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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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[418] THE whole number of fighting-men and insurgents in the city of Jerusalem was as follows: Simon had under him ten thousand men, not counting his allies, the Idumeans, who numbered five thousand. John, now that he was joined by Eleazar and his party, was in command of a force of eight thousand two hundred men-at-arms. Had these forces been united from the start, and had they, instead of turning their attention to mutual slaughter, turned it to preparing the city for defence, they might long have kept the Romans at bay.

It was not long before they relapsed into their former quarrels, and continued in the work of destroying one another, much to the satisfaction of the besiegers. While affairs within the city were in this condition, Titus, with a detachment of horse, rode round the wall, to see where he could best make his attack. He determined to assault the town at a point opposite a monument erected to the memory of John, a former high-priest. For here the outer wall was lower, and there was easy access to the two inner walls, for they were not as well fortified as at other portions of the town. While Titus was riding around, one of his friends, called Nicanor, who had approached near to the walls with Josephus, was wounded by an arrow as he was addressing some of the Jews upon the ramparts upon the subject of peace.

Titus was very angry at this, and commenced at once to prosecute the siege with vigor. He gave the legions permission to lay waste the suburbs, and ordered them to collect the [419] timber together for the building of mounds. Dividing his army into three divisions for the works, he put the javelin-men and archers between the mounds. In front of these he placed the military engines, so as to check with them the sallies of the enemy and all attempts to impede the building of the mounds from the ramparts.

Though his partisans were burning with impatience to be led against the enemy outside the walls, John, through fear of Simon, remained quietly in the temple. Simon, however, as he lay nearer the scene of attack, was not inactive. He placed those engines upon the ramparts which had formerly been taken from Cestius, and those also which had been captured from the garrison of the Antonia. These, however, did but little damage, for the Jews did not know well how to work them. However, his men assailed from the wall, with stones and arrows, the soldiers employed in raising the mounds, and, rushing out in parties, engaged them in hand-to-hand combat. The workmen were protected from the arrows of the Jews by wicker-work hurdles, while the military engines defended them against the sallies of the besieged.

All the engines constructed by the Romans were possessed of great force, but those belonging to the tenth legion were the most powerful. From their position up on the Mount of Olives, at a distance of about a quarter of a mile, they hurled missiles and tremendous stones with terrific force over the ramparts. The Jews set men to watch the huge rocks which came thundering down upon their heads, for they could be seen coming by their shining whiteness. These watchmen, when they saw the stone discharged, would call out, "The bolt is coming;" on which they all bowed their heads and the stone fell harmless. It then occurred to the Romans to blacken it, by which means, as it could no longer be easily seen, they swept down many at a single discharge.

When the mounds were completed, the battering-rams were brought up, and the engines were moved closer to the walls, [420] so as to protect those working the rams. Suddenly, at three different quarters, they began their thundering work, and a tremendous noise echoed round the city. A cry was raised by those within, and the factions themselves were seized with alarm. Seeing that they were exposed to a common danger, both now turned their thoughts to a common defence. The two parties cried aloud to each other that they must for the present at least stop fighting with each other, and unite in arms against the Romans.

Simon proclaimed an amnesty to all John's followers who wished to come out from the temple and man the wall. John, though still suspicious, did not oppose their going, and the two parties, burying their private differences, fought side by side. They threw showers of torches against the machines and assailed the men who worked upon the rams. The more courageous dashed out in bands, tore the hurdles from the engines, and fell upon those who fired them off.

Titus always came up in person to succor those who were hard pressed. He placed the horsemen and archers on either side of the engines, and repelled the Jews as they attempted to set them on fire. He drove back others who sallied from the towers, and so made the storming-engines effective. The wall, however, did not yield to the strokes, save that one battering-ram knocked down the corner of a tower.

The Jews paused for a while in their sallies, but watched their opportunity; and when the Romans, who thought the Jews had paused through fear and fatigue, were dispersed about the works and off guard, they suddenly poured forth with their whole force. They carried fire to burn the works, and were bent on advancing to the very intrenchments of the Romans. The besiegers gathered hastily, but the daring valor of the Jews at first prevailed over the discipline of their enemies. The Romans, however, quickly rallied, and a terrible conflict ensued around the engines, one party striving to set them on fire, the other to prevent them.

[421] The Jews fought with such desperate valor that they were gaining the victory, and would soon have succeeded in burning the works and engines had not a body of picked troops from Alexandria made a determined stand and bravely held their ground. This gave Titus, at the head of his cavalry, time to rush to their assistance. Titus with his own hand slew twelve of the foremost Jews,; the remainder gave way in alarm, and were driven into the city.

