Page images
PDF
EPUB

or at complete maturity, become black and empty, and, as it were, vanish into ashes. As for myself, as I am willing to allow that these once famous cities were burnt by fire from heaven, so would I suppose that the earth is infected with the vapour of the lake, and the spirit or air that is over it thereby corrupted; and that by this means the fruits of the earth, both corn and grapes, rot away, both the soil and the air being equally unwholesome. The river Belus does also run into the sea of Judea; and the sands that are collected about its mouth, when you mix nitre with them, are melted into glass: this sort of shore is but small, but its sand, for the use of those that carry it off, is inexhaustible. CHAP. VIII.] A great part of Judea is composed of scattered villages; it also has larger towns: Jerusalem is the capital city of the whole nation. In that city there was a temple of immense wealth; in the first parts that are fortified is the city itself; next it the royal palace. {he temple is enclosed in its most inward recesses. A Jew can come no farther than the gates; all but the priests are excluded by their threshold. While the East was under the dominion of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, the Jews were of all slaves the most despicable *. t After the dominion of the Macedonians prevailed, King Antiochus tried to conquer their superstition, and to introduce the customs of the Greeks; but he was disappointed of his design, which was to give this most profligate nation a change for the better, and that was by his war with the Parthians, for at this time Arsaces had fallen off [from the Macedonians]. Then it was that the Jews set kings over them, because the Macedonians were become weak, the Parthians were not yet very powerful, and the Romans were very remote: which kings, when they had been expelled by the mobility of the vulgar, and had recovered their dominion by war, attempted the same things that kings used to do, I mean they introduced the destruction of cities, the slaughter of brethren, of wives, and parents, but still went on in their superstition; for they took upon them withal the honourable dignity of the high priesthood, as a firm security to their power and authority. CHAP. IX.] The first of the Romans that conquered the Jews was Cneius Pompeius, who entered the temple by right of victory. Thence the report was everywhere divulged, that therein was no image of a god, but an empty place, and mysteries, most secret places that have nothing in them. The walls of Jerusalem were then destroyed, but the temple continued still. Soon afterward arose a civil war among us; and when therein

* A great slander against the Jews, without any just foundation. Josephus would have informed him better. + Here begins Josephus's and Tacitus's true accounts of the Jews preliminary to the last war. See Of the War, Proacm. sect. 7.

these provinces were reduced under Marcus Antonius, Pacorus, king of the Parthians, got possession of Judea, but was himself slain by Paulus Ventidius, and the Parthians were driven beyond Euphrates; and for the Jews, Caius Socius subdued them. Antonius gave the kingdom to Herod; and when Augustus conquered Antonius, he still augmented it. After Herod's death, one Simon, without waiting for the disposition of Caesar, took upon him the title of King, who was brought to punishment by [or under] Quintilius Varus, when he was president of Syria. Afterward the nation was reduced, and the children of Herod governed it in three partitions. Under Tiberius the Jews had rest. After some time they were enjoined to place Caius Caesar's statue in the temple; but rather than permit that, they took up arms”; which sedition was put an end to by the death of Caesar. Claudius, after the kings were either dead or reduced to smaller dominions, gave the province of Judea to Roman knights, or to freedmen, to be governed by them. Among whom was Antonius Felix, one that exercised all kind of barbarity and extravagance, as if he had royal authority, but with the disposition of a slave. He had married Drusilla, the grandaughter of Antonius, so that Felix was the grandaughter's husband, and Claudius the grandson of the same Antonius.

ANNAL. Book XII.

