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Tacitus: History Book 5 [1]

1. EARLY in this year Titus Caesar, who had been selected by his father to complete the subjugation of Judaea, and who had gained distinction as a soldier while both were still subjects, began to rise in power and reputation, as armies and provinces emulated each other in their attachment to him. The young man himself, anxious to be thought superior to his station, was ever displaying his gracefulness and his energy in war. By his courtesy and affability he called forth a willing obedience, and he often mixed with the common soldiers, while working or marching, without impairing his dignity as general. He found in Judaea three legions, the 5th, the 10th, and the 15th, all old troops of Vespasian's. To these he added the 12th from Syria, and some men belonging to the 18th and 3rd, whom he had withdrawn from Alexandria. This force was accompanied by twenty cohorts of allied troops and eight squadrons of cavalry, by the two kings Agrippa and Sohemus, by the auxiliary forces of king Antiochus, by a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews with the usual hatred of neighbours, and, lastly, by many persons brought from the capital and from Italy by private hopes of securing the yet unengaged affections of the Prince. With this force Titus entered the enemy's territory, preserving strict order on his march, reconnoitring every spot, and always ready to give battle. At last he encamped near Jerusalem.

1. Eiusdem anni principio Caesar Titus, perdomandae Iudaeae delectus a patre et privatis utriusque rebus militia clarus, maiore tum vi famaque agebat, certantibus provinciarum et exercituum studiis. Atque ipse, ut super fortunam crederetur, decorum se promptumque in armis ostendebat, comitate et adloquiis officia provocans ac plerumque in opere, in agmine gregario militi mixtus, incorrupto ducis honore. Tres eum in Iudaea legiones, quinta et decima et quinta decima, vetus Vespasiani miles, excepere. Addidit e Syria duodecimam et adductos Alexandria duoetvicensimanos tertianosque; comitabantur viginti sociae cohortes, octo equitum alae, simul Agrippa Sohaemusque reges et auxilia regis Antiochi validaque et solito inter accolas odio infensa Iudaeis Arabum manus, multi quos urbe atque Italia sua quemque spes acciverat occupandi principem adhuc vacuum. His cum copiis finis hostium ingressus composito agmine, cuncta explorans paratusque decernere, haud procul Hierosolymis castra facit.

2. As I am about to relate the last days of a famous city, it seems appropriate to throw some light on its origin. Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.

2. Sed quoniam famosae urbis supremum diem tradituri sumus, congruens videtur primordia eius aperire. Iudaeos Creta insula profugos novissima Libyae insedisse memorant, qua tempestate Saturnus vi Iovis pulsus cesserit regnis. Argumentum e nomine petitur: inclutum in Creta Idam montem, accolas Idaeos aucto in barbarum cognomento Iudaeos vocitari. Quidam regnante Iside exundantem per Aegyptum multitudinem ducibus Hierosolymo ac Iuda proximas in terras exoneratam; plerique Aethiopum prolem, quos rege Cepheo metus atque odium mutare sedis perpulerit. Sunt qui tradant Assyrios convenas, indigum agrorum populum, parte Aegypti potitos, mox proprias urbis Hebraeas- que terras et propiora Syriae coluisse. Clara alii Iudaeorum initia, Solymos, carminibus Homeri celebratam gentem, conditae urbi Hierosolyma nomen e suo fecisse.

3. Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.

3. Plurimi auctores consentiunt orta per Aegyptum tabe quae corpora foedaret, regem Bocchorim adito Hammonis oraculo remedium petentem purgare regnum et id genus hominum ut invisum deis alias in terras avehere iussum. Sic conquisitum collectumque vulgus, postquam vastis locis relictum sit, ceteris per lacrimas torpentibus, Moysen unum exulum monuisse ne quam deorum hominumve opem expectarent utrisque deserti, sed sibimet duce caelesti crederent, primo cuius auxilio praesentis miserias pepulissent. Adsensere atque omnium ignari fortuitum iter incipiunt. Sed nihil aeque quam inopia aquae fatigabat, iamque haud procul exitio totis campis procubuerant, cum grex asinorum agrestium e pastu in rupem nemore opacam concessit. Secutus Moyses coniectura herbidi soli largas aquarum venas aperit. Id levamen; et continuum sex dierum iter emensi septimo pulsis cultoribus obtinuere terras, in quis urbs et templum dicata.

