Early Accounts of the Temple of Jerusalem – Sources     HomeSourcesTopicsViews


  In 71 CE, Titus carries the Temple treasures to Rome.
  In 75 CE, Vespasian builds the Temple of Peace in Rome to house the Temple treasures.
  In 455 CE, the Vandal king Genseric sacks Rome and carries the Temple treasures to Carthage.
  In 533 CE, Belisarus, general of Emperor Justinian, recaptures the Temple treasures and sends them to Byzantium.
  In 533 CE, Justinian fears the Temple treasures may bring evil and returns them to Christian churches in Jerusalem.
  In 614 CE, the Persians sack Jerusalem, kill the inhabitants, and destroy the Christian churches.
  At this time the Abbot Modestus restores the holy places in Jerusalem and becomes Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Flavius Josephus (75 CE), The Wars Of The Jews, Book VII, Chap. V, sects. 5–7  (transl. W. Whiston, 1737).

5. . . . Moreover, there followed those pageants a great number of ships; and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of; for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; and the last of all the spoils, was carried the Law of the Jews. After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.

6. Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans' ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras, who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should be slain there. Accordingly, when it was related that there was an end of him, and all the people had set up a shout for joy, they then began to offer those sacrifices which they had consecrated, in the prayers used in such solemnities; which when they had finished, they went away to the palace. And as for some of the spectators, the emperors entertained them at their own feast; and for all the rest there were noble preparations made for feasting at home; for this was a festival day to the city of Rome, as celebrated for the victory obtained by their army over their enemies, for the end that was now put to their civil miseries, and for the commencement of their hopes of future prosperity and happiness.

7. After these triumphs were over, and after the affairs of the Romans were settled on the surest foundations, Vespasian resolved to build a temple to Peace, which was finished in so short a time, and in so glorious a manner, as was beyond all human expectation and opinion: for he having now by Providence a vast quantity of wealth, besides what he had formerly gained in his other exploits, he had this temple adorned with pictures and statues; for in this temple were collected and deposited all such rarities as men aforetime used to wander all over the habitable world to see, when they had a desire to see one of them after another; he also laid up therein those golden vessels and instruments that were taken out of the Jewish temple, as ensigns of his glory. But still he gave order that they should lay up their Law, and the purple veils of the holy place, in the royal palace itself, and keep them there.

Procopius (545 CE), History of the Wars, Books III, Chap. V; Book IV, Chaps. IV, IX  (transl. H. Dewing, 1914)

[Bk. III, Chap. V.] . . . And Gizeric [Genseric], for no other reason than that he suspected that much money would come to him, set sail for Italy with a great fleet. And going up to Rome, since no one stood in his way, he took possession of the palace. Now while Maximus was trying to flee, the Romans threw stones at him and killed him, and they cut off his head and each of his other members and divided them among themselves. But Gizeric took Eudoxia captive, together with Eudocia and Placidia, the children of herself and Valentinian, and placing an exceedingly great amount of gold and other imperial treasure in his ships sailed to Carthage, having spared neither bronze nor anything else whatsoever in the palace. He plundered also the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and tore off half of the roof. Now this roof was of bronze of the finest quality, and since gold was laid over it exceedingly thick, it shone as a magnificent and wonderful spectacle. But of the ships with Gizeric, one, which was bearing the statues, was lost, they say, but with all the others the Vandals reached port in the harbour of Carthage. Gizeric then married Eudocia to Honoric, the elder of his sons; but the other of the two women, being the wife of Olybrius, a most distinguished man in the Roman senate, he sent to Byzantium together with her mother, Eudoxia, at the request of the emperor. Now the power of the East had by now fallen to Leon, who had been set in this position by Aspar, since Marcian had already passed from the world.

[Bk. IV, Chap. IV.] . . . In the house of Gelimer there was a certain scribe named Boniface, a Libyan, and a native of Byzacium, a man exceedingly faithful to Gelimer. At the beginning of this war Gelimer had put this Boniface on a very swift-sailing ship, and placing all the royal treasure in it commanded him to anchor in the harbour of Hippo Regius, and if he should see that the situation was not favourable to their side, he was to sail with all speed to Spain with the money, and go to Theudis, the leader of the Visigoths, where he was expecting to find safety for himself also, should the fortune of war prove adverse for the Vandals. So Boniface, as long as he felt hope for the cause of the Vandals, remained there; but as soon as the battle in Tricamarum took place, with all the other events which have been related, he spread his canvas and sailed away just as Gelimer had directed him. But an opposing wind brought him back, much against his will, into the harbour of Hippo Regius. And since he had already heard that the enemy were somewhere near, he entreated the sailors with many promises to row with all their might for some other continent or for an island. But they were unable to do so, since a very severe storm had fallen upon them and the waves of the sea were rising to a great height, seeing that it was the Tuscan sea,[8] and then it occurred to them and to Boniface that, after all, God wished to give the money to the Romans and so was not allowing the ship to put out. However, though they had got outside the harbour, they encountered great danger [38-3] in bringing their ship back to anchorage. And when Belisarius arrived at Hippo Regius, Boniface sent some men to him. These he commanded to sit in a sanctuary, and they were to say that they had been sent by Boniface, who had the money of Gelimer, but to conceal the place where he was, until they should receive the pledges of Belisarius that upon giving Gelimer's money lie himself should escape free from harm, having all that was his own. These men, then, acted according to these instructions, and Belisarius was pleased at the good news and did not decline to take an oath. And sending some of his associates he took the treasure of Gelimer and released Boniface in possession of his own money and also with an enormous sum which he plundered from Gelimer's treasure.

