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Antiquities of the Jews, Vol 3, The

CHAPTER 8. How Ten Men Of The Citizens [Of Jerusalem] Made A Conspiracy Against Herod, For The Foreign Practices He Had Introduced, Which Was A Transgression Of The Laws Of Their Country. Concerning The Building Of Sebaste And Cesarea, And Other Edifices Of Herod.

1. On this account it was that Herod revolted from the laws of his country, and corrupted their ancient constitution, by the introduction of foreign practices, which constitution yet ought to have been preserved inviolable; by which means we became guilty of great wickedness afterward, while those religious observances which used to lead the multitude to piety were now neglected; for, in the first place, he appointed solemn games to be celebrated every fifth year, in honor of Caesar, and built a theater at Jerusalem, as also a very great amphitheater in the plain. Both of them were indeed costly works, but opposite to the Jewish customs; for we have had no such shows delivered down to us as fit to be used or exhibited by us; yet did he celebrate these games every five years, in the most solemn and splendid manner. He also made proclamation to the neighboring countries, and called men together out of every nation. The wrestlers also, and the rest of those that strove for the prizes in such games, were invited out of every land, both by the hopes of the rewards there to be bestowed, and by the glory of victory to be there gained. So the principal persons that were the most eminent in these sorts of exercises were gotten together, for there were very great rewards for victory proposed, not only to those that performed their exercises naked, but to those that played the musicians also, and were called Thymelici; and he spared no pains to induce all persons, the most famous for such exercises, to come to this contest for victory. He also proposed no small rewards to those who ran for the prizes in chariot races, when they were drawn by two, or three, or four pair of horses. He also imitated every thing, though never so costly or magnificent, in other nations, out of an ambition that he might give most public demonstration of his grandeur. Inscriptions also of the great actions of Caesar, and trophies of those nations which he had conquered in his wars, and all made of the purest gold and silver, encompassed the theater itself; nor was there any thing that could be subservient to his design, whether it were precious garments, or precious stones set in order, which was not also exposed to sight in these games. He had also made a great preparation of wild beasts, and of lions themselves in great abundance, and of such other beasts as were either of uncommon strength, or of such a sort as were rarely seen. These were prepared either to fight with one another, or that men who were condemned to death were to fight with them. And truly foreigners were greatly surprised and delighted at the vastness of the expenses here exhibited, and at the great dangers that were here seen; but to natural Jews, this was no better than a dissolution of those customs for which they had so great a veneration. 13 It appeared also no better than an instance of barefaced impiety, to throw men to wild beasts, for the affording delight to the spectators; and it appeared an instance of no less impiety, to change their own laws for such foreign exercises: but, above all the rest, the trophies gave most distaste to the Jews; for as they imagined them to be images, included within the armor that hung round about them, they were sorely displeased at them, because it was not the custom of their country to pay honors to such images.

2. Nor was Herod unacquainted with the disturbance they were under; and as he thought it unseasonable to use violence with them, so he spake to some of them by way of consolation, and in order to free them from that superstitious fear they were under; yet could not he satisfy them, but they cried out with one accord, out of their great uneasiness at the offenses they thought he had been guilty of, that although they should think of bearing all the rest yet would they never bear images of men in their city, meaning the trophies, because this was disagreeable to the laws of their country. Now when Herod saw them in such a disorder, and that they would not easily change their resolution unless they received satisfaction in this point, he called to him the most eminent men among them, and brought them upon the theater, and showed them the trophies, and asked them what sort of things they took these trophies to be; and when they cried out that they were the images of men, he gave order that they should be stripped of these outward ornaments which were about them, and showed them the naked pieces of wood; which pieces of wood, now without any ornament, became matter of great sport and laughter to them, because they had before always had the ornaments of images themselves in derision.

