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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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TITUS TAKES THE UPPER CITY

THE insurgents fled into the city from the burning temple, and the Romans pitched their standards among the smoking ruins. They offered sacrifice for their victory, and with joyful shouts hailed Titus as emperor.

The priests who had escaped were still perched upon the walls of the sanctuary. A boy who was with them called out to the Roman guards that he was suffering from thirst, and asked their protection while he came down and got a drink of water. The soldiers took pity on his youth and granted his request. And so the boy came down among them; but when he had quenched his thirst, he suddenly filled a vessel with water and hurried back to the priests with such speed that the guards could not catch him.

The guards thought that when he asked protection the boy meant that he would surrender himself, and they charged him with breaking his word. But he answered from the wall that he had only asked for protection while he got some water, [453] and that he did not say that he would stay with them. The soldiers were rather crestfallen at having been outwitted by so young a boy.

Five days afterwards the priests became so hungry that they came down and surrendered themselves to Titus, praying him to spare their lives, But Titus said that for them the hour of mercy had passed; their temple was destroyed for the sake of which alone he would have saved them; now it was but fitting that they should perish with the temple. And so he ordered them all to be killed.

And now the insurgents, seeing that there was no hope of escape and nothing left to fight for, sent word to Titus that they would like to confer with him. As Titus wished to save what remained of the city from destruction, he granted their request, and invited the insurgents to appear before him. When they came he spoke to them through an interpreter. He reproved them for having been so long so stubborn and cruel, but offered to spare their lives on condition of instant surrender.

To this they replied that they would never surrender, because they had sworn not to do so; but they begged Titus to let them pass through his lines, with their wives and children, and promised that they would depart into the wilderness, and leave the city to him. But Titus was very angry because they would not accept his terms, but instead offered terms of their own, and said to them,—

"Do not hope for protection from me, for I will spare none of you; but fight and save yourselves if you can, for now I shall be governed only by the laws of war."

He then ordered the troops to plunder and burn the city. Then fire blazed all over the lower part of Jerusalem, and many beautiful buildings and houses perished in the flames.

The insurgents now rushed to the palace, where, because it was very strong, a large amount of treasure had been stored up. They drove back the Romans who surrounded [454] it, and when they had entered they slew a number of people who had taken refuge there, and plundered all the treasures.

They captured two Roman soldiers, one a trooper, the other a foot-soldier. The latter they slaughtered on the spot, and dragged his body about the city in their rage. The trooper pretended to have something important to say to Simon, so he was brought before him; but having really nothing to say, he was delivered to one of the officers to be executed. The officer bound the prisonerís hands behind his back, put a bandage over his eyes, and led him forth so as to behead him in view of the Romans.

But while the Jew was drawing his sword, the trooper managed to escape to the Romans. Titus ordered his arms to be taken from him, and dismissed him from his legion in disgrace, because he thought him unworthy to be a Roman soldier who could allow himself to be taken alive.

The next day the Romans drove the Jews from the lower city, and set the whole of it on fire. The insurgents were cooped up in the upper city. There they dispersed themselves about and lay in ambush amid the ruins, putting to death all who attempted to desert.

As a last hope, the insurgents thought to find a safe refuge in the underground passages beneath the city. They thought that when the Romans should force an entrance into the upper city they could escape to these caverns, and there lie hidden until the city was entirely destroyed and the Romans had departed. And so, in order to aid their plan, they set fire to the city, and so helped their enemies in the work of destruction.

Because the ascent to the upper city was very steep, Titus though it well to build some mounds. And so he set his soldiers to build some, although it was a very difficult task, because the country for over twelve miles around had been stripped of timber. But at length two mounds were built, the one opposite the palace, the other near the Xystus.

[455] And now the Idumean chieftains, who had all along fought with Simon, met secretly together to consult about surrendering themselves to the Romans. They sent five of their number to Titus to ask his protection. Titus, because he thought if the Idumeans deserted the tyrants also would surrender, sent the men back with a promise that he would protect all who would come to him.

But while the Idumeans were making ready to escape Simon found out their intentions, and immediately put to death the five who had gone to Titus, and he threw all the chieftains into prison. The Idumean soldiers, being thus deprived of their leaders, did not know exactly what to do. They were narrowly watched by Simon, who put more trusty soldiers to defend the walls.

Still these guards could not prevent desertion. For although a good many were killed while trying to escape, still a great number fled to the Romans. The citizens of the city who came to him were allowed their freedom by Titus, but all the rest were sold as slaves. About forty thousand of the citizens were thus spared, but the numbers of people sold into slavery could not be counted.

About this time one of the priests received a promise of protection on condition of giving up certain treasures of the temple which he had secured. And so he handed from the wall two candlesticks, and tables and cups, all of solid gold, and also gave up the veils, and other vestments of the high-priests, with the precious stones and many other articles used by them.

Another priest, who had been the keeper of the temple treasury, pointed out the place where the tunics and girdles worn by the priests were hidden, together with a lot of precious spices used in offering incense. This priest had been taken prisoner, but because he pointed out these treasures his life was spared, as if he had been a deserter.

The mounds were finished in eighteen days, and then the [456] military engines were brought up to batter down the last bulwark of the besieged. A number of the insurgents now gave up all hope and retired from the ramparts; others crept down into the caverns; while some endeavored to repel the Romans who were bringing up the military engines. But these the Romans easily drove back.

A part of the wall and some of the towers were soon battered down by the rams. The defenders then took to flight, and the tyrants themselves were seized with a panic. Before the Romans had mounted the breach the insurgents had given up all hope. Rumors flew about that the Romans had knocked down the whole of the western wall, and that they were already in the town. The fierce leaders who had before led their men to commit all sorts of daring and desperate deeds now stood trembling and afraid. Many fell upon their faces, bewailing their fate, and were so weak from fear that they were unable to fly.

Even Simon and John became panic-stricken, and came down with their followers from three strong towers and fled into the valley of Siloam. These three towers had been built by King Herod the Great, and were so strong that the Romans never could have battered them down, so that John and Simon could have held out until they were reduced by famine. But so great was their fright that they did not even wait for an attack. So that when the Romans came into the town they were surprised as well as delighted to find the towers empty. For against these their machines would have been useless.

Afterwards, when Simon and his followers had recovered a little from their panic, they tried to break down the wall which the Romans had built round the city and escape. But the Roman guards beat them back and dispersed them, and they then crept down into caves.

The Romans entered the upper city with great rejoicing over so easy a victory. They spread through the streets and [457] killed all who fell in their way, burning the houses, with all who had taken shelter in them. So great was the slaughter that in many places the flames were put out by streams of blood. Towards evening the soldiers, tired of killing, sheathed their swords. But all night the fire burnt fiercely, and when morning broke it beheld the whole of Jerusalem in flames.


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