TITUS' SEIGE OF JERUSALEM IN 70 C.E.,
Publius Cornelius Tacitus, written in 109 C.E.
HISTORIAE, CORNELIUS TACITUS, V, i-xiv
C. D. Fisher, ed., Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1911
THE HISTORIES, CORNELIUS TACITUS, BK. V, CHAP. 1-14
The Works of Tacitus, translated, Thomas Gordon, 1737
Eiusdem anni principio Caesar Titus, perdomandae Iudaeae
delectus a patre et privatis utriusque rebus militia clarus, maiore
tum vi famaque agebat, certantibus provinciarum et exercituum
studiis. Atque ipse, ut super fortunam crederetur, decorum se
promptumque in armis ostendebat, comitate et adloquiis officia
provocans ac plerumque in opere, in agmine gregario militi mixtus,
incorrupto ducis honore. Tres eum in Iudaea legiones, quinta et
decima et quinta decima, vetus Vespasiani miles, excepere. Addidit e
Syria duodecimam et adductos Alexandria duoetvicensimanos
tertianosque; comitabantur viginti sociae cohortes, octo equitum
alae, simul Agrippa Sohaemusque reges et auxilia regis Antiochi
validaque et solito inter accolas odio infensa Iudaeis Arabum manus,
multi quos urbe atque Italia sua quemque spes acciverat occupandi
principem adhuc vacuum. His cum copiis finis hostium ingressus
composito agmine, cuncta explorans paratusque decernere, haud procul
Hierosolymis castra facit.
In the beginning of the same year the Emperorís son Titus was by his father appointed to accomplish the [subjugation] of Judaea; a captain who had been signal in war whilst his father and he were no other than subjects, but now bore command with greater sway and renown, as in zeal and good offices towards him the provinces and the armies were striving for priority. He moreover, in order to be thought to surpass his fortune, was continually presenting himself to view, splendid in arms and alert for war, continually alluring his men to their duty by complaisance and kind words; he usually thrust himself amongst the common soldiers, whether they worked or marched, but still preserved undebased the dignity of a general. In Judaea he was received by three Legions, the fifth, tenth and fifteenth, men who had long served under Vespasian. Syria too furnished him with the twelfth, as also with those of the twenty-first and the third drawn from Alexandria. There accompanied him twenty cohorts of our allies, eight squadrons of horse, as also the Kings Agrippa and Sohemus, a body of auxiliaries from King Antiochus, and a band of Arabs natural enemies to the Jews through an antipathy usual between contiguous nations. To him there repaired many out of Italy, many from Rome, all excited by their particular hopes of possessing the young prince whilst yet free from new engagements. With these forces he entered the enemies territories, marching in battle array, sending to gain intelligence on every side, and holding himself ready for an encounter, then encamped near Jerusalem.
Sed quoniam famosae urbis supremum diem tradituri sumus,
congruens videtur primordia eius aperire. Iudaeos Creta insula
profugos novissima Libyae insedisse memorant, qua tempestate
Saturnus vi Iovis pulsus cesserit regnis. Argumentum e nomine
petitur: inclutum in Creta Idam montem, accolas Idaeos aucto in
barbarum cognomento Iudaeos vocitari. Quidam regnante Iside
exundantem per Aegyptum multitudinem ducibus Hierosolymo ac Iuda
proximas in terras exoneratam; plerique Aethiopum prolem, quos rege
Cepheo metus atque odium mutare sedis perpulerit. Sunt qui tradant
Assyrios convenas, indigum agrorum populum, parte Aegypti potitos,
mox proprias urbis Hebraeasque terras et propiora Syriae coluisse.
Clara alii Iudaeorum initia, Solymos, carminibus Homeri celebratam
gentem, conditae urbi Hierosolyma nomen e suo fecisse.
