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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE ROMANS MAKE AN ASSAULT UPON THE ANTONIA

THE Romans went steadily on building the mounds, and finished them in twenty-one days. They stripped the whole district for nearly eleven miles around of its trees, so that the formerly beautiful suburbs of the city looked like a wilderness. Where before there had been parks of trees and beautiful pleasure-grounds, now all was desolate and waste; nor would a stranger, who had known the place in all its former beauty, now have ever recognized it.

The new mounds caused anxiety to both the Romans and the Jews. For the Jews were afraid that they would not be able to destroy them, and so that the city would surely be taken; while the Romans feared that should these mounds also be destroyed, they would have to give up hopes of ever taking Jerusalem. They were also depressed because the Jews had not already sunk beneath the weight of the awful calamities that had overtaken them.

Before the rams were brought up, John and his party made a descent from the Antonia and tried to destroy the Roman works. But the attempt was not successful, and the Jews were driven back before they had reached the mounds. For they rushed out in small parties in a helter-skelter sort of [436] manner, without united design, and so were easily repulsed by the well-trained Roman guards. These stood firmly by their posts, knowing that all their hopes would be cut off should the works be burned; besides, they felt ashamed that Jewish artifice should prove superior to their valor, and Jewish desperation to Roman skill and arms.

The Roman engines at the same time greatly aided the soldiers, for their missiles killed numbers of the sallying parties. Each Jew as he fell blocked up the way for the man in the rear, so that the danger of advancing chilled the ardor of the Jews. Many who ran up within range of the missiles became frightened when they beheld the perfect order and firm array of the Romans, and turned round and fled before they came to close quarters. Others rushed on, but were repulsed by the guards, so that before long the Jews retreated to the Antonia, and gave up the attack.

Upon the retreat of the Jews the Romans brought up the storming-towers, though they were assailed from the Antonia with stones, fire, iron, and every kind of missile which the Jews could pick up and hurl at the besiegers. Soon the engines began to thunder against the Antonia; but, though the Romans worked their largest ram, the wall seemed to resist firmly every shock.

The Romans locked their shields over their heads, and set to work with hands and crow-bars to undermine the foundation, and at length succeeded in getting out four large stones. Night put an end to the conflict. But while the soldiers were at rest the wall suddenly fell in with a terrific crash, for it had been shaken by the rams in that part which John had undermined when he had destroyed the former mounds. The ground above the mine, beneath which john had dug, suddenly cave in, and so the wall gave way.

But in the morning, when the Romans rushed to the breach, their ardor and joy were dampened by seeing still another wall, which John had built inside. However, this wall appeared [437] much weaker than that of the Antonia, and the Romans thought that it could be easily destroyed. Still, none ventured to mount it, for death surely awaited those who should first make the attempt.

Titus drew the bravest of his troops around him and exhorted them to make the attack, promising large rewards to the man who should lead the assault. Still the soldiers hesitated, knowing only too well the danger of the attempt. At length a soldier named Sabinus, a Syrian by birth, offered to scale the wall. Sabinus was distinguished by his bravery and strength, although he was withered and very thin. Any one looking at him would have thought him unfit to be a soldier, but in his small body there dwelt a heroic soul. He arose and said to Titus,—

"I cheerfully devote myself to you, Caesar. I will be the first to scale the wall, and if I die in the attempt, know that for your sake I willingly give up my life."

Having thus spoken, he lifted his high shield, drew his sword, and advanced towards the wall. Only eleven men had the courage to follow him. The Jews hurled their darts at them from the ramparts, pouring at the same time showers of missiles from all quarters, and rolling down vast stones, which overthrew some of the eleven. But Sabinus still marched boldly on, far in advance of his comrades, and paused not in his onset until he had gained the summit of the wall and routed the enemy; for the Jews, panic-stricken at his boldness, and thinking that more had followed him, took to flight.

But in the very moment of his triumph Sabinus slipped upon a stone, and fell headlong over it with a loud crash. The Jews turned, and, seeing Sabinus alone and prostrate, assailed him on all sides. Rising upon his knee, he made a gallant defence and wounded many of the enemy, but at length, overpowered by numbers, he fell, pierced by a thousand wounds. Three of his comrades were crushed by the [438] stones and slain. The rest were carried back, wounded, to the camp.

Two days after, twenty of the guards stationed upon one of the mounds, together with a standard-bearer, a trumpeter, and two horsemen, crept silently through the breach during the dead of night. They scaled the wall, slew the sentinels as they slept, and then ordered the trumpeter to sound his horn. On this the other guards started up from their sleep, and fled before any one had taken note of the numbers of the enemy. For the panic, and the peal of the trumpet, led them to suppose that the Romans had mounted in great force. When Titus heard the trumpet he immediately ordered the troops to arms, and, with his body of picked men, was the first to mount the ramparts. The Jews fled in dismay to the temple.

John and Simon united their forces, and made a desperate defence at the entrance to the temple. For they thought all would be lost should the Romans enter the holy place. A fierce battle took place; the Romans pressing in to get possession of the temple, the Jews thrusting them back to the Antonia. Missiles and spears were alike useless to both parties. Drawing their swords, they engaged in a hand-to-hand combat, and so closely and fiercely did they fight that the troops of both parties got mixed up with each other, so that it was hard to tell on which side they were fighting.

At length, after fighting for ten hours, the Jews, who fought with the greatest fury and desperation, succeeded in driving back the Romans. They had the advantage in numbers, besides; for as yet only a portion of the Roman army had come up to the attack. And so for the present the Romans were satisfied with the possession of the Antonia.

But while the Romans were slowly retreating into the Antonia, a Bithynian centurion, called Julian, a man distinguished for his strength and valor, sprang forward, and singly drove back the Jews to the corner of the inner temple. The multitude [439] fled in crowds before him, thinking his strength and courage something more than human. Julian dashed through the scattered ranks, and slew all who came in his way. But, unfortunately for him, his shoes were thickly studded with pointed nails; he slipped upon the pavement as he was rushing along, and fell upon his back with a loud noise. The clanging of his armor upon the pavement caused the Jews to look back, and seeing his plight, they rushed upon him. The Romans upon the Antonia raised a loud shout as they saw the valiant Julian surrounded by his enemies, but none of them ventured to his assistance.

The Jews attacked him with swords and spears, and thrust him back when he attempted to rise. Yet even upon his back the brave man defended himself gallantly, and wounded many of his enemies with his sword. At length, however, he was hacked to pieces, and the Jews dragged the body into the temple, and again repulsing the Romans, they shut them up in the Antonia.


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