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The Story of the Last Days of Jerusalem by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

THE SIEGE

[74] WHEN Titus had ordered the camps for his army, he rode round the walls with chosen horsemen, looking for a place where he might assail them. And it befell that while he did this, one of his friends, Nicanor by name, was wounded by an arrow in the left shoulder. For he had gone near to the wall, and Josephus with him, thinking that being known to the people, he might incline their minds to peace. But Titus, when he knew this, made no more delay. For, dividing his army into three portions for the carrying on of the siege, he set slingers and archers on the banks which he had caused to be made, and behind the slingers his engines and artillery, to hinder such as would sally forth from the City against the siege-works. But the Jews on their part bestirred themselves. John, indeed, for fear of Simon, left not his place; but Simon set his machines of war upon the wall, both those which he had taken from Cestius, and those which he had got from the Tower of Antony. But his men for want of knowledge could not rightly use them; nevertheless, they somewhat troubled such as stood upon the banks. But the Romans, on the other hand, were defended by penthouses of wicker-work, and used their artillery to good purpose; the tenth legion having catapults and such-like machines of especial strength, so that they overthrew not only those that sallied from the gate, but also such as stood upon the walls, for they cast stones of a [75] talent in weight, and cast them also two furlongs' space and more. At the first indeed the Jews were able to save themselves, because the stones were white and could be seen beforehand, by reason of their brightness. For men sat on the towers and watched, and cried out, when they saw the stone, IT COMETH, in the Hebrew tongue. Whereupon, they against whom it was sent would scatter themselves, and cast themselves on the ground, and the stone would fall harmless. But the Romans perceiving this, blackened the stones, so that they could not be seen beforehand. After this one stone would kill many men. For all this the Jews lost not heart, but day and night used both craft and valour to keep the Romans from the walls.

After this, Titus, perceiving that the battering rams could now be used against the wall—for the space between the banks and the wall had been measured by lead and line—commanded that they should be brought up; and at the same time he caused that his catapults should be brought nearer. Then the rams began to batter in three places. Which when they that were within perceived, seeing in what great peril they stood, they agreed to cease from their strife and make alliance against the enemy. Then Simon made proclamation that whosoever would might come forth from the Temple to the wall, and John, though he trusted him not, did not hinder any from going. Then did all the men of war join together, throwing lighted torches on to the machines, and casting darts without ceasing against them that served them; and some of the bolder sort sallied forth in companies, and tare down the penthouses with which the machines were covered. But Titus never ceased to help his men in their need, setting horsemen and archers on either side the machines to defend [76] them, and driving back the darts thrown from the walls. Nevertheless the wall yielded not; only that the ram of the fifteenth legion brake down a corner of one of the towers; but the wall was not broken.

Then for a space the Jews ceased from their attacks; but when they saw that the Romans were somewhat scattered, the whole company of them sallied out together by the Tower Hippicos, seeking to set fire to the machines. Nay, so fiercely did they come on, that they reached even to the ramparts of the camp, nor could the Romans for all their good order stand against them. About the machines, indeed, the battle waxed very hot, and many were slain on both sides; and, indeed, the machines had been burnt, but for the valour of certain men of Alexandria, who bare themselves bravely beyond all expectation, standing fast till Titus came up with the most valiant of his horsemen. And Titus behaved himself most valiantly, slaying twelve men with his own hand. At the last all were driven back into the City, one man being taken captive, whom Titus commanded to be crucified for a terror to his countrymen.

This day, John, the captain of the Idumæans, was slain by an Arabian archer while he talked with a Roman of his acquaintance. Great lamentation was made for him, for he was a brave man and of a singular prudence.