But since I am going to recount the final doom of a city so famed, it seems pertinent to explain its antiquity and rise. It is a tradition, that the Jews, as fugitives from the island of Crete, at the time when Saturn, expulsed by the violence of Jupiter forsook his kingdom, settled themselves upon the extremities of Lybia. For proof of this, their name is alledged: For that in Crete stands the celebrated mountain Ida, and the Ideans natives of the mountain, by a barbarous extension of the name, are called Iudaeans. Some hold, that Egypt swarming with people beyond measure, during the reign of Isis, to relieve it self, poured a great multitude into the regions adjoining, under the leading of Hierosolymus and Juda. Many take them, to be descended from the Ethiopians, and to have been, through their dread and hate of King Cepheus, forced to seek a new habitation. There are authors who say, That they were a band of people from Assyria, who wandering and destitute of land, occupied a portion of Egypt, anon had cities of their own, and possessed the territories of the Hebrews, with the confines of Syria. Others assign the Jews a nobler foundation and pedigree, as derived from the Solymites, a nation celebrated by the poet Homer, and founders of Jerusalem, a city which from them had its name.
Plurimi auctores consentiunt orta per Aegyptum tabe quae
corpora foedaret, regem Bocchorim adito Hammonis oraculo remedium
petentem purgare regnum et id genus hominum ut invisum deis alias in
terras avehere iussum. Sic conquisitum collectumque vulgus, postquam
vastis locis relictum sit, ceteris per lacrimas torpentibus, Moysen
unum exulum monuisse ne quam deorum hominumve opem expectarent
utrisque deserti, sed sibimet duce caelesti crederent, primo cuius
auxilio praesentis miserias pepulissent. Adsensere atque omnium
ignari fortuitum iter incipiunt. Sed nihil aeque quam inopia aquae
fatigabat, iamque haud procul exitio totis campis procubuerant, cum
grex asinorum agrestium e pastu in rupem nemore opacam concessit.
Secutus Moyses coniectura herbidi soli largas aquarum venas aperit.
Id levamen; et continuum sex dierum iter emensi septimo pulsis
cultoribus obtinuere terras, in quis urbs et templum dicata.
In one account a number of writers concur, That when Egypt was over-run by a pestilent disease, contaminating living bodies, and very foul to behold, Bocchoris the King applying for a remedy to the Oracle of Jupiter Hammon, was ordered to purge his kingdom, and to remove into another country that generation of men so detested by the deities. Hence, when they were all searched out, and the multitude thus swept together, were carried into the immense deserts, and there abandoned; whilst all continued wailing under astonishment and despair, Moses, one of these exiles, exhorted them, to entertain no hopes of relief from gods or men, since both by gods and men they had been forsaken, but in himself to trust as to a leader sent from heaven, one by whose aid they should vanquish their present misery and distress. They assented, and, utterly ignorant of whatever was to befall them, began to journey on at random. But nothing aggrieved them so sorely as want of water: Already they were lying scattered over the plains, ready to perish, when a flock of wild asses, leaving their pasture, climbed up a rocky mountain covered with a thick wood. Moses followed them, forming a conjecture from [solitary] herbage, and there discovered some large springs. This proved their solacement and relief, and travelling for six days without intermission, on the seventh they gained a settlement by exterminating the inhabitants. There they raised their City, there founded and dedicated their Temple.
Moyses quo sibi in posterum gentem firmaret, novos ritus
contrariosque ceteris mortalibus indidit. Profana illic omnia quae
apud nos sacra, rursum concessa apud illos quae nobis incesta.
Effigiem animalis, quo monstrante errorem sitimque depulerant,
penetrali sacravere, caeso ariete velut in contumeliam Hammonis; bos
quoque immolatur, quoniam Aegyptii Apin colunt. Sue abstinent
memoria cladis, quod ipsos scabies quondam turpaverat, cui id animal
obnoxium. Longam olim famem crebris adhuc ieiuniis fatentur, et
raptarum frugum argumentum panis Iudaicus nullo fermento detinetur.
Septimo die otium placuisse ferunt, quia is finem laborum tulerit;
dein blandiente inertia septimum quoque annum ignaviae datum. Alii
honorem eum Saturno haberi, seu principia religionis tradentibus
Idaeis, quos cum Saturno pulsos et conditores gentis accepimus, seu
quod de septem sideribus, quis mortales reguntur, altissimo orbe et
praecipua potentia stella Saturni feratur, ac pleraque caelestium
viam suam et cursus septenos per numeros commeare.