One of the Jews was taken prisoner in this engagement, and Titus had him crucified before the wall, hoping that the rest would be so terrified by the spectacle that they would be led to surrender. After the retreat, John, the general of the Idumeans, while talking with a soldier in front of the ramparts, was shot in the breast by an arrow, and instantly expired. His death was greatly mourned by the Jews, for he was a man of great bravery and distinguished for ability and resolution.

That night, when the tired Roman soldiers had gone to rest, they were suddenly wakened up by a crash. Titus had ordered three towers to be built upon the several mounds, in order that from them they might fight the Jews upon the ramparts. One of these fell of its own accord in the middle of the night. It made a tremendous noise, and threw the soldiers for a time into panic. But Titus, having learned what had happened, gave orders that the news should be generally spread, and thus allayed the alarm.

The archers and slingers that were placed in the towers did great damage to the Jews, while they themselves, on account of the height of the towers, were perfectly safe. Nor could the Jews overthrow these towers, on account of their weight, or set fire to them, because they were plated with iron. If they withdrew beyond the range of the missiles, they could not impede the strokes of the battering-rams, which, by their continual strokes, were gradually taking effect. At length the wall began to totter before the strokes of a tremendous [422] ram, which the Jews themselves named the Conqueror. Worn out with fatigue and grown somewhat careless, the Jews abandoned their posts and retreated to the second wall,—for Jerusalem was surrounded by three walls,—and there took up their positions.

The Romans laid a great part of the outer wall in ruins, and took up a position before the second wall just out of range of the missiles, and from there carried on their attacks. The Jews, dividing their forces, made a vigorous defence from the wall; John and his party defending the Antonia and the northern cloister of the temple, while Simon guarded the rest of the wall, as far as a gate through which an aqueduct passed to a tower called Hippicus.

The Jews made continual sallies, and though beaten in these, and driven back by the superior discipline of the Romans, still, in their contests from the walls, they gained a decided advantage. Both parties passed the night in arms, the Jews because they feared to leave the wall defenceless, the Romans because they dreaded a sudden attack. Thus both parties were ready for battle at the break of day.

The defenders fought with the greatest bravery, and rivalled each other in daring deeds. Simon inspired his men with such awe and reverence that they were ready to die by their own hands at his command. The Romans, on the other hand, were incited to valor by the remembrance of all their former victories, by pride in the vastness of their empire, and, above all, by Titus, who was everywhere present, and always ready to reward a display of valor.

Upon one occasion while the Jews were forming for a sally, Longinus, a Roman cavalry soldier, rushed single-handed against them and dashed into their midst. The Jewish ranks were broken by his charge, and two of their bravest fell beneath his arm. He then retreated in triumph to his own party, out of the midst of his foes. So much praise did he gain for his valor that many were led to imitate his example.

[423] The Jews were entirely reckless of life if they could only involve an enemy in their fall. Before long the Romans began to thunder with their great ram against the central tower of the second wall. The defenders all fled, except a crafty Jew by the name of Castor, with ten others. For some time these men remained quiet, crouched beneath the breast-works; but when the tower began to totter they rose up, and Castor stretched his hands out to Titus and implored his mercy in a piteous voice. Titus, hoping that the Jews were beginning to repent, stopped the playing of the ram, forbade the archers to shoot at the suppliants, and bade Castor speak and acquaint him with his wishes. The Jew replied that he wished to come down under promise of protection. Titus answered that he was ready to give protection to the whole city if it would surrender. Five of the ten Jews joined in the pretended supplication; the others cried out that they would never be vassals of the Romans as long as they could die free. A fierce dispute seemed to arise, during which the assault was suspended.

Meanwhile, Castor sent word to Simon to arrange his plans for defence, as he would keep the Roman general at play for some time longer. All the time he seemed to be urging the unwilling five to accept the offered pledge. They, as if moved with indignation, brandished their swords above the battlements, and, striking their breastplates, fell down as if slain. The Romans, who could not see very clearly from below, were amazed at the courage of the men, and even pitied their fate.

During the parley Castor was wounded on the nose by an arrow, which he drew out and showed to Titus, complaining of unjust treatment. The general sternly rebuked the archer, and directed Josephus, who was standing beside him, to go forward and offer Castor protection. But Josephus wisely declined to go. Aeneas, a deserter, however, said that he would go. Castor called to him to come near and catch [424] some money which he wished to throw down. Aeneas opened the folds of his robe to receive it, and eagerly ran forward; but Castor threw a big stone at him , which Aeneas dodged, and it wounded a soldier nearby.

Titus, seeing through the trick, made up his mind to show no more mercy to the Jews, and, angry at being duped, ordered the engines to be worked more vigorously than ever. The tower giving way, Castor and his companions set fire to it, and plunged through the flames into a vault beneath, inspiring the Romans, who thought they had jumped into the fire, with a high idea of their courage.

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