The Siege of Jerusalem
Flavius Josephus

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            Now as Titus was upon his march into the enemy's country, the auxiliaries that were sent by the kings marched first, having all the other auxiliaries with them, after whom followed those that were to prepare the roads, and measure out the camp; then came the commanders' baggage, and after that the soldiers, who were completely armed, to support them; then came Titus himself, having with him another select body, and then came the pikemen; after whom came the horse belonging to that legion. All these came before the engines came, and after these engines, came the tribunes and the leaders of the cohorts, with their select bodies; after these came the ensigns, with the eagle; and before those ensigns came the trumpeters beonging to them; next these came the main body of the army in their ranks, every legion being six deep; the servants belonging to every legion came after these; and before these last their baggage; the mercenaries came last, and those that guarded them brought up the rear. Now Titus, according to the Roman usage, led the army onward after a decent manner, and marched through Samaria to Gophna, a city that had been formerly taken by his father, and was then garrisoned by Roman soldiers; and when he had lodged there one night, he marched on in the morning; and when he had gone as far as a day's march, he pitched his camp at that valley which the Jews, in their own tongue, call the Valley of Thorns, near a certain village called Gabath-Saul, which signifies the Hill of Saul, being distant from Jerusalem about thirty furlongs. There it was that he chose out six hundred select horsemen, and went to take a view of the city, to observe what strength it was of, and how courageous the Jews were; whether, when they saw him, and before they came to a direct battle, they would be affrighted and submit; for he had been informed what was really true, that the people who were fallen under the power of the seditious and the robbers, were greatly desirous of peace; but being too weak to rise up against the rest, they lay still.

            Now, so long as he rode along the straight road which led to the wall of the city, nobody appeared out of the gates; but when he went out of that road, and declined towards the tower Psephinos, and led the band of horsemen obliquely, an immense number of the Jews leaped out suddenly at the towers called the Women's Towers, through that gate which was over against the monuments of Queen Helena, and intercepted his horse; and, standing directly opposite to those that still ran along the road, hindered them from joining those that had declined out of it. They intercepted Titus also, with a few others. Now it was here impossible for him to go forward, because all the places had trenches dug in them from the wall, to preserve the gardens round about, and were full of walls obliquely situated, and of many hedges; and to return back to his own men he saw was also impossible, by reason of the multitude of the enemies that lay between them; many of whom did not so much as know that the king was in any danger, but fled back supposing him still among them. So he perceived, that his preservation must be wholly owing to his own courage, and turned his horse about, and cried out aloud to those that were about him, to follow him, and ran with violence into the midst of his enemies, in order to force his way through them to his own men. And hence, we may principally learn, that both the success of wars and the dangers that kings are in, are under the providence of God; for while such a number of darts were thrown at Titus, when he had neither his head-piece on, nor his breast-plate (for, as I told you, he went out not to fight, but to view the city), none of them touched his body, but went aside without hurting him; as if all of them missed him on purpose, and only made a noise as they passed by him. So he diverted those perpetually with his sword that came on his side, and overturned many of those that directly met him, and made his horse ride over those that were overthrown. The enemy indeed made a shout at the boldness of Caesar, and exhorted one another to rush upon him. Yet did those against whom he marched fly away, and go off from him in great numbers; while those that were in the same danger with him kept up close to him, though they were wounded both on their backs and on their sides; for they had each of them but this one hope of escaping, if they could assist Titus in opening himself a way that he might not be encompassed round by his enemies before he got away from them. Now, there were two of those that were with him, but at a some distance; the one of which the enemy encompassed round, and slew him with their darts, and his horse also; but the other they slew as he leaped down from his horse, and carried off his horse with them. But Titus escaped with the rest, and came safe to the camp. So this success of the Jews' first attack raised their minds, and gave them an ill-grounded hope; and this short inclination of fortune on their side made them very courageous for the future.

            But now, as soon as that legion that had been at Emmaus was joined to Caesar at night, he removed thence, when it was day, and came to a place called Scopus; from whence the city began already to be seen, and a plain view might be taken of the great temple. This place, on the north quarter of the city, and joining thereto, was a plain, and very properly named Scopus [the prospect], and was no more than seven furlongs distant from it. And here it was that Titus ordered a camp to be fortified for two legions that were to be together, but ordered another camp to be fortified, at three furlongs' farther distance behind them, for the fifth legion; for he thought that, by marching in the night, they might be tired, and might deserve to be covered from the enemy, and with less fear might fortify themselves; and, as these were now beginning to build, the tenth legion, which came through Jericho, was already come to the place, where a certain party of armed men had formerly lain, to guard that pass into the city, which had been taken before by Vespasian. These legions had orders to encamp at the distance of six furlongs from Jerusalem, at the mount called the Mount of Olives, which lies over against the city on the east side, and is parted from it by a deep valley, interposed between them, which is named Kedron.

