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AN. The higher priesthood and leading citizens have been convened here in solemn assembly in order to learn what Caesar’s ambassador brings. But a priest betakes himself here at a breathless pace. [Enter Gamala.]
GAM. Alas, how greatly baleful visions terrify my mind!
AN. What sad apparition makes you so anxious?
GAM. In the Temple an old man met me and gave me a scepter. His face was ashen, his lips pale from thirst. His eyes were hollow, the bones were sticking out of his loins. His entrails were visible through his skin and there was only a place for his belly where his belly should have been. Only the shadow of a body remained. This dire image hovers before my eyes and will not stop besieging my mind.
AN. Father of the universe, why do You frown on Your people and terrify us with baleful specters? The city supplicates Your altars, the anxious mother protects her children in her embrace: do You not surpass the mother in every form of lovingkindness? But I am delaying joining the members of the assembly.
Then let the Curtaines bee drawen that these sitting may appeire. Anani in the middest, on the right side Josephus a Pharisee, Amittai a docter of the Law, Jehoshue another Dr. of L. on the other side Manasche, Jehochanan bar Sakkai, Rashbagg. Under them a company in Aldermens gownes representing 70 Seniors in the assembly of Gazith, a panel of 70 judges called Sanhedre ghedola, which is today the Sanhedrin, the council of Israel’s judges and senior men. These are called Nehotekim, which is to say scribes or legislators, what we would call civil judges. Galat. de Arcanis Cathol. Veritatis lib. 4. These men sat in the council Gazith. Galat. ibid. and Sigonio de Repub. Hebr. VII.6.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
CAESAR’S AMBASSADOR, ANANI
AMB. Venerable assembly of city fathers, blessed offspring of Aaron, thrice-noble leading citizens of the city of David, when Caesar heard about Florus’ evil depredations and the wrath of Cestius, immediately regret afflicted his inmost bowels, and his noble heart could scarcely be restrained. It is justly praiseworthy to overlook a slight injury; it is all but godlike to tolerate a greater one. Because the unruly citizens have risen in arms and expelled their Procurator, his anxious mind was touched by considerable chagrin. But if Jupiter were to hurl his avenging thunderbolts and if heaven were to flash with ruddy fire every time that humanity sinned, who would not fear the bitter outcome? For Venus could not make good the loss with new childbearing. Caesar’s greatest virtue is that he prevents bloodshed, is merciful in bad times, and confers peace on the world: thus he constructs a highway to heaven. Rome bids you renew our previous treaty and heal the wounded peace. Thus says Caesar, our Tarpeian master. Thus also says the Roman people on its independent authority: let Judea never fear any Roman military threat; let it hold the reins of its own government; let a Jewish governor rule Jerusalem with the bonds of fair law, who will firmly defend the ancestral ways of your forefathers against foreign influence. Nero will never forsake the government of his holy city, nor will a Roman Proconsul administer it. He only claims this imperial honor, that he be called ruler of such a great nation, since no other nation dedicates such holy rites to God, nor does the sun look upon any more famous altar. Caesar has condescended to send a bull wearing a crown of gold, covered with a cloth shining with gems, so that your priest might convey his prayers to God. Latium sends a copious flock of sheep for the sacred flames, so that ample victims might feed the holy fire. Caesar adds ten talents of gold, so that in his munificence he might beautify the altars with his gifts.
AN. The pity that Caesar feels for our troubled nation and the freedom granted us from savage slaughter moves my noble mind. The city pours forth its gratitude with an honest heart, and acknowledges that Caesar is the kindly father of this great world, a prince worthy of such great majesty. If my rebellious people, stricken by a grievance, has stirred up great riots, friendly peace will soothe its roiling mind and return it to itself. Henceforth the seed of Isaac will never allow this agreed-on peace to be violated, nor the treaty we have struck. Since generous Caesar has ordered the altars to be splashed liberally with the blood of cattle, and since this pious prince has commanded victims to be sent from Latin stables for burning in our holy fires, and has donated ten talents to our altars, we shall perform our office gladly, and soon we shall offer up his prayers in supplication to the Thunderer. Soon the altars will smoke with the sacred fires as cattle are slain, cattle which Italy’s high mountains have previously nourished.
