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The state of enthusiasm which held possession of the Christian imagination was soon complicated by the events which passed in Judea. These events appeared to give reason to the visions of the most frenzied brains. A fit of fever which cannot be compared with anything but that which seized France during the revolution, and Paris in 1871, took hold of the entire Jewish nation. Those “divine diseases” before which the ancient medical skill declared itself powerless, appeared to have become the ordinary temperament of the Jewish people. We should have that, determined in extremes it would have gone on to the end of humanity. For four years the strange race, which appears created alike to defy him who blesses it and him who curses it, was in a convulsion, before which the historian, divided between wonder and horror, must halt with respect, as before all that is mysterious.

The causes of this crisis were old, and the crisis itself was inevitable. The Mosaic law, the work of enthusiastic Utopians, possessed by a powerful Socialistic idea, the least political of men, was, like Islam, exclusive of a civil, parallel to the religious, society. That law which appears to have arrived at a condition of being re-edited when we read of it in the twelfth century B.C. would have even independently of the Assyrian conquest, made the little kingdom of the descendants of David fly to pieces. Since the preponderance created by the prophetic element the kingdom of Judah, at enmity with all its neighbours, moved by a continuous rage against 112Tyre, a hatred against Edom, Moab and Ammon, could not live. A nation which devotes itself to religious and social problems is lost as to politics. The day when Israel became a flock of God, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, it was written that it should not be a people like any other. Men do not accumulate contradictory destinies; they always expiate an excellence by some humiliation.

The Achemenidian empire put Israel a little at rest. That grand feudality, tolerant to all provincial diversities, was analogous to the caliphate of Bagdad, and the Ottoman empire, was the condition in which the Jews found themselves most pleasantly situated. The Ptolemaic domination in the third century B.C., appears likewise to have been sympathetic enough with them. It was the same with the Seleucidæ. Antioch had became a centre of active Hellenistic propaganda; Antiochus Epiphanes believed himself obliged to install everywhere, as a mark of his power, the image of Jupiter Olimpus. Then burst forth the first great Jewish revolt against profane civilization. Israel had borne patiently the disappearance of its political existence since Nebuchadnezzar; it could not keep any longer within bounds when it realized a danger for its religious institutions. A race, in general little military, was seized with a fit of heroism; without a regular army, without generals, without tactics, it conquered the Seleucidæ, maintained its revealed right, and created for itself a second period of autonomy. The Asmonean royalty nevertheless was always pervaded by deep interior vices; it did not last more than a century. The destiny of the Jewish people was not to be constituted a separate nationality; this people dreamed always of something international, its ideal was not the city, it was the synagogues; it is the free congregation. It is the same with Islam, which has created an immense empire, but which has destroyed all nationality among the peoples it has subjected, and has left them no other fatherland than the mosque and 113the zaouia. There is often applied to such a social condition the name of theocracy, and that is correct, if it is intended to say by that that the profound idea of the Semitic religious empires which have gone forth from it is the kingdom of God, conceived of as the sole master of the world and universal suzerain; but theocracy among these peoples is not synonymous with the domination of priests. The priest, properly speaking, plays a weak part in the history of Judaism and Islamism. The power belongs to the representative of God, to him whom God inspires, to the prophet and the holy man, to him who has received a mission from Heaven, and who proves his mission by miracle or success. Failing a prophet, the power rests in the maker of Apocalypses or Apocryphal books attributed to ancient prophets, or rather to the doctor who interprets the divine law, to the chief of the synagogue and, later still, to the head of the family, who keeps the deposit of the law and transmits it to his children. A civil power, a royalty, has nothing much to do with such a social organization. This organization is never better carried out than in the case where the individuals who are the subjects of it are widely spread, in the condition of foreigners tolerated in a great empire where no uniformity reigns. It is the nature of Judaism to be subordinated, since it is incapable of drawing forth from its own bosom a principle of military power. The same fact is noticeable in the Greeks of our day; the Greek communities of Trieste, Syrmna and Constantinople are indeed much more flourishing than the little kingdom of Greece, because these communities are free from political agitation, in which a free race put prematurely in possession of liberty finds its certain ruin. The Roman domination established in Judea in the year 63 B.C., by the arms of Pompey, appeared at first to realize some of the conditions of Jewish life. Rome at that time did not as a rule assimilate the countries which she one 114after another annexed to her vast empire. She gave them the right of peace and war, and scarcely claimed anything but arbitration in great political questions. Under the degenerate remnants of the Asmonean dynasty and under the Herods, the Jewish nation preserved that semi-independence which sufficed for it since its religious condition was respected. But the internal crisis of the people was too strong. Beyond a certain degree of religious fanaticism man is ungovernable. It must be said also that Rome tended unceasingly to render her power in the East more effective. The little vassal kingdoms which she had at first conserved disappeared day by day, and the provinces returned to the empire pure and simple. After the year 6 after Christ, Judea was governed by procurators subordinated to the imperial legates of Syria and having beside them the parallel power of the Herods. The impossibility of such a régime revealed itself day by day. The Herods were little thought of in the East as either truly patriotic or religious men. The administrative customs of the Romans, even in their most reasonable aspects, were odious to the Jews. In general, the Romans shewed the greatest condescendence with respect to the fastidious scruples of the nation, but that was not sufficient; things had come to a point where nothing more could be done without affecting a canonical question. Those fixed religions, like Islamism and Judaism, endure no sharing of power. If they do not rule they call themselves persecuted. If they feel themselves protected they become exacting, and seek to render life impossible to all other religions except their own. That is well seen in Algiers, where the Israelites, knowing themselves to be maintained against the Mussulmans, have become insupportable to them, and occupy without ceasing the attention of the authorities by their recriminations.