BUT he that was the brother of Pallas, whose sirname was Felix, did not act with the same moderation [as did Pallas himself]. He had been a good while ago set over Judea, and thought he might be guilty of all sorts of wickedness with impunity, while he relied on so sure an authority. The Jews had almost given a specimen of sedition; and even after the death of Caius was known, and they had not obeyed his command, there remained a degree of fear, lest some future prince should renew that command [for the setting up the prince's statue in their temple]. And in the meantime Felix, by the use of unseasonable remedies, blew up the coals of sedition into a flame, and was imitated by his partner in the government, Wentidius Cumanus; the country being thus divided between them, that the nation of the Galileans were under Cumanus, and the Samaritans under Felix, which two nations were of old at variance, but now, out of contempt of their governors, did less restrain their hatred: they then began to plunder one another, to send in parties of robbers, to lie in wait, and sometimes to fight battles, and withal to bring spoils and prey to the procurators, [Cumanus and Felix]. Whereupon these procurators began to rejoice; yet when the mischief grew considerable, soldiers were sent to quiet them, but the soldiers were killed; and the province had been in the flame of war, had not Quadratus, the president of Syria, afforded his assistance. Nor was it long in dispute whether the Jews who had killed the soldiers in the mutiny should be put to death : it was agreed they should die; only Cumanus and Felix occasioned a delay; for Claudius, upon hearing the causes as to this rebellion, had given [Quadratus] authority to determine the case, even as to the procurators themselves; but Quadratus showed Felix among the judges, and took him into his seat of judgment, on purpose that he might discourage his accusers. So Cumanus was condemned for those flagitious actions, of which both he and Felix had been guilty, and peace was restored to the province”.

* They came to Petronius, the president of Syria, in vast numbers, but without arms, and as humble supplicants only. See Tacitus presently, where he afterwards sets this matter almost right, according to Josephus, and by way of correction, for that account is in his annals, which were written after this, which is in his histories.

HISTOR. Book V. CHAP. X.

However, the Jews had patience till Gessius Florus was made procurator. Under him it was that the war began. Then Cestius Gallus, the president of Syria, attempted to appease it, tried several battles, but generally with ill success. Upon his deatht, whether it came by fate, or that he was weary of his life, is uncertain, Vespasian had the good fortune, by his reputation and excellent officers, and a victorious army, in the space of two summers, to make himself master of all the open country, and of all the cities, Jerusalem excepted. [Flavius Vespasianus, whom Nero had chosen for his general, managed the Jewish war with three legions. Histor. B. i. chap. x.] The next year, which was employed in a civil war [at home], so far as the Jews were concerned, passed over in peace. When Italy was pacified, the care of foreign parts was revived. The Jews were the only people that stood out, which increased the rage [of the Romans]. It was also thought most proper that Titus should stay with the army, to prevent any accident or misfortune which the new government might be liable to. [Vespasian had put an end to the Jewish war: the siege of Jerusalem was the only enterprise remaining, which was a work hard and difficult, but rather from the nature of the mountain, and the obstinacy of the Jewish superstition, than because the besieged had strength enough to undergo the distresses [of a siege]. We have already informed the reader that Vespasian had with him three legions, well exercised in war. Histor. Book ii. chap. v.]. When Vespasian was a very young man, it was promised him that he should arrive at the highest pitch of fame: but what did first of all seem to confirm the omen was his triumphs and consulship, and the glory of his victories over the Jews. When he had once obtained these, he believed it was portended that he should come to the empire”. There is between Judea and Syria a mountain and a god, both called by the same name of Carmel, though our predecessors have informed us that this god had no image, and no temple, and, indeed, no more than an altar and solemn worship. Vespasian was once offering a sacrifice there, at a time when he had some secret thought in his mind: the priest, whose name was Basilides, when he over and over looked at the entrails, said, Vespasian, whatever thou art about, whether the building of thy house, or enlargement of thy lands, or augmentation of thy slaves, thou art granted a mighty seat, very large bounds, a huge number of men. These doubtful answers were soon spread abroad by fame, and at this time were explained: nor was any thing so much in public vogue; and very many discourses of that nature were made before him, and the more because they foretold what he expected. Mucianus and Vespasianus went away, having fully agreed on their designs; the former to Antioch, the latter to Caesarea. Antioch is the capital of Syria, and Caesarea, the capital of Judea. The commencement of Vespasian's advancement to the empire was at Alexandria, where Tiberius Alexander made such haste, that he obliged the legions, to take the oath of fidelity to him on the calends of July, which was ever after celebrated as the day of his inauguration, althought the army in Judea had taken that oath on the fifth of the nones of July, with that eagerness that they would not stay for his son Titus, who was then on the road, returning out of Syria, chap. lxxix. Vespasian delivered over the strongest part of his forces to Titus, to enable him to finish what remained of the Jewish war. Hist. Book iv. chap li. During those months in which Vespasian continued at Alexandria, waiting for the usual set time of the summer gales of wind, and staid for settled fair weather at sea, many miraculous events happened, by which the good will of heaven, and a kind of inclination of the Deity in his favour, was declared. A certain man of the vulgar sort at Alexandria, well known