Moses, to ensure the subjection of the nation to himself for ever, established religious ordinances altogether new, and opposite to those of all other men and countries. Whatever we esteem holy, is with them profane. Again, they permit many things as lawful, which to us are forbidden and impure. The statue of the beast by whose guidance they stayed their thirst and wandering, they consecrated in the sanctuary of their temple, with the solemn immolation of a ram, in [derision of] Jupiter Hammon. The ox too is what they sacrifice, a creature which the Egyptians worship for the god Apis. From feeding on swine they refrain, in memory of their former calamity; for that they had once been infected and defiled with the same leprous tumors and eruptions to which that animal is subject. The famine which once they so long endured, they still acknowledge and commemorate by frequent fastings: And, as a standing proof of their having by robbery supplied themselves with grain, the Jewish bread is still baked without leaven. It is said, that they choose to rest every seventh day, because then ended their labours. Afterwards, through the growth and allurements of laziness, every seventh year too was devoted to sloth. Others hold such observance to be in honour of Saturn; whether it be that from the Ideans, who are said to have been expulsed with Saturn, and to have founded their nation, they derive the elements of their religion, or that, of all the seven planets by which this earth is governed, that of Saturn rolls in the highest orb and possesseth the greatest energy. Moreover, most of the celestial bodies accomplish their course and operation by the number seven.
Hi ritus quoquo modo inducti antiquitate defenduntur: cetera
instituta, sinistra foeda, pravitate valuere. Nam pessimus quisque
spretis religionibus patriis tributa et stipes illuc congerebant,
unde auctae Iudaeorum res, et quia apud ipsos fides obstinata,
misericordia in promptu, sed adversus omnis alios hostile odium.
Separati epulis, discreti cubilibus, proiectissima ad libidinem
gens, alienarum concubitu abstinent; inter se nihil inlicitum.
Circumcidere genitalia instituerunt ut diversitate noscantur.
Transgressi in morem eorum idem usurpant, nec quicquam prius
imbuuntur quam contemnere deos, exuere patriam, parentes liberos
fratres vilia habere. Augendae tamen multitudini consulitur; nam et
necare quemquam ex agnatis nefas, animosque proelio aut suppliciis
peremptorum aeternos putant: hinc generandi amor et moriendi
contemptus. Corpora condere quam cremare e more Aegyptio, eademque
cura et de infernis persuasio, caelestium contra. Aegyptii pleraque
animalia effigiesque compositas venerantur, Iudaei mente sola
unumque numen intellegunt: profanos qui deum imagines mortalibus
materiis in species hominum effingant; summum illud et aeternum
neque imitabile neque interiturum. Igitur nulla simulacra urbibus
suis, nedum templis sistunt; non regibus haec adulatio, non
Caesaribus honor. Sed quia sacerdotes eorum tibia tympanisque
concinebant, hedera vinciebantur vitisque aurea templo reperta,
Liberum patrem coli, domitorem Orientis, quidam arbitrati sunt,
nequaquam congruentibus institutis. Quippe Liber festos laetosque
ritus posuit, Iudaeorum mos absurdus sordidusque.
These ceremonies, in whatever way introduced, are by their antiquity maintained. The rest of their institutions are unhallowed, filthy, and from their depravity only draws their influence. For here from every quarter all who were most profligate and wicked, accumulated tribute and rich offerings, rejecting the worship and divinities of their own country. Hence the increase and improvement of the Jewish state, as also because they are inflexible in their faith and adherence to one another, and prone to mutual acts of compassion; but towards the whole human race besides they retain deadly and implacable hate. With all others they refuse to eat, with all others to lodge; nay, they who are a people abandoned to sensuality, avoid the embraces of all foreign women. Amongst themselves nothing is accounted unlawful. They instituted circumcision on purpose to be distinguished by a peculiar mark. The same is assumed by their proselytes; and the earliest lesson which these are taught, is to despise the deities, to renounce all love to their country; and for their parents, for their brethren, and children, to entertain no tenderness or consideration. Yet to the multiplying of their nation regard is had. For, besides that to kill their infants is thought a heinous sin, they suppose the souls of such as die in battle, or by the hand of justice, to be immortal. Hence their passion for generation, hence their contempt of dying. They choose to interr their dead, rather than to burn them, according to the usage of the Egyptians. With these they concur in their notions of an infernal world; but far different is their persuasion about things celestial. The Egyptians offer worship divine to several brute animals, to images and the works of art. The Jews know but one deity, to be conceived and adored by the mind only. For profane and unhallowed they hold all such as out of materials mortal and perishing, use to fashion their gods after the likeness of men; they hold that the divine being, eternal and supreme, is incapable of all change, incapable of ever ending. In their cities therefore no images are seen, so far are they from allowing such in their temples. This is a compliment which they pay not to their kings, this an honour which they deny to the caesars. Yet, as their priests used to chant to the sound of pipes and drums, as their brows were bound with ivy, and as in the temple a golden vine was found, some have inferred that they worshipped Bacchus, conqueror of the east; though void of all resemblance are their institutions to his. For, jovial and gay were the solemnities established by Bacchus: The Jewish rituals are preposterous and rueful.