Now, the Romans had built five towers, whereof the height was fifty cubits, on each bank a tower. By these the Jews were much harassed, for artillery of the lighter sort was set on them, together with slingers and archers. And they could not reach the top of the towers with arrows and the like by reason of their height; neither could they take them, nor overthrow them, so heavy were they (though, indeed, one fell, [77] causing great fear among the Romans), nor burn them with fire, seeing that they were defended with iron. And if they sought to withdraw beyond the reach of the stones and darts, then they could not hinder the working of the rams, which, battering the wall without ceasing, began to make a breach. The biggest of these rams the Jews called THE CONQUEROR, because it conquered all things; and when this brake down the wall, and the Jews were wearied with fighting and watching, and considered also that there yet remained two walls, if this should be taken, they fled to the second wall. Then certain Romans climbing by the breach which The Conqueror  had made, opened the gates. This happened on the fifteenth day from the beginning of the siege.

After this, Titus brought his camp within the first wall, and made preparation for attacking the second. And the Jews, on the other hand, were very zealous in defending it; and John defended the Tower of Antony and the north cloister of the Temple, and Simon defended what remained of the City. Many valiant deeds were done on both sides, of which may be mentioned those of Longinus, a Roman, and Castor, a Jew.

This Longinus was a knight, who, running forth from the host of the Romans, threw himself upon the Jews, breaking their line and slaying two of them. One he smote in the face, and the other he ran through as he fled, and both with the same spear. And when he had done this he came back to his friends unhurt.

As for Castor, he came forth, while the rams were battering the middle tower of the north wall, and stretching out his hands to Titus begged for grace. And Titus, believing him, for he hoped that the Jews were now weary of the siege, commanded that the rams should cease from their battering, and that the archers should [78] stay their shooting. And he bade Castor say what he would have. Then said Castor, that he would fain give himself up to the Romans. And five of his companions seemed to agree with him (for he had ten men with him), but five affirmed that they would never serve the Romans. But while they disputed the siege was stayed; and of this Castor had sent warning to Simon bidding him see to such things as were urgent, for that he would deceive the Romans. Then he made as if he would persuade the others to yield, but they, with much show of indignation, were ready to slay themselves. And it so chanced that Castor was wounded in the nose by an arrow; whereupon he held out the arrow to Titus and made complaint. Then Titus rebuked the archer and bade Josephus draw near and give his hand to the man. But Josephus would not, knowing that the man meant nothing honest, and suffered not his friends to approach. Nevertheless a certain Æneas, a deserter, came near, and Castor cast a great stone at him, which hurt not Æneas, indeed, for he saw it as it came, but wounded a soldier that stood by. And when Titus saw that there was treachery, he commanded that the rams should begin their battering again. Then Castor and his companions set fire to the tower—for it was now sorely shaken—and made as if they leapt into the fire, for they, appeared to the Romans so to do, but in truth they leapt into a secret way which was ready prepared for them.

In the space of five days from the taking of the first wall, Titus took the second also. And if indeed he had thrown down the greater part of it or had destroyed that part of the City which lay between the two walls, he had suffered no damage. But this he did not, hoping that the Jews, when they saw his moderation, would be [79] the more inclined to yield themselves to him. Therefore he gave commandment that the prisoners should not be slain, nor the houses burnt; for he would gladly have preserved the City for himself, and the Temple for the City. But the men of war would not so much as endure a word concerning peace, but sallied forth from the lanes of the City and from the houses, and set on the Romans that were come within the wall. And because they were more in number, and also knew the place, they did them much damage; and though these stood firm—and indeed they could not flee by reason of the narrowness of the gates—they were in great straits, and this the more because the men in the towers had fled; and they had doubtless perished all of them but that Titus came to their help: who, setting archers at the lanes' ends, kept back the Jews till he had drawn all his soldiers outside of the wall.

The Jews. took heart when they saw the Romans driven back, thinking that these would not dare to attack them again, and that their City should never be taken; for God blinded their eyes by reason of their sins, so that they thought not how that the Romans had a host many times greater than that which they had driven back, nor remembered that famine also was coming before them. For three days they fought steadfastly against the Romans, filling the breaches in the wall with their bodies; but after this they gave place, and fled within the third wall; and Titus, having taken possession of the second wall, cast down that part which looked to the north; as for the southern part, he set guards in the towers, and so addressed himself to the taking of the third wall.


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