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




WHEN Titus entered the city he was struck with wonder at its strength, and especially at the towers which the tyrants had abandoned. Indeed, when he saw how high and solid they were, and of what huge stones they were built, he said, "Surely we fought with God upon our side, and God it was who brought the Jews down from these bulwarks; for what could human hands or engines avail against these towers?"

Titus freed all those whom he found in the prisons, where they had been thrown by the tyrants. And when he afterwards destroyed what was left of the city and razed the walls, he left the towers standing as monuments of his victory.

The soldiers at length became weary of killing people, and Titus ordered them for the future to kill only those whom they found in arms, or who made a show of resistance, and to make prisoners of the rest. Still the troops killed the old and feeble, because they could not be sold as slaves. Those who were young and fit for service they drove into a space of the temple called the Court of the Women.

Titus placed a guard over them, and ordered a friend of his, called Fronto, to decide what should be done with them. While Fronto was making up his mind, eleven thousand of [458] the unfortunate prisoners perished from hunger,—part of them because the guards, through hatred, would not give them food, and part because they would not take the food when it was offered to them. Moreover, there was not a sufficient supply of food for so vast a multitude.

Finally all those known to be insurgents were put to death, except the tallest and most handsome of the youth, who were reserved to grace the triumph of Titus, which took place when he returned to Rome. Of the remainder, those above the age of seventeen were sent to Egypt to work in the mines, or sent through the provinces to appear in gladiatorial shows.

The number of prisoners taken during the war was ninety-seven thousand, while during the siege there perished one million one hundred thousand people. The great part of these were of Jewish blood, but they were not all natives of the city. For just before the siege people had flocked into Jerusalem from all parts of Judea, to take part in the feast of the Passover, and many had come to it as a place of refuge.

Therefore there was in the city during the siege a vast number of people who were not natives of the place. These were shut up as in a prison from which they could not get away, and were obliged to suffer all the horrors of famine and of the siege.

The Romans now went down into the caverns and killed all they lighted upon in these retreats. In them they came across numbers of the dead bodies of people who had either fallen by their own hands or had died of hunger.

At length John and his followers, worn out with hunger, came out from one of the caverns and implored the Romans for that protection which he had so often rejected with scorn. He was condemned to pass the rest of his days in prison. The Romans set fire to the extreme quarters of the city, threw down the walls, and leveled them with the ground.

Thus was Jerusalem taken in the second year of Vespasianís reign, on the second of September, seventy years after Christ. [459] It had been captured five times before, and was now for the second time laid in ruins. Shishak, king of Egypt, and then Antiochus, then Pompey, and then Sosius and Herod, had taken the city, but preserved it. Before their times it had been laid waste by the king of Babylon, fourteen hundred and sixty-eight years and six months from the date of its foundation.

It was first built by a prince of Canaan, called Melchisedek, or "the Righteour King," for such, indeed, he was. He was the first priest of God, and he first built the temple, and then called the city Jerusalem. For before he built the temple the city was called Salem.

The Canaanites were driven from Jerusalem by King David, the king of the Jews, who then lived in it with his own people. Four hundred and seventy-seven years and six months after Davidís time the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. Titus destroyed the city one thousand one hundred and seventy-nine years after the time of David and two thousand one hundred and seventy-seven years since its first foundation. Neither its age, nor its vast wealth, nor the number of its people, nor the glory of its religious service could save it from ruin. And so ended the siege of Jerusalem.

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