The second memorable event of the Roman empire, the picture of the second seal, is slaughter and intestine butchery; to which there was scarcely any similar in the whole Roman history. |And it was given,| says he, |to him who sat on the horse to take away peace from the earth, and that men should massacre one another;| which last part of the sentence confirms the explanation of the former: For in what sense should the words be taken, |It was given to him that men should kill one another,| unless it were given, or came to pass, that while he sat thereon, men should fiercely contend in mutual slaughters and butcheries? The index of this seal is the second animal, in the figure of an ox, situated to the west, and which bids them in the vision look towards himself: He thereby informs us, that this seal begins when Trajan, the Spaniard, had taken the reins of government, an emperor from the west. Dion says, Trajan, a Spaniard, was not an Italian, not belonging to Italy: Before him, no one of any other nation had obtained the Roman empire. But from him thenceforward the dominion continued in a descent from the same family down to Commodus, when the interval of this seal terminates.
Beginning, then, from this emperor, let us seek for that memorable event of mutual slaughter. This took place when Trajan and his successor, Hadrian, held the ensigns of imperial sway, among the Gentiles and Jews who then dwelt together throughout the Roman world. What was done under Trajan, take not in my words, but in the joint expressions of Dion and Orosius. |The Jews,| says Orosius, |were inflamed with an incredible agitation at one time, as if maddened by rage, through all parts of the earth: For they waged the most atrocious wars throughout the whole of Lybia, against the inhabitants; which was then so desolated, in consequence of the cultivators being killed, that it would have remained wholly void, every inhabitant being cut off, if Hadrian, the emperor, had not afterwards introduced colonies there, collected from other places.|
|Those who dwelt about Cyrene, (it is Dion who speaks,) under a certain leader of the name of Andrew, slew Romans as well as Greeks, fed upon their flesh, and ate their entrails . They then smeared themselves with their blood, and put on their skins. They divided many from head to foot with saws, they cast many to the wild beasts, they compelled many to fight together; so that there perished about two hundred and twenty thousand souls.| He proceeds: |Besides, a similar slaughter took place in Egypt and in Cyprus, under the direction of Artemion, where there perished also two hundred and forty thousand. They utterly destroyed Salamis, a city of Cyprus, having slain all the inhabitants. (Oros. Eus.) In Alexandria also, having stirred up a warfare, they were conquered and reduced. At length they were subdued by others, and principally by Lysias, whom Trajan sent against them. In Mesopotamia also, when they had rebelled, war was undertaken against them by the command of the emperor; and by these means, many thousands of them were destroyed with a very great slaughter.|
Thus far as to what passed under Trajan. But you will ask if there was any thing under Hadrian to be compared to these facts? Let the reader judge if they were not of a similar kind. I dare to affirm, not much inferior. For we have not yet related any thing of that famous rebellion under Barchoshebar, the pseudo Messiah. Listen to that, then, likewise in the words of Dion. |When Hadrian,| says he, |had brought a colony into the city of Jerusalem, and in the same place in which the temple of God had been, had ordered another to be erected to Jupiter Capitolinus, all the Jews, wherever they were, began to mutiny, to inflict many injuries, secretly and openly, on the Romans, and many other nations were joined with them, from the desire of plunder; and by this means, almost the whole world was thrown into commotion.| He goes on: |Then at length, Hadrian, after he had sent some of his best generals against them, (as their great number and desperation were well known,) not daring to attack them except singly, at length, after a long time, he overpowered and vanquished them, and there were slain, in these excursions and battles, not less than five hundred and eighty thousand persons. But so great was the multitude of those who died by famine, disease, and fire, that the number could not be ascertained.| But was this victory easy and bloodless to the Romans? By no means. For he adds: |So many of the Romans perished in that war, that Hadrian, when he wrote to the Senate, did not use that exordium which the emperors were accustomed to adopt: Si vos liberique vestri valetis, bene est; Ego quidem et exercitus meus valemus.'|
These are his observations concerning the commotion among the Jews, under that son of the Star, as they called him, or if you will, the son of Stellio, whom Eusebius also reports to have slain the Christians with all sorts of torments, who were unwilling to render him assistance against the Roman soldiers. But if any one is desirous of hearing how the Jews themselves estimate the slaughter of their nation, the author of the book Juchasin writes, that Hadrian butchered twice as many Jews in this war as went out of Egypt. Another, in the book which is intituled tlvydvvvy, which Drusius quotes in his History of Past Events, has said, that neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Titus had afflicted them so sorely as the emperor Hadrian.
Therefore this destruction seems to have been the most grievous paroxysm of that unheard of tribulation, which our Saviour had predicted should befall the Jews, and, by consequence, not undeservedly selected by the Holy Spirit for marking this second period, beyond all the events of that time, since it exceeded them all, as well in the renown of the nation, as in this illustrious completion of prophecy.