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




GISCHALA, a small town in Galilee, now alone remained in arms against the Romans. The inhabitants, indeed, were an agricultural people, and little inclined to war; but the crafty John, son of Levi, the old rival of Josephus, commanded a strong faction in the city, headed by his own band of robbers, who compelled the people to assume an attitude of defiance.

Vespasian sent his son Titus with one thousand horsemen against the town, and directed the tenth legion to proceed to Scythopolis, while he himself, with the other two legions, went into winter quarters at Cśsarea, in order to recruit his men before attacking Jerusalem.

Titus, on riding up to Gischala, ascertained that it might easily be carried by assault. but, as he desired to shed as little blood as possible, and knowing that many of the people wished to submit, he offered the inhabitants terms, promising them pardon and protection should they surrender.

[389] Not only were none of the citizens allowed to reply to these terms, but they were not even allowed to ascend the wall while they were offered, for the brigands had completely taken possession of it. John replied that he was satisfied with these conditions and would surrender the town, but, as the day was the Sabbath, when it was not lawful for the Jews either to fight or to treat of peace, he would wish Titus to wait until the day following, when the terms could be concluded.

Titus was not only prevailed upon to grant this delay, but was induced to withdraw his troops to the neighboring town of Cydessa.

At nightfall John, seeing no Roman guard about the town, escaped with his band towards Jerusalem, followed by many others with their families, who had determined to seek refuge in the capital. The women and children marched on steadily for about two or three miles, but then their strength began to fail them. Finding that they would impede his flight, John abandoned them, and urged his followers to save themselves.

The poor women and children were in a dreadful state of fright, and started at the sound of one anotherís footsteps as if the Romans were upon them. Many strayed into pathless wastes, while many fell from fatigue and were trampled to death. Those who marched the fastest called upon their friends and relations to turn back and help them, but in vain. For John called out to the men,—

"Save yourselves, and flee to some place of security, where we may avenge ourselves upon the Romans, if they plunder those we leave behind."

So the men hurried forward, and the women and children were left in the darkness all alone.

When day broke, Titus appeared before the wall of Gischala to propose terms. The people threw open their gates and hailed him as a liberator; they informed him of Johnís flight and entreated him to spare them, but to punish whatever [390] insurgents yet remained. Titus immediately despatched a troop of horse to overtake John; but the chase proved fruitless, and he escaped in safety to Jerusalem. Of those who accompanied him, however, the horsemen slew six thousand, and brought back three thousand women and children into the city.

Titus, although he was greatly disappointed because he did not capture John, still behaved with great lenity to the remaining inhabitants of the city. He put none to death, but merely threatened any disaffected ones with future punishment should they attempt to disturb the peace. He then ordered, according to the law of capture, a small part of the wall to be thrown down, and left a garrison to preserve the peace. Thus, after giving the Romans an immense amount of trouble, was the whole of Galilee subdued.

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