Wars of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book VII, Chapter 3

How Titus Upon The Celebration Of His Brothers And Fathers Birthdays Had Many Of The Jews Slain. Concerning The Danger The Jews Were In At Antioch, By Means Of The Transgression And Impiety Of One Antiochus, A Jew

1. While Titus was at Cesarea, he solemnized the birthday of his brother Domitian] after a splendid manner, and inflicted a great deal of the punishment intended for the Jews in honor of him; for the number of those that were now slain in fighting with the beasts, and were burnt, and fought with one another, exceeded two thousand five hundred. Yet did all this seem to the Romans, when they were thus destroyed ten thousand several ways, to be a punishment beneath their deserts. After this Caesar came to Berytus, (4) which is a city of Phoenicia, and a Roman colony, and staid there a longer time, and exhibited a still more pompous solemnity about his father's birthday, both in the magnificence of the shows, and in the other vast expenses he was at in his devices thereto belonging; so that a great multitude of the captives were here destroyed after the same manner as before.

2. It happened also about this time, that the Jews who remained at Antioch were under accusations, and in danger of perishing, from the disturbances that were raised against them by the Antiochians; and this both on account of the slanders spread abroad at this time against them, and on account of what pranks they had played not long before; which I am obliged to describe without fail, though briefly, that I may the better connect my narration of future actions with those that went before.

3. For as the Jewish nation is widely dispersed over all the habitable earth among its inhabitants, so it is very much intermingled with Syria by reason of its neighborhood, and had the greatest multitudes in Antioch by reason of the largeness of the city, wherein the kings, after Antiochus, had afforded them a habitation with the most undisturbed tranquillity; for though Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, laid Jerusalem waste, and spoiled the temple, yet did those that succeeded him in the kingdom restore all the donations that were made of brass to the Jews of Antioch, and dedicated them to their synagogue, and granted them the enjoyment of equal privileges of citizens with the Greeks themselves; and as the succeeding kings treated them after the same manner, they both multiplied to a great number, and adorned their temple gloriously by fine ornaments, and with great magnificence, in the use of what had been given them. They also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually, and thereby after a sort brought them to be a portion of their own body. But about this time when the present war began, and Vespasian was newly sailed to Syria, and all men had taken up a great hatred against the Jews, then it was that a certain person, whose name was Antiochus, being one of the Jewish nation, and greatly respected on account of his father, who was governor of the Jews at Antioch (5) came upon the theater at a time when the people of Antioch were assembled together, and became an informer against his father, and accused both him and others that they had resolved to burn the whole city in one night; he also delivered up to them some Jews that were foreigners, as partners in their resolutions. When the people heard this, they could not refrain their passion, but commanded that those who were delivered up to them should have fire brought to burn them, who were accordingly all burnt upon the theater immediately. They did also fall violently upon the multitude of the Jews, as supposing that by punishing them suddenly they should save their own city. As for Antiochus, he aggravated the rage they were in, and thought to give them a demonstration of his own conversion, arm of his hatred of the Jewish customs, by sacrificing after the manner of the Greeks; he persuaded the rest also to compel them to do the same, because they would by that means discover who they were that had plotted against them, since they would not do so; and when the people of Antioch tried the experiment, some few complied, but those that would not do so were slain. As for Ailtiochus himself, he obtained soldiers from the Roman commander, and became a severe master over his own citizens, not permitting them to rest on the seventh day, but forcing them to do all that they usually did on other days; and to that degree of distress did he reduce them in this matter, that the rest of the seventh day was dissolved not only at Antioch, but the same thing which took thence its rise was done in other cities also, in like manner, for some small time.

4. Now, after these misfortunes had happened to the Jews at Antioch, a second calamity befell them, the description of which when we were going about we premised the account foregoing; for upon this accident, whereby the four-square market-place was burnt down, as well as the archives, and the place where the public records were preserved, and the royal palaces, (and it was not without difficulty that the fire was then put a stop to, which was likely, by the fury wherewith it was carried along, to have gone over the whole city,) Antiochus accused the Jews as the occasion of all the mischief that was done. Now this induced the people of Antioch, who were now under the immediate persuasion, by reason of the disorder they were in, that this calumny was true, and would have been under the same persuasion, even though they had not borne an ill-will at the Jews before, to believe this man's accusation, especially when they considered what had been done before, and this to such a degree, that they all fell violently upon those that were accused, and this, like madmen, in a very furious rage also, even as if they had seen the Jews in a manner setting fire themselves to the city; nor was it without difficulty that one Cneius Collegas, the legate, could prevail with them to permit the affairs to be laid before Caesar; for as to Cesennius Petus, the president of Syria, Vespasian had already sent him away; and so it happened that he was not yet come back thither. But when Collegas had made a careful inquiry into the matter, he found out the truth, and that not one of those Jews that were accused by Antiochus had any hand in it, but that all was done by some vile persons greatly in debt, who supposed that if they could once set fire to the market-place, and burn the public records, they should have no further demands made upon them. So the Jews were under great disorder and terror, in the uncertain expectations of what would be the upshot of these accusations against them.

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