Certainly we would not believe, in this experience of an age which made the Romans and Jews live together, and which resulted in such a terrible disruption, 115that the faults were reciprocal. Many procurators were dishonourable men, others could be rough, harsh, and allow themselves to be led into impatience against a religion which annoyed them, and whose features they could not understand. It would have required one to be a perfect being not to be irritated by that narrow end haughty spirit, an enemy to Greek and Roman civilization, malevolent towards the rest of the human race, which superficial observers held to constitute the essence of a Jew. How could an administrator think otherwise of those always occupied in accusing him before the emperor, and forming cabals against him even when he was perfectly right? In that great hatred which for more than two thousand years existed between the Jewish race and the rest of the world, who had the first blame? Such a question ought not to be put. In such a matter all is action and reaction, cause and effect. These exclusions, these padlocks of the Ghetto, these separate costumes, are unjust things, but who first wished for them? Those who believed themselves soiled by contact with the heathen, those who sought for separation from them, a society apart. Fanaticism has created the chains, and the chains have redoubled the fanaticism. Hatred begets hatred, and there is only one means of escaping from this fatal circle: it is to suppress the cause of the hatred, those injurious separations which, at first desired and sought for by the sects, became afterwards their shame. In regard to Judaism modern France has solved the problem. By casting down all the legal barriers which surrounded the Israelite, she has removed what was narrow and exclusive in Judaism, I mean to say its practices and its isolated life, so much so that a Jewish family brought to Paris ceases almost altogether to lead the Jewish life in the course of one or two generations.

It would be unjust to reproach the Romans in the first century, for not having acted in this manner. 116There was a fixed opposition between the Roman empire and orthodox Judaism. It was Jews who were often the most insolent, tormenting and aggressive. The idea of a common law which the Romans brought in germ with them was in antipathy to the strict observers of the Thora. These had moral needs in total contradiction to a purely human society, without any mixture of theocracy, as Roman society was. Rome founded the State, Judaism founded the church. Rome created profane and rational government; the Jews inaugurated the kingdom of God. Between this strict but fertile theocracy and the most absolute proclamation of the laic state which had ever existed, a struggle was inevitable. The Jews had their faith founded upon quite other bases than the Roman law, and at bottom quite irreconcilable with that law. Before having been cruelly harassed they could not content themselves, with a simple tolerance, those who believed that they had the words of eternity, the secret of the constitution of a righteous city. They were like the Mussulmans of Algeria. Our society, although infinitely superior, inspires in these only repugnance; their revealed law, at once civil and religious, fills them with pride and renders them incapable of giving themselves to a philosophical legislation, founded upon the simple idea of the relations of men to each other. Add to that a profound ignorance which hinders fanatic sects from taking account of the forces of the civilized world, and blinds them to the issue of the war in which they engage with light-heartedness.

