Wars of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book I, Chapter 16

Herod Takes Sepphoris And Subdues The Robbers That Were In The Caves; He After That Avenges Himself Upon Macheras, As Upon An Enemy Of His And Goes To Antony As He Was Besieging Samosata

1. So the Romans lived in plenty of all things, and rested from war. However, Herod did not lie at rest, but seized upon Idumea, and kept it, with two thousand footmen, and four hundred horsemen; and this he did by sending his brother Joseph thither, that no innovation might be made by Antigonus. He also removed his mother, and all his relations, who had been in Masada, to Samaria; and when he had settled them securely, he marched to take the remaining parts of Galilee, and to drive away the garrisons placed there by Antigonus.

2. But when Herod had reached Sepphoris, (23) in a very great snow, he took the city without any difficulty; the guards that should have kept it flying away before it was assaulted; where he gave an opportunity to his followers that had been in distress to refresh themselves, there being in that city a great abundance of necessaries. After which he hasted away to the robbers that were in the caves, who overran a great part of the country, and did as great mischief to its inhabitants as a war itself could have done. Accordingly, he sent beforehand three cohorts of footmen, and one troop of horsemen, to the village Arbela, and came himself forty days afterwards (24) with the rest of his forces Yet were not the enemy aftrighted at his assault but met him in arms; for their skill was that of warriors, but their boldness was the boldness of robbers: when therefore it came to a pitched battle, they put to flight Herod's left wing with their right one; but Herod, wheeling about on the sudden from his own right wing, came to their assistance, and both made his own left wing return back from its flight, and fell upon the pursuers, and cooled their courage, till they could not bear the attempts that were made directly upon them, and so turned back and ran away.

3. But Herod followed them, and slew them as he followed them, and destroyed a great part of them, till those that remained were scattered beyond the river [Jordan;] and Galilee was freed from the terrors they had been under, excepting from those that remained, and lay concealed in caves, which required longer time ere they could be conquered. In order to which Herod, in the first place, distributed the fruits of their former labors to the soldiers, and gave every one of them a hundred and fifty drachmae of silver, and a great deal more to their commanders, and sent them into their winter quarters. He also sent to his youngest brother Pheroas, to take care of a good market for them, where they might buy themselves provisions, and to build a wall about Alexandrium; who took care of both those injunctions accordingly.

4. In the mean time Antony abode at Athens, while Ventidius called for Silo and Herod to come to the war against the Parthians, but ordered them first to settle the affairs of Judea; so Herod willingly dismissed Silo to go to Ventidius, but he made an expedition himself against those that lay in the caves. Now these caves were in the precipices of craggy mountains, and could not be come at from any side, since they had only some winding pathways, very narrow, by which they got up to them; but the rock that lay on their front had beneath it valleys of a vast depth, and of an almost perpendicular declivity; insomuch that the king was doubtful for a long time what to do, by reason of a kind of impossibility there was of attacking the place. Yet did he at length make use of a contrivance that was subject to the utmost hazard; for he let down the most hardy of his men in chests, and set them at the mouths of the dens. Now these men slew the robbers and their families, and when they made resistance, they sent in fire upon them [and burnt them]; and as Herod was desirous of saving some of them, he had proclamation made, that they should come and deliver themselves up to him; but not one of them came willingly to him; and of those that were compelled to come, many preferred death to captivity. And here a certain old man, the father of seven children, whose children, together with their mother, desired him to give them leave to go out, upon the assurance and right hand that was offered them, slew them after the following manner: He ordered every one of them to go out, while he stood himself at the cave's mouth, and slew that son of his perpetually who went out. Herod was near enough to see this sight, and his bowels of compassion were moved at it, and he stretched out his right hand to the old man, and besought him to spare his children; yet did not he relent at all upon what he said, but over and above reproached Herod on the lowness of his descent, and slew his wife as well as his children; and when he had thrown their dead bodies down the precipice, he at last threw himself down after them.

5. By this means Herod subdued these caves, and the robbers that were in them. He then left there a part of his army, as many as he thought sufficient to prevent any sedition, and made Ptolemy their general, and returned to Samaria; he led also with him three thousand armed footmen, and six hundred horsemen, against Antigonus. Now here those that used to raise tumults in Galilee, having liberty so to do upon his departure, fell unexpectedly upon Ptolemy, the general of his forces, and slew him; they also laid the country waste, and then retired to the bogs, and to places not easily to be found. But when Herod was informed of this insurrection, he came to the assistance of the country immediately, and destroyed a great number of the seditions, and raised the sieges of all those fortresses they had besieged; he also exacted the tribute of a hundred talents of his enemies, as a penalty for the mutations they had made in the country.

6. By this time (the Parthians being already driven out of the country, and Pacorus slain) Ventidius, by Antony's command, sent a thousand horsemen, and two legions, as auxiliaries to Herod, against Antigonus. Now Antigonus besought Macheras, who was their general, by letter, to come to his assistance, and made a great many mournful complaints about Herod's violence, and about the injuries he did to the kingdom; and promised to give him money for such his assistance; but he complied not with his invitation to betray his trust, for he did not contemn him that sent him, especially while Herod gave him more money [than the other offered]. So he pretended friendship to Antigonus, but came as a spy to discover his affairs; although he did not herein comply with Herod, who dissuaded him from so doing. But Antigonus perceived what his intentions were beforehand, and excluded him out of the city, and defended himself against him as against an enemy, from the walls; till Macheras was ashamed of what he had done, and retired to Emmaus to Herod; and as he was in a rage at his disappointment, he slew all the Jews whom he met with, without sparing those that were for Herod, but using them all as if they were for Antigonus.

7. Hereupon Herod was very angry at him, and was going to fight against Macheras as his enemy; but he restrained his indignation, and marched to Antony to accuse Macheras of maladministration. But Macheras was made sensible of his offenses, and followed after the king immediately, and earnestly begged and obtained that he would be reconciled to him. However, Herod did not desist from his resolution of going to Antony; but when he heard that he was besieging Samosata (25) with a great army, which is a strong city near to Euphrates, he made the greater haste; as observing that this was a proper opportunity for showing at once his courage, and for doing what would greatly oblige Antony. Indeed, when he came, he soon made an end of that siege, and slew a great number of the barbarians, and took from them a large prey; insomuch that Antony, who admired his courage formerly, did now admire it still more. Accordingly, he heaped many more honors upon him, and gave him more assured hopes that he should gain his kingdom; and now king Antiochus was forced to deliver up Samosata.

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Matt Curtin
Last modified: Wed Apr 26 20:14:16 EDT 1998