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A sort of general mot d’ordre in fact appeared at this time to have run through the East, inciting everywhere to great massacres of the Jews. The incompatibility of the Jewish life with the Greco-Roman life became more and more apparent. Each of the two races wishing to exterminate the other, it was evident that there would be no mercy between them. To conceive of these struggles it is necessary to understand to what extent Judaism had penetrated all the Oriental portion of the Roman empire. “They have spread over all the cities,” says Strabo, “and it is not easy to mention a place in the world which has not received this people, or rather which has not been occupied by them. Egypt and Cyrenia have adopted their manners, observing scrupulously their precepts and deriving great profit from the adoption which they have made of their national laws. In Egypt they are admitted to dwell legally, and a great part of the city of Alexandria is assigned to them; they have their Ethnarc, who administers their affairs, exercises justice and watches over the execution of contracts and wills, as if he were the president of an independent state”. This contact of two elements as opposed to one another as water and fire, could not fail to produce the most terrible outbursts. It is not necessary to suspect the Roman government of being implicated in this. The same massacres had taken place among the Parthians, whose situation and interest were quite otherwise than those of the West. It is one of the glories of Rome to have founded its empire upon peace; on 126the extinction of local wars, and by never having practised that detestable means of government, become one of the political secrets of the Turkish empire, which consists in exciting against each other the different populations of mixed countries; as to a massacre for religious motives, no idea was farther from the Roman mind. A stranger to all theology, the Roman did not understand the sect, and did not grant that persons ought to be divided for such a small matter as a speculative proposition. The antipathy against the Jews was moreover in the ancient world a sentiment so general that it had no need to be forced then. That antipathy marks one of the deep lines of separation which have over been found in the human race. It concerns something more than race, it is the hatred of the different functions of humanity, the hatred on the part of the man of peace content with his internal joys against the man of war, the man of the shop and counter against the peasant and the noble. It is probably not without reason that this poor Israel has passed its life as a people in being massacred. Since all nations and all ages have persecuted them, there must have been some motive. The Jew up to our time insinuates himself everywhere, claiming common rights but in reality the Jew was not within the common law. He kept his own special code; he wished to have guarantees from all, and once above the market, made his exceptions and his laws for himself. He wished the advantages of the nations without being a nation, without participating in the expenditure of nations. No people has ever been able to tolerate that. The nations are military creations founded and maintained by the sword. They are the work of peasants and soldiers; the Jews have not contributed in any degree to their establishment. That is the great misunderstanding involved in the Israelite pretensions. The stranger is tolerated because he is useful in a country, but on condition that the country does not allow itself to be taken 127possession of by him. It is unjust to claim the rights of a member of a family in a house which one has not built, as those birds do who install themselves in a nest which is not their own, or like those crustaceans who take the shell of another species.

The Jew has rendered to the world so many good and so many bad services, that people can never be just to him. We owe him too much, and at the same time we see too well his defects not to be impatient at the sight of him. That eternal Jeremiah, “that man of sorrows,” is always complaining, presenting his back to blows with a patience which annoys us. This creature, foreign to all our instincts of religion and honour, boldness, glory and refinement of art; this person so little a soldier, so little chivalrous, who loves neither Greece nor Rome nor Germany, and to whom nevertheless we owe our religion, so much so that the Jew has a right to say to the Christian, “Thou art a Jew with a little alloy,” this being has been set as the object of contradiction and antipathy; a fertile antipathy which has been one of the conditions of the progress of humanity!

In the first century of our era it appears that the world had a dim consciousness of what had passed, it saw its master in this strange, awkward, susceptible, timid stranger without any exterior nobility; but honest, moral, industrious; just in his business, endowed with modest virtues; not military, but a good trader a cheerful and steady worker. This Jewish family illumined by hope, this synagogue—the life commonly was full of charm—created envy. Too much humility, such a calm acceptance of persecution and insult and outrage; such a resigned manner of consoling himself for not being of the great world because he has a compensation in his family and his church, a gentle gaiety like that which in our days distinguishes the rayah in the east and makes him find his good fortune in his inferiority itself. In that little world where he has 128as much happiness as outside he suffers persecution and ignominy,—all this inspires with aristocratic antiquity his fits of deep bad temper, which sometimes lead him to the commission of odious brutalities.