One circumstance contributed much to maintain Judea in a condition of permanent hostility against the empire: it was that the Jews took no part in military service. Everywhere else the legions were formed from the people of the country, and it was thus with armies numerically feeble, the Romans held immense regions. The soldiers of the Romans and the inhabitants of the country were compatriots. It was not so in 117Judea. The legions which occupied the country were recruited for the most part at Cesarea and Sebaste, towns opposed to Judaism. Hence the impossibility of any cordial relation between the army and the people. The Roman force was in Jerusalem confined to its trenches as if in a condition of permanent siege.

It was certain, moreover, that the sentiments of the different fractions of the Jewish world should be the same in regard to the Romans. If we except some worldlings like Tiberias Alexander, become indifferent to their old faith and regarded by their co-religionists as renegades, everyone bore ill-will to the foreign rulers, but still were far from inciting to rebellion. We can distinguish four or five parties in Jerusalem:

1st. The Sadducean and Herodian party, the remainder of the house of Herod and his clientele, the great families of Hanan and of Boëthus in possession of the priesthood. A society of Epicureans and voluptuous unbelievers, hated by the people because of its pride, for its little devotion and for its riches; this party, essentially conservative, found a guarantee for its privileges in the Roman occupation, and, without loving the Romans, were strongly opposed to all revolution.

2nd. The party of Pharisean middle-class, an honest party composed of people sensible, settled, quiet, steady, loving their religion, observing it punctiliously, devoted, but without imagination; well educated, knowing the foreign world, and clearly seeing that a revolt could not end in anything but the destruction of the nation and the temple; Josephus is the type of that class of persons whose fate was that which appears always reserved to moderate parties in times of revolution, powerlessness, versatility, and the supreme disagreeableness of passing for traitors in the eyes of most people.

3rd. The enthusiasts of every kind, zealots, robbers, assassins, a strange mass of fanatical beggars reduced to the last wretchedness by the injustice and the violence 118of the Sadducees, who looked upon themselves as the sole inheritors of the promises of Israel, of that poor “beloved” of God, nourishing themselves upon prophetic books such as those of Enoch, violent Apocalypses, believing the kingdom of God about to be revealed, arrived at last at the most intense degree of enthusiasm of which history has kept records.

4th. Brigands, people without vagrants, adventurers, dangerous scoundrels, the result of the complete social disorganization of the country; these people for the most part of Idmuean or Nabatean were little concerned about the question of religion; but they were creators of disorder, and they had a quite natural alliance with the enthusiastic party.

5th. Pious dreamers, Essenes, Christians, Ebionim, waiting peacefully for the kingdom of God, devoted persons grouped around the temple praying and weeping. The disciples of Jesus were of that number; they were still so small a body in the eyes of the public that Josephus does not reckon them among the elements of the struggle. We see all at once that in the day of danger these holy people knew only how to escape.

The mind of Jesus, full of a divine efficacy for drawing man away from the world, and consoling him, could not inspire the strict patriotism which created assassins and heroes.

The arbiters of the situation would naturally be the enthusiasts. The democratic and revolutionary side of Judaism showed itself in them in a terrible manner. They were persuaded, with Judas the Gaulonite, that all power came from the evil one, that royalty is a work of Satan (a theory which some sovereigns, such as Caligula and Nero, true demons incarnate, only justified too much) and they suffered themselves to be cut in pieces sooner than give to another than God the name of master; imitators of Matthias, the first of the zealots who, seeing a Jew sacrificing to idols, killed him; they avenged God by blows of the dagger. The mere fact of 119nearing an “uncircumcised” speak of God or of the law was enough to make them seek to surprise him alone; then they gave him the choice of circumcision or death. Executioners of those mysterious sentences which were left to “the hand of heaven,” and believing themselves charged with rendering effectual that fearful penalty of excommunication, which is equivalent to placing beyond the law and giving up to death, they formed an army of terrorists in full revolutionary ebullition. It could be foreseen that these troubled consciences, incapable of distinguishing their gross appetite from passions which their frenzy represented to them as holy, went to the most extreme excess and stopped before no degree of folly.

