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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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TITUS SURROUNDS JERUSALEM

TITUS passed through Egypt and Syria, and at length arrived at Caesarea, where he determined to organize his forces before he commenced the campaign. While he was still on his way, the unhappy city of Jerusalem, daily weakened by civil dissensions, was torn by still another faction. It was a sedition within a sedition, which, like a ravenous wild beast, preyed upon its own flesh.

That Eleazar who was mentioned some time ago as being the first cause of the Jewish revolt, because he had persuaded the people to reject the offerings of the Roman emperors, became very jealous of John. And because he could not brook submission to a tyrant of lower birth than himself, he seceded with a considerable body of the Zealots, and seized upon the inner court of the temple.

They were well supplied with provisions, but, because their numbers were fewer than John's, they confined themselves to their retreat, from whence, on account of the height of their position, he could easily repel his attacks. John, in his rage, although he lost heavily, made continual assaults upon them; so that clouds of missiles flew about the temple, and the sacred pavement was strewn with dead.

[410] Simon, who was now master of the upper and a great part of the lower city, carried on his attacks upon John with greater vigor, because he knew his party to be divided, and that he was threatened by Eleazar from above. But John had the same advantage over Simon which Eleazar had over John. From the superior height of his position he easily repelled all attacks from below by hand weapons, while with his machines he hurled missiles against the party above him.

The missiles hurled by these machines flew all over the temple, and slew priests and worshippers at the very altar itself. For, notwithstanding all the horrors of war, the sacrifices went on, and pious Jews from all quarters still came to make offerings, and to worship at the altar of their God, around which many of them fell, and sprinkled it with their blood.

At times, when the party above through fatigue refrained from hurling down their missiles, John would sally out against Simon and his adherents. And as far as he was able to drive them before him he would set fire to the storehouses filled with corn and provisions over that extent. Simon in his turn would drive him back with fire and sword, so that the space around the temple became a mass of ruins, and a great quantity of corn, which might have suffered the besieged for many years, was burnt up. So that the city was finally reduced by famine, which could hardly have been possible had not the Jews brought it upon themselves.

The people, harassed by the bloody contentions of the three factions, groaned in secret, and many prayed that the Romans might come and deliver them from these internal dissensions. For them there was no other hope of escape, for the three parties, disagreeing in everything else, united in putting to death all who showed any desire of peace with the Romans, or whom they suspected of intentions to desert the city.

Day after day the fearful strifes went on, each party devising [411] new means for mutual destruction. John seized upon some sacred timbers, which Agrippa had brought from Mount Lebanon some time before the war, in order to raise the sanctuary, and converted them into towers, that he might fight on even terms with the faction of Eleazar. But before he could bring his impiously-constructed towers into play the Romans appeared before the walls of Jerusalem.

Titus had drawn together part of his troops and marched from Caesarea, ordering the others to meet him at Jerusalem. He had under him the three legions which his father had commanded, and also the twelfth legion, which had formerly been defeated under Cestius, and which now burned for revenge. And besides these he had a number of hired soldiers from Syria and from Egypt. Tiberius Alexander, a former governor of Egypt, distinguished for his wisdom and integrity, accompanied Titus, and on account of his age and experience acted as his adviser during the war.

Titus encamped with his army about four miles from Jerusalem, in a valley called the valley of Thorus. Taking a body of six hundred horsemen with him, he rode forward to reconnoitre the strength of the city, and to ascertain the disposition of the Jews. For he was persuaded, as indeed was the fact, that the body of the people were desirous of peace with the Romans, and were only kept from making overtures through fear of the brigands.

While he continued to ride along the direct route which led to the wall, not a soul appeared before the gates. But on his filing off from the road to the right towards a tower called Psephinus, the Jews suddenly rushed out in great numbers, and broke through his ranks. They then placed themselves in front of the troops who were still advancing along the road, and prevented them from joining their comrades who had filed off, thus intercepting Titus with only a handful of men.

