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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE JEWS DESTROY THE ROMAN WORKS

IN the mean while, the Roman soldiers went on steadily building the mounds, although they were greatly bothered by the insurgents upon the ramparts. Titus, in order to frighten the Jews into surrender, laid parties of his men in ambush. These soldiers captured all the poor stragglers, who, because they were very hungry, came out from the city in the evening to look for food. These poor wretches the general crucified [428] before the walls, that they might be a terrible warning to the people within.

But the insurgents dragged the people and the relations of the crucified ones to the walls, and, pointing to the dead upon the crosses, said that this was the way the Romans treated those who sought their protection. This was not true, because those whom the Romans crucified had not sought their protection, but had been taken prisoners. Still, the people for some time believed the insurgents, and a great many who wished to desert remained in the city for fear of being crucified. Some, however, fled immediately, because they thought they would rather run the chance of being put to death at once than to die slowly and surely of starvation in the city.

Titus then ordered a number of those who had been taken captives to have their hands cut off, and to be sent in this state to John and Simon, to tell them that they were not deserters but captives and to exhort them to pause and not compel him to destroy the city, but to surrender at once, and thus save their own lives and their city and temple. At the same time he went around to each mound, urging on the workmen, to show that he would quickly follow up his threats.

But the insurgents in reply to his messages only howled at him from the ramparts, and called down curses upon himself and his father. They said that they preferred death to slavery, and that as long as they breathed they would continue to fight against the Romans.

At this time the son of the king of Commagena, a young prince, called Antiochus Epiphanes, arrived at the Roman camp. He came to help the Romans, and brought with him a number of heavy-armed men, and a band of chosen youths, dressed and armed in the Macedonian fashion.

Antiochus, who was very brave and strong, expressed his surprise that the Romans should delay attacking the ramparts. Titus hearing him, said, with a smile, "There is a fair field for [429] everybody." Upon this Antiochus with his band immediately rushed to the wall. As he was very skilful and strong, he managed to ward off all the missiles that the Jews hurled at him, but all his comrades were either killed or wounded, so he was very soon compelled to return to the camp, without having accomplished his object of taking the wall.

After seventeen days of hard toil, the Romans at length finished the mounds, four in number, and the engines were brought up. But John had secretly undermined the mounds opposite to him, and had put upright beams in the excavations that he had made, so that they would support the mounds until the Romans should place their military engines upon them. And so, when they brought up the engines, John set fire to the beams below the mounds, and they soon fell in with a tremendous crash, and the engines and embankments were either buried or burnt up. The Romans were greatly discouraged at seeing the results of so many days' labor so quickly destroyed.

Two days after, Simon and his party made an effort to destroy the mounds near to him, for the Romans had brought up their engines in that quarter also, and were already shaking the wall. Three of his band rushed out with torches in their hands and set fire to the military engines, though the Roman guards did their best to prevent them. The flames spread, and the Romans rushed from their camp to the rescue, while the Jews ran out to meet them, and attacked them with great fury.

The Romans tried to drag their rams away from the fire; but the Jews, heedless of the flames, caught hold of them, and would not let go, although the iron upon the rams was red-hot. From the engines the fire burned onwards to the mounds, and began to destroy the works.

The Romans, surrounded on all sides by the flames, gave up all hopes of saving their works, and retreated to their camp. The Jews, flushed with success, dashed forward, and, [430] advancing to the very intrenchments, engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with the sentries. These men resisted bravely and held their ground, because Roman sentries were punished with death if they quitted their posts. A good many of the Romans who were running away returned to the battle when they saw their comrades standing firm. But so fierce was the attack of the Jews that before long the Roman forces began to waver.

At this moment Titus, who had been searching for a site upon which to build new mounds by the Antonia, arrived upon the spot, and, with a picked band of men, charged the enemy in the flank. The Jews, though attacked in front as well, turned and bravely faced him. The hostile forces became mixed up, and such a dust and noise arose that neither side could any longer tell friend from foe. At length the Jews retreated into the city, but not before the mounds had been completely destroyed.

The Romans were greatly cast down, because in one short hour they lost the fruits of all their labors by the destruction of the mounds, and many were led to despair of ever taking the city by ordinary means.


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