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ACT V, SCENE i
Sylla, bend your efforts to leveling four whole forests, so that ramparts can be built before the walls. When the wound is inflicted, let the cedar groan, fallen out of the sky, and let the cypress that threatens to reach up to the stars feel our men’s hands, bristling with axes. Let the oak lose its foliage, falling under manifold strokes, scarce able to withstand all those cuts as it is struck with the steel. Let the ground underneath receive its outthrust roots. As our supply of wood grows, let our ramparts rise and overtop the high walls. [Exit Sylla. Enter Jehoshue the rustic.]
JEH. Woe to you, Jerusalem! Woe to you, Jerusalem! Woe to the Temple! Woe to everybody! Woe to the children of Abraham! Woe is me! [He collapses.]
ALEX. He has been stricken by an enemy arrow, shot by an unknown hand. With this blood pouring out, he falls on his face and, dying, strikes the ground with his forehead. This peasant’s sayings predict the coming massacre with no uncertain terror. But who is coming from the city? Why does he halt in mid-step, terrified? He frowns, staring. [Enter Zaccar.]
ZAC. [To himself.] Where can I betake me, now that there is no place left in the city? Out here the angry enemy hunts me for punishment.
ALEX. Tell me whence you came and what you’re carrying. Don’t let your trembling heart dance with terror. Now consider this place safe.
ZAC. I am a citizen of Jerusalem, I confess. But now in my misery I shall be blessed if I find some release from this evil.
ALEX. Have no fear. But tell me what conditions are in Jerusalem. Are the citizens’ arms entirely weakened, or do they have the strength to wield their swords?
ZAC. Because of the famine their arms’ sinews are enfeebled, their limbs wither, and (in the manner of vessels) their marrow has long been gathering this evil within. Their throats are parched, their faces ashen, the bones of their misshapen bodies poke through their skin, they scarcely have the strength to drag along their twisted limbs. But their fierce minds are not broken by so many agonies. In their arrogance they swell with anger. Cheerfully they ignore their weakness, and the multitude of piled-up corpses — a horrible sight — does not keep them from going abut their rounds. In the city they are obliged to walk over the dying, who are vomiting up foul things, horrible with their stench. While they rush into war against each other, so to speak, and exhaust each other with their killing, the streets are filled with heaps of corpses and the wreckage of the people, but they do not shudder at the sight as they trample all the bodies. When they are sufficiently polluted by this domestic killing, they hurl themselves into the battle against their outside enemy and into the fight, with redoubled enthusiasm, as if rebuking God for His delay in wreaking punishment on them. For if they are not sustained by any trust in victory, with their hope of salvation abandoned this alone remains for them.
ALEX. Let no terror shoot through your trembling limbs. Henceforth you will be safe in my camp. [Exit Zaccar. Enter Sylla.]
SYL. When the enemy saw our ramparts reaching up to the sky, a chill dread shot through all their limbs. Because of this mass of timber, they feared the city’s downfall, if this construction were not burned to the ground. They gaped opened, and the Jews rushed out in disorder, not as they had previously fought. They fought only sporadically, and not without timidity. They found reasons for delays, taking little pleasure in aggression. Their boldness failed them, as did their speed at running, and now they could make no coordinated attack against their enemy. They tried to throw firebrands against the wood, but their ardor failed out of fear, and they could no longer conceal the fact that their strength was failing because of the famine. Pretty soon they retired into the city, accusing each other of cowardice. Our men defended the ramparts, into which they had poured so much effort. They would be ashamed if people won who were weakened by long starvation, and the forests had given up all their wood, so that there was no hope of building replacements. But it troubled the anxious Romans that all these evils (I mean ruin, civil strife, and the famine) only served to nourish the enemy’s courage. The ram continued to pound at the Antonia’s side, since here the wall was least able to withstand the machine. Rocks were hurled down on the ram’s protective wickerwork, sulphur-dipped torches were set ablaze, and the ram’s arms made no impression on the huge structure. With persistent effort only four stones were dislodged. Then, after the setting sun had plunged its head into the ocean and, with the day spent, the dead of night had fallen, of its own accord the wall of the Antonia gave out a huge noise. All of a sudden, before the ram had destroyed it with its iron horns, it collapsed to the ground. The Jews were in anguish and, lacking in foresight as they were, condemned their own inertia. At the first the Romans’ hearts leapt with joy — until a new wall was thrown in their way. Suddenly a sad chagrin overcame them. Even if the construction of this new wall is much cruder, and the climb up through the ruins is easier, nobody dares make the ascent. [Enter Titus and his troops, including the soldier Sabinus. Titus addresses his officers.]
TIT. Most brave officers of my army, we require greater courage. Summon new reserves of strength. The hoped-for palm of victory is at hand, the end is in sight. A happy ending will prove everything for the best. But the final stages of things always have dire turnings, nor is anything more violent than these miseries. Here it is right for me to consider our Roman leadership. Now, firstly, I shall confess that in my estimation he is my man who sticks by me as I follow the standard and, as my comrade, undertakes risk in all situations. This is the day for spilling blood, the day which will answer our prayers and bestow on you that Jewish wealth for the hope of which you are standing in arms. So quickly lay low the last of those three walls. Bestow a triumph on your nation. Only a small extra bit of effort is required for your arms. The greatest part of Jerusalem’s power has already fallen to us. The city is standing like a dead tree, as barren as a trunk with its branches lopped off. We only have to be daring. Now, now you have an enemy barely able to drag along his limbs, smitten by debilitating famine. Civil war has done them in. Only a few are left, waiting for you to inflict the final wounds.
Let some soldier be cold-blooded and desert the battle-line: each man will see his general fighting. I do not claim any share of the enemy booty for myself. The glory of this great war will be sufficient payment, the honor of this victorious slaughter. Whatever your armed hand carries off, whatever this wealthy city will surrender, will fall to your swords. I shall only be your comrade in these great dangers. So trample the city’s first ruins. See, its walls have already given sounds of impending collapse. The man who first sets his foot on enemy soil will carry off a great reward. [To himself.] What’s this? My officers are sluggish, stupefied in silence.
SAB. Now, Caesar, I wholeheartedly dedicate myself to you. I shall be the first to lay hands on the enemy walls. I pray that Fortune will be your companion, if the Fates choose to give me to death. Without despair, I shall go to meet my end. My prayer is to die for you. What more need I say? My sole reward will be to have pleased you.
TIT. Sabinus, a great spirit runs through your frame, small though it may be; brave blood courses through your weak body. The ages will relate your fame to our distant progeny. [The army goes off and noises of fighting are heard. Then Cerealis enters.]
CER. After the sun buried his head in the western land, twenty brave men entrusted with guarding the rampart gathered. They were joined by two legionaries. The standard-bearer of their maniple joined them as a comrade, as did a blower of the hoarse bugle. These picked their way through the ruins to the Antonia. Sluggishly the amazed guards put up a fruitless fight and, despite their prayers, their lives were not spared. The bugler filled the air with his resounding instrument. The Jews were all awakened by the noise and fell into a sudden panic. They fled to the Temple, not daring to test their antagonists’ strength, and in their fear they exaggerated the enemy’s numbers. The bugle-call suggested that a large force was present. Immediately they strove to occupy the holy place, as they hoped to defend it, even if the city were to be lost. But a large number died in the crush. Our men thought that the capture of the Temple would finish off the long war.
TIT. My men must arm themselves. Raise up the standards. The fighting summons me. [Exit. Enter Lucius.]
LUC. Oh noble Sabinus, why does Fortune hate you, that goddess so spendthrift of life?
CER. What news of Sabinus are you sadly bringing?
LUC. Sabinus, dangerous beneath the shadow of his shield, dangerous because of his sword, strove to climb up and lay his hand on the top of the wall. Eleven men followed in imitation of his courage. The Zealots ran up and resisted bravely. Here rocks, planks, arrows flew thick and fast, not without causing bloodshed. But this atrocious cloud of weapons did not cow the leader’s spirit. He always made for the top. The Jews quickly abandoned their positions and, fearing their allies equally, turned their shameful backs on the enemy. Sabinus, more pugnacious in word and deed, was swept along by an even greater trust in his spirits. After the Jews saw that nobody was coming to help them, and that the Romans were in possession only of the walls built by the king, they fought with renewed vigor, each man courageously struggling for his own safety. But see, all of a sudden Sabinus tripped on a stone and fell headlong. The enemy attacked him with their weapons and tired him out by making him whirl hither and thither. He propped himself up on one knee and defended himself with his agile sword. Under the protection of his shield, he both dealt out and received heavy blows. At length he became exhausted and dropped his head and, crushed under a pile of rocks, gasped and gave up his spirit, that had so long resisted destiny. At the same time, three of his comrades who were holding the walls died after being stricken by stones. [Enter Longinus.]
