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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter 6: The Fall Of The City.

For The Temple by G. A. Henty

Chapter 6: The Fall Of The City.

The Roman soldiers -- seeing the wall of Jotapata tremble beneath the blows of the battering ram, whose iron head pounded to powder the stones against which it struck -- redoubled their efforts when, suddenly, from three sally ports which they had prepared, the Jews burst out; carrying their weapons in their right hands, and blazing torches in their left. As on previous occasions, their onslaught was irresistible. They swept the Romans before them; and set fire to the engines, the wattles, and the palisades, and even to the woodwork of the embankment. The timber had by this time dried and, as bitumen and pitch had been used as cement in the construction of the works, the flames spread with great rapidity; and the work of many days was destroyed, in an hour. All the engines and breastworks of the Fifth and Tenth Legions were entirely consumed.

Just as the attack began, Eleazar -- the son of Sameas, a Galilean -- with an immense stone from the wall, struck the iron head of the battering ram, and knocked it off. He then leaped down from the wall, seized the iron head, and carried it back into the city. He was pierced by five arrows. Still, he pressed on and regained the walls; and held up the iron head in the sight of all, and then fell down dead.

Such was the spirit with which the Jews were animated; and the Roman soldiers, trained as they were to conflict among many peoples, were yet astounded by the valor displayed by the race that they had considered as unwarlike peasants. But the Romans were not discouraged. Heavy masses of troops were brought up, the Jews were driven within their walls and, towards evening, the ram was again in position.

While Vespasian was directing the attack, he was struck by a javelin in the heel. The Romans ceased from the attack and crowded round their general but, as soon as they ascertained that his wound was not serious, they returned to the attack with redoubled fury.

All that night, the contest raged unceasingly. The Roman engines swept the walls with missiles. The towers came crashing down, under the blows of the huge stones; while the javelins, arrows, and the stones from the slings created terrible havoc among the defenders of the wall. But, as fast as these fell, fresh combatants took their places; and they continued hurling down stones, and blazing brands, upon the freshly-erected wattles round the battering ram. The Romans had the advantage in this strife for, while the fires on the walls -- at which the Jews lighted their brands, and boiled the pitch and sulphur in which these were dipped -- enabled them to aim accurately, they themselves worked in deep shadow, at the foot of the wall.

The night was a terrible one. The bolts, stones, and arrows which passed over the wall spread ruin and death over the town. The din was unceasing. The thundering noise of the great stones; the dull, deep sound as the ram struck the wall; the fierce shouts of the combatants, as they fought hand to hand -- for the corpses were, in places, piled so thick that the assailants could mount upon them to the top of the walls -- the shrieks of the women, and the screams of the children, combined in one terrible and confused noise; which was echoed back, and multiplied, by the surrounding mountains.

Morning was just breaking when the shaken wall gave way, and fell, with a crash. Vespasian called off his weary troops, and allowed them a short time for refreshment; then he prepared to storm the breach. He brought up, first, a number of his bravest horsemen; dismounted, and clad in complete armor They were provided with long pikes, and were to charge forward, the instant the machines for mounting the breach were fixed. Behind these were the best of his infantry, while in their rear were the archers and slingers. Other parties, with scaling ladders, were to attack the uninjured part of the wall, and to draw off the attention of the besiegers. The rest of the horse extended all over the hills round the town, so that none might make their escape.

Josephus prepared to receive the attack. He placed the old, infirm, and wounded to repel the attack on the uninjured parts of the wall. He then chose the five strongest and bravest men and, with them, took his place to form the front line of the defenders of the breach. He told them to kneel down and cover their heads with their bucklers, until the enemy's archers had emptied their quivers and, when the Romans had fixed the machines for mounting, they were to leap down among the enemy and fight to the last; remembering that there was now no hope of safety, naught but to revenge the fate which was impending over them, their wives and children.

As the Romans mounted to the assault, a terrible cry broke out from the women. They saw the Romans still manning the lines which cut off all escape, and they believed that the end was now at hand. Josephus, fearing that their cries would dispirit the men, ordered them all to be locked up in their houses, and then calmly awaited the assault.

