Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.

Various portents had occurred at this time, but so sunk in 13 superstition are the Jews and so opposed to all religious practices that they think it wicked to avert the threatened evil by sacrifices[516] or vows.  Embattled armies were seen to meet in the sky with flashing arms, and the temple shone with sudden fire from heaven.  The doors of the shrine suddenly opened, a supernatural voice was heard calling the gods out, and at once there began a mighty movement of departure.  Few took alarm at all this.  Most people held the belief that, according to the ancient priestly writings, this was the moment at which the East was fated to prevail:  they would now start forth from Judaea and conquer the world.[517] This enigmatic prophecy really applied to Vespasian and Titus.  But men are blinded by their hopes.  The Jews took to themselves the promised destiny, and even defeat could not convince them of the truth.  The number of the besieged, men and women of every age, is stated to have reached six hundred thousand.  There were arms for all who could carry them, and far more were ready to fight than would be expected from their total numbers.  The women were as determined as the men:  if they were forced to leave their homes they had more to fear in life than in death.

Such was the city and such the people with which Titus was faced.  As the nature of the ground forbade a sudden assault, he determined to employ siege-works and penthouse shelters.  The work was accordingly divided among the legions, and there was a truce to fighting until they had got ready every means of storming a town that had ever been devised by experience or inventive ingenuity.


    [460] A.D. 70.

    [461] See ii. 4; iv. 51.

    [462] XXII Deiotariana and III Cyrenaica.

    [463] Cp. ii. 4.

    [464] There seems little to recommend Tacitus’ theory of the
          identity of the Idaei and Judaei, though it has been suggested
          that the Cherethites of 2.  Sam. viii. 18 and Ezek. xxv. 16 are
          Cretans, migrated into the neighbourhood of the Philistines. 
          The Jewish Sabbath (Saturn’s day) seems also to have suggested
          connexion with Saturn and Crete.

    [465] Elsewhere the Idaei figure as supernatural genii in
          attendance on either Jupiter or Saturn.

    [466] Ethiopian here means Phoenician.  Tradition made Cepheus,
          the father of Andromeda, king of Joppa.

    [467] From Damascus, said Justin, where Abraham was one of
          their kings, and Trogus Pompeius adds that the name of Abraham
          was honourably remembered at Damascus.  These are variants of
          the Biblical migration of Abraham.

    [468] Il. vi. 184; Od. v. 282.

    [469] Another piece of fanciful philology, based on a
          misinterpretation of a Greek transliteration of the name
          Jerusalem.  The Solymi are traditionally placed in Lycia.  Both
          Juvenal and Martial use Solymus as equivalent to Judaeus.

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