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

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THE SIEGE (CONTINUED)

[80] NEVERTHELESS it seemed good to Titus to cease from the siege for awhile, that he might give to the Jews a place of repentance, if haply, seeing that the second wall was now taken and that their provision of food also was failing them, they might be inclined to surrender themselves and the City. To this same end he brought all his soldiers under review; who having taken the coverings from their arms and having clad themselves in their breastplates, marched before the walls; and the horsemen also led horses very splendidly arrayed; so that the whole space before the City glittered with gold and silver. And in the City the old wall and the northern part of the Temple and the houses were filled with spectators. Great was the fear of the Jews to behold so great a host and so well equipped; and many of the rebels would willingly have surrendered themselves. But the ringleaders would not; for knowing that they should suffer punishment for their misdeeds, they judged it far better to die in battle; nor did they care if the City should perish with them.

Four days were spent in the distributing to each legion of needful provision; and on the fifth day Titus divided his army into two parts, whereof one was to assail the Tower of Antony and the other the Third Wall (which was called also the Old Wall). But as he would fain have saved the City, he made yet another trial of the Jews, sending to them Josephus, who, standing in [81] a place whence his words could be heard, being yet beyond a javelin throw from the walls, exhorted and entreated them in many words. "Can ye hope;" he said, "two walls having been taken, that the third, which is weaker than they, will hold out? And why do ye disdain the Romans as masters, to whom God hath manifestly given the dominion of the whole world? And now indeed they are willing to have mercy on you, but if ye resist, then of a truth when they shall have taken the City they will spare no one; and that they must needs take it is manifest, seeing that, if their arms prevail not, yet ye must be subdued by hunger."

And when they laughed him to scorn, and some cast javelins at him, he recounted how God had dealt with the nation in past time; giving them many and great deliverances, but these only if they were obedient to His word; and how Zedekiah, king of Judah, when he fought with the Chaldeans against the word of Jeremiah the prophet, was led into captivity, and the City and the Temple of God were destroyed. And that God was with the Romans was manifest, he said, both from many other things and because Siloam and all other springs that are without the City, having been dried up before when the Jews had them in possession, now gave abundance of water. With these and many other like words, Josephus besought the people that they would make agreement with the Romans.

John and Simon, and they that followed after them, paid no heed to these words; but many of the people were moved thereby to escape to the Romans; of whom some sold their goods, and some swallowed their most precious things. Titus permitted them to go whithersoever they would; but the chiefs of the rebels were very fierce against all who would fly from the City, and [82] slew those whom they so much as suspected of this purpose.

And now the famine grew more and more grievous every day. Of public stores there was nothing; but the soldiers would enter the houses to search for food; which if they found they would scourge them that dwelt there as having sought to conceal it, and if they found nought, then they would torture them the more cruelly as if they would discover it. Indeed they judged from men's look whether or no they had food; and such as were in good case they judged to have abundance, and such as were wasted to have nothing. Many sold their goods for a peck of wheat, or if they were poor, even of barley. This they would carry into the inner part of their dwelling, and for stress of hunger would eat the corn unground. And they took no heed of shame or natural affection; but wives would snatch the food from their husbands, and children from their parents, aye, and mothers from their babes. Nor were they suffered to devour in peace what they got in this evil fashion; but if the soldiers saw anywhere a house shut up they concluded that food was hidden therein, and entering in spared neither old nor young, woman or child, compelling them by cruelties and torments to deliver up all that they possessed. And this they did, not under stress of hunger, but that they might store up for themselves food for many days. And if any crept out secretly at night without the walls to gather herbs of the field, or such-like things, on these they would lay hands as they came back, and take from them all that they had found; not suffering them, for all their entreaties, to keep ought for themselves. But when Titus perceived that the number of them that came out of the City seeking for food daily increased, he commanded [83] that such as were taken so doing should be crucified before the walls. For to let them go free he judged to be dangerous; nor was he willing to keep a great multitude of captives. And, besides, he had hopes that the sight of them would incline them that were within the City to surrender themselves. But as they paid no heed to it, he bade the soldiers proceed with the siege-works.

Meanwhile there came into the camp of the Romans a certain Antiochus Epiphanes, son to the King of Commagene, than whom there was in those days no tributary of the Empire more prosperous. This young man had with him a company of noble youths, whom he called his Macedonians, being clad and armed in the fashion of that nation. And the young man, who was of great courage and strength, wondered, he said, that the Romans delayed to attack the wall. Which when Titus heard, he laughed, and said, "Ye can have your share;" whereupon the young man, with his comrades, as they were, made an attack upon the wall.

But though Antiochus himself was not hurt, yet all the youths that were with him, save a very few only, were wounded or slain; for they persevered to the last, remembering how they had boasted of what they could do.

And now there had been raised four banks against the wall of the City, four legions having laboured at them for the space of seventeen days. But John and his men had undermined the whole space that lay between the Tower of Antony and the banks, and having stored therein pitch and sulphur and such-like things, set fire to them, so that the timbers whereupon the earth was supported being burnt through, all the works fell in; not without great dismay and discouragement to the Romans.

[84] Two days after this, Simon made, upon his part, an attack upon the battering rams. Certain men, being the bravest of all his company, taking torches in their hands, set fire to the rams, nor would they suffer themselves to be driven back by all the swords and darts of the Romans till the engines began to burn. And when the soldiers ran together to quench the fire, the Jews upon the wall hindered them with darts, and others ran forth from the gates and fought with them. The Romans, indeed, sought to carry away the rams, though the coverings were consumed, but the Jews would not loose their hold, for all that the iron was now heated red-hot. And now the Romans, having no hope that they could save the artillery, fell back into the camp; whither also the Jews pursued them, for multitudes came forth from the City continually to help them, so that they joined battle even with them that guarded the fortifications of the camp. Now, the Romans have a law whereby they punish with death any man that deserteth his post, wherefore the guards fought the more steadfastly. Yet for all this could they not turn back the Jews, so fiercely did they come on. Yea, even when Titus himself came up with a company of soldiers, they turned upon him and fought as men who had no care for their lives; and at last, having caused great damage and loss to the Romans, they returned to the City.


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A COUNCIL OF WAR.


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