Titus could not advance, because the ground was covered with orchards and gardens, divided by stone walls, and inter- [412] sected by deep ditches, which reached to the city walls. To retreat was almost as difficult, because the enemy lay in great numbers across his road. Still, he saw that his only course was to cut his way through to his own party, who were retreating, not knowing their prince's danger, but thinking that he had turned back with them. Titus wheeled his horse round, called to his handful of warriors to follow him, and charged fiercely through. Darts and arrows fell in showers around him, but, although he had on neither helmet nor breastplate, he escaped uninjured. The Jews shouted at his bravery, and cheered one another on against him, anxious to secure such a prize. But wherever Titus directed his course they shrank back through fear, and made way for him. His followers formed around him as well as they could, and at length they cut their way through, and reached the camp in safety. Two of their number, however, were killed by the enemy. The Jews were greatly elated by the success of this attempt, and it inspired them with much confidence for the future.

Titus was joined during the night by the legion from Ammaus, and advanced the next day to a flat called Scopus (the Prospect), about a mile from the northern quarter of the town. Here he formed a camp for two legions, and stationed the fifth legion a little way in the rear. While the troops were engaged in building intrenchments the tenth legion arrived, and took up its station at the Mount of Olives, which rises to the east of the city, and is separated from it by a deep intervening ravine.

The three factions within the city beheld with dismay the three fortifications which were going up without the walls, while no attempt was made to check them. They began to feel the necessity of becoming united against the common foe.

"We are courageous, then," they exclaimed, "only against ourselves, while the Romans, through our dissension, will make a bloodless conquest of the city."

Assembling together, and encouraging one another with lan- [413] guage such as this, they seized their arms, and sallying forth, made a sudden attack upon the tenth legion. Bursting through the ravine with a terrific shout, they fell upon the Romans while at work upon their intrenchments.

The legion was divided into two parties for the purpose of carrying on the work, and the men had for the most part laid aside their arms. Indeed, they had no idea that the Jews would make an attack. They were in consequence taken by surprise, and thrown into disorder. Abandoning their works, some instantly retreated, while many, who ran to arms, were slaughtered before they could turn on their assailants.

Encouraged by the success of the first assault, great numbers of Jews flocked out to aid their brethren. Accustomed to fight only in array, the Roman soldiers were thrown into confusion by this wild mode of warfare. Taken unawares, they gave way before the attack, and were driven from the camp. The entire legion would have been defeated had not Titus, hearing what had happened, instantly hastened to its succor.

Bitterly upbraiding their cowardice, Titus rallied the fugitives, and falling on the flanks of the Jews with his picked men, he drove them headlong down the ravine. Still, rallying upon the other side, the Jews renewed the combat, and thus the battle raged until about noon. Then Titus planted the troops who came with him in front, across the valley, to repel any further sallies, and despatched the rest to proceed with their intrenchments upon the upper part of the mount.

The Jews mistook this movement for flight, a watchman upon the battlements gave a signal, and a fresh crowd of Jews rushed from the city with the fury of wild beasts. The Romans could not sustain their onset; but, as if struck from an engine, they broke up their ranks and fled to the mount. Titus was left with a few followers about halfway up the steep hill. These besought him to retreat, and not to risk his valuable life against the mad courage of the Jews.

[414] But the brave Titus disdained to fly; he fell upon the thickest of the mass as they advanced, and drove them back down the declivity. But still the Jews rushed up the hill on both sides of him, and pursued those who were fleeing up the hill. Meanwhile, the soldiers who had resumed work on the intrenchments upon the upper part of the mount became alarmed as they saw their comrades below in flight, and fled upon all sides.

They fancied that the charge of the Jews was irresistible, and that Titus himself was among the fugitives; for the rest, they thought, would never have fled while he maintained his ground. But a few, perceiving the general in the thickest of the fight, and greatly alarmed upon his account, with loud shouts intimated his danger to the whole legion. Shame rallied them, and, reproaching one another for their base desertion of their general, they fell in full force upon the Jews, and drove them down the hill into the valley. The Jews contested the ground as they retreated; but the Romans, having the advantage of a higher position, drove them in a body down into the ravine.

Titus, pressing still upon those who opposed him, ordered the legion back to complete their fortifications, while he maintained his ground and kept the enemy in check. Thus did this brave general save the legion from defeat, and give them an opportunity of fortifying their camp without being troubled by the enemy.


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