Terra finesque qua ad Orientem vergunt Arabia terminantur, a
meridie Aegyptus obiacet, ab occasu Phoenices et mare, septentrionem
e latere Syriae longe prospectant. Corpora hominum salubria et
ferentia laborum. Rari imbres, uber solum: [exuberant] fruges
nostrum ad morem praeterque eas balsamum et palmae. Palmetis
proceritas et decor, balsamum modica arbor: ut quisque ramus
intumuit, si Vim ferri adhibeas, pavent venae; fragmine lapidis aut
testa aperiuntur; umor in usu medentium est. Praecipuum montium
Libanum erigit, mirum dictu, tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque
nivibus; idem amnem Iordanen alit funditque. Nec Iordanes pelago
accipitur, sed unum atque alterum lacum integer perfluit, tertio
retinetur. Lacus immenso ambitu, specie maris, sapore corruptior,
gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, neque vento impellitur neque
piscis aut suetas aquis volucris patitur. Inertes undae superiacta
ut solido ferunt; periti imperitique nandi perinde attolluntur.
Certo anni bitumen egerit, cuius legendi usum, ut ceteras artis,
experientia docuit. Ater suapte natura liquor et sparso aceto
concretus innatat; hunc manu captum, quibus ea cura, in summa navis
trahunt: inde nullo iuvante influit oneratque, donec abscindas. Nec
abscindere aere ferrove possis: fugit cruorem vestemque infectam
sanguine, quo feminae per mensis exolvuntur. Sic veteres auctores,
sed gnari locorum tradunt undantis bitumine moles pelli manuque
trahi ad litus, mox, ubi vapore terrae, vi solis inaruerint,
securibus cuneisque ut trabes aut saxa discindi.
Their territories, where they stretch eastward, are bounded by Arabia; to the south lies Egypt; to the west, Phoenicia and the sea; northward they are by a long frontier joined to Syria. The bodies of the men are hale, such as can endure hardship and labour. They have rarely any rain. The soil is fruitful and rich. In all the fruits of the earth which are common with us, they abound; and besides these they enjoy the palm tree and that of the balm. The palms are lofty and beautiful. The balm is a small tree: When its branches swell, if you pierce them with steel, the veins shrink with shyness, and refuse to flow: They are therefore opened by a shell or the splint of a stone. The liquor is used for a medicine. Above all their mountains, that of Libanus rises to a prodigious height, and what is wonderful to be told, amidst such excessive heats is covered thick with eternal snow. From this mountain the river Jordan derives its source and stream. Neither falls the Jordan into the sea, but passing first through one lake, then through another, still preserving its waters unmixt, is swallowed up in the third. This lake is vast in compass, resembling a sea, in taste more nauseous, and by its noisom vapour and smell baneful to the adjacent inhabitants. Neither is it ruffled by any wind; nor fish nor water-fowl does it suffer to live. Whatever bodies are cast upon the stagnate flood, it bears like a solid surface; alike borne up are all such who can swim and such who cannot. At a certain season of the year it ejects pitch. The art of gathering this, as well as all other arts, experience has taught. The liquid substance naturally black, and congealed, by sprinkling it with vinegar, emerges and floats. Such as are appointed to collect it, take it like a rope with their hand and guide it to the upper part of the ship. From thence it continues flowing in without help, and fills the vessel, till you cut off the communication; neither can you cut it off with an instrument of iron or brass. It recoils only when touched with blood, and from cloaths tainted with menstrual purgations. This is what ancient authors relate. But the writers acquainted with the country, recount, that these huge heaps of pitch lying upon the surface, are either driven to the shore, or dragged thither by the help of hands; that anon, when sufficiently baked by vapours from the land and by the reflections and strength of the sun, they are rent and divided with hatchets and wedges.