3. When therefore Herod had thus got clear of the multitude, and had dissipated the vehemency of passion under which they had been, the greatest part of the people were disposed to change their conduct, and not to be displeased at him any longer; but still some of them continued in their displeasure against him, for his introduction of new customs, and esteemed the violation of the laws of their country as likely to be the origin of very great mischiefs to them, so that they deemed it an instance of piety rather to hazard themselves [to be put to death], than to seem as if they took no notice of Herod, who, upon the change he had made in their government, introduced such customs, and that in a violent manner, which they had never been used to before, as indeed in pretense a king, but in reality one that showed himself an enemy to their whole nation; on which account ten men that were citizens [of Jerusalem] conspired together against him, and sware to one another to undergo any dangers in the attempt, and took daggers with them under their garments [for the purpose of killing Herod]. Now there was a certain blind man among those conspirators who had thus sworn to one another, on account of the indignation he had against what he heard to have been done; he was not indeed able to afford the rest any assistance in the undertaking, but was ready to undergo any suffering with them, if so be they should come to any harm, insomuch that he became a very great encourager of the rest of the undertakers.

4. When they had taken this resolution, and that by common consent, they went into the theater, hoping that, in the first place, Herod himself could not escape them, as they should fall upon him so unexpectedly; and supposing, however, that if they missed him, they should kill a great many of those that were about him; and this resolution they took, though they should die for it, in order to suggest to the king what injuries he had done to the multitude. These conspirators, therefore, standing thus prepared beforehand, went about their design with great alacrity; but there was one of those spies of Herod, that were appointed for such purposes, to fish out and inform him of any conspiracies that should be made against him, who found out the whole affair, and told the king of it, as he was about to go into the theater. So when he reflected on the hatred which he knew the greatest part of the people bore him, and on the disturbances that arose upon every occasion, he thought this plot against him not to be improbable. Accordingly, he retired into his palace, and called those that were accused of this conspiracy before him by their several names; and as, upon the guards falling upon them, they were caught in the very fact, and knew they could not escape, they prepared themselves for their ends with all the decency they could, and so as not at all to recede from their resolute behavior, for they showed no shame for what they were about, nor denied it; but when they were seized, they showed their daggers, and professed that the conspiracy they had sworn to was a holy and pious action; that what they intended to do was not for gain, or out of any indulgence to their passions, but principally for those common customs of their country, which all the Jews were obliged to observe, or to die for them. This was what these men said, out of their undaunted courage in this conspiracy. So they were led away to execution by the king's guards that stood about them, and patiently underwent all the torments inflicted on them till they died. Nor was it long before that spy who had discovered them was seized on by some of the people, out of the hatred they bore to him; and was not only slain by them, but pulled to pieces, limb from limb, and given to the dogs. This execution was seen by many of the citizens, yet would not one of them discover the doers of it, till upon Herod's making a strict scrutiny after them, by bitter and severe tortures, certain women that were tortured confessed what they had seen done; the authors of which fact were so terribly punished by the king, that their entire families were destroyed for this their rash attempt; yet did not the obstinacy of the people, and that undaunted constancy they showed in the defense of their laws, make Herod any easier to them, but he still strengthened himself after a more secure manner, and resolved to encompass the multitude every way, lest such innovations should end in an open rebellion.

5. Since, therefore, he had now the city fortified by the palace in which he lived, and by the temple which had a strong fortress by it, called Antonia, and was rebuilt by himself, he contrived to make Samaria a fortress for himself also against all the people, and called it Sebaste, supposing that this place would be a strong hold against the country, not inferior to the former. So he fortified that place, which was a day's journey distant from Jerusalem, and which would be useful to him in common, to keep both the country and the city in awe. He also built another fortress for the whole nation; it was of old called Strato's Tower, but was by him named Cesarea. Moreover, he chose out some select horsemen, and placed them ill the great plain; and built [for them] a place in Galilee, called Gaba with Hesebonitis, in Perea. And these were the places which he particularly built, while he always was inventing somewhat further for his own security, and encompassing the whole nation with guards, that they might by no means get from under his power, nor fall into tumults, which they did continually upon any small commotion; and that if they did make any commotions, he might know of it, while some of his spies might be upon them from the neighborhood, and might both be able to know what they were attempting, and to prevent it. And when he went about building the wall of Samaria, he contrived to bring thither many of those that had been assisting to him in his wars, and many of the people in that neighborhood also, whom he made fellow citizens with the rest. This he did out of an ambitious desire of building a temple, and out of a desire to make the city more eminent than it had been before; but principally because he contrived that it might at once be for his own security, and a monument of his magnificence. He also changed its name, and called it Sebaste. Moreover, he parted the adjoining country, which was excellent in its kind, among the inhabitants of Samaria, that they might be in a happy condition, upon their first coming to inhabit. Besides all which, he encompassed the city with a wall of great strength, and made use of the acclivity of the place for making its fortifications stronger; nor was the compass of the place made now so small as it had been before, but was such as rendered it not inferior to the most famous cities; for it was twenty furlongs in circumference. Now within, and about the middle of it, he built a sacred place, of a furlong and a half [in circuit], and adorned it with all sorts of decorations, and therein erected a temple, which was illustrious on account of both its largeness and beauty. And as to the several parts of the city, he adorned them with decorations of all sorts also; and as to what was necessary to provide for his own security, he made the walls very strong for that purpose, and made it for the greatest part a citadel; and as to the elegance of the building, it was taken care of also, that he might leave monuments of the fineness of his taste, and of his beneficence, to future ages.