LONG. Jews, who had retreated into the recesses of the Temple, attacked the enemies by sallying out of a tunnel leading to the rampart, previously constructed by Jehochanan. The Jews fought to keep the Romans out of the Temple. Sword clashed against sword in the hand-to-hand fighting, and on both sides death held terror in its undecided hand. For a long time, invidious Fortune held her scales in equal balance. Now this piece of ground was free of men, now that. Everywhere the blood shed by both sides mixed together in pools, and harsh death exceeded her limit. The savage war-goddess set this final disorderly battle in motion. Threats and imprecations could be heard, as well as the groans of the dying. The Jews could not stand having the Romans occupy their holy place.
So the battle was waged fiercely for over ten hours. The Jews’ courage overcame the Romans’ skill. At length the Roman forces were obliged to retire: though accustomed to conquer, in trepidation they turned their backs on the enemy, and the Jewish victors regained the Temple that had been slipping out of their hands.
Julianus could scarcely tolerate this mark of shame. He happened to be standing next to Titus in the Antonia citadel. What did he not dare? Quickly he dashed along. He fought off one pursuing enemy, forced him backwards. And then (wonderful to tell) just the sight of this man compelled the Jews backwards into a corner of the Temple. They had no desire to resist him. They marveled at the man’s boldness, thinking him a wild beast. This victor gave many bodies to death. But, alas, this officer was standing on hard pavement and, wearing hobnailed boots, he stumbled. Under the heavy weight of his armor, he slipped and was surrounded by a roiling mob. Lying on the ground and grimacing, he used his shield to receive his enemies’ blows, falling thick and fast. He tried to stand up, but was again thrown down by the number of his attackers. He killed the majority of them, but in the interim nobody dared come to his aid. At length, the strength deserted his heavy limbs and, having resisted the Fates a long while, he died in Caesar’s sight. He remained bold in the face of death itself, his anger keeping him alive. The enemy gained possession of his body, and forced the Romans to retreat to the Antonia.
LUC. Oh, the uncertainties of war, like so many uncertain throws of the dice! As with such tosses, it deceives mankind with unforeseen events, bringing new calamities.
LONG. Soon the Jews retired into the Temple. It sufficed for them to have distinguished themselves by their courage. Our men are happy to have possession of the Antonia. Titus has given orders to barricade the Temple, forbidding the pent-up defenders to leave. [Enter Titus and Josephus.]
TIT. Level the Antonia to the ground, so that our route to the Temple will be easier. Josephus, they tell me that nobody is making sacrifices, and that the inhabitants’ solemn festival which your ancestors called the Continual Sacrifice had been abandoned by the city inhabitants. They say that the citizens are affected by the utmost sorrow. So make this proclamation to Jehochanan (for if this told to him in a familiar language, it will make a greater impression): if he is still gripped by this insanity for fighting, let our armies try the matter on an even footing. Let each general select an equal number of soldiers. Let him finally cease defiling the holy place, nor let the city foully drag down the Temple. Who would shamefully commit such a base sin? Let the Jews perform their accustomed rites to God, and let him choose select men for this purpose.
ACT V, SCENE ii
JOS. Jehochanan, I beg you in the name of our great God, the Beginning and End of all things, in the name of the holy Temple’s sanctuary, by our wives’ chaste fidelity, by our children, sweet pledges of our loves, succor this nation of ours, which has long been reeling. Keep the approaching torches from the Temple, piously give back to God His customary worship, nor let the Lord be deprived of His eternal honor. Assign picked men to these rites. The enemy will not prevent this, and will praise such a pious effort.
JEH. Do you say this, degenerate of blood, deserving to be buried far away from your ancestors’ tombs? You shameful turncoat, you who now bear the shameful yoke in another world, should you have betrayed your city to the enemy? Is the man who urged this the son of a Jewish priest? Why do you cravenly foist the yoke on your children? You, a captive at home, eagerly await your master’s orders. Or did your master give you a spell of rest, so that you, a traitor, might betray God’s Temple and prostitute the city to our gentile enemies? Why do you falsely cast the city’s downfall in our teeth? This is God’s city, this is His patrimony. God will protect our city beneath His outspread wings, since it offers pure victims to Him, and since no other nation so gratefully offers up its incense.
JOS. Why not keep the city intact for God? The rite has remained inviolate for our citizens, and now you should not insolently insult Him Whose aid you are expecting in your dire straits. If anybody tries to end your famine with foodstuffs, you regard that man as an impious enemy. Do you imagine that the God Whom you do not hesitate to deprive of His sacred rites is going to help you in the storms of this war? You accuse the Romans of sinfulness, who are now trying to preserve the pathway commended us by the Law, and bid you return to God His holy rites, you who have been striving to violate them. In the city’s ruined condition, what wretched man can remain dry of eye? With sadness our enemies are trying to correct your slipping foot as you are abandoning the Law’s ancient cycle. You, a descendent of Judah, who learned the Law in your childhood, are now attempting to abolish it, more savage than the Romans. Salvation is always hoped for in evil extremities, no matter what sad thing baleful destiny ordains.
Jehochanan the king voluntarily abandoned the city as the Babylonians were preparing to destroy it with their wheeled-up machines, lest he betray the holy things to the enemy and see his nation turned to ashes, its walls pulled down. He preferred to give his captive hands to the enemy in bonds. Fame extols this man to the stars, to the heavens, and knows no limits. His example is pertinent, Jehochanan. Even though doom is impending, I promise that the Romans will spare you. Reflect. I ask you as a fellow countryman, one Jew to another. Bear in mind who is responsible for this suggestion, who has had this idea. Far be it from me to betray my race and my nation as a captive. You fulminate with your great roaring, Jehochanan, leveling bitter words at me with that pestilential mouth of yours. I deserve even more bitter ones, since I am urging you to avoid predestined punishment, because I am struggling to save men who are worthy of death in the sight of God, men who shun the Fathers’ writings: I mean the Fathers who, afire with the spirit of prophecy, predicted that Jerusalem’s downfall would occur when Judah’s descendants stained their hands with the blood of their fellow countrymen. God’s city alone is not inundated with blood, but also (I shudder to say it) God’s Temple. God has brought forth His cleansing fire. God Himself, joined by the Romans, will swiftly purify the city with His avenging flames.
ACT V, SCENE iii
JEHOSHUE THE PRIEST, TITUS
JEH. Magnanimous Caesar, mighty victor in war, our sole solace in these difficult times, embrace us wretches with your wonted favor, we whom wicked faction has hounded with its hatreds. We are the priests Jehoshua and Joseph, and the three sons of Ishmael the priest, whom the impious beheaded at Cyrene, the four sons of Mathias, and also the sons of another Mathias who have escaped Schimeon’s clutches after he cruelly killed their father, now that madness, cruelty, insanity rule in place of law. The Zealots have given orders that hands be laid on us, and their knavish leaders have marked us down as the first to be killed. This might perhaps be tolerable, if the city’s hand were not so poised for self-destruction. But we do not think we are already dead men, if only you deign to support us with your favor.
TIT. The piteous slaughter of your citizens has not escaped me. Now dismiss the anguish of your minds. There is little profit in making tearful lamentations. I confess that it has been in my mind to conquer Jerusalem, but not to overthrow her altogether. I shall grant you the Egyptian land of Goshen for a dwelling-place, a place where both banks of the Nile gently spill over and irrigate the thirsty fields with the waters of springtime. Here will be your temporary residence, but if it is troublesome for you to live among the gentiles, when the war is over I shall divide up fields for you here at home. [Exeunt the refugees. Enter Priscus, a centurion.]
PRISC. When those nobles could no longer be found in the city, those who just kissed your feet humbly, immediately the rebel leaders spewed forth the poison of their pestilential tongues. What manner of evil was not dreamt up by the treacherous vanity of such virulent talkers? They ordered it proclaimed throughout the city that you cruelly torture refugees to death, so that they might intimidate the citizens from fleeing. Terror immediately seeped through the citizens’ marrow, and the gullible populace believed them.
TIT. Bid those leading citizens come back here. What storms are stirred up by calumny, when this pestilence is wafted on far-traveling breezes! The people are always inclined to believe the worst. [Exit Priscus. Enter Longinus.]
LONG. Corpses lie strewn, killed by various misfortunes. Any space surrounding the holy gates is considered a burial-place for the citizens’ bodies. Armed men are breaking into the Temple’s innermost recesses, after their hands have been bathed in their fellow citizens’ blood. Various kinds of war-machine are constructed out of plank-work, in order to shoot off rocks. They are locking the sacred gates, and the holy refuge has acquired the character of a fortress. The Romans themselves are indignant that the Jews have defiled their Temple with their own hands. Nor does anyone fail to honor the Temple with due respect, hoping the tyrants’ spirits will soften.