Haud procul inde campi quos ferunt olim uberes magnisque
urbibus habitatos fulminum iactu arsisse; et manere vestigia,
terramque ipsam, specie torridam, vim frugiferam perdidisse. Nam
cuncta sponte edita aut manu sata, sive herba tenus aut flore seu
solitam in speciem adolevere, atra et inania velut in cinerem
vanescunt. Ego sicut inclitas quondam urbis igne caelesti flagrasse
concesserim, ita halitu lacus infici terram, corrumpi superfusum
spiritum, eoque fetus segetum et autumni putrescere reor, solo
caeloque iuxta gravi. Et Belius amnis Iudaico mari inlabitur, circa
cuius os lectae harenae admixto nitro in vitrum excoquuntur. Modicum
id litus et egerentibus inexhaustum.
Not far hence lie the desert plains, such as they report to have been of old a country fruitful and flourishing, and full of populous cities, but consumed by lightning and thunderbolts; they add, that still remaining are the traces and monuments of such desolation, and that the soil itself looks scorched, and has ever since lost its fructifying force. For, all vegetables found here, be the same spontaneously produced or reared by man, whether small herbs or flowers, as soon as they attain their ordinary growth and form, prove black and arid, devoid of substance, and dissipate as it were into cinders. To speak my own sentiments, as I would allow cities once very great and signal to have been burnt by fire from heaven, so I conceive that by exhalations from the lake the soil is infected, and the ambient air poisoned, and that thence the grain and all the fruits of the harvest are putrified and blasted, since equally malignant is the earth and the clime. Moreover, into the sea of Judaea the river Belus discharges itself: The sands gathered at its mouth are, with a mixture of nitre, melted into glass. This is but a narrow shore, yet by such as are daily draining it of its sands, found to be inexhaustible.
Magna pars Iudaeae vicis dispergitur, habent et oppida;
Hierosolyma genti caput. Illic immensae opulentiae templum, et
primis munimentis urbs, dein regia, templum intimis clausum. Ad
fores tantum Iudaeo aditus, limine praeter sacerdotes arcebantur.
Dum Assyrios penes Medosque et Persas Oriens fuit, despectissima
pars servientium: postquam Macedones praepolluere, rex Antiochus
demere superstitionem et mores Graecorum dare adnisus, quo minus
taeterrimam gentem in melius mutaret, Parthorum bello prohibitus
est; nam ea tempestate Arsaces desciverat. Tum Iudaei Macedonibus
invalidis, Parthis nondum adultis, et Romani procul erant, sibi
ipsi reges imposuere; qui mobilitate vulgi expulsi, resumpta per
arma dominatione fugas civium, urbium eversiones, fratrum coniugum
parentum neces aliaque solita regibus ausi superstitionem fovebant,
quia honor sacerdotii firmamentum potentiae adsumebatur.
The larger part of Judaea consists in villages scattered up and down. They have likewise cities. Jerusalem is the capital of the nation. Here stands the temple, immensely wealthy, and proves to the city one of its strongest bulwarks. To all foreigners the inner temple is shut; nor to a Jew is there access beyond the portal. From entering all men are excluded except the priests. Whilst the empire of the east was possessed by the Assyrians, next by the Medes and Persians, the Jews were held the most despicable of all the enslaved nations. Afterwards when the Macedonian power prevailed, King Antiochus laboured to extinguish their superstition, and to introduce the institutions of Greece, in order to reform in some measure that hideous and detestable nation, but was diverted from this pursuit by a war with the Parthians. For, at this conjuncture had Arsaces revolted. The Jews on this occasion, whilst the Macedonians were weakened, the Parthians not yet established, the Romans then far from them, assumed kings of their own. These were afterwards expulsed through the inconstancy of the populace, but having again seized the sovereignty by arms, let themselves loose to all the cruelties and excesses usual to kings, banished their citizens, destroyed cities, murdered their brethren, murdered their wives and parents, and with all this their tyranny, carefully supported and nourished the established superstition; for to the functions of Royalty they annexed that of the priesthood.