The storm commenced to growl at Cesarea nearly at the same moment as when the revolution had succeeded in making itself mistress of Jerusalem. Cesarea was the city where the situation with the Jews and non-Jews (those were comprised under the general name of Syrians) presented the greatest difficulties. The Jews composed in the mixed villages of Syria the rich portion of the population; but this wealth, as we have said, came partly through injustice, and from exemption from military service. The Greeks and the Syrians, from among whom the legions were recruited, were hurt by seeing themselves oppressed by people exempt from the dues of the state, and who took advantage of the tolerance which they had for them. There were perpetual riots, and endless claims presented to the Roman magistrates. Orientals usually make religion a pretext for rascalities; Use less religious of men become singularly so when it becomes a question of annoying one’s neighbour; in our days the Turkish functionaries are tormented by grievances of this kind. From about the year 60 the battle was without truce between the two halves of the population of Cesarea. Nero solved the questions pending against the Jews; hatred had only envenomed them; some miserable follies, or perhaps inadvertances on the part of the Syrians became crimes and injuries on the side of the Jews. The young people threatened and struck each other, grave men complained to the Roman authority, who usually caused the bastinado to be administered to both parties. Gessius Floras used more humanity. He began by making them pay on both sides, then mocked those who claimed. A synagogue, which had a partition wall, a pitcher and some slain poultry which were found at the door of the synagogue, and which the Jews wished to pass off as the 129remains of a heathen sacrifice, were the great matters at Cesarea, at the moment Florus re-entered it, furious at the insult which had been given him by the people of Jerusalem. When it was known some months after that these people had succeeded in driving the Romans completely from their walls, there was much excitement. There was open war between the Jews and the Romans; the Syrians concluded that they could massacre the Jews with impunity. In one hour there were 20,000 throats cut. There did not remain a single Jew in Cesarea; in fact Florus ordered to the galleys all those who had escaped by flight. This crime provoked frightful reprisals. The Jews formed themselves into bands and betook themselves on their side to massacre the Syrians in the cities of Philadelphia and Hesbon, Gerasa, Pela and Scythopolis; they ravaged the Decapolis and Gaulonitis; set fire to Sebaste and Askelon, ruined Anthedon and Gaza. They burned the villages, and killed anyone who was not a Jew. The Syrians on their side killed all the Jews they met. Southern Syria was a field of carnage; every town was divided into two armies, who waged a merciless war. The nights were passed in terror. There were some atrocious episodes. At Scythopolis the Jews fought with the heathen inhabitants against their co-religionist invaders, which did not hinder them from being massacred by the Scythopolitans. The butcheries of Jews recurred with increased violence at Askelon, Acre, Tyre, Hippos, and Gadara. They imprisoned those whom they did not kill. The scenes of fury which occurred at Jerusalem made people see in every Jew a sort of dangerous mad-man whose acts of fury it is necessary to prevent. The epidemic of massacres extended as far as Egypt. The hatred of the Jews and the Greeks was at its height. Alexandria was half a Jewish town, the Jews formed there a true autonomous republic. Egypt had only some months previously as prefect a Jew, Tiberius Alexander, but a Jewish apostate little disposed to be 130indulgent to the fanaticism of his co-religionists. Sedition broke out in connection with an assembly at the amphitheatre. The first insults came, it would appear, from the Greeks. The Jews replied to that in a cruel manner. Arming themselves with torches they threatened to burn within the amphitheatre the Greeks to the last man. Tiberius Alexander tried in vain to calm them. It was necessary to send for the legions, the Jews resisted; the carnage was frightful. The Jewish quarter of Alexandria called the Delta was literally crowded with corpses; the dead were computed as amounting to 50,000.

These horrors lasted for a month. In the north, they were stopped at Tyre; for beyond that the Jews were not considerable enough to give umbrage to the indigenous populations. The cause of the evil indeed was more social than religious. In every city where Judaism came to dominate, life became impossible for pagans. It is understood that the success obtained by the Jewish revolution during the summer of 66, had caused a moment of fear to all the mixed towns which bordered on Palestine and Galilee. We have insisted often on this singular character which makes the simple Jewish people include in their own bosom the extremes, and if we may say so, the fight between good and evil. Nothing in fact in wickedness equals Jewish wickedness; and yet we have drawn from her bosom the ideal of goodness, sacrifice, and love. The best of men have been Jews; the most malicious of men have also been Jews. A strange race—truly marked by the seal of God, who has produced in a parallel manner and like two buds on the same branch the nascent church and the fierce fanaticism of the Jerusalem revolutionaries, Jesus and John of Gischala, the apostles and the assassin zealots, the Gospel and the Talmud; ought one to be astonished if this mysterious birth was accompanied by mysteries, delirium, and a fever such as never had been seen before?