CHAPTER 9. Concerning The Famine That Happened In Judea And Syria; And How Herod, After He Had Married Another Wife, Rebuilt Cesarea, And Other Grecian Cities.

1. Now on this very year, which was the thirteenth year of the reign of Herod, very great calamities came upon the country; whether they were derived from the anger of God, or whether this misery returns again naturally in certain periods of time 14 for, in the first place, there were perpetual droughts, and for that reason the ground was barren, and did not bring forth the same quantity of fruits that it used to produce; and after this barrenness of the soil, that change of food which the want of corn occasioned produced distempers in the bodies of men, and a pestilential disease prevailed, one misery following upon the back of another; and these circumstances, that they were destitute both of methods of cure and of food, made the pestilential distemper, which began after a violent manner, the more lasting. The destruction of men also after such a manner deprived those that survived of all their courage, because they had no way to provide remedies sufficient for the distresses they were in. When therefore the fruits of that year were spoiled, and whatsoever they had laid up beforehand was spent, there was no foundation of hope for relief remaining, but the misery, contrary to what they expected still increased upon them; and this not only on that year, while they had nothing for themselves left [at the end of it], but what seed they had sown perished also, by reason of the ground not yielding its fruits on the second year. 15 This distress they were in made them also, out of necessity, to eat many things that did not use to be eaten; nor was the king himself free from this distress any more than other men, as being deprived of that tribute he used to have from the fruits of the ground, and having already expended what money he had, in his liberality to those whose cities he had built; nor had he any people that were worthy of his assistance, since this miserable state of things had procured him the hatred of his subjects: for it is a constant rule, that misfortunes are still laid to the account of those that govern.

2. In these circumstances he considered with himself how to procure some seasonable help; but this was a hard thing to be done, while their neighbors had no food to sell them; and their money also was gone, had it been possible to purchase a little food at a great price. However, he thought it his best way, by all means, not to leave off his endeavors to assist his people; so he cut off the rich furniture that was in his palace, both of silver and gold, insomuch that he did not spare the finest vessels he had, or those that were made with the most elaborate skill of the artificers, but sent the money to Petronius, who had been made prefect of Egypt by Caesar; and as not a few had already fled to him under their necessities, and as he was particularly a friend to Herod, and desirous to have his subjects preserved, he gave leave to them in the first place to export corn, and assisted them every way, both in purchasing and exporting the same; so that he was the principal, if not the only person, who afforded them what help they had. And Herod taking care the people should understand that this help came from himself, did thereby not only remove the ill opinion of those that formerly hated him, but gave them the greatest demonstration possible of his good-will to them, and care of them; for, in the first place, as for those who were able to provide their own food, he distributed to them their proportion of corn in the exactest manner; but for those many that were not able, either by reason of their old age, or any other infirmity, to provide food for themselves, he made this provision for them, the bakers should make their bread ready for them. He also took care that they might not be hurt by the dangers of winter, since they were in great want of clothing also, by reason of the utter destruction and consumption of their sheep and goats, till they had no wool to make use of, nor any thing else to cover themselves withal. And when he had procured these things for his own subjects, he went further, in order to provide necessaries for their neighbors, and gave seed to the Syrians, which thing turned greatly to his own advantage also, this charitable assistance being afforded most seasonably to their fruitful soil, so that every one had now a plentiful provision of food. Upon the whole, when the harvest of the land was approaching, he sent no fewer than fifty thousand men, whom he had sustained, into the country; by which means he both repaired the afflicted condition of his own kingdom with great generosity and diligence, and lightened the afflictions of his neighbors, who were under the same calamities; for there was nobody who had been in want that was left destitute of a suitable assistance by him; nay, further, there were neither any people, nor any cities, nor any private men, who were to make provision for the multitudes, and on that account were in want of support, and had recourse to him, but received what they stood in need of, insomuch that it appeared, upon a computation, that the number of cori of wheat, of ten attic medimni apiece, that were given to foreigners, amounted to ten thousand, and the number that was given in his own kingdom was about fourscore thousand. Now it happened that this care of his, and this seasonable benefaction, had such influence on the Jews, and was so cried up among other nations, as to wipe off that old hatred which his violation of some of their customs, during his reign, had procured him among all the nation, and that this liberality of his assistance in this their greatest necessity was full satisfaction for all that he had done of that nature, as it also procured him great fame among foreigners; and it looked as if these calamities that afflicted his land, to a degree plainly incredible, came in order to raise his glory, and to be to his great advantage; for the greatness of his liberality in these distresses, which he now demonstrated beyond all expectation, did so change the disposition of the multitude towards him, that they were ready to suppose he had been from the beginning not such a one as they had found him to be by experience, but such a one as the care he had taken of them in supplying their necessities proved him now to be.

