Imágenes de páginas

attempt any exploit the remainder of that day. On the following morning the Romans hegan to assault the city, which was defended with great bravery, Josep hus, at the head tof the Jews, making a furious assault upon the enemy, and compelling them to retire. 'The pressing necessities of the Jews provoked thein to acts of the most desperate valour, wbile the resentment of the Romans was roused by the obstinate resistance which they experienced. On one side were to be discovered the most consummate courage and military skill, on the other the most ferocious and ungovernable rage. Night, at length, parted the combatants, after the Romans had lost thirteen men killed, aod several wounded ; and seventeen of the Jews had been slain, and about six huncred wounded. On the next day the besiegers renewed their assault, and still more tytraordinary instances of valour were displayed, the Jews not merely acting upou ilie defensive, but making frequent sallies without regard to the numbers and strength of their enemies. Thus was the contest obstinately maintained for five successive davs.

The city of Jota pata is built on a rock, and on three sides are vallies of such surprising depth, that a man cannot look down from the precipices without being seized with giddiness. It is absolutely inaccessible, but upon the north where a part of the city stands, upon the brow of the mountain ; but this quarter Josephus caused to be strongly fortified and taken into the city, thereby precluding the enemy from taking advantage of another mountain by which it is overlooked, and which, with other mountains, so entirely enclose the place, that it can be seen, but at a very sinal! distance.

Finding the place so admirably situated for defence, and that he had to contend · with an intrepid and determined enemy, Vespasian assembled a council of his principal officers to debate on the means of obtaining victory. The issue of the deliberations was, that a large terrace should be raised on that side of the city which appeared to be least capable of resistance, Immediately upon this resolution being taken, Vespasian ordered his whole army to employ themselves in procuring materials for the intended work. Immelse quantities of timber and stone were conveyed from the adjacent mountains, and hurdles were formed to protect the Romans froin the darts and otber weapons that were thrown from the city. Thus defended, they continued to prosecute their design, in defiance of the innumerable darts, arrows, lances, and large stones, which were continually thrown from above. What earth they had occasion for was procured in the neighbourhood, and handed from one man to another. *The whole army being engaged, the work was continued without intermission, and advanced with surprising rapidity; and the utmost efforts of the Jews to annoy the enemy proved ineffectual.

The Roman army had now sixty machines employed in throwing lances, exclusive of larger engines for casting arrows, javelins, stones, fire, &c. and these were managed by Arabian and other skilful engineers. The operations were pursued with so much vigour, that the space between the city wall and the mount could be no longer occupied. The Jews, however, made frequent sallies by surprize, destroyed the dcfences, set fire to all the combustible materials they could find, and, in short, did all possible damage to the works of the enemy. In spite, however, of that he sustaibed from the repeated sallies made by the Jews, Vespasian caused his works to be advanced upon the interval between the walls and the terrace, and connected his troops in a close body, which answered the desired end.

The terrace being now raised nearly to a level with the city wall, Josephus considered that it would reflect dishonour upon him if he should omit to engage in as arduous a sask for the defence of the place as the enemy bad undertaken for its destruction :

and therefore ordered the wall to be raised in proportion to the advancement of the enemy's work, and to be kept at a sufficient height above the summit of the mount, The workmen declined the undertaking, urging the impossibility of pursuing their business, since they should be continually exposed to the chemy. However, Josephus suggested the following invention as a defence against fire, stones, and other weapoos : he caused large stakes to be fixed into the ground, and the raw hides of beasts lately killed to be stretched upon them : on account of the yiciding quality of the skins, they scarcely received any impression from the lances and stones, and their moisture damped the fire of the enemy. The workmen being perfectly secured ibrough the contrivance of Josaphus, continued indefatigably industrious both by day and night'; and they soon erected a wall twenty cubits high, on which were formed towers and strong embattlements. The Romans, who had entertained the utmost confidence of subduing the city, were equally astonished and confounded by the depth of policy and invincible resolution of their adversaries.