The trumpet of the legion sounded, and the whole Roman host set up a terrible shout while, at the same moment, the air was darkened by the arrows of their bowmen. Kneeling beneath their bucklers, the Jews remained calm and immovable; and then, before the Romans had time to set foot upon the breach, with a yell of fury they rushed upon them, and threw themselves into the midst of their assailants. For a time, the Romans could make no way against the desperate courage of the Jews but, as fast as the leading files fell, fresh troops took their places; while the Jews, who were vastly reduced by their losses, had no fresh men to take the place of those who died.

At last, the solid phalanx of the Romans drove back the defenders, and entered the breach. But as they did so, from the walls above and from the breach in front, vessels filled with boiling oil were hurled down upon them. The Roman ranks were broken; and the men, in agony, rolled on the ground, unable to escape the burning fluid which penetrated through the joints of their armor Those who turned to fly were pierced by the javelins of the Jews; for the Romans carried no defensive armor on their backs, which were never supposed to be turned towards an enemy.

Fresh troops poured up the breach, to take the place of their agonized comrades; but the Jews threw down, upon the planks, vessels filled with a sort of vegetable slime. Unable to retain their footing upon the slippery surface, the Romans fell upon each other, in heaps. Those rolling down carried others with them, and a terrible confusion ensued, the Jews never ceasing to pour their missiles upon them.

When evening came, Vespasian called off his men. He saw that, to overcome the desperate resistance of the defenders, fresh steps must be taken before the assault was repeated; and he accordingly gave orders that the embankment should be raised, much higher than before; and that upon it three towers, each fifty feet high and strongly girded with iron, should be built.

This great work was carried out, in spite of the efforts of the besieged. In the towers, Vespasian placed his javelin men, archers, and light machines and, as these now looked down upon the wall, they were enabled to keep up such a fire upon it that the Jews could no longer maintain their footing; but contented themselves with lying behind it, and making desperate sallies whenever they saw any parties of Romans approaching the breach.

In the meantime, a terrible calamity had befallen the neighboring town of Japha. Emboldened by the vigorous defense of Jotapata, it had closed its gates to the Romans. Vespasian sent Trajan, with two thousand foot and a thousand horse, against it.

The city was strongly situated, and surrounded by a double wall. Instead of waiting to be attacked, the people sallied out and fell upon the Romans. They were, however, beaten back; and the Romans, pressing on their heels, entered with them through the gates of the outside walls. The defenders of the gates through the inner walls, fearing that these, too, would be carried by the mob, closed them; and all those who had sallied out were butchered by the Romans.

Trajan, seeing that the garrison must now be weak, sent to Vespasian, and asked him to send his son to complete the victory. Titus soon arrived, with a thousand foot and five hundred horse and, at once, assaulted the inner walls. The defense was feeble. The Romans effected their entry but, inside the town, a desperate conflict took place; the inhabitants defending every street, with the energy of despair, while the women aided their efforts by hurling down stones, and missiles, from the roofs. The battle lasted six hours, when all who could bear arms were slain. The rest of the male population were put to death, the women taken as slaves. In all, fifteen thousand were killed, two thousand one hundred and thirty taken prisoners.

In another direction, a heavy blow had also been struck by the Romans. The Samaritans had not openly joined the revolt, but had gathered in great force on Mount Gerizim. Cerealis was sent by Vespasian, with three thousand infantry and six hundred horse, against them. He surrounded the foot of the mountain, and abstained from an assault until the Samaritans were weakened by thirst -- many dying from want of water. Cerealis then mounted the hill, and sent to them to throw down their arms. On their refusal, he charged them from all sides, and put every soul -- in number, eleven thousand six hundred -- to the sword.

The situation of the defenders of Jotapata was now pitiable, indeed. Scarce a man but had received wounds, more or less severe, in the desperate combats. All were utterly worn out with fatigue; for they were under arms, day and night, in readiness to repel the expected attack. Numbers of the women and children had died of thirst, and terror. Save the armed men lying in groups near the foot of the wall, in readiness to repel an assault, scarce a soul was to be seen in the lately-crowded streets.