3. About this time it was that he sent five hundred chosen men out of the guards of his body as auxiliaries to Caesar, whom Aelius Gallus 16 led to the Red Sea, and who were of great service to him there. When therefore his affairs were thus improved, and were again in a flourishing condition, he built himself a palace in the upper city, raising the rooms to a very great height, and adorning them with the most costly furniture of gold, and marble scats, and beds; and these were so large that they could contain very many companies of men. These apartments were also of distinct magnitudes, and had particular names given them; for one apartment was called Caesar's, another Agrippa's. He also fell in love again, and married another wife, not suffering his reason to hinder him from living as he pleased. The occasion of this his marriage was as follows: There was one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there; this man had a daughter, who was esteemed the most beautiful woman of that time; and when the people of Jerusalem began to speak much in her commendation, it happened that Herod was much affected with what was said of her; and when he saw the damsel, he was smitten with her beauty, yet did he entirely reject the thoughts of using his authority to abuse her, as believing, what was the truth, that by so doing he should be stigmatized for violence and tyranny; so he thought it best to take the damsel to wife. And while Simon was of a dignity too inferior to be allied to him, but still too considerable to be despised, he governed his inclinations after the most prudent manner, by augmenting the dignity of the family, and making them more honorable; so he immediately deprived Jesus, the son of Phabet, of the high priesthood, and conferred that dignity on Simon, and so joined in affinity with him [by marrying his daughter].

4. When this wedding was over, he built another citadel in that place where he had conquered file Jews when he was driven out of his government, and Antigonus enjoyed it. This citadel is distant from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. It was strong by nature, and fit for such a building. It is a sort of a moderate hill, raised to a further height by the hand of man, till it was of the shape of a woman's breast. It is encompassed with circular towers, and hath a strait ascent up to it, which ascent is composed of steps of polished stones, in number two hundred. Within it are royal and very rich apartments, of a structure that provided both for security and for beauty. About the bottom there are habitations of such a structure as are well worth seeing, both on other accounts, and also on account of the water which is brought thither from a great way off, and at vast expenses, for the place itself is destitute of water. The plain that is about this citadel is full of edifices, not inferior to any city in largeness, and having the hill above it in the nature of a castle.