TIT. Oh, the great insanity of these hotheads! We Romans are indignant that the Jewish sanctuary is shamefully profaned. But the Jews are not ashamed that the Temple is thus being insulted. [Enter the leading Jewish citizens whom Titus has recalled from Goshen, where he has settled them.]
I have ordered you leading citizens to come back. The tyrants manufacture bitter reports about us, and in their minds contrive their usual deceits, believable to the fickle commoners. They falsely say that I have hanged you from high gallows, subjecting to great torture every miserable refugee who has fled to us. Therefore I want you to go around Jerusalem’s walls, showing your faces to your fellow citizens, so that they will know you have suffered nothing of the sort. Josephus will be your faithful escort. [Reenter Jehoshue and the other prominent Jewish refugees.]
JEH. Children of Abraham, sacred seed of our forefathers, after Fortune has failed us and gone over to the Roman general, why be reluctant to follow where destiny summons? With tears raining down our faces, we humbly beseech you. Hand over the city to Caesar, for it has been conquered in war. Keep the fire from our nation. But if this displeases you, at least leave the Temple and free it for us. The Romans will scarcely dare put it to the torch, unless compelled by great necessity. Caesar’s leniency is immense, he embraces suppliants with his favor.
SCHIMEON [From the wall.] So a traitor bids us save our nation? How can a traitor have any concern for the Temple? We shall gladly law down our lives for our religion, and we shall not shamefully seek safety in flight.
TIT. Why do you hope for heaven’s indulgence? Where will Zealots make sacrifice in adoration of their Lord on high, they who have impiously shed blood in the Temple? (Let diverse runn out of the Cittye and kneel before Titus as men amazed.)
Why do you silently kneel before me? What amazement has fettered your senses? What prevents you from opening those mute jaws of yours and speaking? [To his men.] I pity them. Lead the poor fellows to our camp, talk to them to rebuild their failed spirits. [Schimeon reappears on the wall.]
You disgraceful people, have you not surrounded the sanctuary with a fence and put up an inscription in both Greek and Latin warning lest anyone intrude into the holy precinct? Has it not been your custom to put to death anybody (and I do not complain about this, even if the offender be a Roman) who has transgressed this sacred boundary? So why do you trample the corpses strewn in this place, the bodies of your people, you most depraved of mankind? I call both on my own gods and whatever God has presided over this place (although I believe none has done so), I call on my army, I call on the refugees staying within my camp, I call on you yourselves to witness that I am not forcing you to violate this holy shrine. If you want to leave the Temple and fight somewhere else, my soldiers will not trample the holy threshold, no Roman will cross it, no Roman will do injury to your Temple.
SCHIM. Is my heart supposed to freeze with fear, since you have set aside your weapons and give the city a tongue-lashing? You hope that you can capture Jerusalem by your entreaties, or overcome the Jews by loud shouting? Let the Romans roam everywhere with their curved blades. Let your widespread legions, bristling with arms, make the earth resound. Let your furious forces throw their blazing torches. Romulus’ descendants will never set foot on our consecrated thresholds, or reach the places familiar to our priesthood. [Exit. Among Titus’ retinue are Cerealis and Fronto.]
TIT. Since they are hell-bent on ruination, and are so unconcerned about suffering destruction, and since their tyrants have intention to spare their Temple, I shall wage war. But since our whole thronging army cannot fight in these tight quarters, Cerealis, I want you to choose thirty bold fellows from each century, and appoint officers over each group of a thousand. When the sun relaxes his reins and bathes his head in the western sea, make a full-force attack on the enemy guards. At the same time, I myself shall take up arms and join in the fight.
FRONT. Great-hearted general, why go out of your way to endanger yourself? You will watch from a distance, safe at the Antonia, so you can determine our soldiers’ morale and the level of their courage. Soldiers always seek glory more eagerly under the eye of their general.
TIT. I shall gladly watch the battles from the walls of the Antonia, so that their proven virtue will be rewarded. [Exeunt omnes except Florus.]
FLOR. How long will your virtue, a stranger to repose, drive you, always goading you to new heights? Titus, what plan are you pondering in that careful mind of yours? Soon this city, the long-flourishing glory of Asia, will provide ample plunder for Rome. Her overthrown walls will attest our glory. Jerusalem cannot long stand. [Enter Cornelius.]
CORN. Although Cerealis attacked their night-watchmen, he did not catch them asleep. With a great shout both sides fell to fighting. While the Romans withstood their initial attack, the rest of the Jews, awakened by the huge uproar, came in their throngs but attacked their own people, and expended their efforts on killing their own. For everywhere identifies were confused by the hubbub: the din made on both sides made their voices indistinguishable, and the dark of night took away their vision. Some were blinded by passion, and others by panic, and yet others by an anger that overmastered destiny. Jews and Romans fell indiscriminately. But the fact that you could not distinguish men by their voices worked less harm to our side. The well-trained Romans, mindful of their officers’ passwords, desired to follow orders. What was not committed in this nocturnal fracas? The unfortunate sword dealt out many a wound on its own side, and Mars presided over a disorganized battle. Finally the Jewish forces were scattered, since they conducted both their attack and their retreat rashly. Both sides formed imaginary ideas about the other. Our men, fancying returning men to be the enemy, cut them down with swords made in Italy. And so in their ignorance they killed each other until the rosy dawn ordered her horses joined to her chariot, scattering the stars with her light. [Enter Phrigius.]
PHRIG. After the daylight had revealed the enemy standing drawn up in their battle-line, the opposing sides brandished their spears. Hither and thither went flying a thousand arrows. Uncompromising fury urged them to press the fight, and the men refused to let each other tire. The Romans competed for glory, since their general was looking on and each man desired to win the prize for valor. The Jews were afraid for themselves and their Temple. And their tyrant forced others into the fight, lashing at them, goading on many with his threats. Titus was disturbed by the doubtfulness of the outcome, and urged on his languishing men with loud shouts, as if this were some sort of theater-piece about war. Nor was their sufficient space to permit a retreat for either side. And since in their fighting stubbornness neither side would yield, the palm of victory was left in doubt. [Enter Titus.]
TIT. Tear the Antonia down to its very foundations, so that there will be me room for us to fight our way to the Temple. Let two ramparts now be constructed against its walls, let each be made suitably for its location. [Rounding on one of his soldiers.]
You sluggard, you have allowed a horse to be stolen, and not because of any courage on the part of the enemy. You let it graze unbridled while you strove to plunder wood and fodder from the fields. Therefore the drawn sword will probe your guts, taking off your slothful spirit. [Turning to another.] Pedanius, you have been borne along the Jews’ flank on your galloping horse, heading towards the mountain where the Mount of Olives rises with its steep peak, and you have taken up a brawny youth, seizing him by the ankle. He was protected by armor front and back, and he was seeking to flee after panic had scattered all his mates across the valley. In mid-gallop you bent over and you gave an exhibition of the strength of your arm and your whole body. You controlled the animal with your skilled hand, pulling at the hard-pressed steed’s mouth with the reins and adroitly guiding him with the spurs. Therefore posterity will sing your glory, since you, the victor, present your general with the great gift of a youth captured in battle. This is welcome to me, since the captive boy dared to attack my walls. Let the sword pierce his vitals.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
Since the battle runs against them daily and there is no end to the bitter injuries they suffer, the Jews are voluntarily yielding to their fate. The extremity of their woes has overcome all fear. Because Fortune has consumed all their strength, these people contribute their own efforts to the general destruction. Now Fortune does not seem sufficiently adverse, so with their own hands they have set fire to the portico which adjoins the Antonia. This portico presented a gaping hole of twenty cubits, for the Jews measured the path of the fire according to their own sense of self-advantage. The Romans did not cease doing damage at this point, and the fire traveled a distance of fourteen cubits. The Zealots pitched into the task, cutting down the roof of the portico. At the same time, the Romans kindled their own fire. The Zealots watched the burning from afar while keeping their peace, and the seed of Abraham were quite unconcerned about putting out the blaze. [Enter Jonathas on the wall, and Pedanius on the ground.]
JON. Why do you sit a distance, bombarding our walls with your missiles and hurling meaningless insults at us in complete safety? This is how excited puppies like to bark: they scare you with their loud racket, but cause no harm. Why are you, the arrogant conquerors of the world, afraid to draw near or fight with your opponents on level ground? I challenge to single combat the Roman who strives to surpass his fellows in achieving martial distinction.