Vespasian now determined to turn the siege into a blockade, not doubting that this, though it might be a slow way of subduing the enemy, would prove a very effectual one. They had an abundance of corn and all other necessaries in the town, excepting only water and salt, there being neither spring nor fountain in the city, and the people having no water for their common uses but what descended in rain. Josephus soon found it necessary to limit his people to a daily allowance of water, with which they became discontented, and refused to continue their work. At length he had rccourse to the following stratagem. Recollecting that there was on the west side of the city a hollow or gutter in a place so little frequented that it was not likely to have been observed by the enemy, he wrote to the Jews without the city to cause water and other necessaries to be conveyed to him through this passage, enjoining then to be careful that the messengers should be covered with the hides of beasts, and instructed to walk upon their bands and fcet, that in case of being observed by the watch, they might be mistaken for dogs or other animals. An intercourse was thus maintained, till the Romans at length discovered and blocked up the avenue.

At length Vespasian, having observed that the terrace which he had been raising had almost arrived at the height of the wall, determined to make use of the batteringtam, which was an engine of inimense size, resembling the mast of a ship : it had an iron head formed like that of a ram, and. when used, its motion was somewhat similar to the butting of that animal. It was suspended by large cables affixed to cross timbers cramped together, and strongly supported. It bore upon the middle, and hung on the balance like a scale beam ; and, when put in a swinging motion, it struck with such surprising violence, that the strongest wall could not long resist its repeated attacks.

Conscious that the longer the siege was delayed the difficulty of conquest would be it:creased, since the enemy would be afforded leisure to make preparations of defence, Vespasian ordered the slingers, arcbers, &c. to advance with their several machines nearer the town, in order to beat of the Jews who defended the walls. This business being executed, the ram was brought forward, being covered with burdles and the hidee of beasts, for the purpose of preserving the machine from damage, and defending the men who were appointed to conduct its operations. The first stroke of the engine threw the Jews into a most terrible consternation ; and Josephus, knowing that the wall could not possibly long withstand repeated batterings in tbe same place, ordered a mumber of sacks filled with chaff to be lowered by means of ropes ; and thougl: the assailants frequently changed the direction of the machine, its intended effects were constantly defeated by means of the chaff-sacks which were interposed to defend the

wall. At length the Romans affixed sharp carving-irons to the ends of long poles, and tlierewith cut the ropes which suspended the sacks. The wall being newly repaired, had not yet acquired a liard corsistence sufficient to resist the ram which now performed its office without impediment. The Jews, who had now, a inost alarining prospect of speedy destruction, collected a quantity of pitch, sulphur, and other combustibles, which they set fire to in three several parts of the enemy's works, and the flames instantly communicating to the habitations, implements of war, &c. of the Romans, the whole were consumed in a very short time.

An hieroic exploit performed by Samaas, who was a native of Paab in Galilee, and the son of Eleazer, deserves to be transmitted to posterity. He cast down a stone of great bulk with such surprizing force, as to break off the head of a ram, and then leaping into the midst of his enemies, he seized the head of the machine, which he carried to the foot of the wall, where he remained till five arrows were fixed in his body : in this condition he remounted the wall; and without betraying the least symptom of an abatement either of constancy or courage, he remained some time an object of public admiration, till at length he fell, still grasping the trophy he had so beroicly acquired.

