessed of this signet, you had better have thrown yourself into the sea, or swallowed poison, than have spoken of your possession of this signet."
"It was given to me by Titus, himself." John said.
The Roman made a gesture of anger.
"It is ill jesting with the name of Caesar," he said, sternly. "This is Caesar's ring. Doubtless it was stolen from him. You may have taken it from the robber by force, or fraud, or as a gift—I know not which—but do not mock me with such a tale as that Caesar gave one of his signets to you, a Jew."
"It is as I said," John replied, calmly. "Titus himself bestowed that ring upon me; and said that, if I desired to come to him at any time, and showed it to a Roman, it would open all doors, and bring me to his presence."
"You do not speak as if you were mad," Tibellus said, "and yet your tale is not credible.
"Are you weary of life, Jew? Do you long to die by torture? Philo has spoken well to me of you and your young companion. You have laboured well, and cheerfully, he tells me; and are skilled at your work. Do you find your lot so hard that you would die to escape it, and so tell me this impossible story? For death, and a horrible death, will assuredly be your portion. If you persist in this tale and, showing me this ring, say: 'I demand that you send me and my companion to Titus,' I should be bound to do so; and then torture and death will be your portion, for mocking the name of Caesar."
"My lord," John said, calmly, "I repeat that I mock not the name of Caesar, and that what I have told you is true. I am not weary of life, or discontented with my station. I have been kindly treated by Philo, and work no harder than I should work at my father's farm, in Galilee; but I naturally long to return home. I have abstained from showing you this ring before, because Titus had not as yet conquered Jerusalem; but now that I hear he has been received in triumph, in Rome, he would have time to give me an audience; and therefore I pray that I may be sent to him."
"But how is it possible that Titus could have given you this ring?" Tibellus asked, impressed by the calmness of John's manner, and yet still unable to believe a statement which appeared to him altogether incredible.
"I will tell you, my lord, but I will tell you alone; for although Titus made no secret of it at the time, he might not care for the story to be generally told."
Tibellus waved his hand to Philo, who at once withdrew.
"You have found it hard to believe what I have told you, my lord," John went on. "You will find it harder, still, to believe what I now tell you; but if it is your command, I am bound to do so."
"It is my command," Tibellus said, shortly. "I would fain know the whole of this monstrous tale."
"I must first tell you, my lord, that though as yet but twenty-one years old, I have for four years fought with my countrymen against the Romans.
"You see," he said, pointing to the scars on his head, arms, and body, "I have been wounded often and, as you may see for yourself, some of these scars are yet unhealed. Others are so old that you can scarce see their traces. This is a proof of so much, at least, of my story. My companion here and I were, by the protection of our God, enabled to escape from Jotapata, when all else save Josephus perished there. This was regarded by my countrymen as well-nigh a miracle, and as a proof that I had divine favour. In consequence a number of young men, when they took up arms, elected me as their leader and, for three years, we did what we could to oppose the progress of the Roman arms. It was as if a fly should try to stop a camel. Still, we did what we could, and any of the Roman officers who served under Titus would tell you that, of those who opposed them in the field, there was no more active partisan than the leader who was generally known as John of Gamala."
"You, John of Gamala!" Tibellus exclaimed. "In frequent letters from my friends with the army I have read that name, and heard how incessant was the watchfulness required to resist his attacks, and how often small garrisons and parties were cut off by him. It was he, too, who burned Vespasian's camp, before Gamala. And you tell me, young man, that you are that Jewish hero—for hero he was, though it was against Rome he fought?"
"I tell you so, my lord; and my adopted brother here, who was with me through these campaigns, will confirm what I say. I say it not boastingly, for my leadership was due to no special bravery on my part, but simply because the young men of the band thought that God had specially chosen me to lead them."
"And now, about Titus," Tibellus said briefly, more and more convinced that his slave was audaciously inventing this story.
"Once, near Hebron," John said, "I was passing through a valley, alone; when Titus, who was riding from Carmelia in obedience to a summons from Vespasian—who was at Hebron—came upon me. He attacked me, and we fought—"
"You and Titus, hand to hand?" Tibellus asked, with a short laugh.
"Titus and I, hand to hand," John repeated, quietly. "He had wounded me twice, when I sprang within his guard and closed with him. His foot slipped, and he fell. For a moment I could have slain him, if I would, but I did not.
