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Great Jewish Revolt: Siege And Destruction Of Jerusalem
Author: Josephus

Part IV.

While the holy house was on fire everything was plundered that came to
hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a
commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity, but children, and old
men, and profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner; so
that this war went round all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction,
and as well those that made supplication for their lives as those that
defended themselves by fighting. The flame was also carried a long way, and
made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain; and because
this hill was high, and the works at the Temple were very great, one would
have thought the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine anything
either greater or more terrible than this noise, for there was at once a
shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamor
of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword.

The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy,
and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were
under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with
those that were upon the hill. And besides, many of those that were worn
away by the famine and their mouths almost closed, when they saw the fire of
the holy house they exerted their utmost strength and brake out into groans
and outcries again. Perea did also return the echo, as well as the mountains
round about [the city], and augmented the force of the entire noise. Yet was
the misery itself more terrible than this disorder, for one would have
thought that the hill itself, on which the Temple stood, was seething hot, as
full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than
the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them,
for the ground did nowhere appear visible for the dead bodies that lay on it;
but the soldiers went over heaps of those bodies, as they ran upon such as
fled from them.

And now it was that the multitude of the robbers were thrust out [of the
inner court of the Temple] by the Romans, and had much ado to get into the
outward court, and from thence into the city, while the remainder of the
populace fled into the cloister of that outer court. As for the priests,
some of them plucked up from the holy house the spikes that were upon it,
with their bases, which were made of lead, and shot them at the Romans
instead of darts. But then as they gained nothing by so doing, and as the
fire burst out upon them, they retired to the wall that was eight cubits
broad, and there they tarried.

And now the Romans, judging that it was in vain to spare what was round
about the holy house, burned all those places, as also the remains of the
cloisters and the gates, two excepted: the one on the east side and the other
on the south; both which, however, they burned afterward. They also burned
down the treasury chambers, in which was an immense quantity of money and an
immense number of garments and other precious goods there reposited; and, to
speak all in a few words, there it was that the entire riches of the Jews
were heaped up together, while the rich people had there built themselves
chambers (to contain such furniture). The soldiers also came to the rest of
the cloisters that were in the outer (court of the) Temple, whither the women
and children, and a great mixed multitude of the people, fled, in number
about six thousand. But before Caesar had determined anything about these
people, or given the commanders any orders relating to them, the soldiers
were in such a rage that they set that cloister on fire; by which means it
came to pass that some of these were destroyed by throwing themselves down
headlong, and some were burned in the cloisters themselves. Nor did any one
of them escape with his life.

And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and
upon the burning of the holy house itself and of all the buildings round
about it, brought their ensigns to the Temple and set them over against its
eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they
make Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the
soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by
plunder that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former

But as for the tyrants themselves and those that were with them, when
they found that they were encompassed on every side, and, as it were, walled
round, without any method of escaping, they desired to treat with Titus by
word of mouth. Accordingly, such was the kindness of his nature and his
desire of preserving the city from destruction, joined to the advice of his
friends, who now thought the robbers were come to a temper, that he placed
himself on the western side of the outer (court of the) Temple, for there
were gates on that side above the Xystus, and a bridge that connected the
upper city to the Temple. This bridge it was that lay between the tyrants
and Caesar, and parted them; while the multitude stood on each side; those of
the Jewish nation about Simon and John, with great hopes of pardon; and the
Romans about Caesar, in great expectation how Titus would receive their