PED. We Romans think it unworthy to fight with Jonathas, a man of puny frame, ugly face, sordid ancestry, and exceedingly vile in other respects. Only the man who is forced to fight by sad necessity entrusts his safety to the ultimate risk. There is nothing he would not dare.
PRISC. To risk battle against people whom it would be no great thing to conquer, but by whom it would be most shameful and fairly risky to be bested, would not be the deed of a brave spirit, and would be unworthy of a Roman soldier.
JON. Your head is turning on that weary neck of yours. Are you leaving? Why does fright strike your heart? Keep up your spirits. [The soldier Pudens attacks Jonathas and is killed.]
PED. See, Pudens is very arrogantly risking battle, but as they come together he slips. Stumbling, he falls before his enemy and, betrayed by chance, lies as laughable prey. He has paid the price for his rashness. Jonathas is plunging his sword in his breast.
JON. [Dancing around the corpse.] Pudens, why take fright at the first glance? Why voluntarily yield to your enemy? Is this the way Romans used to conquer? You, the bravest Roman combatant, lie there on the ground. [Kills him.]
PED. While victorious Jonathas is gloating over the dead Pudens, Priscus the centurion shoots him with an arrow and he falls in the dirt, his body covering that of his enemy. Jonathas’ premature good fortune portended that his comeuppance was at hand. [Exeunt. Enter Titus and his officers.]
TIT. How stubborn is our enemies’ folly! They deny us victory, although we won it long ago. Rather, they strive to endure every last agony.
SYL. Our army is struggling to besiege the Temple from that direction in which the sun, rising from the ocean, first shines his light. The Jews were fighting with failing strength, and they suddenly fled, as if overwhelmed. The Roman forces pursued with a vigorous onrush and, with their left sides protected by shields in the usual way, they made ready to bring up ladders against the wall and overwhelm its top. But the wiser sort of Roman did not move from his position, fearing treachery and thinking that there was no reason for this rout. After the Jews had fallen back and the Romans had gained control of the portico roof, a great cloud of smoke belched out of the wooden structure. Unleashed Vulcan did horrible work. Our skillful enemy had previously smeared the wooden beams with sulphur and pitch, and with dry tinder had cleverly arranged a place for the fire to break out. For the Jews had thought it useful to have taken precautions lest […] When the victorious Romans saw sparks flying in all directions, and that they were surrounded by threatening flames, they tried to retreat headlong to the city, but the greedy fire prevented their tardy flight. A large part of them made a blind attack against the enemy, and were sent off to Hell without gaining any honor. Others tried to make their way through the hurled torches. But the fire’s rage baffled these pointless efforts. Out of terror, a few voluntarily leapt into hollow spaces, and their bodies lay with the brains dashed out, an ugly sight.
TIT. Even if the enemy places such great reliance on fire, fire will also assist us. My spirit is ablaze because the Romans rashly began a fight without their general’s orders. I am sorry to have to watch our men struggling against the flames. I swear by Jupiter, the governor of the heavenly court, with this hand I shall cruelly avenge this wrong. (Let Titus runn into the Cittye and cry aloud.) Fight the flames, my soldiers, try to put out the fire! Why are you reluctant to extinguish the burning timbers? Don’t you care about saving the citizens’ lives? [Exeunt. Enter Schimeon, on the wall.]
SCHIM. Why do you pointlessly wage such a long war against the fire? Come forward. I give you my word. Fear no harm. [Exit. Enter Longinus on the wall, and his brother Cornelius at ground level.]
CORN. I beg you, by the gods, brother, not to bring disgrace on the name of Rome. Do not let Jerusalem eagerly mock you for being a suppliant. Why try to besmirch our ancient glory?
LONG. You see my misfortune, Cornelius. With Vulcan prevailing over my life, the Fates are jealous. I call both armies, who are witnessing this deed, to attest that I am scarcely troubled by a cowardly fear for my life. (Then let him kill himself in the sight of both the Armyes. [Enter Artorius atop the wall, and Lucius below.])
ART. Dear Lucius, catch me in your lap as I fall. I make you heir to my estate.
LUC. Leap down into my outstretched lap, Artorius.
PEDANIUS (being in the fier.) Titus, feel no anguish over our death. This solace is enough for those of us who are dying, that our end makes Titus grieve, the man for whom we always wish to lay down our lives. Each of us, hearing your welcome exclamations and seeing your pious emotions, accepts them as the most distinguished of funeral rites, and has no hesitation to die boldly. [At this point Artorius jumps off the wall and crushes Lucius.]
ART. Oh, bitter daylight! Clotho, when you were ready to break my life’s thread, why did you redirect your distaff and accomplish Lucius’ destruction instead of mine? Unhappily, I escaped the flames so that I might kill a friend. Caught in your lap, I crushed you with my weight, and I am the sole weapon of your death. Why does the pursuing flame not take me back and burn me? Would that the same fate had taken us both, that the same moment had put an end to both our lives! What is the point in living? Why does a single tomb not cover us both?
ACT V, SCENE v
In that direction where the setting sun sees the Temple Mount, for three days the merciless ram pounded at a distance the Temple portico with great crashes, striking at the protruding turrets with its constant rotary motion. The machine dealt out useless blows, nor did the massive wooden structure incur any damage. The vinea approached the undisturbed wall. The Romans hiding within its iron interior vainly sought to undermine its hollow foundations and unhinge its gates, and so, as the walls were battered, a few stones fell out. [Enter Titus and Phrigius.]
PHRIG. After the solid construction of the stones had baffled the machine’s vain blows, and the ram, brought up in open view, had not broken down its walls, with their left sides protected by shields in the usual way, the Romans strove to bring up ladders against the wall. They filled the ditch with a cohort of soldiers. A huge mass of Jews was swept towards the portico, and immediately threw themselves into this longed-for struggle. They knocked down ladders by rolling rocks off the portico. Javelins shot by leather thongs went flying, they poured down burning pitch, quicklime, grindstones, burning brands, all the things with which people are wont to defend themselves in such extremities. The Romans were quite unafraid of the rocks and the fiery pitch being dumped on them. Halted in mid-ascent, they still reached again for the portico roof. But then they were thrown back to the ground, and vainly hoped to force open the gate, which had settled back on its hinge. The defenders added to the weight of their manpower, continually reinforced by new soldiers joining in the battle. Our men could not maintain their fighting spirit. Some struggled to regain standards which had been wrenched way during the struggle. Having received spear-thrusts in the throat, they fell, striking the ground with their foreheads, drenching the soil with their blood. Nor did any respite assist their vain effort. The Jews’ destructive swords meted out many wounds in a brief span, and our few who escaped could only think about saving their skins.
TIT. Why should we be troubled about destroying a foreign temple after receiving such injuries, after suffering so many casualties? Rather, let fire be thrown into the Temple, let it blaze. [Enter Alanus and Archelaus.]
AL. Alanus of Amantina and Archelaus, son of Magadatus, beg for your pledge of safety. Stretch out your hand and grant us our lives.
TIT. [To himself.] This Alanus was a henchman of Schimeon, and I know that both of these men were cruel. They ask me to pledge them their safety, because during our attack the victorious Zealots killed some of our men. [Aloud.] Why are refugees begging for your lives, having abandoned your nation, which you can see burning because of your wickedness? This submission is not of your own free will, but is artfully feigned. My heart swells with rage. But why should I loosen the bridle of my wrath? I shall restrain myself. Both of you will be safe within our camp. [Exeunt. Enter Antonius.]
ANT. The machines set up in the Temple are aglow with the spreading fire. Flames are consuming the woodwork and the gold has melted, and the growing fire is spreading to the neighboring porticos. Molten gold flows along, creating a path for the fire, and the Zealots gape at the conflagration in amazement. They are astonished, their minds are frozen, their bodies paralyzed. They neither help the fire nor try to extinguish it, unmoved by the fact that the Temple is ablaze. They only measure its spontaneous progress with their eyes, and the survivors can only hopefully pull themselves back.
TIT. Put out the crackling flames. Afterwards, you must pioneer a widely circuitous route to the Temple, so that the ascent to the Temple Mount will be easy for our men. [Enter Titus’ officers: Alexander, Cerealis, Lepidus, Phrigius, and Fronto.]
You who share with me the responsibility for this campaign, should the Temple be rescued or demolished? What views strike the minds of each of you?
ALEX. I would not leave it standing, if anyone were striving to garrison it. But since the defeated Jews have left it undefended, and we are not reinforcing it in any place, now that the city has been subdued, my opinion is that the Temple should not be destroyed. If, however, they fight to maintain possession of it, and the tyrants fortify it out of bloody-mindedness, mocking the proud strength of this army of ours, then this will no longer seem to be a Temple, but rather an enemy strongpoint that must be overwhelmed.