The Romans having repaired the ram towards the evening of the same day, employed it against that part of the wall which had already received damage. Vespasian received a wound from an arrow which was nearly exhausted, and therefore incapable of doing him an important injury. Great numbers of the Jews fell by the arrows and stones of the enemy, but the remainder continued to defend the walls with undaunted bravery. However, they fought under great disadvantages ; for the town being illuminated by the fire which they used to annoy the enemy, they were exposed to open view, while they could not discern éven the engines from which the Roman weapons were disc charged. The violent noise oecasioned by the engines, the dead and wounded falling from the walls, the shrieks, and dismal lamentations of men and women both witiio and without the town, were rendered still more horrible by the continual echo of the mountains : the town ditch was running with human blood, and crowded with carcases heaped high enough for an enemy to have mounted thereon, and make an assault. An immense number of the Jews were killed and wounded ; notwithstanding which the defence was sustained during the whole night with astonishing bravery, in defiance of the enemy's machines, which were kept incessantly at work.. At break of day the wall gave way; but even in this dreadful extremity the Jews persevered in their generous endeavours to preserve the liberties of their country, by exposing themselves in the breach to prevent the enemy crossing the ditch, and pursuing the advantage they had obtained. To give an adequate idea of the horrors of the night surpasses every power of description..

"The Romans having received some refreshment after the extreme fatigue of the night, farly on the succeeding day Vespasian issued orders for every preparation to be made necessary for renewing the siege, and for pursuing measures for deterring the Jews from appearing in the breach. He caused a, party of the most courageous cavalry to dismount, and drew them up in three divisions : these men being armed, and carrying pikes in their hands, were first to enter the town; and they were seconded by a chosen body of foot. The rest of the horse were ordered to invest the mountainous parts of the city, to prevent the escape of the Jews after the conquest of the place. The archers, with their bows and arrows, and the slingers and engineers, were the next in order. A number of men provided with ladders were ordered to attempt scaling parts of the wall which had not been injured, with a view, by making a diversion, to weaked the force by wbich the breach was defended,

Being apprised of the enemy's design, and conscious that little danger was to be apprehended from the Romans employed with the scaling-ladders, Josephus opposed to them only such men as were enfeebled by age, or such as had not recovered from the fatigue of the preceding right: but in places where the wall bad suffered even in but a small degree, he stationed such soldiers only as were of approved fidelity and resolution ; and he put himself, with five of his most intrepid followers, at their head, in order to receive the first assault. He enjoined his people to disregard the shouts of the enemy, and either to defend themselves from the arrows shot by the Romans by means of their shields, or to retire a little till their quivers were exhausted. He informed them, that if the enemy should proceed to advance their bridges, every possible effort of ralour must be exerted, since all considerations for preserving tha country inust tien give place to the noble ardour of wreaking vengeance upon the conquerors : he added, that if the Romans proved successful, it must be expected that the fathers, wives, children, and the other dearest friends and relations of his soldiers would fall miserable victims to their cruelty and rage..

The common people, women, and children, observing the adjacent mountains glita tering with arms, the town surrounded by three armies, the enemy marcoing with drawn swords to the weakest part of the wall, and the archers preparing in discharge their arrows, joined in lameniations that could not have been exceeded, had the place been actually subdued. The outcries of these people greatly affected Josepbus; and lest they should dispirit the soldiers, he ordered them to their respective habitations, under a strict injunction of silence. He then repaired to the station he had chosen, totally regardless of the scaling-ladders, his attention being engrossed on the manner of the onemy's assault.

Upon the trumpet being sounded, the Roman troops united in martial shouts ; and no sooner was the signal given, than such an immense number of arrows was discharged as to obscure the sky. In obedience to their instructions, the Jews gave no attention to the cląmours of the enemy, and defended themselves with their shields. When the enemy brought their bridges forward, the Jews attacked tliem with surprising fury, with equal skill and intrepidity, throwing them off as fast as they mounted, and they became mere undaunted in proportion as the danger increased. They were under a great disadvantage, by being kept to hard duty without any intervals of relief; while the Romans had a constant supply of reinforcements to take the places of those who were cither fatigued or repulsed. The Romans collected themselves as close as possible together; and, throwing their loug bucklers over them, they proceeded to the wall of the town, appearing to be an entire and impenetrable body.