So Titus charged his soldiers to restrain their rage and to let their
darts alone, and appointed an interpreter between them, which was a sign that
he was the conqueror, and first began the discourse, and said: "I hope you,
sirs, are now satiated with the miseries of your country, who have not had
any just notions either of our great power or of your own great weakness, but
have, like madmen, after a violent and inconsiderate manner, made such
attempts as have brought your people, your city, and your holy house to
destruction. You have been the men that have never left off rebelling since
Pompey first conquered you, and have since that time made open war with the
Romans.... And now, vile wretches, do you desire to treat with me by word
of mouth? To what purpose is it that you would save such a holy house as
this was which is now destroyed? What preservation can you now desire after
the destruction of your Temple? Yet do you stand still at this very time in
your armor; nor can you bring yourselves so much as to pretend to be
supplicants even in this your utmost extremity. O miserable creatures! what
is it you depend on? Are not your people dead? is not your holy house gone?
is not your city in my power? and are not your own very lives in my hands?
And do you still deem it a part of valor to die? However, I will not imitate
your madness. If you throw down your arms and deliver up your bodies to me,
I grant you your lives; and I will act like a mild master of a family; what
cannot be healed shall be punished, and the rest I will preserve for my own

To that offer of Titus they made this reply: That they could not accept
of it, because they had sworn never to do so; but they desired they might
have leave to go through the wall that had been made about them, with their
wives and children; for that they would go into the desert and leave the city
to him.

At this Titus had great indignation, that when they were in the case of
men already taken captives, they should pretend to make their own terms with
him, as if they had been conquerors. So he ordered this proclamation to be
made to them: That they should no more come out to him as deserters, nor hope
for any further security, for that he would henceforth spare nobody, but
fight them with his whole army; and that they must save themselves as well as
they could, for that he would from henceforth treat them according to the
laws of war. So he gave orders to the soldiers both to burn and to plunder
the city; who did nothing indeed that day; but on the next day they set fire
to the repository of the archives, to Acra, to the council house, and to the
place called Ophlas; at which time the fire proceeded as far as the palace of
Queen Helena, which was in the middle of Acra; the lanes also were burned
down, as were also those houses that were full of the dead bodies of such as
were destroyed by famine.

On the same day it was that the sons and brethren of Izates the King,
together with many others of the eminent men of the populace, got together
there, and besought Caesar to give them his right hand for their security.
Upon which, though he was very angry at all that were now remaining, yet did
he not lay aside his old moderation, but received these men. At that time,
indeed, he kept them all in custody, but still bound the King's sons and
kinsmen, and led them with him to Rome, in order to make them hostages for
their country's fidelity to the Romans.

And now the seditious rushed into the royal palace, into which many had
put their effects, because it was so strong, and drove the Romans away from
it. They also slew all the people that had crowded into it, who were in
number about eight thousand four hundred, and plundered them of what they

On the next day the Romans drove the robbers out of the lower city and
set all on fire as far as Siloam. These soldiers were indeed glad to see the
city destroyed. But they missed the plunder, because the seditious had
carried off all their effects, and were retired into the upper city, for they
did not yet at all repent of the mischiefs they had done, but were insolent,
as if they had done well; for, as they saw the city on fire, they appeared
cheerful, and put on joyful countenances, in expectation, as they said, of
death to end their miseries. Accordingly, as the people were now slain, the
holy house was burned down, and the city was on fire, there was nothing
further left for the enemy to do. Yet did not Josephus grow weary, even in
this utmost extremity, to beg of them to spare what was left of the city; he
spake largely to them about their barbarity and impiety, and gave them his
advice in order to their escape, though he gained nothing thereby more than
to be laughed at by them; and as they could not think of surrendering
themselves up, because of the oath they had taken, nor were strong enough to
fight with the Romans any longer upon the square, as being surrounded on all
sides, and a kind of prisoners already, yet were they so accustomed to kill
people that they could not restrain their right hands from acting

So they dispersed themselves before the city and laid themselves in
ambush among its ruins, to catch those that attempted to desert to the
Romans. Accordingly, many such deserters were caught by them and were all
slain, for these were too weak, by reason of their want of food, to fly away
from them; so their dead bodies were thrown to the dogs. Now every other
sort of death was thought more tolerable than the famine, insomuch that,
though the Jews despaired now of mercy, yet would they fly to the Romans, and
would themselves, even of their own accord, fall among the murderous rebels
also. Nor was there any place in the city that had no dead bodies in it, but
what was entirely covered with those that were killed either by the famine or
the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished,
either by that sedition or by the famine.

