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For The Temple by G. A. Henty

Chapter 4: The Lull Before The Storm.

The galley which carried Josephus from Tiberias was scarcely out of sight when John, who was standing in the marketplace watching the busy scene with amusement, heard the shout raised:

|The Romans are coming!|

At once, people left their business, and all ran to the outskirts of the city. John ran with them and, on arriving there, saw a party of Roman horsemen riding along, at no great distance. The people began to shout loudly to them to come into the town, calling out that all the citizens were loyal to King Agrippa and the Romans, and that they hated the traitor Josephus.

The Romans halted, but made no sign of entering the town; fearing that treachery was intended, and remembering the fate of their comrades, who had trusted to Jewish faith when they surrendered the towers of Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne. The movement, however, spread through the city. The people assembled in crowds, shouting |Death to Josephus!| and exclaiming for the Romans, and King Agrippa. Such as were loyal to Josephus did not venture to raise their voices, so numerous and furious were the multitude; and the whole city was soon in open revolt, the citizens arming themselves in readiness for war.

As soon as he saw the course which affairs were taking, John made his way out of the town, and ran at the top of his speed to Tarichea, where he arrived in a little over half an hour. He was directed at once to the house of Josephus, who rose in surprise, at the table at which he was seated, writing, at John's entry.

|Scarcely had you left, my lord, than some Roman horsemen approached near the town; whereupon the whole city rose in revolt, shouting to them to enter and take possession, in the name of the king, and breathing out threats against yourself. The Romans had not entered, as I came away; but the populace were all in arms, and your friends did not venture to lift up a voice. Tiberias has wholly revolted to the Romans.|

|This is bad news, indeed,| Josephus said, gravely. |I have but the seven armed men who accompanied me from Tiberias, here. All those who were assembled in the city I bade disperse, so soon as I arrived; in order that they might go to their towns, or villages, for the Sabbath. Were I to send round the country, I could speedily get a great force together but, in a few hours, the Sabbath will begin; and it is contrary to the law to fight upon the Sabbath, even though the necessity be great.

|And yet, if the people of Tiberias march hither, we can hardly hope to resist successfully; for the men of the town are too few to man the full extent of the walls. It is most necessary to put down this rising, before King Agrippa can send large numbers of troops into Tiberias; and yet, we can do nothing until the Sabbath is past.

|Nor would I shed blood, if it can be avoided. Hitherto I have put down every rising, and caused Sepphoris, Tiberias, and other cities to expel the evildoers, and return to obedience, by tact -- and by the great force which I could bring against them -- and without any need of bloodshed. But this time, I fear, great trouble will come of it; since I cannot take prompt measures, and the enemy will have time to organize their forces, and to receive help from John of Gischala and other robbers -- to say nothing of the Romans.|

Josephus walked up and down the room, in agitation, and then stood looking out into the harbor.

|Ah!| he exclaimed suddenly, |we may yet frighten them into submission. Call in Joab.|

When Joab entered Josephus explained to him, in a few words, the condition of things at Tiberias; and then proceeded:

|Send quickly to the principal men of the town, and bid them put trusty men at each of the gates, and let none pass out. Order the fighting men to man the walls, in case those of Tiberias should come hither, at once. Then let one or two able fellows embark on board each of the boats and vessels in the port, taking with them two or three of the infirm and aged men. Send a fast galley across to Hippos; and bid the fishermen set out, at once, with all their boats, and join us off Tiberias. We will not approach close enough to the city for the people to see how feebly we are manned but, when they perceive all these ships making towards them, they will think that I have with me a great army, with which I purpose to destroy their city.|

The orders were very quickly carried out. Josephus embarked, with his eight companions, in one ship and, followed by two hundred and thirty vessels, of various sizes, sailed towards Tiberias.

As they approached the town, they saw a great movement among the population. Men and women were seen, crowding down to the shore -- the men holding up their hands, to show that they were unarmed; the women wailing, and uttering loud cries of lamentation.

Josephus waited for an hour, until the ships from Hippos also came up, and then caused them all to anchor off the town -- but at such a distance that the numbers of those on board could not be seen. Then he advanced, in his own ship, to within speaking distance of the land. The people cried out to him to spare the city, and their wives and children; saying that they had been misled by evil men, and regretted bitterly what they had done.

