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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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A SUCCESSFUL STRATAGEM

[415] WHILE the Romans were at work upon their fortifications they did not make any attacks; and, left at rest, civil dissension soon broke out again among the Jews. It was now the feast of the Passover, and Eleazar and his party opened the gates of the inner temple, that any who wished might worship.

John made the festival a cloak for his wicked designs. He armed with concealed weapons a number of his followers, and introduced them by stealth into the inner temple, with a view of seizing upon it. Scarcely had they entered, when, throwing aside their garments, they suddenly appeared in full armor. The worshippers feared a general massacre. Eleazar's party, knowing the attack was made upon them, scattered and took refuge in the vaults of the temple. The multitude cowered round the altar; some were slain out of mere wantonness or from private hate, while a great many were trampled to death in the confusion.

Having glutted their vengeance upon those with whom they had no feud, the partisans of John came to terms with their real enemies. Possessed of the inner temple and all its stores, they could now bid defiance to Simon. Two factions thus were united; and now but two parties, instead of three, divided the city.

Meanwhile, Titus cautiously advanced his approaches, and levelled the ground from Scopus to the walls. Outside the walls were blooming gardens and orchards, which had for- [416] merly delighted the Jews, but which were now swept away by the Roman soldiery, together with fences and hedges, until the whole space was reduced to a level.

While this work was going on, the Jews concerted the following stratagem. A body of insurgents issued out of one of the gates, as if they had been expelled from the city by the advocates of peace, and stood cowering alongside of one another close to the wall, as if in fear of attack from the Romans. A number of others stationed themselves upon the wall and cried aloud for peace, calling upon the Romans for protection, and promising to open their gates. Moreover, they assailed the portion of their own party outside with stones, as if to drive them from the gate. The latter made feints of attempting to force the entrance, and of petitioning those within, every now and then rushing towards the Romans, and again retreating, as if in extreme agitation.

The Roman soldiers were taken in by this ruse, and, thinking that they had one party in their power, and that the other would open the gates to them, they were about to charge in a body, but were restrained by the wary Titus. For he had the day before, through Josephus, invited the Jews to terms, but had found their demands exceeding all reason. He therefore ordered the soldiers to remain in their position.

Some of them , however, who were stationed in front, had already snatched up their arms, and run forward towards the gate. The Jews at first retired before them; but when the soldiers were between the towers of the gate they turned upon them. Then others sallied from the city and surrounded them, while those upon the wall hurled down stones and missiles on their heads. After suffering great loss in killed and wounded, the Romans at length retreated, and were pursued for quite a distance by the Jews, who, when they did pause, stood and laughed at the Romans, heaping ridicule upon them for having so easily become dupes, and, brandishing their shields, danced and shouted for joy. The soldiers who [417] had escaped were received with a reprimand from their officers, and with indignation on the part of Titus, who addressed them sternly thus:

"The Jews, who have no leader but despair, do everything with the utmost coolness and precaution, lay ambushes, and plot stratagems; while the Romans, to whom fortune has always been a servant on account of their steady discipline, are become so rash and disorderly as to venture into battle without command."

He then threatened to put into execution the military law which punished such a breach of order with death. But the other troops came round him and petitioned him for their fellow-soldiers, imploring him to pardon, in consideration of the obedience of the many, the rashness of a few, and promising to redeem the disaster by future regularity and discipline.

Moved by these entreaties, Titus pardoned the offenders, but commanded them to act with more prudence for the future. He then began to think how he could best avenge himself for this artifice of the Jews. The approach to the city was now complete, and Titus ranged the flower of his troops opposite the northern and the western wall, drawing them up, the infantry in front, the cavalry in the rear, and the archers in the middle.

The sallies of the Jews were thus checked, and the beasts of burden with the camp-followers came up to the camp in security. Titus himself encamped about a quarter of a mile from the ramparts, near the tower called Psephinus. Another division of the army was intrenched at about the same distance opposite the tower called Hippicus, while the tenth legion still continued to occupy its position on the Mount of Olives.


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