Minds were under the influence of a permanent hallucination; some terrifying reports came from all directions. People only dreamed of omens; the apocalyptic colour of the Jewish imagination tinged everything with an aureole of blood. Comets, swords in heaven, battles in the clouds, a spontaneous light shining at night at the foundation of the temple, victims giving birth to unnatural productions at the moment of sacrifice, were what were spoken of in terror. One day, it was the enormous brazen gates of the temple which opened of themselves and refused to allow themselves to be shut. At the Passover of 65, about three hours after midnight the temple was for half-an-hour perfectly light as in the full day; it was believed that it was consuming inside. Another time, on the day of Pentecost, the priests heard the sound of many people making preparations in the interior of the sanctuary as if for removal, and saying to one another, “Let us go out from here! let us go out from here!” All this came only too late; but the deep trouble of souls was the best sign that something extraordinary was preparing.

It was the Messianic prophecies especially which excited in the people an unconquerable need of agitation. People would not resign themselves to a mediocre destiny 120when they claimed the kingdom of the future. The Messianic theories were summed up for the crowd in an oracle which was said to be drawn from Scripture, and according to which “there was to go forth at this time a prince who should be master of the universe.” It is useless to reason against obstinate hope; evidence has no power to fight the chimera which a people has embraced with all the power of its heart.

Gersius Florus, of Clazomenes, had succeeded Albinus as procurator of Judea about the end of 64, or the beginning of 65. He was, as it would appear, a very bad man; he owed the position he occupied to the influence of his wife, Cleopatra, who was the friend of Poppea. The hatred between him and the Jews now grew to the last degree of exasperation. The Jews had become unbearable by their susceptibility, their habit of complaining about trifles, and the little respect they showed to the civil and military authorities; but it would appear that, on his side, he took a pleasure in defying them and making a parade of it. On the 16th and 17th May, of the year 66, a collision took place between his troops and the Jerusalemites on some absurd grounds. Florus retired to Cesarea, only leaving a cohort in the Antonian tower. There was here a very blameable act. An armed power owes it to a city it occupies, when a popular revolt shows itself, not to abandon it to its own passions until it has exhausted all its means of resistance. If Florus had remained in the city, it is not probable that the Jerusalemites would have forced it, and all the misfortunes which followed would have been avoided. Florus once gone, it was written that the Roman army should not re-enter Jerusalem except through fire and death.

The retreat of Florus was, nevertheless, far from creating an open rupture between the city and the Roman authority. Agrippa II. and Berenice were at this moment in Jerusalem. Agrippa made some conscientious 121efforts to calm the peoples’ minds; all moderate persons joined with him, they used even the popularity of Berenice, in whom the imagination of the people believed they saw living again her great-grandmother Mariamne, the Asmonean. While Agrippa harangued the crowd in the Xystos the princess showed herself upon the terrace of the palace of the Asmonean, which overlooked the Xystos. All was useless. Sensible men represented that war would be the certain ruin of the nation; they were treated as people of little faith. Agrippa, discouraged or frightened, quitted the city and retired to his estates in Batanea. One band of the most ardent kind departed at once and occupied by surprise the fortress of Massada, situated on the shores of the Dead Sea, two days’ journey from Jerusalem, and nearly impregnable.

