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After the Jews had driven the Romans out of Galilee, they deliberated in the Temple about the selection of leaders for the war. Anani the High Priest was chosen as governor of Jerusalem. Josephus obtained command of Galilee and the other leading citizens were allotted their several provinces. Only Eleazer did not receive a command, even though he controlled considerable Roman spoils and a great portion of the public treasury, because he seemed to carried away by eagerness for gaining control. Therefore he was left to share the governance of the city with his father Anani. In order to avenge this insult, Eleazer stirred up great riots in the city. At the same time, while Josephus was making the necessary preparations for war in his province, Jehochanan the son of Levi, a man who considered treachery to be a virtue, whose lack of means hindered his evildoing, incited the hopes of certain lesser rascals, since, generally speaking, his greed made him ready to act murderously. He laid many traps for Josephus, while himself laying claim on the command of the province. Indeed, after Galilee had been recaptured by the Romans and when, after the fall of Jortopata (the strongest defensive position in Galilee), Josephus had surrendered himself to Vespasian, Jehochanan betrayed his own city Gischala to the Romans when he was in command of the rebel forces there. Then he secretly made his way to Jerusalem, so that he could more freely play the tyrant there. Here he found a civil war being waged between the neighboring towns, since there was bitter strife between the war party and the peace party, nor did the countrymen abstain from theft and plunder. In the end they assembled a mob from all sides and invaded Jerusalem, which at the time was governed by nobody. When the city was, so to speak, captured, each man was concerned only about his private safety and no horrible crime went undone. The Zealots — for so they called themselves, as if they were eager for honorable estates rather than the doers of all sorts of misdeeds — put to death without trial Antipas, a noble citizen, Levi, a distinguished man who was of royal stock on both sides of his family, and many others of similar rank, on the grounds that they were secretly conspiring with the Romans. Nor were they satisfied with such crimes: they turned their evildoing against God, abolishing the hereditary priesthood and attempting to choose a High Priest by lot. The lot happened to fall on a rustic named Phani. He was ignorant of what the priesthood meant. They crowned him with the holy tiara, dragging him out of the countryside against his will. In the midst of such perils Anani tried to persuaded Jehochanan by making great promises that he should form an alliance against the rebels, and in his effort he was supported by the people, who took up arms against the Zealots, forcing them to flee into the Temple. But Jehochanan, disregarding the oath he had sworn to Anani to protect Jerusalem against the brigands, persuaded the Zealots to summon the Idumaeans, who were seditious by their very nature, against the citizenry. When these had been let into the city by night, they most cruelly killed Anani, the justest of men and born of a noble race, along with Jehoshue the priest. They threw Zacharias, a man distinguished for his virtue and who was exceedingly rich, off the Temple wall into the ditch below. When Gorion, a man of equal dignity and pedigree, Niger of Peraeta, who had vigorously distinguished himself in the fighting against the Romans, and twelve thousand other noble citizens did not withstand their torture, they most criminally put them to the sword, even if the Idumaeans themselves were ashamed of the horrible slaughter.
After Jehochanan had paved his way to the tyranny by means of this worse than barbaric cruelty, a very bold youth named Schimeon bar Gioras, who had been expelled from the district of Acrabatene by Anani the Priest and had long since joined himself with some brigands, seemed to be preparing for an attack on Jerusalem with his warlike forces. Because Jehochanan thought that his power posed a threat, he sent Zacharias bar Amphical against him, but he suffered a defeat. Meanwhile Amittai, a chief priest, convened a council of the leading citizens. They invited Schimeon into the city, so that they could offer him the command and he would free the citizenry from Jehochanan’s tyranny. After Schimeon’s army had entered the city he only took thought of gaining power for himself and, being a treacherous captain, thought those who had invited him into the city to be his enemies no less than those against whom his help had been asked, with the result that now the cure seemed worse than the fatal disease, when he had imposed upon them a greater tyranny than they could have pictured in their wildest imagination. So when these rebel leaders had turned to crime like so many wild beasts, the citizens were astonished by these domestic ills and turned to the Romans, pinning their hopes on external war. And indeed, the Zealots reached such a height of folly that they not only clad themselves in women’s clothes, but even gave themselves up to extremely nasty sexual practices. Furthermore, Eleazer, who from the very beginning had kept the Zealots separated from the people in the Temple, as if indignant about Jehochanan’s daily misdeeds (although he himself had scarcely abstained from murder), and excited by his zeal for the supreme command and jealousy for his successor’s power, detached certain of the most powerful Zealots from the rest and made an open break from the other rebel leaders. Thus the rebel conspiracy was divided into three factions, and the sedition was, as it were, divided against itself by sedition. Thus, when the Zealots did not refrain from mutual killings (except when they were drunken, exhausted, or tired of the effort) and their leaders were only of one mind when it came to killing their fellow citizens, civil war grew increasingly inflamed. Great buildings were leveled and the granaries full of the crops and the other necessities of life were burnt down while these people pursued their mutual strife, as if working in cooperation with the Romans as they destroyed the necessities which had been prepared for withstanding a siege. Priests, killed along with their sacrificial victims, drenched the altars with their blood, nor did the Roman invasion deter the rebels from their mutual killings. Oh unhappy city, for whom the Roman sack was a small thing, which overthrew itself by its own hands!