Josephus told them that, assuredly, they deserved that the city should be wholly destroyed; for that now, when there was so much that had to be done to prepare for the war which Rome would make against the country, they troubled the country with their seditions. The people set up a doleful cry for mercy; and Josephus then said that, this time, he would spare them; but that their principal men must be handed over to him.

To this the people joyfully agreed; and a boat, with ten of their senate, came out to the vessel. Josephus had them bound, and sent them on board one of the other ships. Another and another boat load came off; until all the members of the senate, and many of the principal inhabitants, were prisoners. Some of the men had been drawn from the other ships, and put on board those with the prisoners; and these then sailed away to Tarichea.

The people of Tiberias -- terrified at seeing so many taken away, and not knowing how many more might be demanded -- now denounced a young man, named Clitus, as being the leader of the revolt. Seven of the bodyguard of Josephus had gone down the lake, with the prisoners; and one Levi, alone, remained. Josephus told him to go ashore, and to cut off one of the hands of Clitus.

Levi was, however, afraid to land, alone, among such a number of enemies; whereupon Josephus addressed Clitus, and told him that he was worthy of death, but that he would spare his life, if his two hands were sent on board a ship. Clitus begged that he might be permitted to keep one hand, to which Josephus agreed. Clitus then drew his sword, and struck off his left hand. Josephus now professed to be satisfied and, after warning the people against again listening to evil advisers, sailed away with the whole fleet. Josephus, that evening, entertained the principal persons among the prisoners and, in the morning, allowed all to return to Tiberias.

The people there had already learned that they had been duped; but with time had come reflection and, knowing that in a day or two Josephus could have assembled the whole population of Galilee against them, and have destroyed them before any help could come, there were few who were not well content that their revolt had been so easily, and bloodlessly, repressed; and Josephus rose, in their estimation, by the quickness and boldness of the stratagem by which he had, without bloodshed save in the punishment of Clitus, restored tranquillity.

Through the winter, Josephus was incessantly active. He endeavored to organize an army, enrolled a hundred thousand men, appointed commanders and captains, and strove to establish something like military drill and order. But the people were averse to leaving their farms and occupations, and but little progress was made. Moreover, a great part of the time of Josephus was occupied in suppressing the revolts, which were continually breaking out in Sepphoris, Tiberias, and Gamala; and in thwarting the attempts of John of Gischala, and his other enemies, who strove by means of bribery, at Jerusalem, to have him recalled -- and would have succeeded, had it not been that the Galileans, save those of the great cities, were always ready to turn out, in all their force, to defend him and, by sending deputations to Jerusalem, counteracted the efforts, there, of his enemies.

John was incessantly engaged, as he accompanied Josephus in his rapid journeys through the province, either to suppress the risings or to see to the work of organization; and only once or twice was he able to pay a short visit to his family.

|You look worn and fagged, John,| his cousin said, on the occasion of his last visit, when spring was close at hand.

|I am well in health, Mary; but it does try one, to see how all the efforts of Josephus are marred by the turbulence of the people of Tiberias and Sepphoris. All his thoughts and time are occupied in keeping order, and the work of organizing the army makes but little progress.

|Vespasian is gathering a great force, at Antioch. His son Titus will soon join him, with another legion; and they will, together, advance against us.|

|But I hear that the walling of the cities is well-nigh finished.|

|That is so, Mary, and doubtless many of them will be able to make a long defense but, after all, the taking of a city is a mere question of time. The Romans have great siege engines, which nothing can withstand but, even if the walls were so strong that they could not be battered down, each city could, in time, be reduced by famine. It is not for me, who am but a boy, to judge the doings of my elders; but it seems to me that this walling of cities is altogether wrong. They can give no aid to each other and, one by one, must fall; and all within perish, or be made slaves, for the Romans give no quarter when they capture a city by storm.