Romanorum primus Cn. Pompeius Iudaeos domuit templumque iure
victoriae ingressus est: inde vulgatum nulla intus deum effigie
vacuam sedem et inania arcana. Muri Hierosolymorum diruti, delubrum
mansit. Mox civili inter nos bello, postquam in dicionem M. Antonii
provinciae cesserant, rex Parthorum Pacorus Iudaea potitus
interfectusque a P. Ventidio, et Parthi trans Euphraten redacti:
Iudaeos C. Sosius subegit. Regnum ab Antonio Herodi datum victor
Augustus auxit. Post mortem Herodis, nihil expectato Caesare, Simo
quidam regium nomen invaserat. Is a Quintilio Varo obtinente Syriam
punitus, et gentem coercitam liberi Herodis tripertito rexere. Sub
Tiberio quies. Dein iussi a C. Caesare effigiem eius in templo
locare arma potius sumpsere, quem motum Caesaris mors diremit.
Claudius, defunctis regibus aut ad modicum redactis, Iudaeam
provinciam equitibus Romanis aut libertis permisit, e quibus
Antonius Felix per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem ius regium servili
ingenio exercuit, Drusilla Cleopatrae et Antonii nepte in
matrimonium accepta, ut eiusdem Antonii Felix progener, Claudius
Pompey was the first Roman that subdued the Jews. He, exercising the right of a conqueror, entered their temple. Thenceforward it was rumoured abroad, that within it he had found no images of the gods, but the residence of the deity void of any, and a sanctuary destitute of sacred solemnities. The walls of Jerusalem were leveled: The holy edifice remained unhurt. Thereafter followed our civil war, and under the jurisdiction of Anthony the eastern provinces fell. Pacorus King of the Parthians then seized Judaea, but was slain by Ventidius; the Parthians were chased over the Euphrates, and the Jews reduced to subjection by Caius Sosius. Over them Anthony had set Herod for their king, and to him his kingdom was continued and enlarged by Augustus who conquered Anthony. Upon the death of Herod, one Simon, without ever staying for the pleasure of the emperor, usurped the title of king. Upon him Quinctilius Varus, governour of Syria, inflicted punishment; and the nation, as soon as repressed and quiet, was committed, under a triple partition, to be ruled by the three sons of Herod. Under Tiberius they enjoyed perfect repose. But in the reign of Caligula, when he ordered them to place his own image in their temple, they chose rather to rise in arms: A combustion which, upon the death of Caligula, ceased. Claudius, when the Jewish kings were all deceased, at least extremely shortened in power, gave Judaea to be ruled as a province by the Roman knights, or by his own freedmen. Antonius Felix was one of these, one who rioting in the excesses of licentiousness and cruelty, exercised the authority of a king with the spirit and baseness of a slave. He had indeed received in wedlock Drusilla, grand-daughter to Anthony and Cleopatra: Insomuch that whilst the emperor was Mark Anthonyís grandson, Felix his manumised slave was married to the grand-daughter of that very Mark Anthony.
Duravit tamen patientia Iudaeis usque ad Gessium Florum
procuratorem: sub eo bellum ortum. Et comprimere coeptantem Cestium
Gallum Syriae legatum varia proelia ac saepius adversa excepere. Qui
ubi fato aut taedio occidit, missu Neronis Vespasianus fortuna
famaque et egregiis ministris intra duas aestates cuncta camporum
omnisque praeter Hierosolyma urbis victore exercitu tenebat.
Proximus annus civili bello intentus quantum ad Iudaeos per otium
transiit. Pace per Italiam parta et externae curae rediere: augebat
iras quod soli Iudaei non cessissent; simul manere apud exercitus
Titum ad omnis principatus novi eventus casusve utile videbatur.
The Jews, however, bore their oppression with patience till the time of Gessius Florus, who governed them with the title of Imperial Procurator. Under him a war arose; and Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, trying to crush it, in all his encounters with the revolters found the issue at best doubtful, frequently disastrous. Upon the death of Gallus, whether it happened through the course of nature, or through melancholy and regret, the charge was by Nero transferred upon Vespasian, who, favoured by his good fortune and great fame, and served by excellent officers and assistants, in the space of two summers with his victorious army possessed the whole country and all the cities besides Jerusalem. The year following was employed in the civil war, and to the Jews proved altogether pacific. When at home in Italy peace ensued, with it the care of affairs abroad revived. What heightened the public indignation was, that of all nations only the Jews refused to submit. It was withal judged more politic and secure, that Titus should continue at the head of armies, to be ready against all the events and casualties incident to a new reign.
