« PreviousContinue »
est part of Massada ; it was called the white promontory Accordingly, he got upon that part of the rock, and ordered the army to bring earth; and when they fell to that work with alacrity, and abundance of them together, the bank was raised, and became solid, for two hundred cubits in height. Yet was not this bank thought sufficiently high, for the use of the engines that were to be set upon it ; but still another elevated work of great stones compacted together was raised upon that bank; this was fifty cubits both in breadth and height. The other machines that were now got ready, were like to those that had been first devised by Vespasian, and afterwards by Titus, for sieges. There was also a tower made of the height of sixty cubits, and all over plated with iron, out of which the Romans threw darts and stones from the engines, and soon made those that fought from the walls of the place to retire, and would not let them lift up their heads above the works. At the same time, Silva ordered that great battering-ram which he had made, to be brought thịther, and to be set against the wall, and to make frequent batteries against it, which, with some difficulty, broke down a part of the wall, and quite overthrew it. However, the Sacarii made haste, and presently built another wall within that, which should not be liable to the same misfortune from the machines with the other : it was made soft and yielding, and so was capable of avoiding the terrible blows that affected the other. It was framed after the following manner: They laid together great beams of wood lengthways, one close to the end of another, and the same way in which they were cut : there were two of these rows parallel to one another, and laid at such a distance from each other as the breadth of the wall required, and earth was put into the space between those rows. Now, that the earth might not fall away upon the elevation of this bank to a greater height, they farther laid other beams over cross them, and thereby bound those beams together that lay lengthways. This work of theirs was like a real edifice; and when the machines were applied, the blows were weakened by its yielding, and, as the materials by such concussion were shaken closer together, the pile by that means became firmer than before. When Silva saw this, he thought it best to endeavour the taking of this wall by setting fire to it; so he gave order that the soldiers should throw a great number of burning
torches upon it: accordingly, as it was chiefly made of wood, it soon took fire; and, when it was once set on fire, its hollowness made that fire spread to a mighty flame. Now, at the very beginning of this fire, a north-wind that then blew proved terrible to the Romans; for, by bringing the flame downward, it drove it upon them, and they were alnost in despair of success, as fearing their machines would be burnt: but, after this, on a sudden, the wind changed into the south, as if it were done by divine Providence, and blew strongly the contrary way, and carried the flame, and drove it against the wall, which was now on fire through its entire thickness. So the Romans, having now assistance from God, returned to their camp with joy, and resolved to attack their enemies the very next day, on which occasion they set their watch more carefully that right, lest any of the Jews should runaway from them without being discovered.
6. However, neither did Eleazar once think of flying away, nor would he permit any one else to do so : but when he saw their wall burnt down by the fire, and could devise no other way of escaping, or room for their farther courage, and setting before their eyes what the Romans would do to them, their children, and their wives, if they got them into their power, he consulted about having them all slain. Now, as he judged this to be the best thing they could do in their present circumstances, he gathered the most courageous of his companions together and encouraged them to take that course by a speech* which he made to them in the manner following : “ Since we, long ago, my “ generous friends, resolved never to be servants to the " Romans, nor to any other than to God himself, who 56 alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is “ now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in u practice. And let us not at this time bring a reproach upon " ourselves for self-contradiction, while we formerly would
* The speeches in this and the next section, as introduced under the person of this Eleazar, are exceeding remarkable, and on the noblest subjects, the contempt of death, and the dignity and immortality of the soul, and that not only among the Jews, but among the Indians themselves also, and are highly worthy the perusal of all the curious. It seems as if that philosophic lady who survived, ch. ix. $ 1, 2. remembered the substance of these discourses, as spoken by Eleazer, and so Josepbus clothed them in his own words : at the lowest, they contain the Jewish notions on these heads, as understood them by our Josephus, and cannot but deserve a suitable regard from us.