The houses were now ample to contain the vastly diminished number. Here the women and children crouched, in utter prostration. The power of suffering was almost gone. Few cared how soon the end came.

The siege had now continued for forty-seven days; and the Roman army, strong in numbers, in discipline, and in arms, and commanded by one of its best generals, had yet failed to capture the little town -- which they had expected to take within a few hours of their appearance before it -- and so fierce was the valor of the besieged, that Vespasian did not venture to order his legions forward to renew the assault. But now, a deserter informed him that the garrison was greatly exhausted, that the men on guard could not keep awake; and that the breach could be carried, at night, by a sudden assault.

Vespasian prepared for the assault, which was to take place at daybreak. A thick mist enveloped the town, and the sleeping sentries were not aroused by the silent steps of the approaching Romans. Titus was the first to enter the breach, followed by a small number of troops. These killed the sleeping guards, and the main body of the Romans then poured in. Before the Jews were conscious of their danger, the whole of the Roman army was upon them.

Then the slaughter commenced. Many of the Jews killed each other, rather than fall into the hands of the Romans. Many threw themselves over the precipices, numbers took refuge in the deep caverns under the city. That day, all in the streets or houses were killed; the next, the Romans searched the caverns and underground passages, slaughtering all the men and boys, and sparing none but infants and women. During the siege and capture, forty thousand men fell. Only twelve hundred women and children were spared. So complete was the surprise, and so unresistingly did the Jews submit to slaughter, that only one Roman was killed.

This was Antoninus, a centurion. He came upon a Jew in a deep cavern, and told him he would spare his life, if he would surrender. The Jew asked him to give him his hand, as a pledge of his faith, and to help him out of the cave. Antoninus did so, and the Jew at once ran him through with a spear.

John was asleep when the Romans entered. He was aroused by Jonas rushing into the room. The boy was at all times restless, and suffered less than most of those within the walls; for there was an abundance of grain up to the end of the siege and, until the Romans had discovered the way down to the water, he had not suffered in any way from thirst. He was considered too young to take part in the actual fighting; but had labored with the rest in repairing the defenses, carrying food to men on the walls, and carrying away the dead and wounded.

|Get up, John!| he exclaimed. |In the mist I have just run upon a mass of Roman soldiers, ranged in order. The town is taken. Quick, before they scatter and begin to slay!|

John caught up his sword, and ran out. Just as he did so, a terrible shout was heard, followed by shrieks and cries. The work of butchery had begun.

John's plans had been laid for some time. At night Jonas had frequently descended to the ledge, taking with him food, and jars of the water he brought up from below; and once or twice John had descended, Jonas fastening a rope round his body, and lowering it gradually for, active as he was, John could not get down without such assistance. Indeed, to any one who looked casually over the top, the descent appeared absolutely impossible.

At the top of their speed, the lads ran to the spot at which the descent had to be made. The rope was hidden close at hand. John slipped the noose at the end over his shoulders. Jonas twisted the rope once round a stunted tree, which grew close by, and allowed it to go out gradually. As soon as the strain upon it ceased, and he knew John was upon the ledge, he loosened the rope and dropped the end over; and then began, himself, to descend, his bare feet and hands clinging to every inequality, however slight, in the rock.

He presently stood by the side of John. The latter had coiled up the rope, and laid it by him; and had then thrown himself down, and was sobbing bitterly. Jonas sat down quietly beside him, till he had recovered his composure.

|It is no use fretting,| he said, philosophically. |There's no one you care about, particularly, up there; and I am sure there's no one I care about -- only I should like to have peeped in, and have seen her face, when the Romans burst open the door. I don't suppose she was very sorry, though, for it will be better to be a Roman slave than to be going through what they have been, for the last month.|

|It is horrible!| John said, |Horrible! However, Jonas, let us thank God for having thus preserved our lives, when all besides are in such terrible danger of death.|

