Wars of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book IV, Chapter 2

The Surrender Of Gischala; While John Flies Away From It To Jerusalem

1. Now no place of Galilee remained to be taken but the small city of Gischala, whose multitude yet were desirous of peace; for they were generally husbandmen, and always applied themselves to cultivate the fruits of the earth. However, there were a great number that belonged to a band of robbers, that were already corrupted, and had crept in among them, and some of the governing part of the citizens were sick of the same distemper. It was John, the son of a certain man whose name was Levi, that drew them into this rebellion, and encouraged them in it. He was a cunning knave, and of a temper that could put on various shapes; very rash in expecting great things, and very sagacious in bringing about what he hoped for. It was known to every body that he was fond of war, in order to thrust himself into authority; and the seditious part of the people of Gischala were under his management, by whose means the populace, who seemed ready to send ambassadors in order to a surrender, waited for the coming of the Romans in battle-array. Vespasian sent against them Titus, with a thousand horsemen, but withdrew the tenth legion to Scythopolis, while he returned to Cesarea with the two other legions, that he might allow them to refresh themselves after their long and hard campaign, thinking withal that the plenty which was in those cities would improve their bodies and their spirits, against the difficulties they were to go through afterwards; for he saw there would be occasion for great pains about Jerusalem, which was not yet taken, because it was the royal city, and the principal city of the whole nation, and because those that had run away from the war in other places got all together thither. It was also naturally strong, and the walls that were built round it made him not a little concerned about it. Moreover, he esteemed the men that were in it to be so courageous and bold, that even without the consideration of the walls, it would be hard to subdue them; for which reason he took care of and exercised his soldiers beforehand for the work, as they do wrestlers before they begin their undertaking.

2. Now Titus, as he rode ut to Gischala, found it would be easy for him to take the city upon the first onset; but knew withal, that if he took it by force, the multitude would be destroyed by the soldiers without mercy. (Now he was already satiated with the shedding of blood, and pitied the major part, who would then perish, without distinction, together with the guilty.) So he was rather desirous the city might be surrendered up to him on terms. Accordingly, when he saw the wall full of those men that were of the corrupted party, he said to them, That he could not but wonder what it was they depended on, when they alone staid to fight the Romans, after every other city was taken by them, especially when they have seen cities much better fortified than theirs is overthrown by a single attack upon them; while as many as have intrusted themselves to the security of the Romans' right hands, which he now offers to them, without regarding their former insolence, do enjoy their own possessions in safety; for that while they had hopes of recovering their liberty, they might be pardoned; but that their continuance still in their opposition, when they saw that to be impossible, was inexcusable; for that if they will not comply with such humane offers, and right hands for security, they should have experience of such a war as would spare nobody, and should soon be made sensible that their wall would be but a trifle, when battered by the Roman machines; in depending on which they demonstrate themselves to be the only Galileans that were no better than arrogant slaves and captives.

3. Now none of the populace durst not only make a reply, but durst not so much as get upon the wall, for it was all taken up by the robbers, who were also the guard at the gates, in order to prevent any of the rest from going out, in order to propose terms of submission, and from receiving any of the horsemen into the city. But John returned Titus this answer: That for himself he was content to hearken to his proposals, and that he would either persuade or force those that refused them. Yet he said that Titus ought to have such regard to the Jewish law, as to grant them leave to celebrate that day, which was the seventh day of the week, on which it was unlawful not only to remove their arms, but even to treat of peace also; and that even the Romans were not ignorant how the period of the seventh day was among them a cessation from all labors; and that he who should compel them to transgress the law about that day would be equally guilty with those that were compelled to transgress it: and that this delay could be of no disadvantage to him; for why should any body think of doing any thing in the night, unless it was to fly away? which he might prevent by placing his camp round about them; and that they should think it a great point gained, if they might not be obliged to transgress the laws of their country; and that it would be a right thing for him, who designed to grant them peace, without their expectation of such a favor, to preserve the laws of those they saved inviolable. Thus did this man put a trick upon Titus, not so much out of regard to the seventh day as to his own preservation, for he was afraid lest he should be quite deserted if the city should be taken, and had his hopes of life in that night, and in his flight therein. Now this was the work of God, who therefore preserved this John, that he might bring on the destruction of Jerusalem; as also it was his work that Titus was prevailed with by this pretense for a delay, and that he pitched his camp further off the city at Cydessa. This Cydessa was a strong Mediterranean village of the Tyrians, which always hated and made war against the Jews; it had also a great number of inhabitants, and was well fortified, which made it a proper place for such as were enemies to the Jewish nation.

4. Now, in the night time, when John saw that there was no Roman guard about the city, he seized the opportunity directly, and, taking with him not only the armed men that where about him, but a considerable number of those that had little to do, together with their families, he fled to Jerusalem. And indeed, though the man was making haste to get away, and was tormented with fears of being a captive, or of losing his life, yet did he prevail with himself to take out of the city along with him a multitude of women and children, as far as twenty furlongs; but there he left them as he proceeded further on his journey, where those that were left behind made sad lamentations; for the farther every one of them was come from his own people, the nearer they thought themselves to be to their enemies. They also affrighted themselves with this thought, that those who would carry them into captivity were just at hand, and still turned themselves back at the mere noise they made themselves in this their hasty flight, as if those from whom they fled were just upon them. Many also of them missed their ways, and the earnestness of such as aimed to outgo the rest threw down many of them. And indeed there was a miserable destruction made of the women and children; while some of them took courage to call their husbands and kinsmen back, and to beseech them, with the bitterest lamentations, to stay for them; but John's exhortation, who cried out to them to save themselves, and fly away, prevailed. He said also, that if the Romans should seize upon those whom they left behind, they would be revenged on them for it. So this multitude that run thus away was dispersed abroad, according as each of them was able to run, one faster or slower than another.

5. Now on the next day Titus came to the wall, to make the agreement; whereupon the people opened their gates to him, and came out to him, with their children and wives, and made acclamations of joy to him, as to one that had been their benefactor, and had delivered the city out of custody; they also informed him of John's flight, and besought him to spare them, and to come in, and bring the rest of those that were for innovations to punishment. But Titus, not so much regarding the supplications of the people, sent part of his horsemen to pursue after John, but they could not overtake him, for he was gotten to Jerusalem before; they also slew six thousand of the women and children who went out with him, but returned back, and brought with them almost three thousand. However, Titus was greatly displeased that he had not been able to bring this John, who had deluded him, to punishment; yet he had captives enough, as well as the corrupted part of the city, to satisfy his anger, when it missed of John. So he entered the city in the midst of acclamations of joy; and when he had given orders to the soldiers to pull down a small part of the wall, as of a city taken in war, he repressed those that had disturbed the city rather by threatenings than by executions; for he thought that many would accuse innocent persons, out of their own private animosities and quarrels, if he should attempt to distinguish those that were worthy of punishment from the rest; and that it was better to let a guilty person alone in his fears, that to destroy with him any one that did not deserve it; for that probably such a one might be taught prudence, by the fear of the punishment he had deserved, and have a shame upon him for his former offenses, when he had been forgiven; but that the punishment of such as have been once put to death could never be retrieved. However, he placed a garrison in the city for its security, by which means he should restrain those that were for innovations, and should leave those that were peaceably disposed in greater security. And thus was all Galilee taken, but this not till after it had cost the Romans much pains before it could be taken by them.

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