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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE ROMANS SUFFER A REPULSE

ON the fifth day after the taking of the first wall the Jews retreated from the second. Titus then entered that part of the lower city which was within it with his body-guard and a thousand men. Instead of throwing down the wall and laying waste as he advanced, Titus gave orders that none who fell into their hands should be put to death, nor any of the houses burned. At the same time, he promised to restore their property to the people, for he wished to gain them over to him.

The people indeed had long been ready to listen to overtures of peace, but to the insurgents the humanity of Titus seemed weakness, and they looked upon his overtures as proofs of his inability to take the remainder of the town. They threatened death to any of the people who should breathe a word about surrender, and killed all who made any mention of their desire for peace.

[425] They then attacked the Romans who had entered. Some confronted them in the streets; some attacked them from the houses; others, sallying from the upper gates, so frightened the Roman guards at the ramparts that they jumped down from the towers and retreated to their camp. All was confusion. The Jews constantly increasing in numbers, and possessing a decided advantage because they knew every lane and alley of the city, appeared on every side, and drove the Romans before them by repeated charges. But the Romans, owing to the narrowness of the breach, could only retire very slowly. And had not Titus brought in fresh succors, all who had entered would probably have been cut down. Titus stationed his archers at the ends of the streets, and, taking his post where the enemy was in greatest force, he kept them at bay until his soldiers had retired.

Thus were the Romans, after gaining possession of the second wall, driven out. The spirits of the war-party in the city were greatly elated by this success, for they thought they could drive out the enemy every time they attempted to enter the town. But they did not know that an immense force of the Romans had not been engaged in this assault, nor yet that famine was slowly but surely creeping in upon the city.

Many were already sinking on account of the scarcity of provisions; but the insurgents only rejoiced to see the people die, deeming it a good riddance to themselves. For they desired that those alone should be preserved who were adverse to peace, and who wished for life only to employ it against the Romans. As for the breach, they manned it boldly, and walled it up with their own bodies. For three days they kept the enemy at bay, but ob the fourth they were obliged to give way before the intrepid assaults of Titus, who, entering a second time, threw down the whole northern portion of the wall, and placed garrisons in the towers of the southern portion.

[426] Before attacking the third wall, Titus suspended the siege for a few days, in the hope that terror of his conquests, and of famine, might induce the insurgents to surrender. He employed the time in making a magnificent review of his troops and paying them their salaries. The space in front of the city gleamed far and wide with the shining arms of the Romans, presenting a terrible spectacle to their enemies, who eagerly watched from the house-tops the numberless hosts of the besiegers.

When they beheld the entire force thus assembled in one place, and the beauty of their arms, and the admirable order of the men, even the most daring were struck with fearful dismay. Still the insurgents, thinking over their evil deeds, felt that for them there was no hope of pardon, and as they knew they would have to die anyway, they preferred to die in battle.

In four days the several legions of the Romans had all been paid off in order. On the fifth, as the Jews had not sued for peace, Titus formed the legions into two divisions, and commenced raising embankments, both at the Antonia and at John's monument. At the latter point he designed to carry the upper town, and the temple through the former; for unless the temple was secured the city could not be retained without danger. Simon and his troops impeded by continual sallies those at work beside the monument, while John and his party obstructed those before the Antonia.

The Jews, by long practice, had now become skilled in the use of their military engines, and directed them with terrible effect against the besiegers. Titus, anxious to preserve the city from destruction, continually during the siege used every means to induce the Jews to surrender, and sent Josephus to address them in their native tongue. Josephus with difficulty found a spot from whence he might be heard and at the same time be out of reach of the missiles. From thence he harangued his countrymen at great length, using every argument [427] in his power to induce them to surrender; but all in vain. The war-party remained obdurate; but the people, however, made up their minds to desert. All that could elude the vigilance of the insurgents escaped to the Romans. Most of them were granted a free passage by Titus, which further encouraged the people to desertion, as thus they would be freed from the tyrants within the city, and yet not be enslaved by the Romans. The insurgents, however, began to guard the outlets from the city with still stricter vigilance, and put to death all whom they even suspected of a desire to escape.

Famine now began to rage in the city in a terrible manner. The insurgents took for themselves all the food they could lay hands upon, and the poor people starved to death in thousands. Rich people gave all their wealth for a little measure of wheat, and were obliged to eat it hastily and in secret lest it should be snatched from them. Numbers of the rich were put to death by Simon and John; while the poor died by hundreds every day from want and starvation. Indeed, the sufferings of the people were so fearful that they cannot be told.


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