|It seems to me that it would be far better to hold Jerusalem, only, with a strong force of fighting men; and for all the rest of the men capable of carrying arms to gather among the hills, and there to fight the Romans. When the legion of Cestius was destroyed we showed that, among defiles and on rocky ground, our active, lightly-armed men were a match for the Roman soldiers, in their heavy armor; and in this way I think that we might check even the legions of Vespasian. The women and the old men and children could gather in the cities, and admit the Romans when they approached. In that case they would suffer no harm; for the Romans are clement, when not opposed.

|As it is, it seems to me that, in the end, destruction will fall on all alike. Here in Galilee we have a leader, but he is hampered by dissensions and jealousies. Samaria stands neutral. Jerusalem, which ought to take the lead, is torn by faction. There is war in her streets. She thinks only of herself, and naught of the country; although she must know that, when the Romans have crushed down all opposition elsewhere she must, sooner or later, fall. The country seems possessed with madness, and I see no hope in the future.|

|Save in the God of Israel,| Mary said, gently; |that is what Simon and Martha say.|

|Save in him,| John assented; |but, dear, He suffered us to be carried away into Babylon; and how are we to expect His aid now -- when the people do naught for themselves, when His city is divided in itself, when its streets are wet with blood, and its very altars defiled by conflict? When evil men are made high priests, and all rule and authority is at an end, what right have we to expect aid at the hands of Jehovah?

|My greatest comfort, Mary, is that we lie here on the east of the lake, and that we are within the jurisdiction of King Agrippa. On this side, his authority has never been altogether thrown off; though some of the cities have made common cause with those of the other side. Still, we may hope that, on this side of Jordan, we may escape the horrors of war.|

|You are out of spirits, John, and take a gloomy view of things; but I know that Simon, too, thinks that everything will end badly, and I have heard him say that he, too, is glad that his farm lies on this side of the lake; and that he wishes Gamala had not thrown off the authority of the king, so that there might be naught to bring the Romans across Jordan.

|Our mother is more hopeful. She trusts in God for, as she says, though the wealthy and powerful may have forsaken Him, the people still cling to Him; and He will not let us fall into the hands of our enemies.|

|I hope it will be so, Mary; and I own I am out of spirits, and look at matters in the worst light. However, I will have a talk with father, tonight.|

That evening, John had a long conversation with Simon, and repeated the forebodings he had expressed to Mary.

|At any rate, father, I hope that when the Romans approach you will at least send away my mother, Mary, and the women to a place of safety. We are but a few miles from Gamala and, if the Romans come there and besiege it, they will spread through the country; and will pillage, even if they do not slay, in all the villages. If, as we trust, God will give victory to our arms, they can return in peace; if not, let them at least be free from the dangers which are threatening us.|

|I have been thinking of it, John. A fortnight since, I sent old Isaac to your mother's brother -- whose farm, as you know, lies upon the slopes of Mount Hermon, a few miles from Neve, and very near the boundary of Manasseh -- to ask him if he will receive Martha, and Mary, and the women, until the troubles are over. He will gladly do so; and I purpose sending them away, as soon as I hear that the Romans have crossed the frontier.|

|I am, indeed, rejoiced to hear it, father; but do not let them tarry for that, let them go as soon as the snows have melted on Mount Hermon, for the Roman cavalry will spread quickly over the land. Let them go as soon as the roads are fit for travel. I shall feel a weight off my mind, when I know that they are safe.

|And does my mother know what you have decided?|

|She knows, John, but in truth she is reluctant to go. She says, at present, that if I stay she also will stay.|

|I trust, father, that you will overrule my mother; and that you will either go with her or, if you stay, you will insist upon her going. Should you not overcome her opposition, and finally suffer her, with Miriam and the older women, to remain with you, I hope that you will send Mary and the young ones to my uncle. The danger, with them, is vastly greater. The Romans, unless their blood is heated by opposition, may not interfere with the old people -- who are valueless as slaves -- but the young ones -- | and he stopped.

|I have thought it over, my son, and even if your mother remains here with me, I will assuredly send off Mary, and the young maidens, to the mountain. Make your mind easy, on that score. We old people have taken root on the land which was our fathers'. I shall not leave, whatever may befall -- and it may be that your mother will tarry here, with me -- but the young women shall assuredly be sent away, until the danger is over.