[Bk. IV. Chap. IX.] . . . Belisarius, upon reaching Byzantium with Gelimer and the Vandals, was counted worthy to receive such honours, as in former times were assigned to those generals of the Romans who had won the greatest and most noteworthy victories. And a period of about six hundred years had now passed since anyone had attained these honours, except, indeed, Titus and Trajan, and such other emperors as had led armies against some barbarian nation and had been victorious. For he displayed the spoils and slaves from the war in the midst of the city and led a procession which the Romans call a "triumph," not, however, in the ancient manner, but going on foot from his own house to the hippodrome and then again from the barriers until he reached the place where the imperial throne is. And there was booty,—first of all, whatever articles are wont to be set apart for the royal service,—thrones of gold and carriages in which it is customary for a king's consort to ride, and much jewelry made of precious stones, and golden drinking cups, and all the other things which are useful for the royal table. And there was also silver weighing many thousands of talents and all the royal treasure amounting to an exceedingly great sum (for Gizeric had despoiled the Palatium in Rome, as has been said in the preceding narrative), and among these were the treasures of the Jews, which Titus, the son of Vespasian, together with certain others, had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem. And one of the Jews, seeing these things, approached one of those known to the emperor and said: "These treasures I think it inexpedient to carry into the palace in Byzantium. Indeed, it is not possible for them to be elsewhere than in the place where Solomon, the king of the Jews, formerly placed them. For it is because of these that Gizeric captured the palace of the Romans, and that now the Roman army has captured that the Vandals." When this had been brought to the ears of the Emperor, he became afraid and quickly sent everything to the sanctuaries of the Christians in Jerusalem. And there were slaves in the triumph, among whom was Gelimer himself, wearing some sort of a purple garment upon his shoulders, and all his family, and as many of the Vandals as were very tall and fair of body. And when Gelimer reached the hippodrome and saw the emperor sitting upon a lofty seat and the people standing on either side and realized as he looked about in what an evil plight he was, he neither wept nor cried out, but ceased not saying over in the words of the Hebrew scripture: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." And when he came before the emperor's seat, they stripped off the purple garment, and compelled him to fall prone on the ground and do obeisance to the Emperor Justinian. This also Belisarius did, as being a suppliant of the emperor along with him. And the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora presented the children of Ilderic and his offspring and all those of the family of the Emperor Valentinian with sufficient sums of money, and to Gelimer they gave lands not to be despised in Galatia and permitted him to live there together with his family. However, Gelimer was by no means enrolled among the patricians, since he was unwilling to change from the faith of Arius.

Antiochus Strategos, The Capture of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614,
        translated into English by F.C. Conybeare (1910) from the Georgian text edited by N. Marr (1909)
        from two codices, one from the thirteenth century. The original Greek text of this account is lost.

. . . And in the same manner the walls of Jericho, when it pleased God to lay them low, were suddenly overthrown; and He, the all good, humbled also by the Emperor Heraclius the multitude of the Persians, so soon as He, the clement One, looked with pity on His people. But the blessed Zachariah [Patriarch of Jerusalem], a true shepherd, invited them to make peace; and when they hearkened not to him, he gave them other counsel; and he summoned a monk, who was named Abba Modestus, and he was superior of the monastery of St. Theodosius, and bade him go and muster men from the Greek troops which were in Jericho, to help them in their struggle. But the blessed Modestus received the order of the patriarch, went out, and mustered the Greek troops which were in Jericho. . . .