"Then I fainted from loss of blood. Titus was shortly joined by some of his men, and he had me carried down to his camp; where I was kindly nursed for a week, he himself visiting me several times. At the end of that time he dismissed me, giving me his signet ring, and telling me that if ever again I fell into the hands of the Romans, and wished to see him, I had but to show the ring to a Roman, and that he would send me to him."
"And to him you shall go," Tibellus said, sternly; "and better would it have been that you had never been born, than that I should send you to him with such a tale as this."
So saying, he turned away, while John and his companion returned to their work. The Roman officer was absolutely incredulous, as to the story he had heard; and indignant in the extreme at what he considered the audacity of the falsehood. Still, he could not but be struck by the calmness with which John told the story, nor could he see what motive he could have in inventing it. Its falsity would, of course, be made apparent the instant he arrived in Rome; whereas had he said, as was doubtless the truth, that he had obtained the ring from one who had stolen it from Titus, he might have obtained his freedom, and a reward for its restoration.
After thinking the matter over for a time, he ordered his horse and rode into the city. One of the legions from Palestine had returned there, while two had accompanied Titus to Rome, and a fourth had remained in Judea. Tibellus rode at once to the headquarters of the commander of the legion. He had just returned, with some of his officers, from a parade of the troops. They had taken off their armour, and a slave was pouring wine into goblets for them.
"Ah, Tibellus!" he said, "Is it you? Drink, my friend, and tell us what ails you, for in truth you look angered and hot."
"I have been angered, by one of my slaves," Tibellus said.
"Then there is no trouble in that," the Roman said, with a smile; "throw him to the fishes, and buy another. They are cheap enough, for we have flooded the world with slaves and, as we know to our cost, they are scarce saleable. We have brought two or three thousand with us, and can get no bid for them."
"Yes, but this matter can't be settled so," Tibellus said; "but first, I want to ask you a question or two. You heard, of course, of John of Gamala, in your wars in Judea?"
There was a chorus of assent.
"That did we, indeed, to our cost," the general said; "save the two leaders in Jerusalem, he was the most dangerous; and was by far the most troublesome of our foes. Many a score of sleepless nights has that fellow caused us; from the time he well-nigh burnt all our camp before Gamala, he was a thorn in our side. One never knew where he was, or when to expect him. One day we heard of him attacking a garrison at the other end of the country, and the next night he would fall upon our camp. We never marched through a ravine, without expecting to see him and his men appearing on the hills, and sending the rocks thundering down among us; and the worst of it was, do what we would, we could never get to close quarters with him. His men could march three miles to our one; and as for our Arabs, if we sent them in pursuit, they would soon come flying back to us, leaving a goodly portion of their numbers dead behind them. He was the most formidable enemy we had, outside Jerusalem; and had all the Jews fought as he did, instead of shutting themselves up in their walled towns, we might have been years before we subdued that pestilent country."
"Did you ever see this John of Gamala? Do you know what he was like, personally? Was he another giant, like this Simon who was executed at the triumph, the other day?"
"None of us ever saw him—that is, to know which was he, though doubtless we may have seen him, in the fights—but all the country people we questioned, and such wounded men as fell into our hands—for we never once captured one of his band, unharmed—all asserted that he was little more than a lad. He was strong, and skilful in arms, but in years a youth. They all believed that he was a sort of prophet, one who had a mission from their God.
"But why are you asking?"
"I will tell you, presently," Tibellus said; "but first answer me another question. Was it not your legion that was at Carmelia, with Titus, when Vespasian lay at Hebron?"
There was a general assent.
"Did you ever hear of a wounded Jew being brought in, and tended there by order of Titus?"
"We did," the general said; "and here is Plancus, who was in command of that part of the horse of the legion which formed the bodyguard of Titus, and who brought him into the camp. He will tell you about it."
"Titus had received a message from Vespasian that he wished to see him," the officer signified by the general said, "and rode off at once, telling us to follow him. We armed and mounted, as soon as we could; but Titus was well mounted, and had a considerable start. We came up to him in a valley. He was standing by the side of his dead horse. He was slightly wounded, and his dirtied armour showed that he had had a sharp fight. Close by lay a Jew, who seemed to be dead. Titus ordered him to be carried back to the camp, and cared for by his own leech. That is all I know about it."
