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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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JOHN OF GISCHALA

[352] AFTER the defeat of Cestius many distinguished Jews abandoned the city, fearing the vengeance of Rome, among them Costobarus and Saul, two brothers related to the Herodian family, who with a party took refuge with Cestius. At their request Cestius sent them to Nero, who was in Achaia, and requested them to throw the blame of the war upon Florus. For he hoped by blaming Florus to escape the anger of the emperor.

In the mean time, the insurgents called a general assembly in the temple, and appointed generals for the war. Joseph, the son of Gorion, and Ananus were given the supreme authority in the city. Eleazar, the son of Simon, was passed over, because he was suspected of aiming at kingly power. But in a short time, as he held control of much of the public treasure and the spoils taken from the Romans, the real authority fell into his hands. They sent out generals to command in the different districts; among them Josephus, the historian, was sent to command in Galilee. He ruled his district very wisely, and made it his object to promote union among the inhabitants, and to organize the whole country on one regular system. He fortified all the defensible places, and raised an army of one hundred thousand men, among whom he introduced the Roman discipline.

And now a certain native of Gischala, called John, who was very desirous of getting all the power in his own hands and of supplanting Josephus in the command of Galilee, [353] began to create a great deal of disturbance. He collected together a band of four hundred lawless men, and with them he ravaged Galilee. Josephus was at first much taken with the man’s dash and energy, and at his own request allowed him to repair the fortifications of his native city,—an undertaking in which he enriched himself at the expense of the opulent. After this, John received Josephus’s permission to furnish oil to the Jews living in Syria; for they would not use the oil made by the heathens. As the crafty John bought the oil cheap and sold it to the foreign Jews for a very high price, he soon made a very handsome fortune. Provided with ample wealth, he now attempted to overthrow Josephus in order that he might be made general in his stead. He circulated reports that Josephus was about to betray the state to the Romans, and tried in every way to ruin the governor.

It happened that some youths took it into their heads to lie in wait for the steward of King Agrippa as he passed through Galilee. They caught him in an ambush and plundered him of all his baggage, which contained some valuable treasures he was bringing to the king. Unable to dispose secretly of the booty, the robbers brought the whole to Josephus, who was then at Taricheć. Josephus reproved them for the robbery, and put the plunder in charge of one of the magistrates of Taricheć, to be restored to Agrippa as soon as possible. The robbers became very angry at this, and went about accusing the governor of being in league with Agrippa, and stirring up an insurrection against him.

A great multitude, secretly put up to it by the crafty John, and aided by the governor of Tiberias, assembled in the Hippodrome at Taricheć and denounced Josephus,—some crying out to stone, others to burn the traitor. With this intent they surrounded the governor’s house, and attempted to set fire to it. The friends and guards of Josephus, frightened at the tumult, all ran away except four. Josephus started up from his sleep, and was exhorted by the four to make good his [354] escape; but he rent his robes, and, with dust upon his head, went out to face the tumult. Some of the crowd were moved to compassion upon seeing him in such a penitent garb others called loudly to him to produce the public money and confess his traitorous compact. For they concluded from his piteous mien that he had come to sue for pardon. But this appearance of humility was only put on in order to effect a stratagem. With the design of sowing dissension among the multitude, made up not only of citizens of Taricheć, but of men from Tiberias and surrounding towns, Josephus promised to make a full confession, and spoke as follows: "It was my intention neither to return this money to Agrippa nor to keep it for my own use. But observing your city, men of Taricheć, to be destitute of defence, and in want of funds for the building of walls, and fearing the city of Tiberias, and the other cities who were lying in wait for the spoil, I determined to keep quiet possession of the money, in order to surround you with a rampart. If this displease you, however, I shall produce what you brought to me, and permit you to plunder it; but if I consulted well for you, then punish your benefactor."

This address drew the Tarichećns all upon his side, while the Tiberians and people from the other towns murmured at and threatened him. The two parties now began to quarrel among themselves, until at last the greater number of strangers withdrew. But about two thousand remained, and these, highly incensed, rushed upon Josephus. He retreated to his house, and being beset, had recourse to another artifice. He mounted the roof, and, making a sign to his besiegers that he wished to address them, he said that it was impossible for him to hear their demands as long as they kept up such a clamor. Whatever they would order he would do, if they would send in some of their number to confer quietly with him. On hearing this, some of the leading rioters entered the house. Josephus ordered them to be dragged to the most retired part of [355] the dwelling, and had them scourged until their flesh was bloody and raw. Then suddenly opening the doors, he dismissed the en covered with blood. This sight so alarmed the rioters that they threw away their arms and took to their heels.