CER. Why should we rashly destroy this world-famous sanctuary, this distinguished monument, this admirable work of art? Control of the city has already fallen into our hands, and our antagonists cannot hide in the Temple for long. They will voluntarily yield to destiny, which is running against them. In war, it is always enough just to do what is necessary, and it is unreasonable for a victor to take out his rage against stones.
LEP. As the victor, you must insist on the rights of war The burning timbers are ceasing to smoke. As long as this incorrigible race sees its Temple standing, it will never cease plotting revolution. As Fate turns against them, they will all hasten to gather here and renew their strength, so that in this war the Temple will be a refuge for the conquered.
PHRIG For a long time the Temple has run with the blood of its own people. Why should we witness any further killing of our soldiers? What sight could be more welcome for those who have suffered so many wounds than the ruined Temple with its walls pulled down? Nor let anyone accuse Titus of sinfulness, since they have polluted God’s Temple with their blood.
FRONT. Why should we complain that their Temple has been stained with the blood of their soldiers? You can see the final destruction of the city accomplished without any losses. We have conquered the city at our leisure, and there is no need for further bloodshed. We may enjoy our victory with the Temple still standing. Why destroy that which will presently be yours? Soon our conquered enemy will surrender himself for punishment.
ANT. You are unable to subdue your enemy unless you smash him. A fire badly extinguished blazes up again. This Temple was a cause of this tenacious war, since their prophets uttered unfortunate predictions that God would never abandon His Temple. Unless the Temple is leveled, we are defeated. The Jews will block us from their inner sanctuary, and what would their fury, stronger than their destiny, not accomplish? You must free us from this anxiety. Allow us the fruit of our victory.
TIT. Although the armed Zealots are occupying the Temple and throwing down rocks and timbers, I shall not destroy such a distinguished monument. It scarcely befits Titus to wage war against senseless stones, and the ruin of the Temple would be our loss. It will endure as a great glory for our future empire. Now let everyone go to the camp. Let our soldiers have a brief period of rest, so that their bodies will be invigorated by higher spirits. In a short while I shall besiege the Temple with all my forces. (After they all exit the sound of battle is heard. [Enter Sylla.])
SYL. On the side where the rising sun contemplates the world at his dawning, the Zealots attempted a battle by attacking their enemy with renewed courage. The Romans resisted them industriously, both receiving and dealing out wounds. On either side the raucous bugle urged on the fighting. (More noise of fighting. [Exit Sylla, enter Priscus.]
PRISC. The enemy’s endurance was hardly the same as before. A chill stole over their limbs, but their spirits returned as their strength revived, so that they courageously returned to the fay and there was no place where their soldiers were not involved in the fight. Titus witnessed the battle from the Antonia. With a select escort the general came flying up, and by his new appearance he enlivened our men’s weary progress. Out of fear, the Jewish battle-line gradually yielded, they could not withstand the great heat of battle. Their hands grew exhausted wielding their weapons, and they turned their backs in flight. Shivering with dread, they retreated within the walls. Suddenly they are shouting. What is this groaning the citizens are making? Smoke is covering the starry heavens. [Enter Fronto.]
FRONT. A soldier chanced to throw a firebrand through a golden Temple window. The sanctuary is ablaze with the flames that immediately began to rage. Dark cinders are flying everywhere.
PRISC. Where’s Titus?
FRONT. Taking a nap in the Antonia. (Then let houling be about the Temple and noise of Warr in the Cittye, in the mean season let Alexander, Cerealis, Lepidus, Phrigius, Antonius and Fronto runn out one after an other over the stage. Titus being in the Citadel.) You crazy soldier, do you dare set fire to this holy place? Put out the raging flames! My empty words are carried off by the breeze. Our soldiers’ headstrong ardor cannot contain itself. Soldier, put out the fire! But I am talking to deaf men. (Then let houling and crying be about the Temple and like noise of Warr.)
ACT V, SCENE vi
RASHBAG, ROBBER CHIEF, PEASANT CHIEF
RASH. The sanctuary is glowing red-hot. God’s Temple is covered with billowing smoke.
ROB. CH. Although thrice-noble Joseph, son of Dalaeus, and Mermer, son of Belgas, had the hope of escaping and suffering death in common with their fellow citizens, they chose to throw themselves into the flames.
PEAS. CH. Old men, little boys and women indiscriminately flocked to the single remaining portico. But many died when it caught fire. A great part of them were crushed in the throng. About six thousand were counted.
RASH. Why did that prophet delude us with his vain prediction that today the Lord of heaven, armed with lightning, would reveal Himself in the sanctuary, so that as an avenger He might smite our enemy’s spirits?
ROB. CH. Madness wastefully devastates everything in its path. Everything resounds with the women’s wailing. A child thrown to the ground by his mother lies screaming, ignorant of what is happening. She embraces a postern gate, trying to prevent it from being torn off its hinges. (Then let them run away, severall wayes.) Hunger had destroyed the strength of my arms. The power has deserted my limbs and I am denied flight, nor can I stand on my trusty feet, poor man that I am. This final pestilence wastes my body, and I die. (Then let 2 or 3 com limping over the stage and fall downe dead. [Enter Cerealis and Artorius.])
CER. The Jews came running in an insane mass to protect their holy Temple from the raging fire. They were unconcerned about sparing their strength or saving their lives. Titus immediately leapt up (for sleep had relaxed his exhausted frame) and sought the Temple at a full run, his huge army being aroused in disorder. How great was the shouting, the hubbub, the wailing of the citizenry! The air rang with complaints no less than with groans. With a great shout Titus ordered them to put out the fire, but the huge noise prevented them from hearing. He vainly tried to ward off the fire by making hand signals, but each soldier urged his mate to feed the flames, and neither Titus’ orders nor his treats could restrain the enthusiasm of his advancing men. For the frenzy of battle was upon them. Many Jews lay, crushed by the weight of their own people, and others were flattened by the burning portico.
ART. Now the enemy have no hope of defending their Temple. Flight and killing prevail. When the Romans chanced to fall back, the Jewish fighters in the Temple fled to the city. The surviving portion of the populace betook itself to the portico after Titus proved unable to restrain his men’s ardor, and the flames raged more and more. Titus entered the sanctuary, followed by his officers. They were pleased to inspect the glory of this building, they marveled at the work, which even surpassed its reputation, no less glorious than the Jews deemed it. The flames had not eaten at the sanctuary and it was still standing, so Titus hoped that this portion could be preserved, while he was vainly requesting his heedless soldiers to ward off the flames. Nor could Liberalis compel them to turn away the fire with his club, for their hatred of their enemies, the enthusiasm of battle, their well-known piety, and the ample booty of the Temple overcame their fear of Titus. After the Zealots saw flames licking at the sanctuary, they themselves fed the crackling fire. The virgin, the old man, the child died indiscriminately, no pity was shown for age, or respect for chastity. Titus himself was shocked in his mind at the killing, and too late a sense of piety returned to them all. They rashly slaughtered each other, the meek and the fierce dying alike. The fire kept on burning with a loud roar. A confused noise of the citizens’ groans, the Romans’ shouts, and our enemy’s keening filled the air, and the echoes from the mountains augmented the noise. You would have thought the whole city to be afire. The pious altars were drenched in blood, pale corpses covered every place.
ACT V, SCENE vii
JEWISH BOY CORNELIUS
BOY [Atop the wall.] My heart is afire with thirst. Soldier, give me your hand, I beg you, so that I may come down and drink for a moment.
CORN. You have my permission, boy. Here’s my hand. He’s snatching a flagon, filling it with water, and escaping. Is this how you cheat me? You can’t escape.
BOY I abided by our agreement. You didn’t give me your hand so that I would stay with you, but so that I could get a drink. Didn’t I keep my word?
CORN. I like the boy’s character. Priests are hiding on this Temple wall. The boy was fetching water for them. [Enter Antonius.]
ANT. In that direction where the sun gathers his reins and contemplates the world with his shining face, they are setting up their eagle standards about the portico, wings a-flap with triumph. Soon they will sing Titus’ praises. Caesar, in order to offer worthy praise to Jupiter, is drenching the steaming altars with consecrated blood. [Enter Titus.]
TIT. Afterwards I inspected the Temple sanctuary and the secret places known only to the initiates. What glory belonged to this edifice, how majestic it was! Its floor gleamed with white marble pavement, they brought down gilded beams from Mt. Lebanon, its columns were noble with their markings. The building shone with glittering gold, the outstanding handiwork of the angels. The sun sees nothing more worthy when he rises, spreading his light in the radiant dawn, nor leaves anything more splendid behind him as he sinks his head in the west. This structure and nothing else was assuredly the true house of God. The Ruler of the universe dwelt here. (The Preists led Captives by Souldiers.)