"I can tell you more," the general said, "for Titus himself told me that he had had a desperate fight with the Jew; that he had wounded him severely, and was on the point of finishing him, when the Jew sprang at him suddenly and the sudden shock threw him to the ground; and that, strange as it might seem, although knowing who he was, the Jew spared his life. It was a strange story, and anyone besides Titus would have kept it to himself; and run his sword through the body of the Jew, to make sure of his silence; but Titus has notions of his own, and he is as generous as he is brave. By what he said, I gathered that the Jew abstained from striking, believing—as was truly the case—that Titus was more merciful than Vespasian, and that he would spare Jerusalem and their Temple, if he could.
"And now, why all these questions?"
"One more on my part first: what became of the Jew, and what was he like?"
"That is two questions," the general replied; "however, I will answer them. Titus let him go free, when he was recovered from his wounds. He was a young man, of some twenty years old."
"And do you know his name?"
"I know his name was John, for so he told Titus; but as every other Jew one comes across is John, that does not tell much."
"I can tell you his other name," Tibellus said. "It was John of Gamala."
An exclamation of astonishment broke from the officers.
"So that was John of Gamala, himself!" the general said. "None of us ever dreamt of it; and yet it might well have been for, now I think of it, the young fellow I saw lying wounded in the tent next to that of Titus answered, exactly, to the description we have heard of him; and the fact that he overcame Titus, in itself, shows that he had unusual strength and bravery.
"But how do you know about this?"
"Simply because John of Gamala is, at present, working as a slave in my garden."
"You do not say so!" the general exclaimed. "We have often wondered what became of him. We learned, from the deserters, that he had entered into Jerusalem, and was fighting there against us. They all agreed that the men he had brought with him took no part in the atrocities of the soldiers of Simon, and John of Gischala; but that they kept together, and lived quietly, and harmed no man. It was they, we heard, who did the chief part in the three days' fighting at the breach of the lower town; but we never heard what became of him, and supposed that he must have fallen in the fighting round the Temple.
"And so, he is your slave, Tibellus! How did you know it was he, and what are you going to do? The war is over, now, and there has been bloodshed enough and, after all, he was a gallant enemy, who fought us fairly and well."
"He told me, himself, who he was," Tibellus said; "but I believed that he was lying to me. I had heard often of John of Gamala, and deemed that he was a brave and skilful warrior; and it seemed impossible that young man could be he. As to what I am going to do with him, I have nothing to do but what he has himself demanded—namely, to be sent to Titus. He produced the signet ring of Caesar; said that it was given to him by the general, himself; and that he told him that, if he presented it to a Roman at any time, he would lead him to his presence. I believed that he had stolen the ring, or had got it from somebody that had stolen it; and he then told me of the story, very much as you have told it—save that he said that, when he was well-nigh conquered by Titus, and sprang upon him, Caesar's foot slipped, and he fell—hinting that his success was the result of accident, rather than his own effort. He spoke by no means boastingly of it, but as if it was the most natural thing in the world."
"There he showed discretion, and wisdom," the general said; "but truly this is a marvellous story. If he had not appealed to Caesar, I should have said, 'Give him his freedom.' You can buy a new slave for a few sesterces. This young fellow is too good to be a slave and, now that Judea is finally crushed, he could never become dangerous; but as he has demanded to be sent to Caesar, you must, of course, send him there. Besides, with the ideas that Titus has, he may be really glad to see the youth again.
"But we shall like to see him, also. We all honour a brave adversary, and I should like to see him who so long set us at defiance."
"I will bring him down, tomorrow, at this hour," Tibellus said; and then, taking leave of the officers, he mounted and rode back.
On reaching home, he at once sent for John.
"I doubted your story, when you told it to me," he said, "and deemed it impossible; but I have been down to the officers of the legion which arrived, last week, from Judea. It chances to be the very one which was at Carmelia, when Vespasian lay at Hebron; and I find that your story is fully confirmed—although, indeed, they did not know that the wounded man Titus sent in was John of Gamala—but as they admit that he answered, exactly, to the description which they have heard of that leader, they doubt not that it was he.
"However, be assured that your request is granted, and that you shall be sent to Rome by the next ship that goes thither."
Chapter 19: At Rome.
