In all history, there is no drama of more terrible interest than that which terminated with the total destruction of Jerusalem. Had the whole Jewish nation joined in the desperate resistance made, by a section of it, to the overwhelming strength of Rome, the world would have had no record of truer patriotism than that displayed, by this small people, in their resistance to the forces of the mistress of the world.
Unhappily, the reverse of this was the case. Except in the defense of Jotapata and Gamala, it can scarcely be said that the Jewish people, as a body, offered any serious resistance to the arms of Rome. The defenders of Jerusalem were a mere fraction of its population — a fraction composed almost entirely of turbulent characters and robber bands, who fought with the fury of desperation; after having placed themselves beyond the pale of forgiveness, or mercy, by the deeds of unutterable cruelty with which they had desolated the city, before its siege by the Romans. They fought, it is true, with unflinching courage — a courage never surpassed in history — but it was the courage of despair; and its result was to bring destruction upon the whole population, as well as upon themselves.
Fortunately the narrative of Josephus, an eyewitness of the events which he describes, has come down to us; and it is the storehouse from which all subsequent histories of the events have been drawn. It is, no doubt, tinged throughout by his desire to stand well with his patrons, Vespasian and Titus; but there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of his descriptions. I have endeavored to present you with as vivid a picture as possible of the events of the war, without encumbering the story with details and, except as regards the exploits of John of Gamala, of whom Josephus says nothing, have strictly followed, in every particular, the narrative of the historian.
G. A. Henty.
“Dreaming, John, as usual? I never saw such a boy. You are always in extremes; either tiring yourself out, or lying half asleep.”
“I was not half asleep, mother. I was looking at the lake.”
“I cannot see much to look at, John. It’s just as it has been ever since you were born, or since I was born.”
“No, I suppose there’s no change, mother; but I am never tired of looking at the sun shining on the ripples, and the fishermen’s boats, and the birds standing in the shallows or flying off, in a desperate hurry, without any reason that I can make out. Besides, mother, when one is looking at the lake, one is thinking of other things.”
“And very often thinking of nothing at all, my son.”
“Perhaps so, mother; but there’s plenty to think of, in these times.”
“Plenty, John; there are baskets and baskets of figs to be stripped from the trees, and hung up to dry for the winter and, next week, we are going to begin the grape harvest. But the figs are the principal matter, at present; and I think that it would be far more useful for you to go and help old Isaac and his son, in getting them in, than in lying there watching the lake.”
“I suppose it would, mother,” the lad said, rising briskly; for his fits of indolence were by no means common and, as a rule, he was ready to assist at any work which might be going on.