|Not that I think the peril is as great as it seems, to you. Our people have ever shown themselves courageous, in great danger. They know the fate that awaits them, after provoking the anger of Rome. They know they are fighting for faith, for country, and their families, and will fight desperately. They greatly outnumber the Romans -- at least, the army by which we shall first be attacked -- and maybe, if we can resist that, we may make terms with Rome for, assuredly, in the long run she must overpower us.|

|I should think with you, father,| John said, shaking his head, |if I saw anything like union among the people; but I lose all heart, when I see how divided they are, how blind to the storm that is coming against us, how careless as to anything but the trouble of the day, how intent upon the work of their farms and businesses, how disinclined to submit to discipline, and to prepare themselves for the day of battle.|

|You are young, my son, and full of enthusiasm; but it is hard to stir men, whose lives have traveled in one groove, from their ordinary course. In all our history, although we have been ready to assemble and meet the foe, we have ever been ready to lay by the sword, when the danger is past, and to return to our homes and families. We have been a nation of fighting men, but never a nation with an army.|

|Yes, father, because we trusted in God to give us victory, on the day of battle. He was our army. When He fought with us, we conquered; when He abstained, we were beaten. He suffered us to fall into the hands of the Romans and, instead of repenting of our sins, we have sinned more and more.

|The news from Jerusalem is worse and worse. There is civil war in its streets. Robbers are its masters. The worst of the people sit in high places.|

|That is so, my son. God's anger still burns fiercely, and the people perish; yet it may be that He will be merciful, in the end.|

|I hope so, father, for assuredly our hope is only in Him.|

Early in the spring, Vespasian was joined by King Agrippa, with all his forces; and they advanced to Ptolemais and, here, Titus joined his father, having brought his troops from Alexandria by sea. The force of Vespasian now consisted of the Fifth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Legions. Besides these he had twenty-three cohorts; ten of which numbered a thousand footmen, the rest, each, six hundred footmen and a hundred and fifty horse. The allied force, contributed by Agrippa and others, consisted of two thousand archers, and a thousand horse; while Malchus, King of Arabia, sent a thousand horse, and five thousand archers. The total force amounted to sixty thousand regular troops, besides great numbers of camp followers -- who were all trained to military service, and could fight, in case of need.

Vespasian had encountered no resistance, on his march down to Ptolemais. The inhabitants of the country through which he passed forsook the villages and farms; and retired, according to the orders they had received, to the fortified towns. There was no army to meet the Romans in the field. The efforts at organization which Josephus had made bore no fruit, whatever. No sooner had the invader entered the country, than it lay at his mercy; save only the walled cities into which the people had crowded.

In the range of mountains stretching across Upper Galilee were three places of great strength: Gabara, Gischala, and Jotapata. The last named had been very strongly fortified, by Josephus himself; and here he intended to take up his own position.

|It is a pitiful sight, truly,| Joab remarked to John, as they saw the long line of fugitives -- men, women, and children -- with such belongings as they could carry on their own backs, and those of their beasts of burden. |It is a pitiful sight, is it not?|

|It is a pitiful sight, Joab, and one that fills me with foreboding, as well as with pity. What agonies may not these poor people be doomed to suffer, when the Romans lay siege to Jotapata?|

|They can never take it,| Joab said, scornfully.

|I wish I could think so, Joab. When did the Romans ever lay siege to a place, and fail to capture it? Once, twice, three times they may fail but, in the end, they assuredly will take it.|

|Look at its position. See how wild is the country through which they will have to march.|

|They have made roads over all the world, Joab. They will make very short work of the difficulties here. It may take the Romans weeks, or months, to besiege each of these strong places; but they will assuredly carry them, in the end -- and then, better a thousand times that the men had, in the first place, slain the women, and rushed to die on the Roman swords.|

|It seems to me, John,| Joab said stiffly, |that you are over bold, in thus criticising the plans of our general.|

|It may be so,| John said, recklessly, |but methinks, when we are all risking our lives, each man may have a right to his opinions. I am ready, like the rest, to die when the time comes; but that does not prevent me having my opinions. Besides, it seems to me that there is no heresy in questioning the plans of our general. I love Josephus, and would willingly give my life for him. He has shown himself a wise ruler, firm to carry out what is right, and to suppress all evildoers but, after all, he has not served in war. He is full of resources, and will, I doubt not, devise every means to check the Romans but, even so, he may not be able to cope, in war, with such generals as theirs, who have won their experience all over the world. Nor may the general's plan of defense, which he has adopted, be the best suited for the occasion.