But the Persians when they found that the inhabitants of the city would not consent to submit, were agitated with lively anger, like ferocious beasts, and planned all sorts of hurt against Jerusalem; and they laid siege to it with much watchfulness and gave battle. Meanwhile the monk Abba Modestus, who had been sent by the patriarch to collect Greek troops to aid them in distress, persuaded them to start. But God willed not to help them. For when the Greeks saw the numbers of the Persian host which was encamped around Jerusalem they fled with one accord, put to flight by the Persians. Then the Abba Modestus was left alone, inasmuch as he could not flee. He saw a rock in a ravine and climbed up on to it. The rock was already surrounded by Persians: some of them stood on it, and others again stood over against the rock. But God, who preserved the prophet Elisha and destroyed the murderers who came against him before they sighted him, darkened the eyes of the enemy, and preserved His servant unscathed. And he peacefully went down to Jericho. But the inhabitants of the city began to grieve when they learned of the flight of the Greeks, and there was found from no quarter any aid for them. Then the Persians perceived that God had forsaken the Christians, and that they had no helper; and with intensified anger they began to search out ways and means to the extent of building towers around the city ; and they placed on them balistas for a struggle with the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and they made ready every sort of military engine, as is customary with warriors ; and with lively wrath they engaged the Christians. They were however all the more on the watch, and desired to get possession of Jerusalem, because they knew that that city was a refuge of all Christians and a fortress of their dominion.

The beginning of the struggle of the Persians with the Christians of Jerusalem was on the 15th April, in the second indiction, in the fourth year of the Emperor Heraclius. They spent twenty days in the struggle. And they shot from their balistas with such violence, that on the twenty-first day they broke down the city wall. Thereupon the evil foemen entered the city in great fury, like infuriated wild beasts and irritated serpents. The men however who defended the city wall fled, and hid themselves in caverns, fosses, and cisterns in order to save themselves ; and the people in crowds fled into churches and altars; and there they destroyed them. For the enemy entered in mighty wrath, gnashing their teeth in violent fury; like evil beasts they roared, bellowed like lions, hissed like ferocious serpents, and slew all whom they found. Like mad dogs they tore with their teeth the flesh of the faithful, and respected none at all, neither male nor female, neither young nor old, neither child nor baby, neither priest nor monk, neither virgin nor widow. . . .

In the 15th year after the capture of Jerusalem, in the 19th year of the reign of Heraclius, the 10th indiction, Khosro the Persian king was slain by his son, Siron by name, in the month of March. Now about that time King Heraclius with his forces had already reached Persia, and took possession of many of his cities and of the royal palaces, slew thousands of the Persian soldiers, and led back again the Greeks who had been carried into captivity and liberated the Christians from slavery by force. But the King Siron who had taken possession of his father's kingdom died in the month of September; and his son Artasir took the kingdom. He was only a child, and his reign lasted three months. Between the Greeks and the Persians was then concluded a written peace through the mediation of Rasmi-Ozan, who was the Persian commander-in-chief. But before this King Heraclius sent a eunuch whose name was Nerses, his principal chamberlain. He advanced with a numerous army to fight the Persians. The multitude of the Persians drawn up in battle was defeated, and they fled in terror before the face of the eunuch. . . .

But in the 17th year however after the capture of Jerusalem, in the 3rd year after the murder of Khosro, in the 21st year after the accession of Heraclius, the 3rd indiction, the Persian general Rasmi-Ozan slew the Persian king Artasir, whom we mentioned above. He seized the kingdom, became an ally of the Greeks, and bestowed on the King Heraclius the life-giving tree, the Cross of Christ, as the treasure of the whole world, and as the richest of gifts, and he gave it him. But King Heraclius took it to Jerusalem on the occasion of his going there with Martina, who was daughter of his father's brother; and he had married her against the law, and therefore was very much afraid that the high priests would rebuke him on the score of that indecent action. And when he had entered Jerusalem, he on the 21st of the month of March re-established in its own place the glorious and precious tree of the Cross, sealed as before in a chest, just as it had been carried away. And it was set up altogether unopened; for just as the ark of the covenant was left unopened among strangers, so was left the life-giving tree of the Cross, which had vanquished death and trampled on Hell. Then King Heraclius, seeing the glorious eventónamely, the restoration of the holy places, which had been rebuilt by the blessed Modestus, was much rejoiced and ordered him to be consecrated patriarch over Jerusalem; for the blessed Zachariah had died in Persia, and the church was widowed.

But in the 4th indiction, in the 21st year of the reign of Heraclius, the blessed Modestus assumed the patriarchate of Jerusalem. Not long time afterwards the blessed Modestus set off to go to the king about certain advantages conducive to the administration of the churches, to ask Heraclius the king for his gracious sanction. Having reached a town called Sozos, which is on the borders of Palestine, he died on September 17. Some say that he was poisoned by malignant people who were with him. From that city they brought the holy body of Modestus and laid it side by side with the holy patriarchs in the Martyrium, with chanting on the part of the crowd, with incense and candles in the hands of the faithful folk, who carried his body to the tomb. . . .

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