4. Moyses, wishing to secure for the future his authority over the nation, gave them a novel form of worship, opposed to all that is practised by other men. Things sacred with us, with them have no sanctity, while they allow what with us is forbidden. In their holy place they have consecrated an image of the animal by whose guidance they found deliverance from their long and thirsty wanderings. They slay the ram, seemingly in derision of Hammon, and they sacrifice the ox, because the Egyptians worship it as Apis. They abstain from swine's flesh, in consideration of what they suffered when they were infected by the leprosy to which this animal is liable. By their frequent fasts they still bear witness to the long hunger of former days, and the Jewish bread, made without leaven, is retained as a memorial of their hurried seizure of corn. We are told that the rest of the seventh day was adopted, because this day brought with it a termination of their toils; after a while the charm of indolence beguilded them into giving up the seventh year also to inaction. But others say that it is an observance in honour of Saturn, either from the primitive elements of their faith having been transmitted from the Idaei, who are said to have shared the flight of that God, and to have founded the race, or from the circumstance that of the seven stars which rule the destinies of men Saturn moves in the highest orbit and with the mightiest power, and that many of the heavenly bodies complete their revolutions and courses in multiples of seven.

4. Moyses quo sibi in posterum gentem firmaret, novos ritus contrariosque ceteris mortalibus indidit. Profana illic omnia quae apud nos sacra, rursum concessa apud illos quae nobis incesta. Effigiem animalis, quo monstrante errorem sitimque depulerant, penetrali sacravere, caeso ariete velut in contumeliam Hammonis; bos quoque immolatur, quoniam Aegyptii Apin colunt. Sue abstinent memoria cladis, quod ipsos scabies quondam turpaverat, cui id animal obnoxium. Longam olim famem crebris adhuc ieiuniis fatentur, et raptarum frugum argumentum panis Iudaicus nullo fermento detinetur. Septimo die otium placuisse ferunt, quia is finem laborum tulerit; dein blandiente inertia septimum quoque annum ignaviae datum. Alii honorem eum Saturno haberi, seu principia religionis tradentibus Idaeis, quos cum Saturno pulsos et conditores gentis accepimus, seu quod de septem sideribus, quis mortales reguntur, altissimo orbe et praecipua potentia stella Saturni feratur, ac pleraque caelestium viam suam et cursus septenos per numeros commeare.

5. This worship, however introduced, is upheld by its antiquity; all their other customs, which are at once perverse and disgusting, owe their strength to their very badness. The most degraded out of other races, scorning their national beliefs, brought to them their contributions and presents. This augmented the wealth of the Jews, as also did the fact, that among themselves they are inflexibly honest and ever ready to shew compassion, though they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies. They sit apart at meals, they sleep apart, and though, as a nation, they are singularly prone to lust, they abstain from intercourse with foreign women; among themselves nothing is unlawful. Circumcision was adopted by them as a mark of difference from other men. Those who come over to their religion adopt the practice, and have this lesson first instilled into them, to despise all gods, to disown their country, and set at nought parents, children, and brethren. Still they provide for the increase of their numbers. It is a crime among them to kill any newly-born infant. They hold that the souls of all who perish in battle or by the hands of the executioner are immortal. Hence a passion for propagating their race and a contempt for death. They are wont to bury rather than to burn their dead, following in this the Egyptian custom; they bestow the same care on the dead, and they hold the same belief about the lower world. Quite different is their faith about things divine. The Egyptians worship many animals and images of monstrous form; the Jews have purely mental conceptions of Deity, as one in essence. They call those profane who make representations of God in human shape out of perishable materials. They believe that Being to be supreme and eternal, neither capable of representation, nor of decay. They therefore do not allow any images to stand in their cities, much less in their temples. This flattery is not paid to their kings, nor this honour to our Emperors. From the fact, however, that their priests used to chant to the music of flutes and cymbals, and to wear garlands of ivy, and that a golden vine was found in the temple, some have thought that they worshipped father Liber, the conqueror of the East, though their institutions do not by any means harmonize with the theory; for Liber established a festive and cheerful worship, while the Jewish religion is tasteless and mean.