Igitur castris, uti diximus, ante moenia Hierosolymorum
positis instructas legiones ostentavit: Iudaei sub ipsos muros
struxere aciem, rebus secundis longius ausuri et, si pellerentur,
parato perfugio. Missus in eos eques cum expeditis cohortibus
ambigue certavit; mox cessere hostes et sequentibus diebus crebra
pro portis proelia serebant, donec adsiduis damnis intra moenia
pellerentur. Romani ad obpugnandum versi; neque enim dignum
videbatur famem hostium opperiri, poscebantque pericula, pars
virtute, multi ferocia et cupidine praemiorum. Ipsi Tito Roma et
opes voluptatesque ante oculos; ac ni statim Hierosolyma
conciderent, morari videbantur. Sed urbem arduam situ opera molesque
firmaverant, quis vel plana satis munirentur. Nam duos collis in
immensum editos claudebant muri per artem obliqui aut introrsus
sinuati, ut latera obpugnantium ad ictus patescerent. Extrema rupis
abrupta, et turres, ubi mons iuvisset, in sexagenos pedes, inter
devexa in centenos vicenosque attollebantur, mira specie ac procul
intuentibus pares. Alia intus moenia regiae circumiecta,
conspicuoque fastigio turris Antonia, in honorem M. Antonii ab
Having therefore encamped, as I have related, near the walls of Jerusalem, he displayed his legions in array. Under the very walls the Jews embattled their host, ready to adventure further, were their efforts successful, and trusting to a refuge at hand, were they repulsed. Against them the cavalry were sent, with some cohorts lightly armed, but left the issue of the conflict doubtful. Afterwards the enemy retired, and on the subsequent days maintained frequent skirmishes just without the gates, till by continual losses they were forced within their walls. These the Romans resolved to storm. For honourable it seemed not, to await their reduction by famine. Nay, the army sought to encounter dangers, some from magnanimity, many from impetuosity, or for the recompences attending victory. Titus himself was setting Rome before his eyes, with all the opulence and many pleasures there, and it seemed tedious to wait for the enjoyment of these, unless Jerusalem were razed without all delay. But steep and high was the situation of the city, and fortified besides with works and ramparts, such as would have proved a sufficient defence to a place even standing in a plain. There were two hills immensely high and enclosed by a wall built purposely crooked, with angles and windings, whence the flanks of the assailants might be exposed to be galled by the besieged. The extremities of the rock were sharp and inaccessible. They had also great towers, some built upon the summit and raised sixty foot high, others upon the declensions of the hills mounting up to an hundred and twenty foot, both sorts beautiful and marvellous to behold, and to such as viewed them at a distance, all appearing equal in height. Within the city there were other walls surrounding the palace, with the tower Antonia exceeding stately and conspicuous, called so by Herod in honour to Anthony.
Templum in modum arcis propriique muri, labore et opere ante
alios; ipsae porticus, quis templum ambibatur, egregium
propugnaculum. Fons perennis aquae, cavati sub terra montes et
piscinae cisternaeque servandis imbribus. Providerant conditores ex
diversitate morum crebra bella: inde cuncta quamvis adversus longum
obsidium; et a Pompeio expugnatis metus atque usus pleraque
monstravere. Atque per avaritiam Claudianorum temporum empto iure
muniendi struxere muros in pace tamquam ad bellum, magna conluvie et
ceterarum urbium clade aucti; nam pervicacissimus quisque illuc
perfugerat eoque seditiosius agebant. Tres duces, totidem exercitus:
extrema et latissima moenium Simo, mediam urbem Ioannes [quem et
Bargioram vocabant], templum Eleazarus firmaverat. Multitudine et
armis Ioannes ac Simo, Eleazarus loco pollebat: sed proelia dolus
incendia inter ipsos, et magna vis frumenti ambusta. Mox Ioannes,
missis per speciem sacrificandi qui Eleazarum manumque eius
obtruncarent, templo potitur. Ita in duas factiones civitas
discessit, donec propinquantibus Romanis bellum externum concordiam
The temple was raised like a great castle, enclosed with fortifications of its own, in structure and strength superior to all the others. Even the portals and cloisters built round the temple were a noble fortress. With water they were supplied from a fountain which never waxed dry. The mountains were all scooped into caverns. There were many pools and cisterns for preserving the rain. From the singularity of the Jewish institutions, different from those of all other nations, they who founded the city had foreseen that frequent wars would accrue. Hence no precaution, no defence had been omitted proper for sustaining a siege, however long. And as they had been already sacked by Pompey, fear and experience had enlightened them in many instances. Besides, such had been the venality of the reign of Claudius, that they had then procured with money a right to rebuild their walls, which they built so strong during peace, as if they had had nothing in view but war. Mighty was the multitude there, and greatly augmented by the destruction of the other cities, since from these had fled hither, all the most turbulent and resolute; and thence amongst them the more discord and sedition prevailed. Three commanders there were, and as many armies. Simon guarded the extent and circuit of the walls: John, whom they sirnamed Bargioras, commanded the heart of the city: Eleazar maintained the temple. In multitudes and arms John and Simon surpassed; in situation Eleazar. But amongst themselves there prevailed mutual slaughter and battles, circumvention and ambush, with the fury and devastation of fire, whence mighty store of grain was utterly consumed. John next employed certain assassins, under colour of performing sacrifice, to butcher Eleazar and his whole band, and thus gained possession of the temple. In this manner the city was rent into two factions, till, upon the approach of the Romans, war from without produced concord within.