For a time, the two lads sat silent. John was the first to speak.

|I am thankful,| he said, |that, owing to our being down the face of the rock, the sound is carried away above our heads, and we can hear but little of what is going on there. It seems a confusion of sounds, and comes to us rather as an echo from the hills, yonder, than directly from above.|

Sometimes, indeed, thrilling screams and shouts were heard but, for the most part, the sounds were so blended together that they could not be distinguished one from another. As soon as the mist cleared off, the lads lay down, as far back from the ledge as they could get.

|We must not lift up a head, today,| John said. |The guards below, and on the hills, will have their eyes fixed on the rock, on the lookout for fugitives and, until nighttime, we must not venture to sit up. Fortunately, that outer edge of the shelf is a good deal higher than it is, back here; and I don't think that even those on the mountain, opposite, could see us as we lie.|

|I should think a good many may escape, like us,| Jonas said, presently. |There are numbers of caverns and passages, from which they have dug the stone for the building of the houses. A lot of the people are sure to hide away, there.|

|I daresay they will,| John agreed; |but I fear the Romans will hunt them all out.|

|How long do you think we shall have to stay here, John?|

|Till the Romans go, whether it is one week or two; but I do not think they will stay here many days. The town is so full of dead that, in this hot weather, it will be unbearable before long. At any rate, we shall be able to pass a good deal of time in sleep. We have not had much of it, lately. Till last night, I have not been in the house, at night, for over a fortnight. But I felt, last night, as if I must have a sleep, whatever came of it. I suppose the guards at the breach must have felt the same, or the Romans could never have got in without the alarm being given.|

For a few minutes, John lay thinking of the terrible scenes that must be passing, on the rock above; then his drowsiness overcame him, and he was soon fast asleep.

It was dark when he woke. As he moved, Jonas spoke.

|Are you awake, John? Because if you are, let us have something to eat. I have been awake the last four hours, and I have been wishing you would stir.|

|There was no occasion to wait for my waking, Jonas. There are the grain and the water, close at hand; and no cooking is required.|

|I wasn't going to eat till you woke, if it had been all night,| Jonas said. |Still, I am glad you are awake; they are quiet now, up above, and I have heard the Roman trumpets sounding. I expect that most of them have marched back to their camp.|

The next day passed like the first. Occasionally cries of agony were heard. Sometimes bodies were hurled from the top of the rock, but a short distance from where they were lying.

The next two days passed more quietly, but upon that following a murmur, as of a multitude of men working, was heard. From time to time there were heavy crashes, as masses of stones, hurled down the precipice, struck against its face as they fell; and then bounded, far out beyond the stream, at its foot. All these sounds were echoed back by the surrounding hills, until it seemed as if a storm was raging, far away in the heart of the mountains.

|They are destroying the town,| John said, in answer to his companion's question as to the cause of the uproar. |That is the best thing possible for us. Had it remained standing, they might have left a garrison here, to prevent our people reoccupying it. If they destroy it, it is a sign that they intend to march away, altogether.|

Several times Jonas wished to climb up, at night, to ascertain what was going on; but John would not hear of it.

|There is nothing to find out, Jonas. We know what they did at Gadara, where they slew all the males and carried off all the women, although no resistance was offered. We may be sure that there will be no more mercy shown at Jotapata, which has affronted the Roman power by keeping their great army at bay, for nearly seven weeks, and whose capture has cost them thousands of men. We know what has happened -- they have slain every soul, save a few young women, who were worth money as slaves. Now they are leveling the town to its foundations. The place that defied them will cease to exist.