            Now, when hitherto the several parties in the city had been dashing one against another perpetually, this foreign war, now suddenly come upon them after a violent manner, put the first stop to their contentions one against another; and, as the seditious now saw with astonishment the Romans pitching three several camps, they began to think of an awkward sort of concord, and said one to another, 'What do we here, and what do we mean, when we suffer three fortified walls to be built, to coop us in, that we shall not be able to breathe freely? while the enemy is securely building a kind of city in opposition to us, and while we sit still within our own walls, and become spectators only of what they are doing, with our hands idle, and our armour laid by, as if they were about somewhat that was for our good and advantage. We are, it seems, (so did they cry out) only courageous against ourselves, while the Romans are likely to gain the city without bloodshed by our sedition.' Thus did they encourage one another when they were gotten together, and took their armour immediately, and ran out upon the tenth legion, and fell upon the Romans with great eagerness, and with a prodigious shout, as they were fortifying their camp. These Romans were caught in different parties, and this, in order to perform their several works, and on that account had in great measure laid aside their arms; for they thought the Jews would not have ventured to make a sally upon them, and had they been disposed so to do, they supposed their sedition would have distracted them. So they were put into disorder unexpectedly; when some of them left their works they were about, and immediately marched off, while many ran to their arms, but were smitten and slain before the could turn back upon the enemy. The Jews became still more and more in number, as encouraged by the good success of those that first made the attack; and while they had such good fortune, they seemed both to themselves and to the enemy, to be many more than they really were. Disorder naturally disturbs those who are used to fight in good order, and with keeping their ranks, and obeying the orders that are given them; for which reason the Romans being caught unexpectedly were obliged to give way to the assaults that were made upon them. Now when these Romans, being overtaken, turned back upon the Jews, they put a stop to their career, and wounded them, since their impetuosity made them incautious; but, as still more and more Jews sallied out of the city, the Romans were at length brought into confusion, and put to flight, and ran away from their camp. Nay, things looked as though the entire legion would have been in danger, unless Titus had been informed of the case they were in, and had sent them succours immediately. So he reproached them for their cowardice, and brought those back that were running away, and fell himself upon the Jews on their flank, with those select troops that were with him, and slew a considerable number, and wounded more of them, and put them all to flight, and made them run away hastily down the valley. Now, as these Jews suffered greatly in the declivity of the valley, so, when they were gotten over it, they turned about, and stood over against the Romans, having the valley between them, and there fought with them. Thus did they continue the fight till noon; but, when it was already a little after noon, Titus set those that came to the assistance of the Romans with him, and those that belonged to the cohorts, to prevent the Jews from making any more sallies, and then sent the rest of the legion to the upper part of the mountain, to fortify their camp.

            This march of the Romans seemed to the Jews to be a flight; and as the watchman, who was placed upon the wall, gave a signal by shaking his garment, there came out a fresh multitude of Jews, and that with such mighty violence, that one might compare it to the running of the most terrible wild beasts. To say the truth, none of those that opposed them could sustain the fury with which they made their attacks; but, as if they had been cast out of an engine, they brake the enemies' ranks to pieces, who were put to flight and ran away to the mountain; none but Titus himself, and a few others with him, being left in the midst of the acclivity. Now these others who were his friends, despised the danger they were in, and were ashamed to leave their general, earnestly exhorting him 'to give way to these Jews that are desirous of death, and not to run into such dangers before those that ought to stay before him; to consider what his fortune was, and not, when he was master of the war and of the world, to fill the place of a common soldier; nor to withstand so fierce an attack risking everything thereby.' These persuasions Titus seemed not so much as to hear, but opposed those that ran upon him, and smote them on the face; and, when he had forced them to go back, he slew them; he also fell upon great numbers as they marched up the hill, and thrust them downward; while those men being amazed at his courage and his strength, yet did not fly directly to the city, but declined from him on both sides, and pressed after those that fled up the hill; yet did he still fall upon their flank, and put a stop to their fury. In the meantime, a disorder and a terror fell again upon those that were fortifying their camp at the top of the hill, upon their seeing those beneath them running away; insomuch that the whole legion was dispersed, while they thought that the sallies of the Jews upon them were plainly insupportable, and that Titus was himself put to flight; because they took it for granted, that, if he had stayed, the rest would never have fled for it. Thus were they encompassed on every side by a kind of panic fear, and some dispersed themselves one way, and some another, till certain of them saw their general in the very midst of an action, and, being under great concern for him, they loudly proclaimed the danger he was in to the entire legions; and now shame made them turn back, and they reproached one another that that they did worse than run away, by deserting Caesar. So they used their utmost force against the Jews, and declining from the straight declivity, they drove them in heaps into the bottom of the valley. Then did the Jews fight them as they retreated; and now, because the Romans had the advantage of the ground, and were above the Jews, they drove them all into the valley. Titus also pressed upon those that were near him, and sent the legion again to fortify their camp; while he, and those that were with him before, opposed the enemy, and kept them from doing farther mischief; insomuch, that if I may be allowed neither to add anything out of flattery, nor to diminish anything out of envy, but to speak the plain truth, Caesar did twice deliver that entire legion when it was in jeopardy, and gave them a quiet opportunity of fortifying their camp....

