THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM
THE new emperor, Vitellius, was not cruel like
Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, nor imbecile like
Claudius, nor a victim of his favorites like Galba; but
he had a fault that was as disastrous as any. This was
gluttony. He is said to have been so greedy that even
now, over eighteen hundred years after he died, his name
is still used as a byword.
 All his thoughts were about eating and drinking. He
lived in great luxury at home; but he often invited
himself out to dinner, breakfast, or supper, at the
house of one of his courtiers, where he expected to be
treated to the most exquisite viands.
Such was his love of eating, it is said, that when he
had finished one good meal, he would take an emetic, so
that he might begin at once on the next; and thus he
was able to enjoy four dinners a day instead of one.
This disgusting gluttony became so well know that many
Romans made up their minds not to obey any longer a man
whose habits were those of the meanest animals.
They therefore determined to select as emperor the
general Vespasian, who had won many victories during
the reigns of Claudius, Nero, Galba, and Otho, and who
was now besieging Jerusalem. In obedience to the
soldiers' wishes Vespasian left his son Titus to
finish the siege, and sent an army toward Rome, which
met and defeated the forces of Vitellius.
The greedy emperor cared little for the imperial title,
and now offered to give it up, on condition that he
should be allowed a sum of money large enough to enable
him to end his life in luxury. When this was refused
him, he made a feeble effort to defend himself in Rome.
Vespasian's army, however, soon forced its way into the
city. Vitellius tried first to flee, and then to hide;
but he was soon found and killed by the soldiers, who
dragged his body through the streets, and then flung
it into the Tiber.
The senate now confirmed the army's choice, and
Vespasian became emperor of Rome. Although he had been
wild in his youth, Vespasian now gave the best example
 to his people; for he spent all his time in thinking of
their welfare, and in trying to improve Rome. He also
began to build the Coliseum, the immense circus
whose ruins can still be seen, and where there were
seats for more than one hundred thousand spectators.
While Vespasian was thus occupied at home, his son
Titus had taken command of the army which was besieging
the city of Jerusalem. As the prophets had foretold,
these were terrible times for the Jews. There were
famines and earthquakes, and strange signs were seen in
In spite of all these signs, Titus battered down the
heavy walls, scaled the ramparts, and finally took the
city, where famine and pestilence now reigned. The
Roman soldiers robbed the houses, and then set fire to
them. The flames thus started soon reached the
beautiful temple built by Herod, and in spite of all
that Titus could do to save it, this great building was
burned to the ground.
Amid the lamentations of the Jews, the walls of the
 were razed and the site plowed; and soon, as Christ had
foretold, not one stone remained upon another. Nearly
one million Jews are said to have perished during this
awful siege, and the Romans led away one hundred
On his return to Rome, Titus was honored by a triumph.
The books of the law and the famous golden candlestick,
which had been in the temple at Jerusalem, were
carried as trophies in the procession. The Romans
also commemorated their victory by erecting the Arch of
Titus, which is still standing. The carving on this
arch represents the Roman soldiers carrying the booty,
and you will see there a picture of the seven-branched
candlestick which they brought home.
Vespasian reigned ten years and was beloved by all his
subjects. He was taken ill at his country house, and
died there. Even when the end was near, and he was too
weak to stand, he bade his attendants help him to his
feet, saying, "An emperor should die standing."