John was very much disappointed because Josephus had not been killed, and immediately formed another plot against him. Feigning illness, he requested permission to use the hot baths of Tiberias in order to cure himself of his complaint. Josephus did not know that John had been plotting against him, so cunningly had he managed it, and so gave him permission. John therefore took up his quarters at Tiberias, and partly by bribes, partly by persuasion, he induced the inhabitants to renounce their allegiance to the governor. Silas, who commanded the city under Josephus, wrote immediately to let him know of the conspiracy. The governor at once set out, and early in the morning arrived at Tiberias. John, pretending illness, secured himself from paying his respects. When Josephus was addressing the people upon the subject of the conspiracy, John privately sent a part of men with orders to kill him. The people, seeing them draw their swords, gave the alarm. Josephus rushed down to the beach, and, leaping into a boat, escaped to the middle of the lake. His soldiers, in the mean time, attacked the band sent by John; but Josephus, fearful lest a civil war should arise, sent orders to his men to provide only for their own safety, and to abstain from bloodshed. John fled to Gischala, his native town. Numbers of Jews from the different towns of Galilee flocked to Josephus, and wished him to lead them against John, and to burn the town of Gischala. But Josephus, being more moderately inclined, contented himself by threatening to seize the effects of all John’s adherents, and to burn their houses and families, unless they would withdraw within five days from his cause. Accordingly, three thousand of John’s party came over to Josephus. John [356] lay quiet within the walls of his native town, but all the while was hatching a plot. He sent messengers privately to Jerusalem to accuse Josephus of having too much power, and to state that he would become the tyrant of his country unless he received a timely check.

Some of the leading men and magistrates in Jerusalem, because they were envious of Josephus, secretly supplied John with money that he might worry Josephus. They also passed a decree among themselves for his recall, and sent an army under four leaders into Galilee, with orders that should Josephus surrender himself, they should allow him to try and justify his conduct; but if he did not, they should treat him as a foe. When the army arrived in Galilee, the four cities of Sepphoris, Gamala, Gischala, and Tiberias espoused their cause. But Josephus regained the cities without recourse to arms; and having got into his power by stratagem the four leaders and their ablest soldiers, he sent them back to Jerusalem. The people of that city, when they found out what measures had been taken against Josephus, were very indignant, and would have killed the four leaders, and also those who had commissioned them, had they not saved themselves by flight.

A little while afterwards the people of Tiberias again revolted, and invited King Agrippa to come and take possession of the town. Although the king did not come at the time appointed, a few Roman horsemen made their appearance and forbade Josephus the city by proclamation. Tidings of this defection were immediately brought to Tarichća. Josephus when he heard the news was in a very bad fix; for he had sent his entire army away upon a foraging excursion. But he feared delaying action against Tiberias lest in the mean while the troops of Agrippa should occupy the town. He had recourse, therefore, to an artifice. He collected all the vessels upon the Lake of Galilee, to the number of two hundred and thirty, and , though there were not more than four sailors in each, made sail with all speed for Tiberias. Shortening sail [357] at such a distance from the town as to prevent any close inspection, he ordered the almost empty vessels to move to and fro, whilst he himself, attended by seven of his guards, drew near the shore, so that he could easily be distinguished. The citizens, thinking the fleet full of soldiers, with imploring signs besought him to spare the city.

Josephus, coming closer to the shore, upbraided them, but declared he would pardon any who would come to him and assist him in taking the town. Ten of the leading citizens accordingly came down to him, and he put them on one of his vessels. He sent for others of the citizens, and put them upon the different vessels. He thus drew from the city under different pretexts the entire council of six hundred chief men, besides two thousand of the people. He then gave orders to the captains of the ships to sail to Tarichća, and there imprison their passengers. The remaining citizens of Tiberias loudly inveighed against a certain Clitus as chief mover of the revolt. Josephus ordered one of his guards to go ashore and cut off the hands of Clitus, but the guard was afraid. Clitus, seeing Josephus on his vessel venting his indignation and coming towards the shore, besought him to spare one of his hands. Josephus consented on condition that he would himself cut off one of his own hands. Clitus drew his sword with his right hand and severed the left from his body,—with such dread had Josephus inspired him. A few days afterwards Josephus took Gischala, which had revolted with Sepphoris, and gave it up to pillage. Afterwards he collected the spoil and restored it to the citizens, acting in a similar manner also towards those of Sepphoris and Tiberias. For he wished first to show the citizens his power, and then to gain their affections.

Galilee now became quiet, and the people directed their attention to preparations against the Romans. In Jerusalem active measures were taken for the war, although the people were rather despondent and had little hope of being victors.

[358] In the Acrabatene territory, Simon, son of Guigas, who had been sent there as general, so robbed and oppressed the people that an army was sent against him from Jerusalem. Simon fled with his band to Massada, and began a series of robberies in Idumća, so that the people inthat country had to raise an army to protect themselves from him, and garrisoned their villages.

Such was the state of affairs throughout Judea at the beginning of their war against the power of Rome.


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