So now the last hope which supported the tyrants and that crew of
robbers who were with them was in the caves and caverns underground; whither,
if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but
endeavored that, after the whole city should be destroyed and the Romans gone
away, they might come out again and escape from them. This was no better
than a dream of theirs, for they were not able to lie hid either from God or
from the Romans. However, they depended on these underground subterfuges,
and set more places on fire than did the Romans themselves; and those that
fled out of their houses thus set on fire into the ditches they killed
without mercy, and pillaged them also; and if they discovered food belonging
to anyone they seized upon it and swallowed it down, together with their
blood also - nay, they were now come to fight one with another about their
plunder; and I cannot but think that, had not their destruction prevented it,
their barbarity would have made them taste of even the dead bodies

Now when Caesar perceived that the upper city was so steep that it could
not possibly be taken without raising banks against it, he distributed the
several parts of that work among his army, and this on the twentieth day of
the month Lous [Ab].

It was at this time that the commanders of the Idumeans got together
privately and took counsel about surrendering up themselves to the Romans.
Accordingly, they sent five men to Titus and entreated him to give them his
right hand for their security. So Titus, thinking that the tyrants would
yield, if the Idumeans, upon whom a great part of the war depended, were once
withdrawn from them, after some reluctancy and delay complied with them, and
gave them security for their lives, and sent the five men back. But as these
Idumeans were preparing to march out, Simon perceived it, and immediately
slew the five men that had gone to Titus, and took their commanders and put
them in prison, of whom the most eminent was Jacob, the son of Sosas; but as
for the multitude of the Idumeans, who did not at all know what to do, now
their commanders were taken from them, he had them watched, and secured the
walls by a more numerous garrison. Yet could not that garrison resist those
that were deserting, for although a great number of them were slain, yet were
the deserters many more in number. These were all received by the Romans,
because Titus himself grew negligent as to his former orders for killing
them, and because the very soldiers grew weary of killing them, and because
they hoped to get some money by sparing them, for they left only the
populace, and sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children,
and every one of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold
were very many, and the buyers were few; and although Titus had made
proclamation beforehand that no deserter should come alone by himself, that
so they might bring out their families with them, yet did he receive such as
these also.

However, he set over them such as were to distinguish some from others,
in order to see if any of them deserved to be punished. And indeed the
number of those that were sold was immense; but of the populace above forty
thousand were saved, whom Caesar let go whither every one of them pleased.

But now at this time it was that one of the priests, the son of
Thebuthus, whose name was Jesus, upon his having security given him, by the
oath of Caesar, that he should be preserved upon condition that he should
deliver to him certain of the precious things that had been deposited in the
Temple, came out of it and delivered him from the wall of the holy house two
candlesticks, like to those that lay in the holy house, with tables, and
cisterns, and vials, all made of solid gold and very heavy. He also
delivered to him the veils and the garments, with the precious stones, and a
great number of other precious vessels that belonged to their sacred worship.

The treasurer of the Temple also, whose name was Phineas, was seized on,
and showed Titus the coats and girdles of the priests, with a great quantity
of purple and scarlet, which were there deposited for the uses of the veil,
as also a great deal of cinnamon and cassia, with a large quantity of other
sweet spices, which used to be mixed together and offered as incense to
God every day. A great many other treasures were also delivered to him, with
sacred ornaments of the Temple not a few, which things thus delivered to
Titus obtained of him for this man the same pardon that he had allowed to
such as deserted of their own accord.