|Would you have us fight the Romans in the open?| Joab said, scornfully. |What has been done in the south? See how our people marched out from Jerusalem -- under John the Essene, Niger of Peraea, and Silas the Babylonian -- to attack Ascalon, held by but one cohort of Roman foot, and one troop of horse. What happened? Antoninus, the Roman commander, charged the army without fear, rode through and through them, broke them up into fragments, and slew till night time -- when ten thousand men, with John and Silas, lay dead.

|Not satisfied with this defeat, in a short time Niger advanced again against Ascalon; when Antoninus sallied out again, and slew eight thousand of them. Thus, eighteen thousand men were killed, by one weak cohort of foot and a troop of horse; and yet you say we ought not to hide behind our walls, but to meet them in the open!|

|I would not meet them in the open, where the Roman cavalry could charge -- at any rate, not until our people have learned discipline. I would harass them, and attack them in defiles, as Cestius was attacked; harassing them night and day, giving them no peace or rest, never allowing them to meet us in the plains, but moving rapidly hither and thither among the mountains -- leaving the women in the cities, which should offer no resistance, so that the Romans would have no point to strike at -- until at length, when we have gained confidence and discipline and order, we should be able to take bolder measures, gradually, and fight them hand to hand.|

|Maybe you are right, lad,| Joab said, thoughtfully. |I like not being cooped up in a stronghold, myself; and methinks that a mountain warfare, such as you speak of, would suit the genius of the people. We are light limbed and active -- inured to fatigue, for we are a nation of cultivators -- brave, assuredly, and ready to give our lives.

|They say that, in the fight near Ascalon, not a Jew fled. Fight they could not, they were powerless against the rush of the heavy Roman horse; but they died as they stood, destroyed but not defeated. Gabara and Gischala and Jotapata may fall but, lad, it will be only after a defense so desperate that the haughty Romans may well hesitate; for if such be the resistance of these little mountain towns, what will not be the task of conquering Jerusalem, garrisoned by the whole nation?|

|That is true,| John said, |and if our deaths here be for the safety of Jerusalem, we shall not have died in vain. But I doubt whether such men as those who have power in Jerusalem will agree to any terms, however favorable, that may be offered.

|It may be that it is God's will that it should be so. Two days ago, as I journeyed hither, after going down to Sepphoris with a message from the general to some of the principal inhabitants there, I met an old man, traveling with his wife and family. I asked him whether he was on his way hither, but he said 'No,' he was going across Jordan, and through Manasseh, and over Mount Hermon into Trachonitis. He said that he was a follower of that Christ who was put to death, in Jerusalem, some thirty-five years since, and whom many people still believe was the Messiah. He says that he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, by the Romans; and warned his followers not to stay in the walled cities, but to fly to the deserts when the time came.|

|The Messiah was to save Israel,| Joab said, scornfully. |Christ could not save even himself.|

|I know not,| John said, simply. |I have heard of him from others; and my father heard him preach, several times, near the lake. He says that he was a man of wondrous power, and that he preached a new doctrine. He says that he did not talk about himself, or claim to be the Messiah; but that he simply told the people to be kind and good to each other, and to love God and do his will. My father said that he thought he was a good and holy man, and full of the Spirit of God. He did works of great power, too; but bore himself meekly, like any other man. My father always regards him as a prophet; and said that he grieved, when he heard that he had been put to death at Jerusalem. If he were a prophet, what he said about the destruction of Jerusalem should have weight with us.|

|All who heard him agreed that he was a good man,| Joab assented. |I have never known one of those who heard him say otherwise, and maybe he was a prophet. Certainly, he called upon the people to repent and turn from their sins and, had they done as he taught them, these evils might not have fallen upon us, and God would doubtless have been ready to aid his people, as of old.