5. And now, when all Herod's designs had succeeded according to his hopes, he had not the least suspicion that any troubles could arise in his kingdom, because he kept his people obedient, as well by the fear they stood in of him, for he was implacable in the infliction of his punishments, as by the provident care he had showed towards them, after the most magnanimous manner, when they were under their distresses. But still he took care to have external security for his government as a fortress against his subjects; for the orations he made to the cities were very fine, and full of kindness; and he cultivated a seasonable good understanding with their governors, and bestowed presents on every one of them, inducing them thereby to be more friendly to him, and using his magnificent disposition so as his kingdom might be the better secured to him, and this till all his affairs were every way more and more augmented. But then this magnificent temper of his, and that submissive behavior and liberality which he exercised towards Caesar, and the most powerful men of Rome, obliged him to transgress the customs of his nation, and to set aside many of their laws, and by building cities after an extravagant manner, and erecting temples,—not in Judea indeed, for that would not have been borne, it being forbidden for us to pay any honor to images, or representations of animals, after the manner of the Greeks; but still he did thus in the country [properly] out of our bounds, and in the cities thereof 17 The apology which he made to the Jews for these things was this: That all was done, not out of his own inclinations, but by the commands and injunctions of others, in order to please Caesar and the Romans, as though he had not the Jewish customs so much in his eye as he had the honor of those Romans, while yet he had himself entirely in view all the while, and indeed was very ambitious to leave great monuments of his government to posterity; whence it was that he was so zealous in building such fine cities, and spent such vast sums of money upon them.

6. Now upon his observation of a place near the sea, which was very proper for containing a city, and was before called Strato's Tower, he set about getting a plan for a magnificent city there, and erected many edifices with great diligence all over it, and this of white stone. He also adorned it with most sumptuous palaces and large edifices for containing the people; and what was the greatest and most laborious work of all, he adorned it with a haven, that was always free from the waves of the sea. Its largeness was not less than the Pyrmum [at Athens], and had towards the city a double station for the ships. It was of excellent workmanship; and this was the more remarkable for its being built in a place that of itself was not suitable to such noble structures, but was to be brought to perfection by materials from other places, and at very great expenses. This city is situate in Phoenicia, in the passage by sea to Egypt, between Joppa and Dora, which are lesser maritime cities, and not fit for havens, on account of the impetuous south winds that beat upon them, which rolling the sands that come from the sea against the shores, do not admit of ships lying in their station; but the merchants are generally there forced to ride at their anchors in the sea itself. So Herod endeavored to rectify this inconvenience, and laid out such a compass towards the land as might be sufficient for a haven, wherein the great ships might lie in safety; and this he effected by letting down vast stones of above fifty feet in length, not less than eighteen in breadth, and nine in depth, into twenty fathom deep; and as some were lesser, so were others bigger than those dimensions. This mole which he built by the sea-side was two hundred feet wide, the half of which was opposed to the current of the waves, so as to keep off those waves which were to break upon them, and so was called Procymatia, or the first breaker of the waves; but the other half had upon it a wall, with several towers, the largest of which was named Drusus, and was a work of very great excellence, and had its name from Drusus, the son-in-law of Caesar, who died young. There were also a great number of arches where the mariners dwelt. There was also before them a quay, [or landing place,] which ran round the entire haven, and was a most agreeable walk to such as had a mind to that exercise; but the entrance or mouth of the port was made on the north quarter, on which side was the stillest of the winds of all in this place: and the basis of the whole circuit on the left hand, as you enter the port, supported a round turret, which was made very strong, in order to resist the greatest waves; while on the right hand, as you enter, stood two vast stones, and those each of them larger than the turret, which were over against them; these stood upright, and were joined together. Now there were edifices all along the circular haven, made of the politest stone, with a certain elevation, whereon was erected a temple, that was seen a great way off by those that were sailing for that haven, and had in it two statues, the one of Rome, the other of Caesar. The city itself was called Cesarea, which was also itself built of fine materials, and was of a fine structure; nay, the very subterranean vaults and cellars had no less of architecture bestowed on them than had the buildings above ground. Some of these vaults carried things at even distances to the haven and to the sea; but one of them ran obliquely, and bound all the rest together, that both the rain and the filth of the citizens were together carried off with ease, and the sea itself, upon the flux of the tide from without, came into the city, and washed it all clean. Herod also built therein a theater of stone; and on the south quarter, behind the port, an amphitheater also, capable of holding a vast number of men, and conveniently situated for a prospect to the sea. So this city was thus finished in twelve years; 18 during which time the king did not fail to go on both with the work, and to pay the charges that were necessary.


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