And now were the banks finished on the seventh day of the month Gorpieus
(Elul) in eighteen days' time, when the Romans brought their machines against
the wall. But for the seditious, some of them, as despairing of saving the
city, retired from the wall to the citadel. Others of them went down into
the subterranean vaults, though still a great many of them defended
themselves against those that brought the engines for the battery; yet did
the Romans overcome them by their number and by their strength; and, what was
the principal thing of all, by going cheerfully about their work, while the
Jews were quite dejected and become weak. Now as soon as a part of the wall
was battered down, and certain of the towers yielded to the impression of the
battering rams, those that opposed themselves fled away, and such a terror
fell upon the tyrants as was much greater than the occasion required, for
before the enemy got over the breach they were quite stunned, and were
immediately for flying away. And now one might see these men, who had
hitherto been so insolent and arrogant in their wicked practices, to be cast
down and to tremble, insomuch that it would pity one's heart to observe the
change that was made in those vile persons.

Accordingly, they ran with great violence upon the Roman wall that
encompassed them, in order to force away those that guarded it, and to break
through it and get away. But when they saw that those who had formerly been
faithful to them had gone away - as indeed they were fled whithersoever the
great distress they were in persuaded them to flee - as also when those that
came running before the rest told them that the western wall was entirely
overthrown, while others said the Romans were gotten in, and others that they
were near and looking out for them, which were only the dictates of their
fear, which imposed upon their sight, they fell upon their face and greatly
lamented their own mad conduct; and their nerves were so terribly loosed that
they could not flee away. And here one may chiefly reflect on the power of
God exercised upon these wicked wretches, and on the good fortune of the
Romans, for these tyrants did now wholly deprive themselves of the security
they had in their own power, and came down from those very towers of their
own accord, wherein they could have never been taken by force, nor indeed by
any other way than by famine. And thus did the Romans, when they had taken
such great pains about weaker walls, get by good fortune what they could
never have gotten by their engines, for three of these towers were too strong
for all mechanical engines whatsoever.

So they now left these towers of themselves, or rather they were ejected
out of them by God himself, and fled immediately to that valley which was
under Siloam, where they again recovered themselves out of the dread they
were in for a while, and ran violently against that part of the Roman wall
which lay on that side; but as their courage was too much depressed to make
their attacks with sufficient force, and their power was now broken with fear
and affliction, they were repulsed by the guards, and dispersing themselves
at distances from each other, went down into the subterranean caverns.

So the Romans being now become masters of the walls, they both placed
their ensigns upon the towers and made joyful acclamations for the victory
they had gained, as having found the end of this war much lighter than its
beginning, for when they had gotten upon the last wall, without any
bloodshed, they could hardly believe what they found to be true; but seeing
nobody to oppose them, they stood in doubt what such an unusual solitude
could mean. But when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with
their swords drawn they slew those whom they overtook without mercy, and set
fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burned every soul in them,
and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the
houses to plunder them they found in them entire families of dead men; and
the upper rooms full of corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine.
They stood in horror at this sight, and went out without touching anything.

Although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that
manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they
ran every one through whom they met, and obstructed the very lanes with their
dead bodies, and made the whole city run with blood, to such a degree indeed
that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood. And
truly so it happened, that though the slayers left off at the evening, yet
did the fire greatly prevail in the night; and as all was burning, came that
eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem, a city that had been
liable to so many miseries during this siege, that, had it always enjoyed as
much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the
envy of the world. Nor did it on any other account so much deserve these
sore misfortunes as by producing such a generation of men as were the
occasion of this its overthrow.

Now when Titus was come into this (upper) city, he admired not only some
other places of strength in it, but particularly those strong towers which
the tyrants in their mad conduct had relinquished, for when he saw their
solid altitude, and the largeness of their several stones, and the exactness
of their joints, as also how great was their breadth and how extensive their
length, he expressed himself after the manner following: "We have certainly
had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God who
ejected the Jews out of these fortifications, for what could the hands of men
or any machines do toward overthrowing these towers?" At which time he had
many such discourses to his friends; he also let such go free as had been
bound by the tyrants, and were left in the prisons. To conclude, when he
entirely demolished the rest of the city and overthrew its walls, he left
these towers as a monument of his good fortune, which had proved his
auxiliaries, and enabled him to take what could not otherwise have been taken
by him.