|However, it is too late to think about it, now. We want all our thoughts for the matter we have in hand. We have done all that we can to put this town into a state of defense and, methinks, if the Romans ever penetrate through these mountains and forests, they will see that they have a task which will tax all their powers, before they take Jotapata.|

The position of the town was, indeed, immensely strong. It stood on the summit of a lofty mass of rock which, on three sides, fell abruptly down into the deep and almost impassable ravines which surrounded it. On the north side, alone, where the ridge sloped more gradually down, it could be approached. The town extended part of the way down this declivity and, at its foot, Josephus had built a strong wall. On all sides were lofty mountains, covered with thick forests; and the town could not be seen by an enemy, until they were close at hand.

As soon as Vespasian had arrived at Ptolemais (on the site of which city stands the modern Acre) he was met by a deputation from Sepphoris. That city had only been prevented from declaring for the Romans by the exertions of Josephus, and the knowledge that all Galilee would follow him to attack it, should it revolt. But as soon as Vespasian arrived at Ptolemais, which was scarce twenty miles away, they sent deputies with their submission to him; begging that a force might be sent, to defend them against any attack by the Jews.

Vespasian received them with courtesy; and sent Placidus, with a thousand horse and six thousand foot, to the city. The infantry took up their quarters in the town; but the horsemen made raids over the plains, burning the villages, slaying all the men capable of bearing arms, and carrying off the rest of the population as slaves.

The day after the conversation between Joab and John, a man brought the news to Jotapata that Placidus was marching against it. Josephus at once ordered the fighting men to assemble and, marching out, placed them in ambuscade, in the mountains, on the road by which the Romans would approach.

As soon as the latter had fairly entered the pass, the Jews sprang to their feet, and hurled their javelins and shot their arrows among them. The Romans, in vain, endeavored to reach their assailants; and numbers were wounded, as they tried to climb the heights, but few were killed -- for they were so completely covered, by their armor and shields, that the Jewish missiles, thrown from a distance, seldom inflicted mortal wounds. They were, however, unable to make their way further; and Placidus was obliged to retire to Sepphoris, having failed, signally, in gaining the credit he had hoped for, from the capture of the strongest of the Jewish strongholds in Upper Galilee.

The Jews, on their part, were greatly inspirited by the success of their first encounter with the Romans; and returned, rejoicing, to their stronghold.

All being ready at Jotapata, Josephus -- with a considerable number of the fighting men -- proceeded to Garis, not far from Sepphoris, where the army had assembled. But no sooner had the news arrived, that the great army of Vespasian was in movement, than they dispersed in all directions; and Josephus was left with a mere handful of followers, with whom he fled to Tiberias. Thence he wrote earnest letters to Jerusalem; saying that, unless a strong army was fitted out and put in the field, it was useless to attempt to fight the Romans; and that it would be wiser to come to terms with them, than to maintain a useless resistance, which would bring destruction upon the nation. He remained a short time, only, at Tiberias; and thence hurried up with his followers to Jotapata, which he reached on the 14th of May.

Vespasian marched first to Gadara -- which was undefended, the fighting men having all gone to Jotapata -- but, although no resistance was offered, Vespasian put all the males to the sword; and burned the town and all the villages in the neighborhood, and then advanced against Jotapata. For four days, the pioneers of the Roman army had labored incessantly -- cutting a road through the forests, filling up ravines, and clearing away obstacles -- and, on the fifth day, the road was constructed close up to Jotapata.

On the 14th of May, Placidus and Ebutius were sent forward by Vespasian, with a thousand horse, to surround the town and cut off all possibility of escape. On the following day Vespasian himself, with his whole army, arrived there. The defenders of Jotapata could scarcely believe their eyes when they saw the long, heavy column -- with all its baggage, and siege engines -- marching along a straight and level road, where they had believed that it would be next to impossible for even the infantry of the enemy to make their way. If this marvel had been accomplished in five days, what hope was there that the city would be able to withstand this force, which had so readily triumphed over the defenses of nature?

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