5. Hi ritus quoquo modo inducti antiquitate defenduntur: cetera instituta, sinistra foeda, pravitate valuere. Nam pessimus quisque spretis religionibus patriis tributa et stipes illuc congerebant, unde auctae Iudaeorum res, et quia apud ipsos fides obstinata, misericordia in promptu, sed adversus omnis alios hostile odium. Separati epulis, discreti cubilibus, proiectissima ad libidinem gens, alienarum concubitu abstinent; inter se nihil inlicitum. Circumcidere genitalia instituerunt ut diversitate noscantur. Transgressi in morem eorum idem usurpant, nec quicquam prius imbuuntur quam contemnere deos, exuere patriam, parentes liberos fratres vilia habere. Augendae tamen multitudini consulitur; nam et necare quemquam ex agnatis nefas, animosque proelio aut suppliciis peremptorum aeternos putant: hinc generandi amor et moriendi contemptus. Corpora condere quam cremare e more Aegyptio, eademque cura et de infernis persuasio, caelestium contra. Aegyptii pleraque animalia effigiesque compositas venerantur, Iudaei mente sola unumque numen intellegunt: profanos qui deum imagines mortalibus materiis in species hominum effingant; summum illud et aeternum neque imitabile neque interiturum. Igitur nulla simulacra urbibus suis, nedum templis sistunt; non regibus haec adulatio, non Caesaribus honor. Sed quia sacerdotes eorum tibia tympanisque concinebant, hedera vinciebantur vitisque aurea templo reperta, Liberum patrem coli, domitorem Orientis, quidam arbitrati sunt, nequaquam congruentibus institutis. Quippe Liber festos laetosque ritus posuit, Iudaeorum mos absurdus sordidusque.

6. Eastward the country is bounded by Arabia; to the south lies Egypt; on the west are Phoenicia and the Mediterranean. Northward it commands an extensive prospect over Syria. The inhabitants are healthy and able to bear fatigue. Rain is uncommon, but the soil is fertile. Its products resemble our own. They have, besides, the balsam-tree and the palm. The palm-groves are tall and graceful. The balsam is a shrub; each branch, as it fills with sap, may be pierced with a fragment of stone or pottery. If steel is employed, the veins shrink up. The sap is used by physicians. Libanus is the principal mountain, and has, strange to say, amidst these burning heats, a summit shaded with trees and never deserted by its snows. The same range supplies and sends forth the stream of the Jordan. This river does not discharge itself into the sea, but flows entire through two lakes, and is lost in the third. This is a lake of vast circumference; it resembles the sea, but is more nauseous in taste; it breeds pestilence among those who live near by its noisome odour; it cannot be moved by the wind, and it affords no home either to fish or water-birds. These strange waters support what is thrown upon them, as on a solid surface, and all persons, whether they can swim or no, are equally buoyed up by the waves. At a certain season of the year the lake throws up bitumen, and the method of collecting it has been taught by that experience which teaches all other arts. It is naturally a fluid of dark colour; when vinegar is sprinkled upon it, it coagulates and floats upon the surface. Those whose business it is take it with the hand, and draw it on to the deck of the boat; it then continues of itself to flow in and lade the vessel till the stream is cut off. Nor can this be done by any instrument of brass or iron. It shrinks from blood or any cloth stained by the menstrua of women. Such is the account of old authors; but those who know the country say that the bitumen moves in heaving masses on the water, that it is drawn by hand to the shore, and that there, when dried by the evaporation of the earth and the power of the sun, it is cut into pieces with axes and wedges just as timber or stone would be.