* Here seems to be a great mistake about the Jewish affairs in Tacitus. See Of the War, B. ii. ch. xii. sect. 8.

+ Josephus says nothing of the death of Cestius; so Tacitus seems to have known nothing in particular about it.

*

* Josephus takes notice in general of these many omens of Vespasian's advancement to the empire, and distinctly adds his own remarkable prediction of it also. Antiq, B. iii. chap. viii. sect. 3, 9. + This although seems to imply that Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Judea before he was so proclaimed at Alexandria, as the whole history of Jose3. implies, and the place where now Vespasian was, which was no other than udea, requires also, though the inauguration day might be celebrated afterward from his first proclamation at the great city Alexandria, only then the nones or ides in Tacitus and Suetonius must be of June, and not of July.

for the decay of his eyes, kneeled down by him, and groaned, and begged of him the cure of his blindness, as by the admonition of Serapis, that god which this superstitious nation worships above others. He also desired that the emperor would be pleased to put some of his spittle upon the balls of his eyes. Another infirm man there, who was lame of his hand, prayed Caesar, as by the same god's suggestion, to tread upon him with his foot. Wespasian at first began to laugh at them, and to reject them; and when they were instant with him, he sometimes feared he should have the reputation of a vain person, and sometimes upon the solicitation of the infirm, he flattered himself, and others flattered him, with the hopes of succeeding. At last he ordered the physicians to give their opinion, whether this sort of blindness and lameness were curable by the art of man or not? The physicians answered uncertainly, that the one had not his visual faculty utterly destroyed, and that it might be restored, if the obstacles were removed; that the other's limbs were disordered, but if a healing virtue were made use of, they were capable of being made whole. Perhaps, said they, the gods are willing to assist, and that the emperor is chosen by divine interposition: however, they said at last, that if the cures succeeded, Caesar would have the glory, if not, the poor miserable objects would only be laughed at. Whereupon Vespasian imagined that his good fortune would be universal, and that nothing on that account could be incredible, so he looked cheerfully, and in the sight of the multitude, who stood in great expectation, he did what they desired him: upon which the lame hand was recovered, and the blind man saw immediately. Both these cures* are related to this day by those that were present, and when speaking falsely will get no reward.

* The miraculous cures done by Vespasian are attested to both by Suetonius in Vespasian, sect. 7, and by Dio, p. 217, and seem to me well attested. Our Saviour seems to have overruled the heathen oracle of Serapis to procure the divine approbation to Vespasian's advancement to the empire of Rome, as he suggested the like approbation to the advancement both of Vespasian and Titus to Josephus, which two were to be his chosen instruments in bringing on that terrible destruction upon the Jewish nation, which he had threatened to execute by these Roman armies. Nor could any other Roman generals than Vespasian and Titus, at that time, in human probability, have prevailed over the Jews, and destroyed Jerusalem, as this whoke history in Josephus implies. Josephus also everywhere supposes Vespasian and Titus raised up to command against Judea and Jerusalem, and to govern the Roman empire by divine providence, and not in the ordinary way: as also, he always supposes this destruction a divine judgment on the Jews for their sins.

« PreviousContinue »