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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
Table of Contents




AT the court of Tiberius in Rome there was a young son of Aristobulus, the prince who had been murdered by the first Herod, called Agrippa. This Agrippa was a very dear friend to the young Caius, grand-nephew of Tiberius. On one occasion, while he was riding with Caius, he expressed to him a hope that ere long he should see him master of the empire when Tiberius should be no more. This speech was overheard by a servant, and repeated to Tiberius, who became so angry that he threw Agrippa into prison, where he remained for six months. At the end of this time Tiberius died, and was succeeded by Caius, who immediately released his friend, and made him king of the tetrarchy left vacant by the death of Philip. Herod Antipas became very jealous because Agrippa [331] had been made a king, while he himself was only a tetrarch. So he set sail for Rome, in order that he might persuade Caesar also to make him a king. But when Herod arrived in Rome, Caius, on account of some charges made against him by Agrippa, banished him to Spain, and, taking away his territory, bestowed it upon Agrippa.

Caius, who was also called Caligula, now began to grow very conceited indeed, so that he imagined himself a god, and wished to be worshipped everywhere as such. He accordingly sent Petronius with a large army to Jerusalem to place his statues in the temple, and gave him orders that should the Jews refuse to admit them, he should put all that opposed him to the sword, and enslave the rest of the nation. When Petronius had come with his army to Ptolemais, a maritime town on the confines of Galilee, the Jews assembled in crowds in a plain near by, and, coming to Petronius, they besought him to respect the laws of their country. Petronius parleyed with the Jews, and, leaving his army and the images of the emperor at Ptolemais, he went farther on into Galilee, and called together an assemblage of the Jews at Tiberias. He tried to persuade them that their request was unreasonable, for all the other subject nations had yielded to the commands of Caesar and placed his images among their gods, so that their opposing this was little less than a rebellion. Besides, he insisted that he must fulfil the commands of his master. The Jews, on the other hand, replied that their law forbade them to allow an image of God, much less of men, not only in their temple, but even in any place throughout their country; and they declared that they were prepared to suffer and die rather than their law should be infringed.

Petronius shrank from carrying out the awful commands of the emperor. And he was indeed so struck by the fidelity of the Jews to their religion, that after trying in vain to persuade them to accede to Caesar's commands, he resolved to risk the anger of the emperor rather than deluge the [332] country with blood. This noble man therefore called the Jews together, and said to them that he would try and dissuade Caesar from carrying out his plan, or, if he failed, he would sacrifice his own life rather than destroy the lives of so many people. He then dismissed the multitude, who invoked many blessings on him, and withdrew to Antioch. From thence he wrote to Caesar, acquainting him with the facts of his expedition in to Judea, and said that unless the emperor was prepared to destroy both the country and its inhabitants, it behooved him to forego his orders and allow them to observe their law. To this letter Caius returned an angry answer, threatening Petronius with death for being so tardy in executing his commands. It so happened, however, that the messengers carrying these despatches were detained by stormy weather, while others announcing the death of Caesar had a favorable voyage. So the good Petronius was not put to death, and did not get the letter of Caius until nearly a month after he had been informed of that wicked emperor's death.

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