Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

Jews as by the Stoics among the heathen. All consented to die, and drew their swords : but the cunning Josephus, who had determined to secure his own life, suggested that it would be better to draw lots, and to kill one another in turn. In this way, by some artful management, Josephus contrived to be left with only one other man, whom he persuaded to accompany him out of the cavern. The Romans soon crowded round them with delight; for the Galilean chief was considered a great prize, and his appearance attracted general admiration. When Josephus was brought before Vespasian, he, with great subtlety, assumed the tone of a prophet; and said he had only refused to die with his friends because he had a message from God to him, assuring him of future success and of elevation to imperial power. Josephus was well enough acquainted with the state of the Roman world to know that Nero would not be much longer tolerated by the impatient people : and he probably suspected the ambitious views of Vespasian, and saw that it was likely such a popular commander would sooner or later become the head of the empire.

It is said, Titus put in a plea that the life of the Galilean chief should be spared, out of admiration for his bravery; and Vespasian, flattered by the hope set before him, determined to keep the prophet near his person, and to make use of him in the war, proving his sincerity by his readiness to assist him against the Jews. From that hour Josephus was the steady friend of the Romans, and especially of Vespasian's house ; but so impossible did this change appear to his countrymen, that at the news of the taking of Jotapata the greatest lamentations were made at Jerusalem on account of the supposed death of the governor of Galilee ; all deploring this event as a common calamity. But when it was known that Josephus was not only safe but the honoured friend of Vespasian, nothing could exceed the rage and indignation of the people : they called him traitor and apostate; and his very name became a curse.

In tracing the progress of the Roman army, we see the most fearful calamities taking place in those scenes where the peaceful, gracious ministry of the Lord Jesus had been rejected. From Jotapata Vespasian proceeded to Tiberias, the chief city in Agrippa's dominions; as the king desired his aid in bringing his revolted capital to obedience. After some resistance the war-party was overcome; and out of respect for

[merged small][ocr errors]

Agrippa, the Roman soldiers were forbidden to plunder the city. Tarichea, another city on the sea of Tiberias, had been strongly fortified by Josephus, except on that side which was washed by the water, and which the Galilean boatmen were little capable of defending. The slaughter on this lake was terrible ; for the Romans, making their way to the city, killed or drowned the Taricheans in their light fishing boats : the waters were tinged with blood, and the corruption of six thousand bodies so tainted the air that the conquerors were glad to leave the neighbourhood.

Some of Vespasian's historians, endeavouring to prove the perfection of his character, throw the blame of the following circumstances on his counsellors. At Tarichea, he sat in judgment upon the inhabitants, and then promising them his protection, desired them to set off for Tiberias : there, however, his troops had orders to prevent their entrance; and Vespasian himself pursued them with a body of soldiers. Twelve hundred of the aged and helpless were slain on the road; six thousand able-bodied men were sent into Greece to assist in Nero's foolish scheme of digging through the isthmus of Corinth; and thirty thousand were sold as slaves.

The severity shown towards Tarichea led all the cities of Galilee to surrender, excepting Gamala, Gischala, and Itabyrium, all in mountainous situations, and strongly defended by art. Agrippa, in person, advanced to the walls of Gamala, hoping to persuade the inhabitants to submit; but a stone from a sling was the only reply, and he was hastily carried off by his fol. lowers, having received a slight injury from the blow.

A great many Romans perished in the siege ; but at length Titus ascended the rocks with a chosen band of men, and got possession of the upper part of the city. It is said five thousand of the people threw themselves down the precipices to escape from the Romans; and the rest were killed without respect to age or sex, for even infants were flung from the rock. Among the curses for disobedience (Deut. xxviii.) to which your attention has often been called, I would here point out v. 49, as having its particular fulfilment, and being more descriptive of the scenes taking place at this time than any words in which they can be expressed by the historian.

John of Gischala has been already mentioned. He might long have defended his city with his desperate company of

[ocr errors][merged small]

fearless robbers, but he thought it best to escape to Jerusalem : therefore when Titus offered them mercy if they would surrender, John promised to do so on condition of his withdrawing his troops till the sabbath was over. Titus consented, and retired to a neighbouring town till the morrow. At midnight the subtle John set off with his followers and their families : but at the end of a few miles the strength of the women and children failed, and they could not keep up with the rest. Regardless of their cries, the cruel John urged forwards his men and left them behind. The next morning the people of Gischala opened their gates to Titus as their deliverer, and told him joyfully of the departure of their tyrant. The Roman troops pursued him in vain, and only brought back to the city three thousand women and children, slaying all the rest of the fugitives. After this, the Romans made more rapid progress. In a battle fought near the Jordan, fifteen thousand Jews were killed and a multitude taken prisoners : that river and the Dead Sea also were almost choked by the bodies of the slain. As the conquerors passed on, the whole country was desolated by fire and sword; for Vespasian was in haste to finish his work, thinking his presence would be needed in Gaul where there had been a revolt. He sent forward a body of troops with directions to waste the whole neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and he was almost within sight of the city, at the head of his dreaded legions, when the news of Nero's death stopped his progress. Had Vespasian been nearer Italy, he might at this season have made some attempts to reign; and it appears that he forbore to weaken his troops by carrying on the Jewish war during the whole year A.D. 68–69, waiting for a favourable opportunity to obtain the empire. Thus, for nearly two years after the entrance of the Romans into Judea, Jerusalem was spared by them; yet this devoted city was suffering so terribly from enemies within, and from the sins of her own children, that waters of a full cup were now being wrung out to her. But before we enter into the details of the miseries of Jerusalem, we must consider the events at Rome that preceded its destruction.