|And yet, they talk of Roman magnanimity! Would we had five thousand fighting men, hidden here with us. We would climb then, Jonas, and fall upon them in the night, and take a mighty vengeance for the woes they have inflicted. But, being alone, we will remain here till we have reason to believe that the last Roman has left. Did one of them catch sight of you, our fate would be sealed. They have no boys among them, and the slightest glimpse of your figure would be enough to tell them that you were a Jew who had been in hiding and, in their fear that one man should escape their vengeance, they would hunt you down, as a pack of wolves might hunt down a solitary lamb.|

|They could never get down here, John.|

|Not by the way you came; but they would lower a cage full of armed men, from above, and slay us without pity.|

|But if I were found out, John, I would not lead them here. I would throw myself over the precipice, rather than that risk should come to you!|

|But I don't want you to throw yourself over the precipice, Jonas. I want to keep you with me: in the first place because we are great friends now; in the second because, if you were killed, I might as well throw myself over, at once -- for I do not think I could ever climb up this rock, without your assistance.|

|It is much easier going up than coming down, John.|

|That may be and, indeed, I have no doubt it is so; but I would rather not put the matter to the test. No; we have provision and water here, enough to last us for ten days and, until they are consumed, it were best not to stir from here.|

Four days later, however, they heard the sound of the Roman trumpets and, on raising their heads carefully a few inches, saw that the guards on the opposite hills had all been withdrawn. Having now less fear of being seen, they raised their heads still further, and looked up the valley to the great camp on the hillside where, at night, they had seen the fires of the Romans, blazing high.

|They are going!| Jonas exclaimed, joyously. |Look at the sun sparkling on the long lines of arms and armor Not a sound is to be heard, above -- the work is done. They are about to march away.|

|Do not let us expose ourselves further,| John said. |It may be that they have left a few watchers, to see if any who have eluded their search may show themselves, believing that they have gone. I have no doubt they are going and, by tomorrow, it will be safe for us to move.|

All day they heard the sound of trumpets, for the great host took a long time getting into motion but, gradually, the sound grew fainter and fainter, as the rear guard of the army took the road which they had cut through the mountains, eight weeks before.

That night, when darkness fell, and the two lads sat up on their ledge and looked round, not a light was to be seen; and not a sound broke the silence of the night.

|At daybreak tomorrow, Jonas, as soon as it becomes light enough for you to see your way, you shall go up and look round. They may have left a guard behind, but I should hardly think so. After the wholesale slaughter at Gadara, and here, the hatred of the Romans will be so intense that, confident as they are in their arms and discipline, they would hardly venture to leave a small body of men, in the heart of these mountains.|

As soon as it was daylight, Jonas prepared to climb up to the plateau above. He took with him the rope; arranging that, if he found that the place was absolutely deserted, he would lower one end to John and fasten the other to the tree above; and that he would then aid John, as much as his strength would permit, in making his way up the rock.

John watched his companion making his way up, and observed exactly where he placed his feet and hands, until he was out of sight. Then he waited. In about a quarter of an hour, the end of the rope fell in front of him. He fastened it securely under his arms and then, taking off his sandals, began the ascent. It was not so difficult as it had looked; and the steady strain which Jonas kept on the rope, from above, aided him and gave him confidence. In three or four minutes, he gained the top of the rock.

|There is not a soul to be seen,| Jonas said. |The town has gone, and the people, and the Romans. All is desolation!|

The scene was indeed changed, since John had last looked upon it. Not a wall, in the so-lately busy little town, had been left standing. The whole area was covered, three or four feet deep with a chaos of stones, mortar, and beams; forming a great grave, below which lay the bodies of forty thousand of the defenders of the place. The walls so bravely defended had disappeared; and the embankment, whose erection had cost the Romans so much labor and bloodshed, had been destroyed by fire. A dead silence hung over the place, and the air was tainted with a terrible odor of corruption.

The desolation and solitude of the scene overpowered John, and he sat down on a fragment of masonry and wept, unrestrainedly, for some time. He roused himself, at last, as Jonas touched him.

|I shall go down again, and get what grain there is left,| the boy said. |There is no chance of finding anything to eat within a day's march of here. The Roman horse will have destroyed every village within a wide circuit.|

|But I cannot let you go down again, Jonas. The danger is too great.|

|But I have been up and down, lots of times,| Jonas said.

|That may be, Jonas, but you might be dashed to pieces, this time.|

|Well, if you like I will fasten the rope round me; then, if I should slip, I shall be safe.|