A PRIEST Mighty prince, be tolerant of these priests who are embracing your knee. We are priests of the Temple. Although we are guilty, free us from the jaws of death. Ravening flames are spreading through God’s Temple and our priestly duties are at an end.
TIT. What good does it do you to keep on living, now that the Temple is burnt? The path of your destiny, far too slow, ought to be cut short, since you initiates are injuring Romans in the very Temple, and you have no compunction about steeping your hands in Latin blood. Let the sword quickly put an end to your hateful lives. [They are dragged off. Enter Jonathas.]
JON. Our captains beg that they might parlay with you, and ask for a brief truce. Schimeon is lurking in a nearby sewer. He prefers to treat with you in person and, uncertain of your wish, asks the opinion of your officers. [Titus indicates his assent and Schimeon appears on the wall.] |
TIT Are you satisfied with all those many and great evils suffered by your nation, you who took no thought about your enemy’s virtue or your own weakness, but in your wild outburst ruined your holy city, your consecrated people, God’s Temple — you who are justly going to die? After being stricken by the hand of Pompey, Jerusalem submitted its neck to the yoke of slavery, but this recalcitrant city, induced by its depraved desires, again tried to rebel. You had no fear to raise your hands treacherously in battle against your masters. Has your indomitable courage made you warlike? Has not the city of David seen its empire occupied by the conquering Romans? Or do you place your trust in your allies? Is there any nation free of our government which would disdain the Romans and aid you? Or do you rely on your physical strength? Rome has subdued Germany. Because of a general’s shrewdness Carthage has submitted her hands to the Romans.
Our clemency has aroused you against us. Victorious Rome parceled out to you your ancestors’ lands, bade you have a native-born king, and allowed you to follow the tradition of your Law. And, greatest of all, we allowed you to collect tribute, we bade you offer donatives to your God’s holy altars. With your affairs thus prospering, the Jews became swollen by success and were eager to wage open warfare against their overlords. Like a coiled snake lurking in the grass, with savage fangs you attack the man trying to treat you with kindness. Nero wielded his scepter with a lax hand, and his favor gave rise to disloyal aspirations. My father, sent to fight you, hoped for a treaty of peace, and his sword happily knew how to spare captives. But his mercy was perceived as weakness. After my father handed the imperial fasces over to me, Judaea also experienced my mild hand, but this gentleness only served to feed your audacity. So when I won a victory, I seemed to you to have been conquered. A man who is stirring up the insane thunderbolts of war is only pleased by murder, ruination, arson.
Why say more? The laws of war have been broken. Treaties have so often been spurned. Loyalty is a shipwrecked hulk. Nothing is sacred. What room is left for pardoning you? Did you invite me to a conference, you villains? For what does this recalcitrant city hope? Do you wish to save that which you have already destroyed? For a long time, I ceased to bombard the city, and I kept the ram’s horns from battering your walls. I took it upon myself to urge that you accept an amicable peace. I pledged safety to those of you who chose to cross over to my side. Now Jewish bodies cover the fields. Your walls are overthrown by my creaking machine, and the sanctuary glows with the fire you yourselves started. The city is awaiting the victor’s final grasp. What kind of safety do you fancy you deserve? What confidence still nourishes you in your misery? Indeed, you are still standing under arms, and so far the victor cannot see your hands outstretched in supplication. Does your madness, now conquered, yield, its weapons cast down? I want everyone to enjoy the light of day. My officers, like kindly masters, will punish lesser offenses. I, the victor, shall reserve the more serious for my own judgment.
SCHIM. Titus, we are not permitted to accept this peace. We have sworn an oath to God Almighty that Abraham’s chosen offspring will never bear the yoke on its bound neck, or allow itself to be placed on the auction-block in the slave market. Let the Roman conqueror lord it in our holy city, and boast over his possession of the Temple. Command us to go into exile far from Jerusalem, where the south wind stirs up the sand dunes in the arid desert, or where the decaying oak pushes up among the rocks on some rough ridge, filling the gloomy valleys with the dark shade of its yearly foliage and shutting out the sunlight. As the victor, make any decree about our banishment. Just let us depart with our children and our loyal wedded wives.
TIT. Oh stiff-necked, arrogant child of Abraham, do you, the conquered, dictate peace terms to your conquerors? Henceforth let the Jews expect no trust from me, nor let any son of Abraham ask for our help. Look only for sad warfare, harsh and cruel. Even if the Jews shut themselves up behind their walls, my soldiers, laden down with weapons, threaten them gravely. The city will lie prostrate, her walls pulled down. [To his men.] You, direct your weapons and fires against these people. Let the madness of war rage unbridled. Let the proud mass of her buildings collapse quickly, let her arrogant houses be leveled. Let my soldiers pillage to their heart’s content. [Exit Schimeon. Enter Josephus, leading some refugees.]
JOS. The distinguished sons of King Izates, and also his brothers, escorted by a few noblemen, beg for your pledge of safety. Although your mind is ablaze with anger, nevertheless your mildness will soften this fervor.
TIT. Out of my kindness, I shall protect you with the breath of my favor. Lepidus, I entrust them to your care. (Exeunt omnes, except Josephus.)
JOS. The Lower City is roaring with fire, the council-chamber has been reduced to ashes. Fire traverses Ophla and Helen’s palace in the Lower City. The high roofs of the houses lie in the dust, and the whole city seems to be collapsing in flames. Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem! Why, alas, are you running headlong into ruin? Why reject this offer of peace? Fate is accustomed to mock our human affairs, and this supreme force gives this command throughout the world: if she wishes to change someone’s fortune, immediately she destroys the man’s judgment. Thus the most grievous things happen quickly, and whatever befalls the person seems to be deserved. Fate governs everything. Let the Romans plunder and do what follows thereafter. Their greedy soldiers are despoiling our buildings of heaps of wealth. Whatever was guarded by trusty night-watchmen is snatched by the thief in his breathless sweep. Her disheveled hair flowing to her shoulders, the maiden gives up her ornaments and elegant jewels. Begging for peace, the bride surrenders her golden necklaces, the gem that used to hang dancing at her throat, and the jasper glittering on her finger. No quicker does the angry chill blast driven by the north wind strike down the yellowing field’s crops and uproot the trees. Sadly they reached their hands up to heaven, and in vain tears drenched their sorrowing faces. The Romans spared them, forsaking murder out of greed. [Exit. Enter Titus and Fronto.]
FRONT. Our enemies’ leaders are looting the royal palace. They have burst in at a rush, and are snatching all the goods. Their men are setting fire to the building. In the great upheaval eight thousand of the people perished. They have taken two captives, a legionary and a cavalryman. Ardala bent back the infantryman’s head by the hair and stabbed him in the breast with his savage hand. Then he bound him with a rope and dragged him throughout the city, as if he would take revenge on all the Romans in the person of this single man. The cavalryman was led to the tyrants, since he indicated he would say something of use to the enemy. But when he disclosed nothing, he was given over to Ardala for punishment. He bound the man’s hands behind his back with a thong, blindfolded him, and brought him forth for beheading before the Romans’ eyes. But when this ferocious officer drew his sword, the man suddenly saved himself from death by escape.
TIT. Oh the cowardly soldier, unworthy of being called a Roman! Is this how you understand Roman virtue, that you humbly prostrate yourself before our enemy? Tell the man to take his weapons and depart into exile. Henceforth let him not dare follow my standards. [Enter Lepidus.] Has the city abandoned its pugnacious attitude?
LEP. It is puffed up, as by successes, and it has not banished implacable hatred from its mind. Their eyes wander over their houses, glowing with fire. Smiling, they gaze on the ruins, boasting that they are tranquilly awaiting the final day and are eager to meet their fate, since with the city destroyed, the citizens exterminated, the Temple afire, they are leaving nothing for their enemies. Nor did Josephus’ friendly speech make any impression on them, although he said much on behalf of the surviving portion of the city and his address offered them the hope of forgiveness and peace. They are whipping up their hatreds like a cyclone, and they omit no manner of threats. The old mans’ face was drenched by a rain of tears, his voice broke for sobbing. The Jews were angry at being kept pent up in the sacred prison under guard, like some bright tawny beast in an iron cage, formidable for its huge body. They struggled to unlock their jail, seeking a route in any direction. With difficulty they kept their hands from their accustomed murder. [Enter Alexander.]