ANANI the High Priest
ELEAZER his son
AMITTAI, JEHOSUE, GAMALA priests
MANASCHE, ZACHARAIAS, RASHBAG, IEHOCHANAN
BAR SAKKAI leading citizens
JEHOCHANAN BAR LEVI, SCHIMEON
IUVENIS rebel leaders
IACOB BAR SOSA commander of the Idumaeans
NIGER OF PERAITA
MANNEH, SABOCH, ALKIM citizens of Jerusalem
ALANUS OF EMMAUS
CANTOR, JIPTACH, JONATHAS, MAGASSAL, ADIADEN,
ARSIMON, JEHUDA, <PUDENS, ZACHARIAS BAR
AMPHICAL> Jewish soldiers
PHANI a countryman, elected High Priest by the rebels
Coward, lazy disgrace to the art of war, sluggish military leader for this year, after receiving such a shameful disgrace, after receiving such an insult from the leading citizens and a foul slur from the nation, are you going to issue futile complaints? The amazed land ought to have groaned under your arms, the fields ought to have glowed with your fires everywhere, nor should the holy city’s high towers give it protection. Those who forced Cestius to flee in panic and laid low the Roman leaders with their strong right hands are now deliberating in the Temple, in order to choose suitable men, whose virtue is long proven in the eyes of our citizens, to whom the command might safely be given. Thus they might vigorously shatter the proud power of our enemies, defend our nation’s territories from their military threat, and protect our sacred Temple from barbarians. They made the decision by lot. The first lot to be cast made the High Priest leader of the sacred city. By the second Josephus obtained the district of Galilee. Idumaea was allotted to Eleazer, born of the new priest and leader in the war, and to Jehoshua bar Sapphae, likewise a priest during the war. Joseph bar Simon obtained Jericho. Manasche was given the land beyond the Jordan. Jehochanan the Essene received Thamma, and also Lydda, Joppa and Emmaeus. The leaders were careful to see that the rest received other honors. To Eleazer alone, now deemed insufficiently loyal, they refuse to decree any responsible command, even though he has occupied the public treasury and has control of the spoil taken from Cestius, the greatest part of our Roman booty. They say that his head is too swollen and that he is openly preparing the way to tyranny. When the javelins fly thick and fast, his stern bodyguard protects him as if he were a king. Is the gratitude my liberated fellow citizens show me? Is this my reward for having defended my nation? Did I, the strong leader of my people, rout the Romans so that the city might take vengeance on me? So now whip me to death in the very city from which I just now expelled the tyrants by force. Send me enchained to Rome so that it might see me dragged by the hair to death, because I was so unfortunate as to have been the victor, liberating Jerusalem by my arms. Coward, why hesitate so long to test public opinion? War summons you. Let these envious leaders learn what your arms can accomplish. Let David’s city shudder at the protracted rioting of its citizens. Show your strength, rouse yourself from your torpor and draw your sword to remove this stain. [Exit. Enter Rashbag and Jehochanan bar Sakkai from the Temple.]
RASH. Jehochanan bar Sakkai, noble gentleman, why hesitate to ally yourself to us? Why do you fear a holy war against the Romans? We are not now lamenting thefts, pillage, and murder. That is an old trouble. The priest lies before the altar, laid low by an impious sword, and soldiers (I shudder to say it) do not fear to trample the holy precincts. The sacred and the profane are indiscriminately mingled.