The extremity to which Josephus was now reduced suggested to him a new means of defence. He caused a large quantity of oil, of which there was a plentiful supply in the town, to be boiled, and, with the vessels in which it was heated, cast from the walls upon the Roman soldiers beneath. The scalding fluid passing through the interstices of their armour, occasioned the Romans most exquisite torture, it having the quality of long retaining leat, and threw them into the greatest disorder.' This armour being buckled and braced, they were unable to relieve themselves ; and the oit, llowing from head to foot, consumed their flesh like fire. Some were thrown into the most violent contortions, others were drawn nearly double by their pains, and many fell from the bridge to the ground, and those who attempted to escape were prevented by the Jews.

During the above calamity, the Romans displayed a wonderful degree of intrépidity, nor was the policy of the Jews less remarkable. The former, notwithstanding their miserable condition, engaged in a competition for surpassing each other in pressing upon their adversaries, who availed themselves of another project for impeding their progress. They poured boiling fenngreck upon the bridge, wbich rendered the boards so slippery, that the Romans were neither able to stand to their arms or retreat: some of them féll upon the planches, and were trampled to death by their own people; and others falling still lower, were exposed to the weapocs of the Jews. Many of the Roinans being slain, and a great number wounded, towards evening Vespasian gounded a retrcat. Only six of the Jews were killed, but the number of wounded amounted to upwards of three hundred. It was on the twentieth day of the month Desius that this action took place.

The Roman general was desirous of complimenting his soldiers for the bravery they had.shewn, and consoling them for the ill success they had experienced : but instead of finding their spirits depressed as he expected, they expressed the utmost anxiety for proceeding again to action ; and therefore he ordered bis platforms to be raised still higlier, and towers fifty feet in height to be erected thereon; and, for the purpose of keeping their towers steady by their weight, and defending them against fire, that they should be entirely covered with iron. The most skilful marksmen and engineers, provided with machines, darts, and other implements, were stationed in the turrets, whence they greatly annoyed the enemy who were exposed to their view. The Jews, being unable either to avoid the weapons or discern the people by whom they were discharged, were under the necessity of quitting the breach ; but tliey still continued to maintain a most resolute defence, though the loss they daily suffered considerably exceeded that of the Romans.

The platforms were at length raised higher than the city wall; and on the fortyseventh day of the siege, a deserter communicated to Vespasian the state of the town, representing that, through the loss of men, and the hard duty which the survivors were obliged to perform, the garrison was so reduced that it must necessarily surrender to a vigorous attack, and more especially if advantage was to be taken of a favourable opportunity for making the assault by surprize; and he advised the Roman general to attempt the enterprize about day-break, when the Jews would be unapprehensive of danger and unprovided for defence, and the vigilance of the guard abated by fatigue and an inclination to slcer. Being sensible that the Jews possessed a remarkable fidelity to each other, which the most excruciating torments could not force them to violate, Vespasian put no confidence in what the deserter had related. He had been witness to a recent instance of the amazing constancy and resolution of the Jews in the case of one of Josephus' people, who, being made a prisoner, and interrogated respecting the state of the city, refused to divulge a single circumstance, and persisted in that resolution till his death, notwithstanding the application of crucifixion and other excessive torments. Considering, however, that the information of the deserter might possibly be founded in truth, and that no ill cousequences were likely to ensue froin bis appcarius to believe that to be the case, he ordered the man to be secured, and every pecessary preparation to be made for the attack.

The Roman army began a silent march at the appointed hour, and proceeded hy the walls of the town, being led by Titus, accompanied by Domitius Sabinas, and some chosen men from the fifteenth legion. They put the centinels to death, cut the throats of the guards, and entered the city : they were followed by the tribune Sextus Cerealis and Placidus, with the troops under their command. Notwithstanding it was open day when the Romans gained possession of the fort, and made themselves masters of the town, the garrison was so exhausted and fatigued by incessant labour and watching, that they eotertained no idea of their danger till the enemy had actually gained their point; and even those wbo' were awake were almost equally strangers to the misfortune;

« AnteriorContinuar »