John consented with some reluctance, but he was so nervous and shaken that he walked some distance away, and did not turn round until he heard Jonas' footsteps again approaching him.

|Now we can start,| the boy said. |We have got grain here, enough for three days; and tonight we will crush it, and cook it. I have had enough of eating raw grain, for a long time to come.|

The boy's cheerfulness restored the tone of John's nerves and -- making their way with some difficulty over the chaos of stone and timber, until they arrived at the pile of charred timber, which marked the spot where the Roman embankment had stood -- they stepped out briskly, descended the hill, crossed the deserted lines of circumvallation; and then began to ascend the mountains, which had, for some distance, been stripped of their timber for the purposes of the siege. In another hour's walking they reached the forest, and pressed on until the afternoon. Not that there was any need for speed, now, but John felt a longing to place as wide a gap as possible between himself and the great charnel ground which, alone, marked the spot where Jotapata had stood.

At length, Jonas urged the necessity for a halt, for rest and food. They chose a spot at the foot of a great tree, and then set to work to collect a store of firewood. John took out the box of tinder which, in those days, everyone carried about with him, and a fire was soon lighted. Jonas then looked for two large flat stones, and set to work to grind some grain.

The halting place had been chosen from the vicinity of a little spring, which rose a few yards distant. With this the pounded grain was moistened and, after kneading it up, Jonas rolled it in balls and placed them in the hot ashes of the fire. In half an hour they were cooked, and the meal was eaten with something like cheerfulness.

Another day's walking brought them to a little village, nestled in the forest. Here they were kindly received, though the people scarce believed them when they said that they were survivors of the garrison of Jotapata. The news of the capture of the town, and the destruction of its defenders, had already spread through the country; and John now learned, for the first time, the fate which had befallen Japha and the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim -- events which filled him with consternation.

The folly of the tactics which had been pursued -- of cooping all the fighting men up in the walled cities, to be destroyed one after the other by the Romans -- was more than ever apparent. He had never, from the first, been very hopeful of the result of the struggle; but it seemed, now, as if it could end in nothing but the total destruction of the Jewish race of Palestine.

John stayed for two days in the little mountain village and then, with a store of provisions sufficient to last him for some days, pursued his way; following the lines of the Anti-Libanus, until that range of hills joined the range of Mount Hermon, north of the sources of the Jordan.

He had stopped for a day at Dan, high up among the hills. Here the people had no fear of Roman vengeance; for the insurrection had not extended so far north, and the Roman garrison of Caesarea Philippi overawed the plains near the upper waters of the Jordan. Determined, however, to run no unnecessary risks, John and his companion pursued their way on the lower slopes of the hills until, after six days' walking, they arrived at Neve.

Here they learned where the farm of John's kinsman was situated, and made their way thither. As they came up to the house a woman came out, gazed intently at John and, with a scream of terror, ran back into the house. It was one of Martha's maids. John stood irresolute, fearing that his sudden appearance might startle the other inmates when, suddenly, Mary appeared at the door, looking pale but resolute. She, too, gazed fixedly at John; and her lips moved, but no sound came from them.

|Don't you know me, Mary?| John said.

The girl gave a scream of joy, and threw herself into his arms. A moment later Martha, followed by Miriam and the other servants, came out.

|It is no spirit, mother, it is John, himself,| Mary exclaimed and, the next moment, John was clasped in his mother's arms.

It was not surprising that the first who saw John had thought that he was a spirit. The news had already been received that the whole of the garrison of Jotapata had been put to the sword; and John's appearance was changed so greatly, within the last three months, that he would scarce have been known. Fatigue, anxiety, and the loss of blood -- from several wounds which he had received, in the course of the siege -- had so pulled him down that he was but a shadow of his former self. His clothes were in rags. He had washed them at the village where he had first stopped for, before that, they had been stiffened with blood; and even now, stained and ragged as they were, they gave him the appearance of a mendicant.