CHAP. XIII.

GALBA EMPEROR. —OTHO EMPEROR. — VITELLIUS EMPEROR.

VESPASIAN EMPEROR. -VESPASIAN'S CHARACTER.-STATE OF ROME.

SERVIUS GALBA was seventy-two years of age when he was proclaimed emperor ; and his uneasy reign only lasted seven months. He found the treasury exhausted by the extravagance of Nero ; and the insolent guards, over-paid and spoiled by the indulgence of him whose cruel commands they had obeyed, still endeavoured to increase their wealth and their power. As a provincial governor Galba had acted wisely : but the cares of the empire seemed to overwhelm him, and he foolishly shared them with favourites still more unfit to rule than himself. These wicked ministers, under pretence of increasing the public funds, heaped up riches for themselves by the most unjust proceedings : the rich, who could pay the sums demanded of them, were suffered to escape, whatever might be their crimes, whilst the poor were generally condemned unheard. Galba, feeling the infirmities of old age, chose as his successor, Piso, a young man whose amiable character was his chief recommendation. This choice excited the jealousy and ambition of Otho, another of his favourites who could offer the covetous Prætorians the rewards that were sufficient to purchase their help. In a short speech, made at their camp, he tried to persuade them that the aged emperor was avaricious and cruel, and that he alone could meet their desires. Some of them at once raised him on their shoulders; and the rest followed sword in hand, shouting, Otho Augustus! In this tumultuous manner they proceeded to the forum, and many were trampled to death on their way. Galba, hearing the uproar, came forward with astonishing calmness, and bending his hoary head, desired that it might be struck off if it were for the good of his country. Untouched by the old man's gentle submission, one of the foremost of the guards severed his head from his shoulders, and fixing it on a lance carried it round the camp.

Otho's first act was to advance the faithful friends of the murdered emperor to the highest honours, declaring that fidelity deserved a reward : this was the more strange, as he had acted in such a treacherous manner himself; and he soon proved

[ocr errors][merged small]

that his own want of fidelity had no reward. The proud legions in Lower Germany, upon hearing of the death of Galba, elected their general, Vitellius, emperor, arguing that soldiers abroad had as much right to choose as soldiers at home. This was just the principle Vespasian wished to have acknowledged ; but during all these events he made no movement, as the favourable moment had not yet arrived. The forces of Vitellius and Otho met near Cremona, in Italy ; and the latter being defeated, killed himself shortly after the battle; probably in despair of success, but saying that he wished to save his country from the horrors of civil war. He had reigned only three months and five days.

Vitellius made his entry into Rome as a conqueror rather than a peaceable ruler ; and the senate, afraid of his power, were obliged to consent to the appointment of the army.

In the vicious court of Tiberius, amidst the luxuries of Caprea, Vitellius first acquired those tastes, which he could now indulge without restraint. He lived wholly for himself, and far exceeded Tiberius in acts of gluttony ånd intemperance; but instead of feasting in private, as that emperor had done, he expected his subjects to entertain him at their own expence. He would breakfast with one, dine with another, and sup with a third, always expecting the most magnificent preparations for his reception; and it is said, he acquired a habit of vomiting, that he might be able to enjoy eating more frequently. It is cal. culated that the provision for his table cost seven millions of our money in the course of a few months. Vitellius had made himself so burdensome and contemptible to the chief citizens of Rome, that a large party there was prepared to consent to the nomination of Vespasian as emperor, by the legions in the East; and many armed themselves in his behalf against the party of Vitellius. Vespasian was satisfied to leave the care of the Jewish war to his son Titus ; and sending a choice body of troops to strengthen those who were on his side at Rome, he himself proceeded no farther than Alexandria. There he remained some months ; and his flatterers boldly reported, amidst other things to his honour, that he had cured a cripple and a blind man by his touch.

After a short struggle, Vespasian's lieutenants took possession of the capital in his name, and Vitellius was beaten to death and thrown into the Tyber. When the new emperor landed in

« AnteriorContinuar »