There was here an act of definite hostility. In Jerusalem the fight became daily more vigorous between the party of peace and that of war. The first of those two parties was composed of the rich, who had everything to lose in a revolution. The second, besides the sincere enthusiasts, comprehended that mass of the populace to whom a state of national crisis, fully putting to an end the ordinary conditions of life, derives most benefit. The moderate people depended upon the little Roman garrison lodged in the Antonian town. The high priest was an obscure man, Matthias, son of Theophilus. Since the deprivation of Hanan the Young, who caused the death of St. James, it seems there was a system of no longer taking the high priest from the powerful sacerdotal families, the Hanans, the Cantheras, and the Boëthuses. But the true head of the sacerdotal party was the old high priest Ananias, son of Nabedeus, a rich and energetic man, little popular because of the pitiless vigour with which he enforced his rights, hated especially for the impertinence and rapacity of his servants. By a peculiarity which is not rare in times of revolution, the chief of the party of action was at this 122time Eleazar, son of this some Ananias; he held the important position of Captain of the Temple. His religious enthusiasm appears to have been sincere. Pushing to the extreme the principle that the sacrifices could not be offered but by Jews and for Jews, he caused to be suppressed the prayers that were offered for the Emperor and the prosperity of Rome. All the younger portion of the people were full of ardour. It is one of the characteristics of the fanaticism which the Semetic religions inspire that it shows itself with the utmost vivacity among the young. The members of the ancient sacerdotal families, the Pharisees, the reasonable and settled men, saw the danger. They put forward some authorized doctors, they had consultations of the rabbis, memorials from canonical laws, although quite in vain; for it was plain that the town clergy made common cause with the enthusiasts and Eleazar. The higher clergy and the aristocracy, despairing of gaining anything over the popular crowd, delivered up to the most superficial suggestions, sent to beg Florus and Agrippa to come and quickly put down the revolt, making them note that soon it would not be time to do so. Florus, according to Josephus, wished a war of extermination, which should cause the entire Jewish race to disappear from the world, and he evaded a reply. Agrippa sent to the party of order a body of three thousand Arab horsemen. The party of order with these horsemen occupied the upper city (the present Armenian and Jewish quarters). The party of action occupied the lower city and the temple (the present Mussulman, Mogharibi and Haram quarters). A real war was waged between the two quarters. On the 14th of August the rebels, commanded by Eleazar, Menahem, son of that Judas the Gaulonite, who first, sixty years previously, had raised the Jews by preaching to them that the true adorer of God ought not to recognise any man as his superior, stormed the higher town and burned the house of Ananias, and the palaces of 123Agrippa and Berenice. The horsemen of Agrippa, Ananias his brother, and all the notables who could join them, took refuge in highest parts of the palace of the Asmoneans.

The morning after this success the insurgents attacked the Antonian tower; they took it in two days, and set it on fire. They beseiged then the upper palace and took it (6th September). Agrippa’s horsemen were allowed to go out. As to the Romans, they shut themselves up in the three towers named after Hippicus, Phasaël, and Mariamne. Ananias and his brother were killed. According to the rule in popular movements discord soon broke out among the leaders of the popular party. Menahem made himself intolerable by his pride as a democratic parvenu. Eleazar, son of Ananias, irritated beyond doubt by the murder of his father, pursued him and killed him. The remnant of Menahem’s party retired to Massada, which was to be until the end of the war the bulwark of the most enthusiastic party of the zealots.

The Romans defended themselves a long time in the towers: reduced to extremity, they only asked that their lives should be spared. This was promised them, but when they had surrendered their arms, Eleazar put them all to death, with the exception of Metilius, primipilus of the cohort, who promised that he would be circumcised. Thus Jerusalem was lost by the Romans about the end of September A.D. 66, a little more than a hundred years after its capture by Pompey. The Roman garrison of the castle of Machero, fearing to be seen retreating, surrendered. The castle of Kypros, which overlooks Jericho, fell also into the hands of the insurgents. It is probable that Herodium was occupied by the rebels about the same time. The weakness which the Romans shewed in all these mutinies is something singular, and gives a certain likelihood to the opinion of Josephus, according to which the plan of Floras would have been to push everything to the extremes. It is true that the 124first revolutionary outbursts have something fascinating which makes it very difficult to stop them and causes wise minds to resolve to allow them to wear themselves out by their own excesses.

In five months the insurrection had succeeded in establishing itself in a formidable manner. Not only was it mistress of the city of Jerusalem, but by the desert of Judea it obtained communication with the region of the Dead Sea, all of whose fortresses it held; from thence it came in contact with the Arabs, the Nabateans, more or less the enemies of Rome. Judea Ideamea, Perea, and Galilee were with rebels. At Rome during this time a hateful sovereign had handed over the functions of the empire to the most ignoble and incapable. If the Jews had been able to group around them all the malcontents of the East there would have been an end of Roman rule in these quarters. Unhappily for them, the effect was quite the opposite; the revolt inspired in the populations of Syria a redoubled fidelity to the empire. The hatred which they had inspired in their neighbours sufficed during the kind of torpor of the Roman power to excite against them some enemies not less dangerous than the legions.

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