Tibellus at once ordered John to be released from all further work, the badge of slavery to be removed, and that he should be supplied with handsome garments, removed into the house, and assigned an apartment with the freedmen. The bearer of the signet of Titus—now that it was ascertained that the signet had been really given to him by Caesar—was an important person, and was to be received with consideration, if not honour. When these changes had been made, John was again brought before Tibellus.
"Is there anything else that I can do for your comfort, as one who has been honoured by Titus, himself, our future emperor? You have but to express your wishes, and I shall be glad to carry them out."
"I would ask, then," John said, "that my friend and companion may be set free, and allowed to accompany me to Rome. He is my adopted brother. He has fought and slept by my side, for the last four years; and your bounty to me gives me no pleasure, so long as he is labouring as a slave."
Tibellus at once sent for Philo, and ordered the collar to be filed from the neck of Jonas, and for him to be treated in the same manner as John.
The next day Tibellus invited John to accompany him to the barracks and, as he would take no excuses, he was obliged to do so.
Tibellus presented him to the general and his officers, who received him very cordially; and were much struck with his quiet demeanour, and the nobility of his bearing. John had, for four years, been accustomed to command; and the belief, entertained by his followers, in his special mission had had its effect upon his manner. Although simple and unassuming in mind; and always ready, on his return to the farm, to become again the simple worker upon his father's farm; he had yet, insensibly, acquired the bearing of one born to position and authority.
He was much above the ordinary height; and although his figure was slight, it showed signs, which could well be appreciated by the Romans, of great activity and unusual strength. His face was handsome, his forehead lofty, his eyes large and soft; and in the extreme firmness of his mouth and his square chin and jaw were there, alone, signs of the determination and steadfastness which had made him so formidable a foe to the Romans.
"So you are John of Gamala!" the general said. "We have, doubtless, nearly crossed swords, more than once. You have caused us many a sleepless night, and it seemed to us that you and your bands were ubiquitous. I am glad to meet you, as are we all. A Roman cherishes no malice against an honourable foe, and such we always found you; and I trust you have no malice for the past."
"None," John said. "I regard you as the instruments of God for the punishment of my people. We brought our misfortunes upon ourselves, by the rebellion—which would have seemed madness had it not, doubtless, been the will of God that we should so provoke you, and perish. All I ask, now, is to return to my father's farm; and to resume my life there. If I could do that, without going to Rome, I would gladly do so."
"That can hardly be," Tibellus said. "The rule is that when one appeals to Caesar, to Caesar he must go. The case is at once taken out of our hands. Besides, I should have to report the fact to Rome, and Titus may wish to see you, and might be ill pleased at hearing that you had returned to Galilee without going to see him. Besides, it may be some time before all animosity between the two peoples dies out there; and you might obtain from him an imperial order, which would prove a protection to yourself, and family, against any who might desire to molest you. If for this reason, alone, it would be well worth your while for you to proceed to Rome."
Three days later, Tibellus told John that a ship would sail, next morning; and that a centurion, in charge of some invalided soldiers, would go in her.
"I have arranged for you to go in his charge, and have instructed him to accompany you to the palace of Titus, and facilitate your having an interview with him. I have given him a letter to present to Titus, with greetings, saying why I have sent you to him.
"Here is a purse of money, to pay for what you may require on the voyage; and to keep you, if need be, at Rome until you can see Titus, who may possibly be absent.
"You owe me no thanks," he said, as John was about to speak. "Titus would be justly offended, were the bearer of his signet ring sent to him without due care and honour."
That evening Tibellus gave a banquet, at which the general and several officers were present. The total number present was nine, including John and the host—this being the favourite number for what they regarded as small, private entertainments. At large banquets, hundreds of persons were frequently entertained. After the meal John, at the request of Tibellus, related to the officers the manner of his escapes from Jotapata and Jerusalem, and several of the incidents of the struggle in which he had taken part.
The next morning, he and Jonas took their places on board the ship, and sailed for Rome. It was now far in November, and the passage was a boisterous one; and the size of the waves astonished John, accustomed, as he was, only to the short choppy seas of the Lake of Galilee. Jonas made up his mind that they were lost and, indeed, for some days the vessel was in imminent danger. Instead of passing through the straits between Sicily and the mainland of Italy, they were blown far to the west; and finally took shelter in the harbour of Caralis, in Sardinia. Here they remained for a week, to refit and repair damages, and then sailed across to Portus Augusti, and then up the Tiber.