ALEX. They lie hidden, lurking in the ruins of the city. Nor do they dare show their faces in an open fight. Those who chance to be arrested are put to death, and the dogs gnaw on their corpses, cut down with the steel. In their anger, the Romans are unsparing, but famine prevents the Jews from escaping. Even with no hope of receiving pardon, they give themselves into our hands, since they think any kind of death easier than starvation. The last hope for the tyrants remains in the sewer system. They hope that they can hide themselves in its narrow tunnels until the city is demolished and the Roman fleet loosens its sheets and sets sail. Then they hope to be able to make a safe escape. In the meantime they cannot restrain their cruel hands from murder. They burn with their own fires much more than with those kindled by their enemies, and no place is lacking in its dead. Whenever some of these people seek to escape from the tunnels, the Romans kill them. If they use their swords to procure any food, even if it is clotted with gore they avidly wolf it down. Done in by hunger, they barely refrain from cannibalism.
TIT. Command new ramparts to be built against the Upper City, since it is placed on a high hill in a very secure situation and cannot easily be overwhelmed. On that side towards which the sun looks toward when he stands in mid-heaven, let a wooden structure raise its head on high. What do you say is the number of this race that we have captured?
ALEX. They are reckoned to be four hundred thousand.
TIT. Divide them among our soldiers according to their pleasure. [Enter the priest Jehoshue bar Thebuth.]
JEH. Kind prince, heir of this great world, now that the city is consumed by flames and lies buried under still-warm ashes, and now that you, the conqueror, have gained possession of the famous sanctuary of our great God, the rich spoils of the Temple are due to you. Receive this golden table, which weighs a great talent, these two wonderfully-wrought candlesticks, this robe glittering with gems, and this gold-encrusted […] which Ophir has fashioned out of ivory, an opulent masterpiece of art. Accept this bowl, heavy with gold and decorated in relief, and the chased vessels of the Temple. Kindly listen to my entreaties. Grant me to enjoy the light of day.
TIT. Although your largess was given me out of necessity, not of your own free will, as victor I willingly grant you the life for which you are pleading. [Exit Jehoshue, enter Phineas, the Temple treasurer.]
PHIN. Magnanimous Caesar, than which nothing is kinder, I bring you the opulent gifts of the Temple, no less than what your honor deserves. Here is rich golden furniture, the priceless veil of the Temple and the sacred vestments, a double tiara sparkling with gems, this fragrant cinnamon, tears of myrrh, and a mass of balsam shedding its peasant droplets. You have been accustomed to grant free pardon to those who have erred. Bestow on this miserable person the enjoyment of daylight.
TIT. Although you are asking for your life as a prisoner of war, and although you do not deserve it, nonetheless you will live. ([Exeunt.] Enter Jonathas, accompanied with five.]
JON. The Idumaean leaders bid me tell you that they regret having entered into an alliance with the tyrants, Caesar, and they humbly beg your pledge of safety. Be favorable and smile on their entreaties.
TIT. [To himself.] If the Idumaean force should separate from our enemy and the Jews were to realize that their forces were melting away, they would quickly lose their arrogant attitude. [Aloud.] Even if the generals are late in asking for my pledge, I give them my hand and promise them life. You, loyal Fronto, will be their escort. Let these developments be proclaimed throughout the city. Lest anyone leave the city alone, let every man take several companions in flight, so that he can bring out his family intact. [Exeunt. Enter Phrigius.]
PHRIG. When Schimeon had a premonition that the Idumaean leaders were preparing to depart, he immediately cast into chains the five who had begged for your protection and ordered his men to lay cruel hands on them. A guard loyal to him watches over the rest. If any Idumaean, provoked by his fear, seeks to save his neck by flight and by eluding the Romans’ clutches, that man is speedily put to the sword. There are few left to tell the tale about this massacre. (Exit. Enter Terentius, drawing after him 2 or 3 Captaines in a Rope.)
TER. [To his men.] You should tear down their bloodstained buildings while I try to sell off these captives. Never has there been a buyer for such a huge herd! Even though I have tried to sell these rabble on the cheap, in all this time I have found no purchaser. The Romans have always thought it disgraceful to have Jews as their slaves. [Exit. Enter Lepidus.]
LEP. The ram pressed on with its threatening horn, the vinea was at hand with its fearless back, afraid of nothing. Some surviving Jews dashed into the Lower City, abandoning the walls. Others cowered within dark caverns. Some defended the walls, standing their ground. The ram rebounded, creating a barren ruin. A shiver went through the Jews’ marrow. With swords a-whirl, their Roman enemy sought to carve their way, unafraid to travel right through the defenders. When they could not catch sight of their erstwhile loyal allies, the Jews’ hopes failed them and they were struck by sharp fear. They were overtaken by a terror greater than their actual danger, and they imagined false grounds for fright. Others affirmed that the Upper City was in the hands of the enemy, relating the foul slaughter of their people. They told that the Roman enemy could be seen in the very towers. With fear oppressing them (or rather with fear acting on their imaginations), they believed everything. They were afraid of all things, and had no self-reliance. Finally they fell on their faces, lamenting their folly. The Jew who was lately so arrogant is now a mentally paralyzed wretch. They have no idea where to betake themselves. Such a change, even in such depraved people, was most piteous. [Exit. Enter Priscus.]
PRISC. As soon as the Romans saw that the enemy had been cleared from the walls without bloodshed, they were eager to overthrow the towers. They came sweeping over the city rubble. They were amazed at the walls, so deserted. They suspected that there was another wall behind it. But the Jews had voluntarily abandoned the towers, of a sort which could never be taken by force or battered down by our machinery. Afterwards no Jew had the courage to grapple against the Romans. [Exit. Enter Phrigius and Titus.]
PHRIG. The houses are choked with the bodies of those who are starved. The warm air grows foul with a stench, and there is no art that can prevent this or ward off the pestilential fumes. The Romans find such a ghastly spectacle unbearable and run off, abandoning their booty. They care nothing for looting, unable to tolerate the stink.
TIT. I forbid the Jerusalem walls to be demolished in this area. Here the tower Hippicus raises its high head, here Phasael overtops the others, and Mariamme, no less glorious. This area will serve as a camp for the Roman garrison, and our far-distant progeny will be able to see how great and of what a sort was this city which the Romans overthrew by their valor. But level the remainder of the wall, its bonds rent asunder. Let no stone remain standing on another. [Enter Josephus, leading his parents.]
JOS. My father Mathias Currus and my dear mother, and my single half-brother Honian, here on their knees, flee to your protection. Let the breezes of your favor warm these suppliants.
TIT. Let no chill fear creep through your bones. Titus will protect you under the shadow of his good will.
They tell me that the great captain Eleazer and a large band of men have occupied Masada by force. Sylla, surround this place with my standards, entirely crush this rebellious race. What mercy can be shown these people, rushing headlong to their destruction? Let fathers and sons fall together, husbands and wives. Alexander, I entrust to your loyalty the ending of this war. If our enemy should attempt something, carry out my orders and let the rest of my officers do your bidding. How many people have been counted in this herd of captives?
ALEX. About one hundred thousand.
TIT. Let them all be led in chains, so that their slaughter might provide an ornament for our triumph. [Exeunt omnes, leaving Alexander and Terence alone.]
ALEX. Let our guards comb the deepest hiding-places, wise Terentius, let them investigate private houses and the recesses of the Temple, lest the leaders of the rebellion attempt to flee by trickery. For Titus regards his triumph as shabby if the person of Schimeon is missing from his chariot in the proud procession, or if Rome were not to see Jehochanan, his hands bound behind his back.
TER. I shall obey. [Schimeon appears.]
ALEX. Who’s that whom I see in the distance, shining in purple, splendid in his white tunic? Tell me who you are, describe your pedigree.
SCHIM. Does your cohort have an officer?
TER. I am Terentius, an officer. So if you want anything of me, come closer.
SCHIM. Give me your word that you will faithfully escort me to Titus.
TER. But who are you, dressed up in that finery?
SCHIM. I am noble-born. Bring me to Titus.
TER. Why are you afraid to say your name?
SCHIM. My sad fate prevents me from lying. I am that poor Schimeon for whom you are looking. Give me your word, I beg you.
TER. I shall lead you to Titus. Soldier, put this man in irons.
ACT V, SCENE viii
After Caesar paid homage to his household gods with sacred fire, and offered Arabian incense, he ordered the banquet-table to be set with dishes. The steward directed the extensive procession of foodstuffs, loading down the table with dishes crammed with food, and pouring much wine into the capacious silver. But when they had wet their lungs with wine, their voices rang through the huge banquet-halls as each man interrupted his feasting to describe his part in the war, and they were eager to witness the triumph at Rome.