            Now on the next night, a surprising disturbance fell upon the Romans; for whereas Titus had given orders for the erection of three towers of fifty cubits high, that by setting one on each bank, he might from thence drive those away who were upon the wall, it so happened that one of these towers fell down about midnight; and as its fall made a very great noise, fear fell upon the army, and they, supposing that the enemy was coming to attack them, ran all to their arms. Whereupon a disturbance and a tumult arose among the legions, and as nobody could tell what had happened, they went on after a disconsolate manner; and seeing no enemy appear, they were afraid one of another, and everyone demanded of his neighbour the watchword with great earnestness, as though the Jews had invaded their camp. And now were they like people under a panic fear, till Titus was informed of what had happened, and gave orders that all should be acquainted with it; and then, though with some difficulty, they got clear of the disturbance they had been under.

            Now, these towers were very troublesome to the Jews, who otherwise opposed the Romans very courageously; for they were shot at by lighter engines from those towers, as also by those that threw darts, and the archers, and those that flung stones. For neither could the Jews reach those that were over them, by reason of their height, and it was not practicable to take them, nor to overturn them, they were so heavy, nor to set them on fire, because they were covered with plates of iron. So they retired out of the reach of the darts, and did no longer endeavour to hinder the impression of their rams, which, by continually beating upon the wall, did gradually prevail against it; so that the wall already gave way to the Nico, for by that name did the Jews themselves call the greatest of their engines, because it conquered all things. And now, they were for a long while grown weary of fighting, and of keeping guard, and were retired to lodge at the night-times at a distance from the wall. It was on other accounts also thought by them to be superfluous to guard the wall, there being besides that, two other fortifications still remaining, and they being slothful, and their counsels having been ill concerted on all occasions; so a great many grew lazy and retired. Then the Romans mounted the breach, where Nico had made one, and all the Jews left the guarding that wall, and retreated to the second wall; so those that had gotten over that wall opened the gates, and received all the army within it. And thus did the Romans get possession of this first wall, on the 15th day of the siege, which was the seventh day of the month Artemisius, when they demolished a greater part of it, as well as they did of the northern parts of the city, which had been demolished also by Cestius formerly.

