WHAT PASSED IN THE TOWER
Nearly four months had gone by. Perhaps, during the whole history of the world there never has been and never will be more cruel suffering than was endured by the inhabitants of Jerusalem during that period, or rather by the survivors of the nation of the Jews who were crowded together within its walls. Forgetting their internecine quarrels in the face of overwhelming danger, too late the factions united and fought against the common foe with a ferocity that has been seldom equalled. They left nothing undone which desperate men could do. Again and again they sallied forth against the Romans, slaughtering thousands of them. They captured their battering-rams and catapults. They undermined the great wooden towers which Titus erected against their walls, and burnt them. With varying success they made sally upon sally. Titus took the third wall and the new city of Bezetha. He took the second wall and pulled it down. Then he sent Josephus, the historian, to persuade the Jews to surrender, but his countrymen cursed and stoned him, and the war went on.
At length, as it seemed to be impossible to carry the place by assault, Titus adopted a surer and more terrible plan. Enclosing the first unconquered wall, the Temple, and the fortress by another wall of his own making, he sat down and waited for starvation to do its work. Then came the famine. At the beginning, before the maddened, devil-inspired factions began to destroy each other and to prey upon the peaceful people, Jerusalem was amply provisioned. But each party squandered the stores that were within its reach, and, whenever they could do so, burnt those of their rivals, so that the food which might have supplied the whole city for months, vanished quickly in orgies of wanton waste and destruction. Now all, or almost all, was gone, and by tens and hundreds of thousands the people starved.
Those who are curious about such matters, those who desire to know how much human beings can endure, and of what savagery they can be capable when hunger drives them, may find these details set out in the pages of Josephus, the renegade Jewish historian. It serves no good purpose and will not help our story to repeat them; indeed for the most part they are too terrible to be repeated. History does not record, and the mind of man cannot invent a cruelty which was not practised by the famished Jews upon other Jews suspected of the crime of having hidden food to feed themselves or their families. Now the fearful prophecy was fulfilled, and it came about that mothers devoured their own infants, and children snatched the last morsel of bread from the lips of their dying parents. If these things were done between those who were of one blood, what dreadful torment was there that was not practised by stranger upon stranger? The city went mad beneath the weight of its abominable and obscene misery. Thousands perished every day, and every night thousands more escaped, or attempted to escape, to the Romans, who caught the poor wretches and crucified them beneath the walls, till there was no more wood of which to make the crosses, and no more ground whereon to stand them.