Titus was pleased to celebrate his brother’s birthday with the greatest honors. At this time twenty-five hundred captives were put to death. Titus ordered them to fight against wild beasts. Others were compelled to fight against each other, and a large part of them were ripped apart by lions. There was no form of spectacle that he did not celebrate. He also put up a generous prize for the winner of a foot-race, for him who was best at shooting the bow, at throwing the javelin, or who was preeminent in physical strength. An olive wreath was woven for the victor. [Exit. Enter Titus.]
TIT. Now that I have sacrificed victims to Jupiter, so that as a conqueror I could render suitable thanks-offerings and purify my hands of my enemies’ blood, it pleases me to revisit my household gods at Rome. ([Enter Jehochanan,] brought Prisoner by Souldiers.)
JEH. Thrice, four times noble man, I beg you to spare me.
TIT. Too late you demand that I forgive your great crime, you who have often jeered at the peace-terms for which I had hoped. [To his men.] Load this man down with chains forever. Death will be the end of his punishment — which I want to be great. [Exit Jehochanan. Enter Terentius and Schimeon.]
TER. Here’s Schimeon, that deceitful Zealot leader. Uncertain what to do, he fled into the sewers, followed by a few of his sectaries. While he lurked there, huge hunger gnawed at his empty belly, and under the pressure of this pestilence the poor fellow could tolerate no further delay. So he produced himself, dressed up in gold and purple, just the sort of splendid apparel that princes always decorate themselves with, in the hope of deceiving our amazed men. And at first sight our Romans were indeed astonished. They asked him who he was and what was his pedigree. He confessed to being Schimeon, and anxiously requested to be brought before you.
SCHIM. I grovel before you, grasping your feet, I whom nobody has ever seen on his knees. Kindly hear my prayers, Caesar, and do not keep this ruined man from your sight.
TIT. Soldier, quickly scourge him. Lead him around my whole army so that my grim-faced soldiers can have a look at him. In Romulus’ city let a parade of captives follow my triumphal car, their hands bound behind their backs. And afterwards let this man be beheaded in the Forum. I want his body diced into little bits and fed to rabid dogs. [Schimeon is led off.]
Jerusalem, once you were the queen of nations and previously you lorded it alone, an object of envy. Now how squalidly you lie, buried under your ashes! Wherever one casts his eyes, the day is dim because of the smoke. Sparks fly in the air. Among the bloody corpses the old men sit in sadness, pouring warm cinders on their heads, their garments rent. They seek to protect the bare corpses from greedy dogs and ravening beasts. This famous city has become a charnel-house for the dead. [Enter Sylla.]
You are bringing me Eleazer’s severed head.
SYL. Titus, now you should make war on fire. The Zealots are to be sought among the flames, where you cannot expect to hear their submissive entreaties, or to receive their bound hands as victory-trophies. War’s madness has been all-daring. The funeral pyre has consumed them. We can only strike against the citizens’ half-burned corpses. If a man did not hurl himself headlong onto the pyre, a relative’s hand would earn the glory of his killing. The father would beg death from his son, the husband would stab his wife in the breast, immediately marvel at his wrongdoing, and then plunge the sword back into the wound. Dashing about blindly, the raging maiden would seek a modest death. After polishing off her children, the exhausted mother would turn her gore-stained blade against herself. The old man would lament his sons, done in by his own wickedness. The soldiers, forgetful of thee enemy, turned against their own people, dealing out friendly wounds. Everybody was in a hurry to evade their enemies’ clutches by accomplishing their own demise.
TIT. What lunacy forced them to lay hands on themselves?
SYL. When Eleazer, the traitor responsible for the rebellion, had convened everyone under the open sky to urge all of them to commit suicide, he addressed the crowd of his fellow citizens thus: “Children of ancient Abraham, inheritors of the priestly blessing, royal race, what are we doing? Our virtue will not be attested by a victorious outcome, which always is uncertain, but by that which is always assured, the certainty of our minds. It is sufficiently constant to die in battle with an unchanged disposition. I can properly say that this is the mark of indomitable virtue, since I am a man who refuses to be subdued, unfrightened by the threat of death. Abraham brought his firstborn son to the altar, not caring about this single life, but about eternal glory, so that he would demonstrate his faithfulness to later ages. Nor did King Josiah allow the Pharaoh of Egypt to pass over his lands. Rather, this king up up a fight so that Judea would not be sold into slavery, and he rejoiced to die, even though his enemy did not will it, since the body is only a prison for the soul. What the soul grants to the body, it subtracts from itself. The body thrives because of the soul, while it itself languishes. Josiah chose to die because the soul, which is native to heaven’s domain, grows blind when dwelling in this dark cavern: it looks to the body, it becomes ensnared in its desire. How miserable it has been for mankind not to know how to die, not to know how to make an end of life, since freely-chosen death lies open as an asylum from all evils! Are you not ashamed at the idea of being laden down with chains and living as slaves far from your homeland? Can Abraham’s seed follow the chariot, its hands bound behind its back? Hence the insuperable virtue of our citizenry will shine forth, if it is never troubled by the fear of death. So why do you want to delay your destiny? Our death has been found, the same fate will carry us away, the same moment. Why should Abraham’s seed be afraid of a collective end? That man is cruel, whoever prevents us from dying. Such a crime will be a pious act, only death will give us a haven from all these tossing seas. Happy is he who dies at the same time as his country, when he sees everything consumed along with himself.”
After their leader had said such things with that unclean mouth of his, each man stabbed his wife in the breast. The lifeless corpses were thrown in the wells, and then they arranged themselves on towering pyres. They competed to climb this mournful structure, built up from wood they had previously taken from ruined forests and collected on their creaking carts. Fathers and sons burned together, and the city’s last funeral sent its smoke far and wide, as the huge fires raged against the stars. The day was darkened by the plentiful cinders. If somebody chanced to put off his death out of fear, they selected twenty men by lot who would hasten the end for the reluctant, then kill each other off afterwards. Only a mother managed to conceal her five sons in a sewer. Here the mother’s pious theft lay hidden until the fatal pyre had consumed everything. This woman made the downfall of her city plain for all to see. [Exit. A number of Jews are led in.]
TIT. Jehochanan bar Sakkai, noble lord, since your loyalty has long been attested, I order that you govern the Jews, sitting on a high tribunal in the city of Joppa, and I entrust to you the neighboring coastline, the city of Aorsa, and the territories adjacent to these towns. Distinguished Honian, consecrated to God, I have appointed the task of High Priesthood to Josephus, and chosen you for the honor next highest to that of the sacred tiara. Rashbag, you evil man, since your loyalty to us cannot restrain your ferocity, nor can you contain your enthusiasm for rebellion, let a soldier plunge his sword in your breast. Let Ishmael bar Elisha pay the same penalty and Gamaliel, a man no less wicked than his sons.
JEH. Magnanimous prince, than whom nothing is gentler, kindly hear my prayers. Do not break the thread of this father’s life.
TIT. Let the father continue his enjoyment of heaven’s air. With this, Jehochanan, I indulge your requests. And now I, the victor, shall return to my paternal home. Man the fleet, spread the sails to the winds. Return the dry keels to the sea, and let our oars strive to make the waters foam. [Exeunt omnes, leaving Josephus alone.]
JOS. Once upon a time a prophet in the grip of the holy spirit issued an utterance ignored by the people, that when the Temple assumed a square shape, Jerusalem would soon be razed, its lofty glories leveled with the earth. Now, after the citadel Antonia had been demolished, they called the Temple such. For it began to have four corners and a square shape. Lachesis does not alter the decrees of her spindle, and it is not permitted to God to change our appointed day. Everybody follows the destiny he dreads. Heaven’s thunderbolts are scarcely thrown in vain — God wants sin to be both discovered and undiscovered.
THE SONG OF THE CAPTIVED JEWES IN THE TRIUMPH
having one hand wrapt in a bloudy clout as cutt of
Zion, which had flourished with many inhabitants, now bewails her houses, destroyed by protracted killing. This queen of cities waters her face with a rain of tears, this queen of nations laments like a widow.
Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem, at length repent and acknowledge your God.
He who has been joined to me in loyalty by bonds of love insolently mocked my suffering from afar. Neighbors’ hands were turned to mutual destruction, nor was there anyone to offer consolation.
Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem, at length repent and acknowledge your God.
Her chief citizens could scarcely support their lives with bread, the infant drank dry his mother’s breast. Maidens lay everywhere, dishonored. Each house became a tomb for the dead.
Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem, at length repent and acknowledge your God.
Oh, you who passes by, see if any sorrow is the equal of mine. The seething fire of God’s wrath consumed me, heaven’s darts were fixed in my limbs.
Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem, at length repent and acknowledge your God.
Wicked children with our wicked fathers, we went astray as rebels. Headlong, we worked many iniquities, as our unbridled minds raged with desire.
Jerusalem, lamentable Jerusalem, at length repent and acknowledge your God.