            And now Titus pitched his camp within the city, at that place which was called the Camp of the Assyrians, having seized upon all that lay as far as Cedron, but took care to be out of the reach of the Jews' darts from the second wall. He then presently began his attacks, upon which the Jews divided themselves into several bodies, and courageously defended that wall; while John, and his faction, did it from the tower of Antonia, and from the northern cloister of the temple, and fought the Romans before the monuments of king Alexander; and Simon's army also took for their share the spot of ground that was near John's monument, and fortified it as far as to that gate where water was brought in to the tower Hippicus. The Jews made violent sallies, and that frequently also, and in bodies together out of the gates, and there fought the Romans; and when they were driven all together from the wall, they were beaten in the fights, as wanting the skill of the Romans; but when they fought them from the walls, they were too hard for them; the Romans being encouraged by their power, joined to their skill, as were the Jews by their boldness, which was nourished by the fear were in, and that hardiness which is natural to our nation under calamities; they were also encuraged still by the hope of deliverance, as were the Romans by their hopes of subduing them in a little time. Nor did either side grow weary; but attacks and fightings upon the wall, and perpetual sallies out in bodies were there all the day long; nor were there any sort of warlike engagements that were not then put in use. And the night itself had much ado to part them, when they began to fight in the morning, nay, the night itself was passed without sleep on both sides, and was more uneasy than the day to them, while the one was afraid lest the wall should be taken, and the other lest the Jews should make sallies upon their camps; both sides also lay in their armour during the night time, and thereby were ready at the first appearance of light to go to the battle. Now, among the Jews the ambition was who should undergo the first dangers, and thereby gratify their commanders. Above all, they had a great veneration and dread of Simon; and to that degree was he regarded by everyone of those that were under him, that at his command, they were very ready to kill themselves with their own hands. What made the Romans so courageous was their usual custom of conquering and disuse of being defeated, their constant wars, and perpetual warlike exercises, and the grandeur of their dominion; and what was now their chief encouragement. Titus, who was present everywhere with them all; for it appeared a terrible thing to grow weary while Caesar was there, and fought bravely as well as they did, and was himself at once an eye-witness of such as behaved themselves valiantly, and he who was to reward them also. It was, besides, esteemed an advantage at present to have anyone's valour known by Caesar, on which account many of them appeared to have more alacrity than strength to answer it. And now, as the Jews were about this time standing in array before the wall, and that in a strong body, and while both parties were throwing their darts at each other, Longinus, one of the equestrian order, leaped out of the army of the Romans, and leaped into the very midst of the army of the Jews; and as they dispersed themselves upon this attack he slew two of their men of the greatest courage; one of them he struck in the face as he was coming to meet him, the other was slain by him with that very dart which he drew out of the body of the other, with which he ran this man through his side, as he was running away from him; and when he had done this, he ran out of the midst of his enemies unwounded to his own side. So this man signalized himself for his valour, and many there were who were ambitious of gaining the like reputation. And now, the Jews were unconcerned at what they suffered themselves from the Romans, and were only solicitous about what mischief they could do them; and death itself seemed a small matter to them, if at the same time they could but kill anyone of their enemies. But Titus took care to secure his own soldiers from harm, as well as to have them overcome their enemies. He also said, that inconsiderate violence was madness, and that this alone was true courage, that was joined with forethought, and by which blows were dealt without suffering. He therefore commanded his men to take care, when they fought their enemies, that they received no harm from them at the same time, and thereby shew themselves to be truly valiant men.

            And now Titus brought one of his engines to the middle tower of the north part of the wall, in which a certain crafty Jew, whose name was Castor, lay in ambush, with ten others like himself, the rest being fled away by reason of the archers. These men lay still for a while, crouching under their breast-plates; but when the tower was shaken, they arose, and Castor did then stretch out his hand, as a petitioner, and called for Caesar, and by his voice moved his compassion, and begged of him to have mercy upon them; and Titus, in the innocency of his heart, believing him to be in earnest, and hoping that the Jews did now repent, stopped the working of the battering-ram, and forbade them to shoot at the petitioners, and bid Castor say what he had a mind to say to him. He said, that he would come down, if he would give him his right hand for his security. To which Titus replied, that he was well pleased with such his prudent conduct, and would be well pleased if all the Jews would be of his mind, and that he was ready to give the like security to the city. Now five of the ten dissembled with him, and pretended to beg for mercy, while the rest cried out aloud, that they would never be slaves to the Romans, while it was in their power to die in a state of freedom. Now while these men were quarrelling for a long while, the attack was delayed; Castor also sent to Simon, and told him that they might consult at leisure about what was to be done, because he would elude the power of the Romans, for a considerable time. And at the same time that he sent thus to him, he appeared openly to exhort those that were obstinate to accept of Titus's hand for their security; but they seemed very angry at it, and brandished their naked swords upon the breast works, and struck themselves upon their breasts, and fell down, as if they had been slain. Hereupon Titus, and those with him, were amazed at the courage of the men; and as they were not able to see exactly what was done, they admired their great fortitude, and pitied their calamity. During this interval, a certain person shot a dart at Castor, and wounded him in his nose, whereupon he presently pulled out the dart, and shewed it to Titus, and complained that this was unfair treatment; so Caesar reproved him that shot the dart, and sent Josephus, who then stood by him, to give his right hand to Castor. But Josephus said that he would not go to him, because these pretended petitioners meant nothing that was good; he also restrained those friends of his who were zealous to go to him. But still there was one Aeneas, a deserter, who said he would go to him. Castor also called to them, that somebody should come and receive the money which he had with him; this made Aeneas the more earnest to run to him with his bosom open. Then did Castor take up a great stone, and threw it at him, which missed him, because he guarded himself against it, but still it wounded another soldier that was coming to him. When Caesar understood that this was a delusion, he perceived that mercy in war was a pernicious thing, because such cunning tricks have less place under the exercise of greater severity. So he caused the engine to work more strongly than before, on account of his anger at the deceit put upon him. But Castor and his companions set the tower on fire, when it began to give way, and leaped through the flame into an hidden vault that was under it, which made the Romans farther suppose that they were men of great courage, as having cast themselves into the fire....