6. Terra finesque qua ad Orientem vergunt Arabia terminantur, a meridie Aegyptus obiacet, ab occasu Phoenices et mare, septentrionem e latere Syriae longe prospectant. Corpora hominum salubria et ferentia laborum. Rari imbres, uber solum: [exuberant] fruges nostrum ad morem praeterque eas balsamum et palmae. Palmetis proceritas et decor, balsamum modica arbor: ut quisque ramus intumuit, si Vim ferri adhibeas, pavent venae; fragmine lapidis aut testa aperiuntur; umor in usu medentium est. Praecipuum montium Libanum erigit, mirum dictu, tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus; idem amnem Iordanen alit funditque. Nec Iordanes pelago accipitur, sed unum atque alterum lacum integer perfluit, tertio retinetur. Lacus immenso ambitu, specie maris, sapore corruptior, gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, neque vento impellitur neque piscis aut suetas aquis volucris patitur. Inertes undae superiacta ut solido ferunt; periti imperitique nandi perinde attolluntur. Certo anni bitumen egerit, cuius legendi usum, ut ceteras artis, experientia docuit. Ater suapte natura liquor et sparso aceto concretus innatat; hunc manu captum, quibus ea cura, in summa navis trahunt: inde nullo iuvante influit oneratque, donec abscindas. Nec abscindere aere ferrove possis: fugit cruorem vestemque infectam sanguine, quo feminae per mensis exolvuntur. Sic veteres auctores, sed gnari locorum tradunt undantis bitumine moles pelli manuque trahi ad litus, mox, ubi vapore terrae, vi solis inaruerint, securibus cuneisque ut trabes aut saxa discindi.

7. Not far from this lake lies a plain, once fertile, they say, and the site of great cities, but afterwards struck by lightning and consumed. Of this event, they declare, traces still remain, for the soil, which is scorched in appearance, has lost its productive power. Everything that grows spontaneously, as well as what is planted by hand, either when the leaf or flower have been developed, or after maturing in the usual form, becomes black and rotten, and crumbles into a kind of dust. I am ready to allow, on the one hand, that cities, once famous, may have been consumed by fire from heaven, while, on the other, I imagine that the earth is infected by the exhalations of the lake, that the surrounding air is tainted, and that thus the growth of harvest and the fruits of autumn decay under the equally noxious influences of soil and climate. The river Belus also flows into the Jewish sea. About its mouth is a kind of sand which is collected, mixed with nitre, and fused into glass. This shore is of limited extent, but furnishes an inexhaustible supply to the exporter.

7. Haud procul inde campi quos ferunt olim uberes magnisque urbibus habitatos fulminum iactu arsisse; et manere vestigia, terramque ipsam, specie torridam, vim frugiferam perdidisse. Nam cuncta sponte edita aut manu sata, sive herba tenus aut flore seu solitam in speciem adolevere, atra et inania velut in cinerem vanescunt. Ego sicut inclitas quondam urbis igne caelesti flagrasse concesserim, ita halitu lacus infici terram, corrumpi superfusum spiritum, eoque fetus segetum et autumni putrescere reor, solo caeloque iuxta gravi. Et Belius amnis Iudaico mari inlabitur, circa cuius os lectae harenae admixto nitro in vitrum excoquuntur. Modicum id litus et egerentibus inexhaustum.