Jonas had held back a little, while the first joyful greeting was going on, but John soon turned to him.

|Mother,| he said, |this must be as another son to you for, next to the protection of God, it is to him I owe my life.|

Martha welcomed the young stranger affectionately.

|Before you tell us aught that has befallen you, John, go and change your garments, and wash, while we prepare a meal for you. The clothes of your uncle's son Silas, who is about your age, will fit you; and those of his younger brother will do for your friend.|

|Was the last news of my father good?| John asked.

|Yes, the Lord be praised, he was well when we heard of him, a week since!|

The travelers were at once conducted to a room, and supplied with water and clean garments. By the time they had changed, and returned to the general room, John's uncle and cousin had been fetched in from the farm, and he received another hearty welcome.

It almost seemed to him, as he sat down to a comfortable meal, with Mary and his mother waiting upon him, that the events of the past two months had been a hideous dream; and that he had never left his comfortable home on the shore of the Lake of Galilee. As to Jonas, unaccustomed to kind treatment, or to luxury of any kind, he was too confused to utter a word. When the meal was over, John was asked to tell his news; and he related all the stirring incidents of the siege, and the manner in which he and his companion had effected his escape.

|We are, no doubt,| he concluded, |the sole male survivors of the siege.|

|Not so, my son,| Martha said. |There is a report that Josephus has survived the siege; and that he is a prisoner, in the hands of the Romans.|

|It may be that they have spared him, to grace Vespasian's triumph, at Rome,| John said. |It is their custom, I believe, to carry the generals they may take in war to Rome, to be slain there.|

It was not until some time afterwards that John learned the particulars of the capture of Josephus. When he saw that all was lost, Josephus had leaped down the shaft of a dry well, from the bottom of which a long cavern led off, entirely concealed from the sight of those above. Here he found forty of the leading citizens, who had laid in a store of food sufficient to last for many days. Josephus, at least, who gives his account of all these circumstances, says that he quite unexpectedly found these forty citizens in hiding there; but this is improbable in the extreme, and there can be little doubt that he had, long before, prepared this refuge with them, when he found that the people would not allow them to attempt to make their escape from the city.

At night Josephus came up from the well and tried to make his escape but, finding the Romans everywhere vigilant, he returned to the place of concealment. On the third day a woman, who was aware of the hiding place, informed the Romans of it -- probably in return for a promise of freedom, for the Romans were searching high and low for Josephus; who could not, they were convinced, have escaped through their lines. Vespasian immediately sent two tribunes, Paulinus and Gallicanus, to induce him to surrender by promise of his life.

Josephus refused to come out, and Vespasian sent another tribune, Nicanor, a personal friend of Josephus, to assure him of his safety, if he would surrender. In the account Josephus gives of the transaction, he says that at this moment he suddenly remembered a dream -- in which it was revealed to him that all these calamities should fall upon the Jews, that he himself should be saved, and that Vespasian should become emperor -- and that, therefore, if he passed over to the Romans he would do so not as a renegade, but in obedience to the voice of God.

It was certainly a happy coincidence that the dream should have occurred to him, at this moment. He at once announced his readiness to surrender; but his forty companions did not see the matter in the same light. The moment Josephus left them, the Roman soldiers would throw combustibles down the well, and suffocate them, if they did not come out and submit to slaughter.

They urged upon Josephus that he was their leader; that they had all followed his orders, and cast in their lot with his; and that it would be treacherous and base, in the extreme, for him now to save his life by going over to the Romans, when all the inferior people had slain themselves, or had submitted to slaughter, rather than beg their lives of the Romans. Josephus argued with them, at length, but they were not convinced and, drawing their swords, threatened to kill him, if he tried to leave them. They would all die together, they said.

Josephus then proposed that, in order to avoid the sin of suicide, they should draw lots which should kill each other. To this they assented; and they continued to draw lots as to which should slay the other, until only Josephus and one other remained alive.

This is the story that Josephus tells. He was, of course, endeavoring to put his own case in the best light, and to endeavor to prove that he was not -- as the Jews universally regarded him -- a traitor to his country. It need hardly be said that the story is improbable, in the extreme; and that, had any one of the forty men survived and written the history, he would probably have told a very different tale.

