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"The Wars of the Jews" by
Josephus Flavius

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  Josephus Flavius: The Jewish Wars




Book II: Chapter 21


1. NOW as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, “whose name was John. His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow any where. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hinderance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of. He had a peculiar knack at thieving; but in some time he got certain companions in his impudent practices; at first they were but few, but as he proceeded on in his evil course, they became still more and more numerous. He took care that none of his partners should be easily caught in their rogueries, but chose such out of the rest as had the strongest constitutions of body, and the greatest courage of soul, together with great skill in martial affairs; as he got together a band of four hundred men, who came principally out of the country of Tyre, and were vagabonds that had run away from its villages; and by the means of these he laid waste all Galilee, and irritated a considerable number, who were in great expectation of a war then suddenly to arise among them.

2. However, John’s want of money had hitherto restrained him in his ambition after command, and in his attempts to advance himself. But when he saw that Josephus was highly pleased with the activity of his temper, he persuaded him, in the first place, to intrust him with the repairing of the walls of his native city, [Gischala,] in which work he got a great deal of

money from the rich citizens. He after that contrived a very shrewd trick, and pretending that the Jews who dwelt in Syria were obliged to make use of oil that was made by others than those of their own nation, he desired leave of Josephus to send oil to their borders; so he bought four amphorae with such Tyrian money as was of the value of four Attic drachmae, and sold every half-amphora at the same price. And as Galilee was very fruitful in oil, and was peculiarly so at that time, by sending away great quantities, and having the sole privilege so to do, he gathered an immense sum of money together, which money he immediately used to the disadvantage of him who gave him that privilege; and, as he supposed, that if he could once overthrow Josephus, he should himself obtain the government of Galilee; so he gave orders to the robbers that were under his command to be more zealous in their thievish expeditions, that by the rise of many that desired innovations in the country, he might either catch their general in his snares, as he came to the country’s assistance, and then kill him; or if he should overlook the robbers, he might accuse him for his negligence to the people of the country. He also spread abroad a report far and near that Josephus was delivering up the administration of affairs to the Romans; and many such plots did he lay, in order to ruin him.

3. Now at the same time that certain young men of the village Dabaritta, who kept guard in the Great Plain laid snares for Ptolemy, who was Agrippa’s and Bernice’s steward, and took from him all that he had with him; among which things there were a great many costly garments, and no small number of silver cups, and six hundred pieces of gold; yet were they not able to conceal what they had stolen, but brought it all to Josephus, to Tarichee. Hereupon he blamed them for the violence they had offered to the king and queen, and deposited what they brought to him with Eneas, the most potent man of Taricheae, with an intention of sending the things back to the owners at a proper time; which act of Josephus brought him into the greatest danger; for those that had stolen the things had an indignation at him, both because they gained no share of it for themselves, and because they perceived beforehand what was Josephus’s intention, and that he would freely deliver up what had cost them so much pains to the king and queen. These ran away by night to their several villages, and declared to all men that Josephus was going to betray them: they also raised great disorders in all the neighboring cities, insomuch that in the

morning a hundred thousand armed men came running together; which multitude was crowded together in the hippodrome at Taricheae, and made a very peevish clamor against him; while some cried out, that they should depose the traitor; and others, that they should burn him. Now John irritated a great many, as did also one Jesus, the son of Sapphias, who was then governor of Tiberias. Then it was that Josephus’s friends, and the guards of his body, were so affrighted at this violent assault of the multitude, that they all fled away but four; and as he was asleep, they awaked him, as the people were going to set fire to the house. And although those four that remained with him persuaded him to run away, he was neither surprised at his being himself deserted, nor at the great multitude that came against him, but leaped out to them with his clothes rent, and ashes sprinkled on his head, with his hands behind him, and his sword hanging at his neck. At this sight his friends, especially those of Tarichae, commiserated his condition; but those that came out of the country, and those in their neighborhood, to whom his government seemed burdensome, reproached him, and bid him produce the money which belonged to them all immediately, and to confess the agreement he had made to betray them; for they imagined, from the habit in which he appeared, that he would deny nothing of what they suspected concerning him, and that it was in order to obtain pardon that he had put himself entirely into so pitiable a posture. But this humble appearance was only designed as preparatory to a stratagem of his, who thereby contrived to set those that were so angry at him at variance one with another about the things they were angry at. However, he promised he would confess all: hereupon he was permitted to speak, when he said,” I did neither intend to send this money back to Agrippa, nor to gain it myself; for I did never esteem one that was your enemy to be my friend, nor did I look upon what would tend to your disadvantage to be my advantage. But, O you people of Tariehete, I saw that your city stood in more need than others of fortifications for your security, and that it wanted money in order for the building it a wall. I was also afraid lest the people of Tiberias and other cities should lay a plot to seize upon these spoils, and therefore it was that I intended to retain this money privately, that I might encompass you with a wall. But if this does not please you, I will produce what was brought me, and leave it to you to plunder it; but if I have conducted myself so well as to please you, you may if you please punish your benefactor.” 4. Hereupon the people of Taricheae loudly commended him; but those ofTiberias, with the rest of the company, gave him hard names, and threatened what they would do to him; so both sides left off quarrelling with Josephus, and fell on quarrelling with one another. So he grew bold upon the dependence he had on his friends, which were the people of Taricheae, and about forty thousand in number, and spake more freely to the whole multitude, and reproached them greatly for their rashness; and told them, that with this money he would build walls about Taricheae, and would put the other cities in a state of security also; for that they should not want money, if they would but agree for whose benefit it was to be procured, and would not suffer themselves to be irritated against him who procured it for them.