si not undergo slavery, though it were then without dan“ger, but must now, together with slavery, choose such “ punishments also as are intolerable : I mean this upon the
supposition that the Romans once reduce us under their 6 power while we are alive. We were the very first that “ revolted from them, and we are the last that fight against “ them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favour that God 6 hath granted us, that it is still in our power to die brave“ ly, and in a state of freedom, which hath not been the " case of others, who were conquered unexpectedly. It is “ very plain that we shall be taken within a day's time; “ but still it is an eligible thing to die after a glorious man6 ner together with our dearest friends. This is what our “ enemies themselves cannot by any means hinder, although " they be very desirous to take us alive. Nor can we pro" pose to ourselves any more to fight them and beat them. “ It had been proper indeed for us to have conjectured at “ the purpose of God much sooner, and at the very first 6 when we were so desirous of defending our liberty, and “ when we received such sore treatment from one another, “ and worse treatment from our enemies, and to have been « sensible that the same God, who had of old taken the “ Jewish nation into his favour, had now condemned them “ to destruction ; for, had he either coutinued favourable, or “ been but in a lesser degree displeased with us, he had “ not overlooked the destruction of so many men, or deliv“ ered his most holy city to be burnt and demolished by “ our enemies. To be sure, we weakly hoped to have “ preserved ourselves, and ourselves alone, still in a state “ of freedom, as if we had been guilty of no sins ourselves " against God, nor been partners with those of others; we “ also taught other men to preserve their liberty. Where“ fore, consider, how God hath convinced us that our “ hopes were in vain, by bringing such distress upon us in “ the desperate state we are now in, and which is beyond “ all our expectations : for the nature of this fortress which " was in itself unconquerable, hath not proved a means of " our deliverance; and, even while we have still great " abundance of food and a great quantity of arms and other “ necessaries more than we want, we are openly deprived “ by God himself of all hope of deliverance; for that fire " that was driven upon our enemies, did not of its own acsi cord turn back upon the wall which we had built: this
is was the effect of God's anger against us for our manifold: “sins, which we have been guilty of in a most insolent and “ extravagant manner, with regard to our own country. “men; the punishments of which let us pot receive from “ the Romans, but from God himself, as executed by our “ own hands; for these will be more moderate than the 66 other. Let our wives die before they are abused, and 66 our children before they have tasted of slavery; and, af“ ter we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious bene“ fit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in “ freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us, But * first, let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; 6 for I am well assured that this would be a great grief te " the Romans, that they shall not be able to sieze upon our 6 bodies, and shall fail of our wealth also : and let us spare “ nothing but our provisions ; for they will be a testimonial a when we are dead, that we were not subdued for want of * necessaries, but that according to our original resolution, 66 we have preferred death before slavery."
7. This was Eleazar's speech to them. Yet did not the opinions of all the auditors acquiesce therein ; but although some of them were very zealous to put his advice into practice, and were in a manner filled with pleasure at it, and thought death to be a good thing, yet had those that were most effeminate a commiseration for their wives and families; and when these men were especially moved by the prospect of their own certain death, they looked wistfully at one another, and by the tears that were in their eyes declared their dissent from his opinion. When Eleazar. saw these people in such fear, and that their souls were de. jected at so prodigious a proposal, be was afraid lest perhaps these effeminate persons should by their lamentations and tears enfeeble those that heard what he had said courageously ; so he did not leave oft exhorting them, but stiryed up himself, and recollecting proper arguments for raising their courage, he undertook to speak more briskly and fully to them, and that concerning the immortality of the soul. So he made a lamentable groan, and fixing his eyes intently on those that wept, he spake thus : “ Truly I was "greatly mistaken, when I thought to be assisting to brave * men who struggled hard for their liberty, and to such as “ were resolved either to live with honour or else to die: * but I find that you are such people as are no better than
ss others, either in virtue or in courage, and are afraid of 66 dying, though you be delivered thereby from the great" est miseries, while you ought to make no delay in this c matter, nor to await any one to give you good advice , « for the laws of our country, and of God himself, have, " from ancient times, and as soon as ever we could use our " reason, continually taught us, and our forefathers have “ corroborated the same doctrine by their actions, and by o their bravery of mind, that it is life that is a calamity 66 to men, and not death; for this last affords our souls their " liberty, and sends them by a removal into their own “ place of purity, were they are to be insensible of all sorts 6 of misery; for, while souls are tied down to a mortat 6 body, they are partakers of its miseries ; and really to 56 speak the truth, they are themselves dead; for the union " of what is divine to what is mortal, is disagreeable. It is “ true, the power of the soul is great, even when it is im“ prisoned in a mortal body; for by moving it after a way “ that is invisible, it makes the body a sensible instrument, " and causes it to advance farther in its actions, than mor“ tal nature could otherwise do. However, when it ts freed 4 from that weight which draws it down to the earth, and is 6 connected with it, it obtains its own proper place, and “ does then become a partaker of that blessed power, and 6 those abilities which are then every way incapable of w being hindered in their operations. It continues invi6 sible, indeed, to the eyes of men, as does God himself; "for certainly it is not itself seen, while it is in the body; “ for it is there after an invisible manner, and when it is “ freed from it, it is still not seen. It is this soul which “ hath one nature, and that an incorruptible one also; but
6 yet it is the cause of the change that is made in the body 66 for, whatsoever it be which the soul touches, that lives 6 and flourishes, and from whatsoever it is removed, that 66 withers away and dies; such a degree is their in it of im“ mortality. Let me produce the state of sleep as a most s evident demonstration of the truth of what I say; where“in souls, when the body does not distract them, have the 56 sweetest rest depending on themselves, and conversing 66 with God, by their alliance to him ; they then go every " where, and foretel many futurities beforehand. And & why are we afraid of death, while we are pleased with
the rest that we have in sleep? and how absurd a thing