JEH. Great-hearted Rashbag, glory of this city, great matters cannot be accomplished in a minute. I am afraid for this reason — that we are insufficiently afraid. The size of the Roman empire frightens me. Isaac’s family has already learned to fear Rome. Once Pompey pulled down Zion’s great towers. As victor, he stabled his horses in the very Temple. Florus will not always hold the reins of Judea in his wicked hand, nor can Rome henceforth be lacking in good magistrates. One such will repair the damaged ties of peace.
RASH. Can you look on Florus’ crimes without concern?
JEH. Yes, in the hope that Caesar will pass fair judgment on his malfeasance.
RASH. In his rage he will never cease to punish us.
JEH. If he would drive out our rebellious spirits!
RASH. Can the governor take pleasure in our citizens’ rioting?
JEH. If their rioting can conceal his own dire crimes from Nero.
RASH. Are you a coward, afraid to avenge such a wrong?
JEH. Yes, lest Caesar quickly take up arms and avenge himself on the rebels.
RASH. Corpses are strewn throughout the city.
JEH. Let a few fall, rather than all of us.
RASH. But Florus is responsible for all this.
JEH. A grievance is satisfied by revenge — it does not worry about who is guilty.
RASH. But a war will compel Nero to administer the law justice.
JEH. When war begins to thunder the law is afraid to speak.
RASH. Why is Florus not haled before Nero’s court?
JEH. It is Nero’s business to tame our rebellious spirits.
RASH. Is it enough for him to punish Jerusalem?
JEH. Yes, because the Jerusalemites have sinned the most.
RASH. Am I listening to a Roman senator who has joined our Sanhedrin?
JEH You dare call me a Roman?
RASH. You, a citizen, support Nero.
JEH. Can a serious wound be healed by polite words?
RASH. Are you afraid we might win?
JEH. I am unable to hope we can.
RASH. Does Roman power fill you with dread?
JEH. Rome has subjected so many nations with her avenging hand.
RASH. As long as the nations fear to try their strength in war.
JEH. Jerusalem has already experienced an enemy’s yoke.
RASH. While God was purging us of the sinful among us, as if He were a refiner of gold.
JEH. That is what the angry comet in the sky has recently portended.
RASH. Heaven’s meaning is unclear.
JEH. But our citizens look up at this tremendous omen.
RASH. Many of them demand war.
JEH. More fear it.
RASH. Fear of punishment compels them.
JEH. No, they are compelled by their loyalty.
RASH. Shouldn’t we ward off our enemy?
JEH. Don’t seek to make a new one.
RASH. Cease speaking words so unpleasant for Jerusalem. Whoever hesitates to take up arms and is afraid to defend his nation in war, let him wander the earth as an exile, nor let any enemy conceal himself in the city.
JEH. When our leaders declared war on Rome, Jerusalem was full of commotion. Quickly the city was seen to be perishing by a self-inflicted wound, and many people bethought themselves about the coming massacre. They were unable to restrain their tears. Everything seemed turned against the moderate citizens. Oh unhappy Zion! Why are you ready to set civil upheavals in motion? Or how can you look on the deaths of so many of your countrymen? Learn the pleasures of sacred peace. Or, if arms now delight you, let it be a crime to plunge your sword in your own innards, to spatter the Temple, your fields, your towns with blood. Unhappy city, learn your wrongdoing.
ACT II, SCENE i
ANANI coming from the Temple
AN. Station guards at the gates, and let a careful watch protect the walls. Let workmen repair the collapsed walls, and strive to place rocks for catapult-throwing around the ambit of our walls. Exercise our young men who are trained in the art of war, and let the youths compete at throwing the javelin and learn how to wield missiles with an accomplished hand and to attack the scattered enemy persistently with javelins. Let them practice mock-battles. Now the most important work concerns the food-supply. Let our happy fields supply fat flocks and let our granaries be stuffed with abundant crops.