Let Caesars present bee shewed and carried into the Temple. A Bull with a Crowne of Gold upon his head, his hornes also covered with gold. upon him a cloake of Purple poudered with pretious stones. before him, certein carrying tenn talents of gould. Behind him many sheep following. Let the high priest Anani prepare him to the sacrifice. In the mean season let Eleazer step forth with a crew of Souldiers.
EL. (to his tumultuous soldiers). Is it thus that the altars ought to be stained with profane sacrifices? Or are foreign sacrifices pleasing to our unwilling God? Rome threatens our neck with a harsh yoke, and plants her banners on the city’s high walls. Let our cruel masters rage against our backs, as long as they do not pollute our shrine with their unclean hands, as long as no strange foreign beast feeds our sacred fires as a victim. You must bar impious offerings from the Temple. Let the trumpet sound, drive away the victims.
Here let Eleazer drive away the oxen and sheep offered to sacrifice from the Temple.
ACT IV, SCENE iii
Why is the aroused citizenry clamoring with this pointless commotion? What arrogance sweeps the people along, aroused by their bestial desire? Has it ever been a source of shame for great men to obey Rome after having been overcome by overwhelming forces? Does your captive virtue fear the familiar yoke? Arrogant city, learn your place. Even if this is less than pleasant, it nevertheless is necessary for Jerusalem. Why, you captive nation, do you allow yourself this unaccustomed glory? Why, degenerate offspring, do you lay claim on your ancestors’ merit? The horrible clash of arms strikes my ears. [Enter Agrippa’s steward.]
ST. City! City!
AGR. Why does he cry out to the city?
ST. Oh famous King —
AGR. Why does your voice stick in your throat?
ST. The whole city is roaring, set ablaze with the fire of war.
AGR. Tell me the reason.
ST. Eleazer, alas, that impious captain Eleazer, armed with the horrible whirlwind of his rage, destroys everything in his bloody-mindedness. The deadly hands of this criminal leader are dripping with red blood.
AGR. I hear a commotion. [Enter Eleazer and Capito.]
EL. [To Capito.] Why put up a fight, when so many soldiers are dead and you are the sole survivor? Surrender yourself to me immediately.
CAP. If you swear an oath to me (a trustworthy man) that you will not kill me, I shall gladly surrender myself.
EL. I swear by the everlasting God Who in His anger hurls avenging thunderbolts, I shall grant you your life.
AGR. Are you so demented as to despise Roman spears? Are you injuring the master of the world with your fearful massacre? [He sees Eleazer and Capito below.] Eleazer hastens this way, bringing that captive thief with him. [To the steward.] If this fierce captain threatens me with violence, you place your hand on your head as a sign I should make my escape.
EL. Since you have despoiled many mothers of their sons, now your mother will lament, bereft of her own child.
CAP. Did you not swear a solemn oath that you would never kill me?
EL. Let the cruel steel probe your guts.
CAP. Are you not moved by the thought of the Godhead, by Whom you have falsely sworn?
EL. The greedy vultures will feed on your livid limbs. [Kills him.]
AGR. Eleazer, you impious rebel, what good does it do you to disturb your nation’s peace? Let this crime return against its author, let this evil rebound against your house and let your treacherous hand feel its own wounding.
EL. King, if you do wield your realm’s scepter in your proud right hand or boast of the crown you wear on your head, why not order me to be taken prisoner and thrown in a dark prison? Where are those stern bodyguards with their menacing faces? Why do you not boldly impose penalties on me, surrounded by crowds of followers? A coward, you hurl threats at me from a distance, like a fretful dog who scares people with his barking and fights from afar with his voice.
ST. Eleazer is nodding at his henchman. I fear greatly for the King. I shall give the signal for flight.
AGR. My steward is putting his hand on his head. I shall prepare my escape.
EL. Agrippa basely turns tail. Should I not pursue him with my hostile standards? Africa, subjected to barbarian bonds, looks to you as it s avenger. Ruined Greece calls you its patron. If foreign nations do not move you, the city of David demands that you be its champion. Drive the Roman standards from our land.
Go to Act V of the First Action