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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE DEFEAT OF CESTIUS

ON the same day and hour, as if ordered to do so by an avenging Providence, the Caesareans slaughtered the Jews who resided among them. In one hour over twenty thousand were massacred, and Caesarea was emptied of Jews. The whole Jewish nation rose to avenge this outrage. Separating into bands, they laid waste the neighboring towns and villages of the Syrians, and slaughtered a great number of the inhabitants. The Syrians, on their part, slew all the Jewish inhabitants of their towns that they could capture. He who [347] could display the largest amount of Jewish spoil was the hero of the day. The cities were filled with dead bodies; the whole province was one scene of awful calamities.

So far the Jews had been fighting against aliens, but on making an inroad into Scythopolis they found their brethren who dwelt there in arms against them, ready to assist the Scythopolitans in defence of their city. But the Scythopolitans mistrusted their Jewish allies, and, dreading that they might desert to the enemy in the midst of the attack, they requested the Jews to retire with their families into a grove near by. The Scythopolitans then, watching a good chance, attacked their allies when they were off their guard, and butchered every one of them.

The rest of the Grecian cities followed the example of Scythopolis. In all of them the Jewish inhabitants were either put to the sword or thrown into prison. In Syria, the cities of Antioch, Sidon, and Apamea alone forbade the slaughter or imprisonment of their Jewish inhabitants, while the citizens of Gerusa not only did not harm the Jews among them, but escorted into the frontiers any desirous of withdrawing.

Disturbance arose also in the dominions of Agrippa. The king, having gone to Cestius Gallus, then at Antioch, left a friend of his, called Noarus, in charge of his kingdom. This Noarus was a relation of Sohemus, tetrarch of the district about Lebanon. In the mean time a deputation of seventy leading men arrived from Batanea, requesting a military force, so that in case of any movement they might be able to repress the insurgents. Noarus cruelly put to death the entire embassy, and began to act with such tyranny over the nation that Agrippa soon relieved him of his office.

The insurgents took a fortress, called Cypros, near Jericho, massacred the garrison, and levelled the defences with the ground. At the same time another band of Jews compelled a Roman garrison at Machaerus to surrender, and took possession of the place.

[348] Cestius, thinking it high time to interfere, led out a large army from Antioch, in order to completely crush the insurrection. Agrippa accompanied Cestius, as also did Sohemus, each having supplied him with a number of troops. Cestius first attacked Zabulon, a stronghold in Galilee, which divided the territory of Ptolemais from the Jewish province of Upper Galilee. The inhabitants fled to the mountains, so Cestius sacked and burned the town, and retired to Ptolemais. Some of his Syrian allies, lingering behind to plunder, were attacked by the Jews and routed.

Cestius then advanced on Caesarea. He sent part of his army to attack Joppa. They took it, and slaughtered the inhabitants, also laying waste the surrounding district. Another detachment he sent to Galilee to subjugate that province. The cities there threw open their gates and received the Romans. The insurgents fled to the mountains, where, favored by the ground, they made a gallant resistance, but were finally dispersed. The Roman detachment then returned to Caesarea.

Cestius then, gathering together his forces, proceeded towards Jerusalem, and destroyed the town of Antipatris on his way, and also a fort called Aphek. When the invading army approached Jerusalem, the Jews, who were celebrating the feast of the tabernacle, broke up the festival. Although it was the Sabbath, they rushed upon the enemy with such fury that they at first carried everything before them. And had not the cavalry and a battalion of infantry come quickly to the support of part of the line which still maintained its ground, Cestius and his whole army would have been destroyed. The Jews retreated into their city, but one of their officers, called Simon, attacked the Romans from the rear, as they ascended towards Bethhoron. He killed a good many of the enemy, and captured a number of baggage-mules and led them into the town. Cestius remained quiet for three days, while the Jews kept watch from the hills, awaiting an attack.

[349] At this juncture, Agrippa made a final effort to avert the war. He sent a deputation, offering in the name of Cestius an amnesty for all past offences if the Jews would now lay down their arms. The leading insurgents, fearing lest the whole multitude should accept the proposal, attacked the deputation, and killing one of them, drove the rest away. Such of the people as were indignant at these outrages they assailed with stones and bludgeons and drove into the town.