5. Hereupon the rest of the multitude that had been deluded retired; but yet so that they went away angry, and two thousand of them made an assault upon him in their armor; and as he was already gone to his own house, they stood without and threatened him. On which occasion Josephus again used a second stratagem to escape them; for he got upon the top of his house, and with his right hand desired them to be silent, and said to them, “I cannot tell what you would have, nor can hear what you say, for the confused noise you make;” but he said that he would comply with all their demands, in case they would but send some of their number in to him that might talk with him about it. And when the principal of them, with their leaders, heard this, they came into the house. He then drew them to the most retired part of the house, and shut the door of that hall where he put them, and then had them whipped till every one of their inward parts appeared naked. In the mean time the multitude stood round the house, and supposed that he had a long discourse with those that were gone in about what they claimed of him. He had then the doors set open immediately, and sent the men out all bloody, which so terribly aftrighted those that had before threatened him, that they threw away their arms and ran away.

6. But as for John, his envy grew greater [upon this escape of Josephus], and he framed a new plot against him; he pretended to be sick, and by a

letter desired that Josephus would give him leave to use the hot baths that were at Tiberias, for the recovery of his health. Hereupon Josephus, who hitherto suspected nothing of John’s plots against him, wrote to the governors of the city, that they would provide a lodging and necessaries for John; which favors, when he had made use of, in two days’ time he did what he came about; some he corrupted with delusive frauds, and others with money, and so persuaded them to revolt from Josephus. This Silas, who was appointed guardian of the city by Josephus, wrote to him immediately, and informed him of the plot against him; which epistle when Josephus had received, he marched with great diligence all night, and came early in the morning to Tiberias; at which time the rest of the multitude met him. But John, who suspected that his coming was not for his advantage, sent however one of his friends, and pretended that he was sick, and that being confined to his bed, he could not come to pay him his respects. But as soon as Josephus had got the people of Tiberias together in the stadium, and tried to discourse with them about the letters that he had received, John privately sent some armed men, and gave them orders to slay him. But when the people saw that the armed men were about to draw their swords, they cried out; at which cry Josephus turned himself about, and when he saw that the swords were just at his throat, he marched away in great haste to the sea-shore, and left off that speech which he was going to make to the people, upon an elevation of six cubits high. He then seized on a ship which lay in the haven, and leaped into it, with two of his guards, and fled away into the midst of the lake.

7. But now the soldiers he had with him took up their arms immediately, and marched against the plotters; but Josephus was afraid lest a civil war should be raised by the envy of a few men, and bring the city to ruin; so he sent some of his party to tell them, that they should do no more than provide for their own safety; that they should not kill any body, nor accuse any for the occasion they had afforded [of disorder]. Accordingly, these men obeyed his orders, and were quiet; but the people of the neighboring country, when they were informed of this plot, and of the plotter, they got together in great multitudes to oppose John. But he prevented their attempt, and fled away to Gischala, his native city, while the Galileans came running out of their several cities to Josephus; and as they were now become many ten thousands of armed men, they cried out,

