ROME-THE FIRST CAESARS.
constant turmoil. It was during this troublous epoch that the Christ was
born, and was saved from the bloody edict of Herod the Great by the flight
of his parents into Egypt.
After the introduction of the new era Judea continued a Roman province. The
procurator generally- lived in the coast town of Caesarea, and stood aloof
as much as possible from the interminable broils of the Jews. At Jerusalem,
the capital, every thing was as far as practicable left to the management
of the nation, under the lead of the Sanhedrim, or Jewish Senate. Never was
a people so turbulent, so excited with expectation of a deliverer who
should restore the ancient kingdom, so fired with bigotry and fanaticism,
as were the wretched Jews of this period. One Christ came after another.
Revolt was succeeded by revolt, instigated by some pseudo, prophet or
Meanwhile Rome gave little heed to Jewish prejudices except to despise
them. Caligula required the priests to set up his statue in the temple of
Jehovah. The rage of the Jews at this proposition was so intense that
nothing but the temporizing policy of the procurator prevented a desperate
rebellion. Claudius was more inclined to humor the dispositions of his
Judaean subjects, and there was a lull in the gathering tempest. Under
Nero, however, the procurators, acting in accordance with the temper of
their master, began to oppress the Jews and to trample on their customs. A
general rebellion was the result. The priests, as usual, promised the
interposition of heaven. The authority of the hierarchy over the minds of
the people was absolute. Not the Druids themselves held such undisputed
sway over the forest tribes of British Celts as did the Jewish priesthood
over the rabble about the temple and city of Jerusalem. It now became
necessary for Rome to apply her exterminating iron to the turbulent race,
or else give up Judea to its own anarchic independence.
The conflict which was waged for independence by the infatuated Jews was
prosecuted with a desperation hardly equaled in the annals of warfare. Nero
committed the work of suppressing the revolt to Vespasianus, then in joint
command with Mucianus in the East. The tactics adopted by the Roman general
were at once cautious and severe. He first captured Iotapata, in Galilee;
then received the surrender of Tiberias; then took Tarichea by storm. The
Jews quickly perceived that they had nothing to expect except annihilation
as the penalty for their rash rebellion; but this knowledge merely inspired
them with a profounder hatred of the Romans and a more sullen determination
to resist to the last. The campaign of A. D. 69 was still directed against
the outlying Judaean towns, rather than Jerusalem. It was manifestly the
policy of Vespasianus to destroy the resources of the country, and when the
whole population had taken refuge in the capital to invest the city and
exterminate the race.
Meanwhile Rome tottered. Nero went down before Galba, and Galba before
Otho. The latter gave place to Vitellius, and he hung for a moment on the
edge of the precipice. The Syrian army declared for Vespasianus, and that
general entrusted the completion of the Jewish war to his son Titus. The
latter, in the year 70, moved with all his forces against Jerusalem. Within
the city was a multitude of strangers, numbering hundreds of thousands; for
it was the feast of the Passover. Behind the walls were twenty-four
thousand regular soldiers, besides a large army of irregular troops, armed
and equipped for the occasion. Titus had at his disposal a force of about
eighty thousand men, mostly veterans of the legions.
If the people of the city had been united in their purposes, the Romans
could hardly have succeeded. The defenses of Jerusalem, both natural and
artificial, were almost impregnable to assault. It was only in the
existence of warring factions among the fanatic multitudes of Jewry and in
the steady approach of famine that Titus could hope for certain success.
After advancing from the north, and planting his forces on the ridge of
Scopus, he undertook negotiations, and, sending the historian Josephus to
the city gates, offered honorable terms to the besieged. But all proposals
were rejected with disdain and unquenchable hatred. The envoys which were
sent by Titus were met with a shower of arrows.