The centurion had done his best to make the voyage a pleasant one, to John and his companion. Having been informed that the former was the bearer of a signet ring of Titus, and would have an audience with him, he was anxious to create as good an impression as possible; but it was not until Caralis was reached that John recovered sufficiently from seasickness to take much interest in what was passing round him. The travellers were greatly struck with the quantity of shipping entering and leaving the mouth of the Tiber; the sea being dotted with the sails of the vessels bearing corn from Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa; and products of all kinds, from every port in the world.
The sight of Rome impressed him less than he had expected. Of its vastness he could form no opinion; but in strength, and beauty, it appeared to him inferior to Jerusalem. When he landed, he saw how many were the stately palaces and temples; but of the former none were more magnificent than that of Herod. Nor was there one of the temples to be compared, for a moment, with that which had so lately stood, the wonder and admiration of the world, upon Mount Moriah.
The centurion procured a commodious lodging for him and, finding that Titus was still in Rome, accompanied him the next day to the palace. Upon saying that he was the bearer of a letter to Titus, the centurion was shown into the inner apartments; John being left in the great antechamber, which was crowded with officers waiting to see Titus, when he came out—to receive orders, pay their respects, or present petitions to him.
The centurion soon returned, and told John to follow him.
"Titus was very pleased," he whispered, "when he read the letter I brought him; and begged me bring you, at once, to his presence."
Titus was alone in a small chamber, whose simplicity contrasted strangely with the magnificence of those through which he had passed. He rose from a table at which he had been writing.
"Ah, my good friend," he said, "I am truly glad to see you! I made sure that you were dead. You were not among those who came out, and gave themselves up, or among those who were captured when the city was taken; for I had careful inquiry made, thinking it possible that you might have lost my ring, and been unable to obtain access to me; then, at last, I made sure that you had fallen. I am truly glad to see that it is not so."
"I was marvellously preserved, then, as at Jotapata," John said; "and escaped, after the Temple had fallen, by a secret passage leading out beyond the wall of circumvallation. As I made my way home, I fell into the hands of some slave dealers, who seized me and my companion—who is my adopted brother—and carried us away to Alexandria, where I was sold. As you had not yet returned to Rome, I thought it better not to produce your signet, which I had fortunately managed to conceal.
"When I heard that you had reached Rome, and had received your triumph, I produced the ring to my master Tibellus; and prayed him to send me and my companion here to you, in order that I might ask for liberty, and leave to return to my home. He treated me with the greatest kindness and, but that I had appealed to you, would of himself have set us free. It is for this, alone, that I have come here; to ask you to confirm the freedom he has given me, and to permit me to return to Galilee. Further, if you will give me your order that I and mine may live peacefully, without molestation from any, it would add to your favours."
"I will do these, certainly," Titus said, "and far more, if you will let me. I shall never forget that you saved my life; and believe me, I did my best to save the Temple, which was what I promised you. I did not say that I would save it, merely that I would do my best; but your obstinate countrymen insisted in bringing destruction upon it."
"I know that you did all that was possible," John said, "and that the blame lies with them, and not with you, in any way. However, it was the will of God that it should be destroyed; and they were the instruments of his will, while they thought they were trying to preserve it."
"But now," Titus said, "you must let me do more for you. Have you ambition? I will push you forward to high position, and dignity. Do you care for wealth? I have the treasures of Rome in my gift. Would you serve in the army? Many of the Alexandrian Jews had high rank in the army of Anthony. Two of Cleopatra's best generals were your countrymen. I know your bravery, and your military talents, and will gladly push you forward."
"I thank you, Caesar, for your offers," John said, "which far exceed my deserts; but I would rather pass my life as a tiller of the soil, in Galilee. The very name of a Jew, at present, is hateful in the ear of a Roman. All men who succeed by the favour of a great prince are hated. I should be still more so, as a Jew. I should be hated by my own countrymen, as well as yours, for they would regard me as a traitor. There would be no happiness in such a life. A thousand times better a home by the Lake of Galilee, with a wife and children."
"If such be your determination, I will say nought against it," Titus said; "but remember, if at any time you tire of such a life, come to me and I will give you a post of high honour and dignity. There are glorious opportunities for talent and uprightness in our distant dependencies—east and west—where there will be no prejudices against the name of a Jew.