that they were come against John the common plotter against their interest, and would at the same time burn him, and that city which had received him. Hereupon Josephus told them that he took their good-will to him kindly, but still he restrained their fury, and intended to subdue his enemies by prudent conduct, rather than by slaying them; so he excepted those of every city which had joined in this revolt with John, by name, who had readily been shown him by these that came from every city, and caused public proclamation to be made, that he would seize upon the effects of those that did not forsake John within five days’ time, and would burn both their houses and their families with fire. Whereupon three thousand of John’s party left him immediately, who came to Josephus, and threw their arms down at his feet. John then betook himself, together with his two thousand Syrian runagates, from open attempts, to more secret ways of treachery. Accordingly, he privately sent messengers to Jerusalem, to accuse Josephus, as having to great power, and to let them know that he would soon come as a tyrant to their metropolis, unless they prevented him. This accusation the people were aware of beforehand, but had no regard to it. However, some of the grandees, out of envy, and some of the rulers also, sent money to John privately, that he might be able to get together mercenary soldiers, in order to fight Josephus; they also made a decree of themselves, and this for recalling him from his government, yet did they not think that decree sufficient; so they sent withal two thousand five hundred armed men, and four persons of the highest rank amongst them; Joazar the son of Nomicus, and Ananias the son of Sadduk, as also Simon and Judas the sons of Jonathan, all very able men in speaking, that these persons might withdraw the good-will of the people from Josephus. These had it in charge, that if he would voluntarily come away, they should permit him to [come and] give an account of his conduct; but if he obstinately insisted upon continuing in his government, they should treat him as an enemy. Now Josephus’s friends had sent him word that an army was coming against him, but they gave him no notice beforehand what the reason of their coming was, that being only known among some secret councils of his enemies; and by this means it was that four cities revolted from him immediately, Sepphoris, and Gamala, and Gischala, and Tiberias. Yet did he recover these cities without war; and when he had routed those four commanders by stratagems, and had taken the most potent of their warriors, he sent them to Jerusalem; and the people [of Galilee] had great indignation at them, and were in a zealous disposition to slay, not only these forces, but those that sent them also, had not these forces prevented it by running away. 8. Now John was detained afterward within the walls of Gischala, by thefear he was in of Josephus; but within a few days Tiberias revolted again, the people within it inviting king Agrippa [to return to the exercise of his authority there]. And when he did not come at the time appointed, and when a few Roman horsemen appeared that day, they expelled Josephus out of the city. Now this revolt of theirs was presently known at Taricheae; and as Josephus had sent out all the soldiers that were with him to gather corn, he knew not how either to march out alone against the revolters, or to stay where he was, because he was afraid the king’s soldiers might prevent him if he tarried, and might get into the city; for he did not intend to do any thing on the next day, because it was the sabbath day, and would hinder his proceeding. So he contrived to circumvent the revolters by a stratagem; and in the first place he ordered the gates of Taricheae to be shut, that nobody might go out and inform [those of Tiberias], for whom it was intended, what stratagem he was about; he then got together all the ships that were upon the lake, which were found to be two hundred and thirty, and in each of them he put no more than four mariners. So he sailed to Tiberias with haste, and kept at such a distance from the city, that it was not easy for the people to see the vessels, and ordered that the empty vessels should float up and down there, while himself, who had but seven of his guards with him, and those unarmed also, went so near as to be seen; but when his adversaries, who were still reproaching him, saw him from the walls, they were so astonished that they supposed all the ships were full of armed men, and threw down their arms, and by signals of intercession they besought him to spare the city.

9. Upon this Josephus threatened them terribly, and reproached them, thatwhen they were the first that took up arms against the Romans, they should spend their force beforehand in civil dissensions, and do what their enemies desired above all things; and that besides they should endeavor so hastily to seize upon him, who took care of their safety, and had not been ashamed to shut the gates of their city against him that built their walls; that, however, he would admit of any intercessors from them that might make some excuse for them, and with whom he would make such

agreements as might be for the city’s security. Hereupon ten of the most potent men of Tiberias came down to him presently; and when he had taken them into one of his vessels, he ordered them to be carried a great way off from the city. He then commanded that fifty others of their senate, such as were men of the greatest eminence, should come to him, that they also might give him some security on their behalf. After which, under one new pretense or another, he called forth others, one after another, to make the leagues between them. He then gave order to the masters of those vessels which he had thus filled to sail away immediately for Taricheae, and to confine those men in the prison there; till at length he took all their senate, consisting of six hundred persons, and about two thousand of the populace, and carried them away to Taricheae. 35

10. And when the rest of the people cried out, that it was one Clitus that was the chief author of this revolt, they desired him to spend his anger upon him [only]; but Josephus, whose intention it was to slay nobody, commanded one Levius, belonging to his guards, to go out of the vessel, in order to cut off both Clitus’s hands; yet was Levius afraid to go out by himself alone to such a large body of enemies, and refused to go. Now Clitus saw that Josephus was in a great passion in the ship, and ready to leap out of it, in order to execute the punishment himself; he begged therefore from the shore, that he would leave him one of his hands; which Josephus agreed to, upon condition that he would himself cutoff the other hand; accordingly he drew his sword, and with his right hand cut off his left, so great was the fear he was in of Josephus himself. And thus he took the people of Tiberias prisoners, and recovered the city again with empty ships and seven of his guard. Moreover, a few days afterward he retook Gischala, which had revolted with the people of Sepphoris, and gave his soldiers leave to plunder it; yet did he get all the plunder together, and restored it to the inhabitants; and the like he did to the inhabitants of Sepphoris and Tiberias. For when he had subdued those cities, he had a mind, by letting them be plundered, to give them some good instruction, while at the same time he regained their good-will by restoring them their money again.