Oh You Who kindle the stars’ bright torches and turn heaven’s orb with Your accomplished hand, protect us safely under the shadow of Your shield. Scatter our amazed enemy in flight. What evils vex Judea! From abroad the Roman general threatens the city with his dread army. At home a hostile kinsman lurks in our bosom. Desire for revenge and terror both assault our minds and pull it in opposite directions. [Enter Magassal.]
MAG. I have come to you from Galilee as a messenger.
AN. What news do you bring me from the camp?
MAG. When Josephus the general reached Galilee, accompanied by a splendid retinue, he bound the inhabitants’ disposition closer to himself by ties of affection. He swiftly selected seventy leading men to preside over the province. Throughout the villages he stationed careful judges to try minor cases. But he reserved the more serious for the attention of himself and these selectmen. He bethought himself how the enemy might be warded off. Thus he built high walls around the towns and established stout towers at Jotopata, Salamen, Pereclo, Bersabe, Japha, Sigoth, and many other places. But he permitted the inhabitants of Sepphoris to construct their own walls, since he perceived that they were ardent for the war and prosperous. At Josephus’ command, however, Jehochanan bar Levi built walls around Gischala. Then Josephus enlisted more than ten myriads of men for the fighting. He divided them into divisions and appointed a captain for each. He taught them the meaning of the bugle and trumpet calls, how detachments are maneuvered, when the battle-line is to be gathered together and when it is to be dispersed so that they might adroitly evade hostile attack. In sum, the industrious general left nothing undone which would tend to strengthen either their bodies or their minds. He exhorted them to abstain from committing acts of plunder or murder against their fellow-citizens while their people’s enemy was increasing to the common detriment. Thus he armed, exercised, and educated his troops.
But alas, the most dutiful counsels of such a commander chanced to be overwhelmed by a storm sent by Fortune, always a cruel stepmother to great men. While he was thus busied, that traitor from Gischala, the depraved sophist Jehochanan bar Levi, secretly plotted rebellion. He was a troublemaker, but a wonderful contriver of evil deceit. He was bent only on only betrayal, on putting a fair face on his crimes, simulating, deceiving, throwing everything into confusion with his murders, his grasping, attempting all crimes in the hope of profit. He cherished the greatest hopes, and always yearned for that which was beyond his reach. Once his poverty acted as a check on him. He obtained the responsibility for fortifying Gischala, his home town, since Josephus knew that he was vigorous and unequal to no task, and scarcely imagined that he would be disloyal. Jehochanan extracted a great deal of money from the rich men of his town, and Josephus granted him a monopoly on the sale of oil, a huge source of revenue. So he suddenly grew rich, and so that he might first strike at the man responsible for this gift, he secretly armed some depraved fellows and coerced a few others to follow his standard out of fear. As time went on, this band increased both in boldness and in numbers, not otherwise than when a fire first lies hidden, disdained, but then breaks forth into a great blaze. Now this robber had assembled more than forty followers, and they dashed through all the fields. Inflamed by these unaccustomed successes, he reckoned that if anything were to happen to Josephus, the supreme command of Galilee would be given to himself. Therefore he ordered his men to indulge in thievery, looting, and murder. If Josephus were to assist the citizens by resisting these attempts, his hope was that Josephus could be captured in an ambush and killed; or, if her were to take no steps to end this looting, Jehochanan could accuse him of wrongdoing before the citizens.