Cestius, taking advantage of this dissention among the Jews, attacked and routed them, pursuing them to the gates of Jerusalem. For three days he suspended operations, hoping to receive an offer of surrender. On the fourth he led his soldiers against the city. The insurgents, struck with terror, abandoned the outer walls and retired into the inner city and the temple. Cestius took possession of the upper town, and encamped opposite the palace. Had he at that moment forced his way within the ramparts, the city would have fallen and the war ended. But the camp prefect, Tyrannius Priscus, and a party of officers, bribed by Florus to prolong the war, diverted him from the attempt. A number of the leading citizens now invited Cestius to continue the attack, promising to open the gates. But Cestius, partly on account of anger, and partly on account of mistrust, delayed accepting these overtures, until the insurgents, discovering the treason, chased the party of leading men from the ramparts, and stoned them into their houses.

For five days the Romans pressed the assault without success; on the sixth Cestius, at the head of a large body of picked men, made a vigorous attack upon the north side of the temple. The Romans were at first repulsed by the Jews. But they returned, and those in the front rank fixed their shields firmly against the wall; the second rank joined theirs to these; and the succeeding ranks in like manner joined theirs to the rank preceding; forming what they called a shell. From this the darts as they fell glanced off without effect; [350] and the soldiers, uninjured, undermined the wall, and prepared to set fire to the gate of the temple.

A terrible panic now seized the insurgents; and many ran from the town like rats who desert a sinking ship. Encouraged by their flight, the peaceful party began to muster in considerable force in order to admit Cestius as a deliverer. And had he for a short time continued the siege he would undoubtedly have carried the town. But Cestius for some unknown reason suddenly withdrew his troops, and retired from the city. The insurgents at once grew bold again, and, sallying out, cut off a number of stragglers, both horse and foot. On the following day Cestius continued to retreat, and invited still further the attacks of his opponents. They harassed his rear, and, advancing on either side of his route, hurled their javelins upon his flanks. The Romans did not dare to turn and fight, for they thought that countless multitudes were pursuing them. Nor, being heavily armed, did they attempt to beat off those who attacked their flanks, for they were afraid of breaking their lines. The Jews, being lightly armed, dashed in here and there and slaughtered the enemy by hundreds. With difficulty and much loss the Romans reached their former encampment. Here Cestius halted for two days, perplexed as to what course he should pursue. But on the third day, seeing the numbers of the enemy had greatly increased, he decided to retreat. To quicken his flight he commanded the soldiers to throw away everything that might impede their march, and to kill all the beasts of burden, except those that carried the missiles and military engines. The Romans then entered the pass down to Bethhoron. As soon as they were involved in the descent of the defiles, the Jews attacked them from all sides. One party blocked their egress, another drove the rearmost down into the ravine, while the main body poured down showers of missiles from above. The infantry stood wavering, uncertain how to act, while the cavalry were in a still more perilous [351] condition. They could not charge the enemy up the steep mountain-sides; while on either hand were precipices and ravines, which cut off all hope of flight. The hill echoed with the lamentations of the unhappy army and with the war-cries of the Jews. The entire Roman army would have perished had not night come on. Then the Romans took refuge in Bethhoron, while the Jews crowned every hill and guarded every pass.

Cestius now determined to save himself by flight. He selected four hundred of his bravest soldiers and stationed them upon the ramparts, with orders to raise the beacons of the camp-sentinels, so that the Jews might think the entire army on the spot. He then, with the rest of his army, silently retreated about four miles. In the morning the Jews perceived the ruse, rushed upon the four hundred who had deceived them, put them to the sword, and went immediately in pursuit of Cestius.

The Romans pushed forward so rapidly that the Jews were unable to overtake them; but in their flight they abandoned all their military engines, which fell into the hands of the enemy. The Jews continued the pursuit as far as Antipatris, and then, giving up hope of overtaking the fugitives, they secured the military engines, and whatever booty had been left behind, and with songs of triumph returned to their capital. They had hardly suffered any loss, while they slew over five thousand of the Romans and their allies.


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