The Christians were no doubt implicated in more than one direction in the massacres of September, 66. It is nevertheless probable that the gentleness of these worthy sectaries and their inoffensive character often preserved them. The larger number of the Christians of the Syrian towns were what were called “Judaizers,” that is to say, people of converted countries, not Jews by race. They were looked on with hatred; but people did not dare to kill them; they were considered a species of mongrels—strangers from their own country. As to them, while passing through that terrible month, they had their eyes on heaven, believing that they saw in every episode of the frightful storm the signs of the time fixed for the catastrophe: “Take the comparison of the fig-tree; when its branches become tender and its leaves bud, ye conclude that summer is nigh: likewise, when ye see those things come to pass, know that He is near, that He is even at the door?”

The Roman authority was prepared meanwhile to re-enter by force the city it had so imprudently abandoned. The imperial legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus, marched from Antioch towards the south with a considerable army. Agrippa joined him as guide to the expedition; the towns furnished him with auxiliary troops, in whom an inveterate hatred of the Jews supplied what was wanting in the matter of military education. Cestius reduced Galilee and the coast without much difficulty; and on the 24th of October he arrived at Gabaon, ten miles from Jerusalem. With astonishing boldness, the insurgents went out to attack him in that position, and caused him to suffer a check. Such a fact would be inconceivable if the Jerusalem army should be represented as a mass of devotees; fanatical beggars and brigands. It possessed certain elements more solid and really military, the two princes of the royal family of Adiabenes, Monobazus and Cenedeus; one Silas from Babylon, a lieutenant of Agrippa II., who was among the national party; Niger 132of Perea, a trained soldier; Simon, son of Gioras, who began thenceforth his career of violence and heroism. Agrippa believed the occasion favourable for making terms. Two of his emissaries came to offer the Jerusalemites a full pardon if they would submit. A large portion of the population wished that this should be agreed to; but the enthusiastics killed the envoys. Some people who showed anger at such a shameful act were maltreated. This division gave Cestius a moment’s advantage. He left Gabaon and pitched his camp in the district named Sapha or Scopus, an important position situated to the north of Jerusalem, scarcely an hour’s distance from it, and from which the city and the temple could be seen. He remained there three days, waiting for the result of having some spies in the place. On the fourth day (30th October), he marshalled his army and marched forward. The party of resistance abandoned all the new town, and retired into the inner town (high and low) and into the temple. Cestius entered without opposition, and occupied the new town, the quarter of Bezetha, the wood market, to which he set fire, and approached the high town, disposing his lines in front of the palace of the Asmoneans.

Josephus declares that if Cestius Gallus had been willing to make the assault at this moment, the war would have been ended. The Jewish historian explains the inaction of the Roman general by intrigues in which the principal material was the money of Florus. It appears that they had seen on the wall some members of the aristocratic party, led by one of the Hanans, who called to Cestius, offering to open the gates to him. No doubt the legate feared some ambush. For five days he vainly tried to break through the wall. On the sixth day (5th November) he at length attacked the enceinte of the temple from the north. The fight was fearful under the porticoes; discouragement took hold of the rebels; the party of peace were making ready to admit Cestius, when he suddenly caused the retreat to be 133sounded. If Josephus’ story is true, the conduct of Cestius is inexplicable. Perhaps Josephus, to support his argument, exaggerates the advantages Cestius had at first over the Jews, and lessens the real force of the resistance. What is certain is that Cestius regained his camp at Scopus and left the next day for Gabaon, harassed by the Jews. Two days after (8th November) he raised his camp, but was pursued as far as the descent from Bethoron, leaving all his baggage, and retreated not without difficulty to Antipatris.

The incapacity which Cestius showed in this campaign is truly surprising. The bad government of Nero must have indeed debased all the services of the state for such events to have been possible. Cestius only survived his defeat a short time; many attributed his death to chagrin. It is not known what became of Florus.

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