But this plan was unsuccessful. Rather, a foul crime occurred. Jehochanan had spread the rumor among the fickle that Josephus was betraying his providence to the enemy, that this traitor was plotting unspeakable things against his country. Nor did this rumor lack credibility. To go into this whole matter would take a long time, but I shall summarize the main points. The men of Dabarittha happened to plunder some sacks full of gold and splendid vestments that belonged to Agrippa and his sister. When they mistrusted their own ability to enjoy these spoils for long, they handed everything over to Josephus. He then loyally complained about the violence that had been committed against their lord and master, and intended to return the captured loot. But the people argued that the booty had been taken at Dabarittha for their own use. They muttered and complained in indignation, dashing about hither and thither. Gathering by night, they roared that they had lost everything: now they should look to their own advantage. Why was their general sympathetic to their enemies? They were betrayed, along with their wives and children. In their great terror they readily put credence in their fears. The common people believed. One hundred thousand men swiftly congregated, stimulated by anger and rage. They shouted that Josephus should immediately be burnt alive, crucified. His friends fled this dangerous mob. He himself was plunged in sleep, but the crowd’s angry threats awakened him. He alone kept his head amidst such panic. With torn garments and head strewn with ashes, he assumed a hangdog expression. He appeared, his hands bound behind his back and his sword hanging from his neck, as if he were a man about to receive immediate punishment for his crime. But a sudden transformation occurred. The crowd’s enthusiasm cooled, the savage weapons dropped out of their hands. The Tarichaeans were moved by this grand spectacle. A few, however, hurled imprecations against Josephus, thinking he had come to make public atonement for his misdeed. However, his intentions were quite otherwise. Josephus addressed them. “Far be it from me,” he said, “that I either keep these goods for my own profit or turn them over to our enemies to the harm of my people. I prefer that the common weal should increase. My mind is much less bent on helping our enemies. I knew that the circumference of this town was huge, but that it was lacking in walls and arms. I knew that there was not enough money for Tarichaeae, Tiberias, or the other cities for such a task, and I thought the royal treasury adequate for such expenses. If I have dealt unwisely or treacherously with this money, let it belong to the man who first took it. But if I have already made the right choice, what do these weapons and threats signify?”
When he finished speaking, the meeting was divided. The Tarichaeans approved and praised the general’s plan. But the citizens of Tiberias muttered against him and issued threats, saying that they did not want the money to be used thus. Soon Josephus stole away to his home, in need of a new plan in this dangerous situation. About two thousand men followed him and besieged his house, and here he signaled by gestures that he did not understand what they wanted or demanded: he would gladly give them whatever they wished. He urged them to send their leaders indoors to him in order to explain the crowd’s bidding. They agreed, and the leaders were sent. He immediately dragged them into the interior of the house and ordered them to be whipped within an inch of their lives and then, when they were dripping with blood, to be thrown out the door. After the crowd saw their men scarred by this scourging they were amazed and, fearing for themselves, they renounced their arms and took to their heels. And thus the schemes of faithless Jehochanan came to naught. [Exit, Enter Adiaden.]
AD. After Josephus eluded the snares set for his destruction, the treacherous captain Jehochanan did not rest, but wove new schemes. Pretending to be ill, he requested permission to visit the baths at Tiberias. Josephus, at that time unsuspecting, consented. He even gave public orders to the magistrates that they care for their new guest. But Jehochanan spent scarcely two days on this pretense of ill health, and hastened on to his new crime. By new tricks he seduced the citizens into a rebellion. The poison was widespread, but it is not possible to hide a conflagration. Josephus immediately found out about the scheme and hastened there, intending to get his revenge. He assembled the populace. He was scarcely able to explain the reason for his journey when Jehochanan’s henchmen threw a knife at his head. So Josephus jumped into a nearby boat and took refuge in the middle of the lake. His soldiers prepared to avenge the insult suffered by their general. They drew their swords and cut down those guilty of this attempted murder. Meanwhile Jehochanan turned to flight and retired to his native Gischala, but when the certain report of his responsibility for this event became common knowledge, everyone felt bitter resentment. They gathered, armed. The punishment of the traitor himself seemed insufficient. They marked down his friends, their households, his town, his followers for fire and the sword. But Josephus persuaded them to adopt a milder approach and softened his angry soldiers’ furious impulses. Jehochanan immediately abandoned Gischala and, panic-stricken, escaped with about a thousand fellow refugees. By means of messengers he claimed that Josephus was assembling an army to attack Jerusalem and set himself up as the city’s tyrant.
AN. The people and their leaders scarcely heeded this slander. Some people manufactured these false terrors for themselves out of jealousy, others out of terror. These people aided that rascal-captain with their money and supplied men for his army, and among themselves drew up strange manifestos. At the same time they attached to the men they had collected for Jehochanan four leading men as commanders with instructions that they should detain Josephus, so that he would submit to their discipline and quickly hand over to them both his army and his own person. If he rejected these men’s authority, they should treat him as an enemy. Without delay they proceeded to Galilee.