            Now Caesar took this wall there on the fifth day after he had taken the first; and when the Jews had fled from him, he entered into it with a thousand armed men, and those of his choice troops, and this at a place where were the merchants of wool, the braziers, and the market for cloth, and where the streets led obliquely to the wall. Wherefore, if Titus had either demolished a larger part of the wall immediately, or had come in, and, according to the law of war, had laid waste what was left, his victory would not, I suppose, have been mixed with any loss to himself. But now, out of the hope he had that he should make the Jews ashamed of their obstinacy, by not being willing, when he was able, to afflict them more than he needed to do, he did not widen the breach of the wall, in order to make a safer retreat upon occasion; for he did not think they would lay snares for him that meant to do them such a kindness. When therefore, he came in, he did not permit his soldiers to kill any of those they caught, nor to set fire to their houses neither; nay, he gave leave to the seditious, if they had a mind, to fight without any harm to the people, and promised to restore the people's effects to them; for he was very desirous to preserve the city for his own sake, and the temple for the sake of the city. As to the people, he had them of a long time ready to comply with his proposals; but as to the fighting men, this humanity of his seemed a mark of his weakness, and they imagined that he made these proposals because he was not able to take the rest of the city. They also threatened death to the people, if they should anyone of them say a word about a surrender. They moreover cut the throats of such as talked of a peace, and then attacked those Romans that were come within the wall. Some of them they met in the narrow streets, and some they fought against from their houses, while they made a sudden sally out at the upper gates, and assaulted such Romans as were beyond the wall, till those that guarded the wall were so affrighted, that they leaped down from their towers, and retired to their several camps. Upon which a great noise was made by the Romans that were within, because they were encompassed round on every side by their enemies; as also by them that were without, because they were in fear of those that were left in the city. Thus did the Jews grow more numerous, perpetually, and had great advantages over the Romans, by their full knowledge of those narrow lanes; and they wounded a great many of them, and fell upon them, and drove them out of the city. Now these Romans were at present forced to make the best resistance they could, for they were not able, in great numbers, to get out at the breach in the wall, it was so narrow. It is also probable that all those that were gotten within had been cut to pieces, if Titus had not sent them succours; for he ordered the archers to stand at the upper ends of these narrower lanes, and he stood himself where was the greatest multitude of his enemies, and with his darts he put a stop to them; as with him did Domitius Sabinus also, a valiant man, and one that in this battle appeared so to be. Thus did Caesar continue to shoot darts at the Jews continually, and to hinder them from coming upon his men, and this until all his soldiers had retreated out of the city.

            And thus were the Romans driven out, after they had possessed themselves of the second wall. Whereupon the fighting men that were in the city were lifted up in their minds, and were elevated upon this their good success, and began to think that the Romans would never venture to come into the city any more; and that, if they kept within it themselves, they should not be any more conquered. For God had blinded their minds for the transgressions they had been guilty of, nor could they see how much greater forces the Romans had than those that were now expelled, no more than they could discern how a famine was creeping upon them; for hitherto they had fed themselves out of the public miseries, and drank the blood of the city. But now poverty had for a long time seized upon the better part, and a great many had died already of want of necessaries; although the seditious indeed supposed the destruction of the people to be an easement to themselves; for they desired that none others might be preserved, but such as were against a peace with the Romans, and were resolved to live in opposition to them, and they were pleased when the multitude of those of a contrary opinion were consumed, as being then freed from a useless burden. And this was their disposition of mind with regard to those that were within the city, while they covered themselves with their armour, and prevented the Romans, when they were trying to get into the city again, and made a wall of their own bodies over against that part of the wall that was cast down. Thus did they valiantly defend themselves for three days; but on the fourth day they could not support themselves against the vehement assaults of Titus, but were compelled by force to fly whither they had fled before; so he quietly possessed himself again of that wall, and demolished the northern part entirely. And when he had put a garrison into the towers that were on the south parts of the city, he contrived how he might assault the third wall.

            The Works of Flavius Josephus. (London: 1906).

End of Etext The Siege of Jerusalem by Flavius Josephus
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