And now, since his soldiers were already quite tired with killing men,
and yet there appeared to be a vast multitude still remaining alive, Caesar
gave orders that they should kill none but those that were in arms and
opposed them, but should take the rest alive. But, together with those whom
they had orders to slay, they slew the aged and the infirm; but for those
that were in their flourishing age and who might be useful to them they drove
them together into the Temple and shut them up within the walls of the court
of the women, over which Caesar set one of his freedmen, as also Fronto, one
of his own friends, which last was to determine everyone's fate, according
to his merits.

So this Fronto slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who
were impeached one by another; but of the young men he chose out the tallest
and most beautiful and reserved them for the triumph, and as for the rest of
the multitude that were above seventeen years old he put them into bonds and
sent them to the Egyptian mines. Titus also sent a great number into the
provinces as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their
theatres by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under
seventeen years of age were sold for slaves. Now during the days wherein
Fronto was distinguishing these men there perished, for want of food, eleven
thousand, some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their
guards bore to them, and others would not take in any when it was given them.
The multitude also was so very great that they were in want even of corn for
their sustenance.

Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war
was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that
perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of
whom was indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not
belonging to the city itself. They were come up from all the country to the
feast of unleavened bread and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at
the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them that there came a
pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as
destroyed them more suddenly.

That this city could contain so many people in it is manifest by that
number of them which was taken under Cestius, who, being desirous of
informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to
contemn that nation, entreated the high-priests, if the thing were possible,
to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high-priests, upon the
coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their
sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not
less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to
feast singly by themselves), and many of them were twenty in a company, found
the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred,
which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to
two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure
and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhoea, or women
that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not
lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any
foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.

Now this vast multitude is ndeed collected out of remote places, but
the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army
encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the
multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that
either men or God ever brought upon the world; for, to speak only of what was
publicly known, the Romans slew some of them, some they carried captives, and
others they made a search for underground, and when they found where they
were they broke up the ground and slew all they met with. There were also
found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands and
partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine; but then the
ill-savor of the dead bodies was most offensive to those that lighted upon
them, insomuch that some were obliged to get away immediately, while others
were so greedy of gain that they would go in among the dead bodies that lay
on heaps and tread upon them, for a great deal of treasure was found in these
caverns, and the hope of gain made every way of getting it to be esteemed

Many also of those that had been put in prison by the tyrants were now
brought out, for they did not leave off their barbarous cruelty at the very
last; yet did God avenge himself upon them both in a manner agreeable to
justice. As for John, he wanted food, together with his brethren, in these
caverns, and begged that the Romans would now give him their right hand for
his security, which he had often proudly rejected before; but for Simon, he
struggled hard with the distress he was in, till he was forced to surrender
himself. So he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain, as was
John condemned to perpetual imprisonment. And now the Romans set fire to the
extreme parts of the city, and burned them down, and entirely demolished its

And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of
Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius (Elul). It had been taken
five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation, for
Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey,
and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but
before all these the king of Babylon conquered it and made it desolate, one
thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was

But he who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites, and is
in our own tongue called (Melchisedek), the righteous king, for such he
really was. On which account he was (there) the first priest of God, and
first built a temple (there), and called the city Jerusalem, which was
formerly called Salem. However, David, the king of the Jews, ejected the
Canaanites, and settled his own people therein.

It was demolished entirely by the Babylonians, four hundred and
seventy-seven years and six months after him. And from King David, who was
the first of the Jews who reigned therein, to this destruction under Titus,
were one thousand one hundred and seventy-nine years; but from its first
building till this last destruction were two thousand one hundred and
seventy-seven years; yet hath not its great antiquity, nor its vast riches,
nor the diffusion of its nation over all the habitable earth, nor the
greatness of the veneration paid to it on a religious account, been
sufficient to preserve it from being destroyed. And thus ended the siege of

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