Evenerant prodigia, quae neque hostiis neque votis piare fas
habet gens superstitioni obnoxia, religionibus adversa. Visae per
caelum concurrere acies, rutilantia arma et subito nubium igne
conlucere templum. Apertae repente delubri fores et audita maior
humana vox excedere deos; simul ingens motus excedentium. Quae pauci
in metum trahebant: pluribus persuasio inerat antiquis sacerdotum
litteris contineri eo ipso tempore fore ut valesceret Oriens
profectique Iudaea rerum potirentur. Quae ambages Vespasianum ac
Titum praedixerat, sed vulgus more humanae cupidinis sibi tantam
fatorum magnitudinem interpretati ne adversis quidem ad vera
mutabantur. Multitudinem obsessorum omnis aetatis, virile ac
muliebre secus, sexcenta milia fuisse accepimus: arma cunctis, qui
ferre possent, et plures quam pro numero audebant. Obstinatio viris
feminisque par; ac si transferre sedis cogerentur, maior vitae metus
quam mortis. Hanc adversus urbem gentemque Caesar Titus, quando
impetus et subita belli locus abnueret, aggeribus vineisque certare
statuit: dividuntur legionibus munia et quies proeliorum fuit, donec
cuncta expugnandis urbibus reperta apud veteres aut novis ingeniis
struerentur. [§14 - §26]
There had happened omens and prodigies, things which that nation so addicted to superstition, but so averse to the gods, hold it unlawful to expiate either by vows or victims. Hosts were seen to encounter in the air, refulgent arms appeared; and, by a blaze of lightning shooting suddenly from the clouds, all the temple was illuminated. The great gates of the temple were of themselves in an instant thrown open, and a voice more than human heard to declare, that the Gods were going to depart. There followed withal a huge stir and tumult, as resulting from their motion and departure, wonders from which some few found cause of dread. Many were under a strong persuasion, that in the ancient books kept by their priests, a prophecy was contained, That at this very time the power of the east would prevail, and out of Judaea should spring such as were to rule over all nations: A prophetic riddle, by which Vespasian and Titus were prefigured. But the populace, according to the usual fondness and credulity of human wishes, construed to themselves all this mighty fortune reserved by fate, insomuch that even by their severe sufferings and disasters they could not be reclaimed to truth and their understandings. The number of the besieged of all ages and both sexes, we learn to have been six hundred thousand. Arms were borne by all who were able: Nay, there were more who adventured upon arms, than even from a multitude so vast could have been expected. In men and women was found an equal obstinacy to resist, and (if they were indeed doomed to change their native country) a greater dread of surviving than of perishing. Against this strong city and this stubborn people, Titus determined to proceed by mounds and machines of battery, since such was the situation as to be proof against storming and the sudden efforts of an army. Amongst the Legions their several tasks and employments were parted, and all combating ceased, till they were prepared to prosecute the siege by every engine and art either devised by the ancients, or lately invented, for the attacking and reduction of cities. [§14 - §26]
[In sections §14 - §26 Tacitus suddenly turns to an account of the military campaign in Germany, but in §26 the entire book breaks off, leaving the accounts of German campaign and of the Judaean campaign unfinished.]