8. A great part of Judaea consists of scattered villages. They have also towns. Jersualem is the capital. There stood a temple of immense wealth. First came the city with its fortifications, then the royal palace, then, within the innermost defences, the temple itself. Only the Jew might approach the gates; all but priests were forbidden to pass the threshold. While the East was under the sway of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, Jews were the most contemptible of the subject tribes. When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations; for at this time the revolt of Arsaces had taken place. The Macedonian power was now weak, while the Parthian had not yet reached its full strength, and, as the Romans were still far off, the Jews chose kings for themselves. Expelled by the fickle populace, and regaining their throne by force of arms, these princes, while they ventured on the wholesale banishment of their subjects, on the destruction of cities, on the murder of brothers, wives, and parents, and the other usual atrocities of despots, fostered the national superstition by appropriating the dignity of the priesthood as the support of their political power.

8. Magna pars Iudaeae vicis dispergitur, habent et oppida; Hierosolyma genti caput. Illic immensae opulentiae templum, et primis munimentis urbs, dein regia, templum intimis clausum. Ad fores tantum Iudaeo aditus, limine praeter sacerdotes arcebantur. Dum Assyrios penes Medosque et Persas Oriens fuit, despectissima pars servientium: postquam Macedones praepolluere, rex Antiochus demere superstitionem et mores Graecorum dare adnisus, quo minus taeterrimam gentem in melius mutaret, Parthorum bello prohibitus est; nam ea tempestate Arsaces desciverat. Tum Iudaei Macedonibus invalidis, Parthis nondum adultis--et Romani procul erant--, sibi ipsi reges imposuere; qui mobilitate vulgi expulsi, resumpta per arma dominatione fugas civium, urbium eversiones, fratrum coniugum parentum neces aliaque solita regibus ausi superstitionem fovebant, quia honor sacerdotii firmamentum potentiae adsumebatur.

9. Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, the temple was left standing. After these provinces had fallen, in the course of our civil wars, into the hands of Marcus Antonius, Pacorus, king of the Parthians, seized Judaea. He was slain by Publius Ventidius, and the Parthians were driven back over the Euphrates. Caius Sosius reduced the Jews to subjection. The royal power, which had been bestowed by Antony on Herod, was augmented by the victorious Augustus. On Herod's death, one Simon, without waiting for the approbation of the Emperor, usurped the title of king. He was punished by Quintilius Varus then governor of Syria, and the nation, with its liberties curtailed, was divided into three provinces under the sons of Herod. Under Tiberius all was quiet. But when the Jews were ordered by Caligula to set up his statue in the temple, they preferred the alternative of war. The death of the Emperor put an end to the disturbance. The kings were either dead, or reduced to insignificance, when Claudius entrusted the province of Judaea to the Roman Knights or to his own freedmen, one of whom, Antonius Felix, indulging in every kind of barbarity and lust, exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave. He had married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, and so was the grandson-in-law, as Claudius was the grandson, of Antony.

9. Romanorum primus Cn. Pompeius Iudaeos domuit templumque iure victoriae ingressus est: inde vulgatum nulla intus deum effigie vacuam sedem et inania arcana. Muri Hierosolymorum diruti, delubrum mansit. Mox civili inter nos bello, postquam in dicionem M. Antonii provinciae cesserant, rex Parthorum Pacorus Iudaea potitus interfectusque a P. Ventidio, et Parthi trans Euphraten redacti: Iudaeos C. Sosius subegit. Regnum ab Antonio Herodi datum victor Augustus auxit. Post mortem Herodis, nihil expectato Caesare, Simo quidam regium nomen invaserat. Is a Quintilio Varo obtinente Syriam punitus, et gentem coercitam liberi Herodis tripertito rexere. Sub Tiberio quies. Dein iussi a C. Caesare effigiem eius in templo locare arma potius sumpsere, quem motum Caesaris mors diremit. Claudius, defunctis regibus aut ad modicum redactis, Iudaeam provinciam equitibus Romanis aut libertis permisit, e quibus Antonius Felix per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem ius regium servili ingenio exercuit, Drusilla Cleopatrae et Antonii nepte in matrimonium accepta, ut eiusdem Antonii Felix progener, Claudius nepos esset.

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