The conduct of Josephus, from the first outbreak of the trouble, showed that he was entirely adverse to the rising against the Romans. He himself, having been to Rome, had seen her power and might; and had been received with great favor by Poppaea, the wife of Nero, and had made many friends there. He had, therefore, at the outset, opposed as far as he was able, without going so far as to throw suspicion on his patriotism, the rebellion against the Romans. During the events in Galilee, he had shown himself anxious to keep in favor with the Romans. He had rebuked those who had attacked the soldiers traveling as an escort, with a large amount of treasure belonging to King Agrippa; and would have sent back the spoils taken, had not the people risen against it. He affected great indignation at the plunder of Agrippa's palace at Tiberias and, gathering all he could of the spoils, had handed them over to the care of the chief of Agrippa's friends there. He had protected the two officers of Agrippa, whom the Jews would have killed -- had released and sent them back to the king; and when John of Gischala wished to carry off large quantities of grain, stored by the Romans in Upper Galilee, Josephus refused to allow him to do so, saying that it should be kept for its owners.

It is almost certain that Josephus must, in some way, have entered into communication with the Romans; for how otherwise could he, with the principal inhabitants, have proposed to make their escape, when every avenue was closed? Josephus was a man of great talent and energy, full of resources, and of great personal bravery -- at least, if his own account of his conduct during the siege is to be believed. But no one can read his labored excuses for his own conduct without feeling sure that he had, all along, been in correspondence with the Romans; and that he had, beforehand, been assured that his life should be spared.

He had, from the first, despaired of successful resistance to the Romans; and his conduct in throwing himself, at the last moment, into a town about to be besieged and, as he must have known, captured -- for the want of water, alone, rendered its fall a mere question of time -- when his presence and leadership was so urgently required among the people to whose command he had been appointed, seems to prove that he wished to fall into their hands.

It would not be just to brand Josephus as a traitor. He had done his best to induce the Galileans to form themselves into an army, and to defend the province; and it was only when that army dispersed, at the approach of the Romans, that he went to Jotapata. It was his leadership that enabled that city to continue its heroic defense It cannot, therefore, be said that Josephus in any way betrayed the trust confided to him by the council at Jerusalem. But the conclusion can hardly be avoided that, from the first, foreseeing that utter ruin and destruction would fall upon the Jews, he had set himself to work to prepare a way of pardon and escape, for himself; and that he thought a position of honor, among the Romans, vastly preferable to an unknown grave among the mountains of Galilee.

Upon being taken out of the well, Josephus was taken to Vespasian and, in the presence only of the general, his son Titus, and two other officers, announced that he was endowed with prophetic powers, and that he was commissioned by God to tell Vespasian that he would become emperor, and that he would be succeeded by his son Titus. The prophecy was one that required no more penetration than for any person, in the present day, to predict that the most rising man in a great political party would one day become prime minister. The emperor was hated, and it was morally certain that his fall would not long be delayed; and in that case the most popular general in the Roman army would, almost certainly, be chosen to succeed him.

Vespasian, himself, was not greatly affected by the prophecy. But Josephus declared that he had, all along, predicted the success of the Romans, the fall of the town after forty-six days' siege, and his own safety; and as some of the female captives were brought up and, on Josephus appealing to them whether this was not so, naturally replied in the affirmative, Josephus says that Vespasian was then satisfied of his prisoner's divine mission, and henceforth treated him with great honor.

It is much more easy to believe that an agreement already existed between Vespasian and Josephus; and that the latter only got up this story to enable him to maintain that he was not a traitor to his country, but acting in accordance with the orders of God. Certain it is that no similar act of clemency was shown, by Vespasian, to any other Jew; that no other thought of pity or mercy entered his mind, during the campaign, that he spared no man who fell alive into his hands, and that no more ruthless and wholesale extermination than that which he inflicted upon the people of Palestine was ever carried out, by the most barbarous of conquerors.

To this day, the memory of Josephus is hated among the Jews.

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