AD. They arrived there before letters or rumor of their coming had given prior notice. Although Gischala, Gamala, Tiberias and Sepphoris went over to them, the common people quickly forced a return to the faithfulness to Josephus which had previously been broken, and the leaders of this great outrage fell into his hands. These he sent back to Jerusalem unharmed, and sought to win over his opponents by acts of kindness. But lest even then the domestic strife should subside, the inhabitants of Tiberias again attempted a revolt, and other men’s loyalty likewise wavered. In the end, Josephus was easily able to recall these lapsed men to their duty without bloodshed and brought them over to his side by a trick. He collected more than two hundred unmanned and unarmed boats (a deed memorable for its outcome) and, as admiral of this fleet, sailed to Tiberias. When the citizens saw this number of ships not far offshore and imagined that a large expedition was approaching, they were dumbfounded. Humbly they begged for peace and amnesty. Josephus sharply rebuked those responsible for this second crime, but he said he would forgive them if they surrendered their leaders and renewed their oaths. The leaders were duly handed over: since they were afraid, the citizens acted properly. So he imprisoned these men, to the number of forty-two. When these saw that they had been arrested by trickery, they claimed that Clitus, the man responsible for this misdeed and the leader of the revolt, should be hanged in order to expiate their common guilt. Josephus refused, but ordered Clitus’ hands to be cut off. In response to the man’s pleas, he reduced the sentence to the amputation of a single hand, but only if the miserable fellow would take a sword and cut it off himself. So this man played the part of the butcher and cut off his left hand. Afterwards the lands of Sepphoris and Gischala were given over to plunder, but in the end he gave them their goods back so that he could simultaneously punish them for their faithlessness by the deprivation of their property, and regain their affection by returning it.
AN. Have you any news about the Roman generals?
AD. For a long time Nero fretted about what general to choose, but soon he settled on Flavius Vespasian. This man had successfully reduced Britain by arms and the land which lie under her cold sky, and as victor had imposed his yoke on her inhabitants. When this Latin general perceived that the land was being revived by the coming of spring, and when the grass was growing in the fields for his horses, soon he began to move his regiments, which had been lying idle during the winter. This leader arranged his columns in correct order and bade them to follow chosen leaders, his representatives, whose virtue had often shown their good disposition in battle. Afterwards he dispatched his son from Achaea to the kingdom of the Nile, so that he could enroll some legions for his father. He himself quickly sailed the Ionian Sea to reach Asia, whence he made a long march by land until he came to Syria’s fertile lands. There he assembled his cohorts. Thence he hastened to Antioch, where he found Agrippa and a large number of troops, and now he is marching on Ptolemais. [Exit Adiaden. Enter Jiptach.]
JIP. After idle rumor had spread though all of our cities of the Roman massacre of our people, whatever traitors favored Roman rule immediately laid violent hands on the Jews. Many of these were accustomed to dwell at Damascus. By deceit the inhabitants herded them, unarmed, into the public baths. When five thousand were assembled, the Damascenes cruelly put them to the sword on the spot. Oh, the atrocious, barbaric crime!
AN. I am unconcerned about Galilee. Domestic evils oppress us. [Enter Cantor.]
CANT. Schimeon bar Gioras traces his line from a noble pedigree, but is a youth of bad habits and deceitful. He is the man you appointed ruler of Faeaenum in the toparchy of Acrabatene. Accompanied by a band consisting of soldiers who sought a revolution, he broke into people’s houses and stole all their goods. What, do I say stole? He used whips to flay their naked bodies, and openly assumed the tyranny.
AN. Now I renounce our war preparations. Rather, I shall attempt to moderate the Zealots and pacify Jerusalem. But what noise of arms do I hear? Sounds of fighting come from several directions. [Enter Jonathas.]
JON. The whole city, alas, resounds with terrible upheaval.
AN. Tell me the cause of this commotion.
JON. Eleazer, bristling with a large bodyguard, rages through the city to murder us. He arms his accomplices, daring everything. He recruits many by his entreaties, others by bribery.
AN. You Who hang the stars in the fiery firmament, and Who makes the expansive rainbow curve over the land, almighty God, stop my son’s fury and give back to Jerusalem the fostering alliances of peace. Why should I try to cure our external wounds? A hostile enemy harms us more greatly here at home. [Exit.]
JON. This father’s blind love hates the son, and the son’s desire wounds the father. Each suffers from these mutually inflicted wounds, nor does this mischief work harm only on these two who create it: the entire city feels the effects of this deadly poison.
Go to Act II of the second Action