« Prev CHAPTER 5. Next »


1. HEREUPON Herod held himself ready to go against the king of Arabia, because of his ingratitude to him, and because, after all, he would do nothing that was just to him, although Herod made the Roman war an occasion of delaying his own; for the battle at Actium was now expected, which fell into the hundred eighty and seventh olympiad, where Caesar and Antony were to fight for the supreme power of the world; but Herod having enjoyed a country that was very fruitful, and that now for a long time, and having received great taxes, and raised great armies therewith, got together a body of men, and carefully furnished them with all necessaries, and designed them as auxiliaries for Antony. But Antony said he had no want of his assistance; but he commanded him to punish the king of Arabia; for he had heard both from him, and from Cleopatra, how perfidious he was; for this was what Cleopatra desired, who thought it for her own advantage that these two kings should do one another as great mischief as possible. Upon this message from Antony, Herod returned back, but kept his army with him, in order to invade Arabia immediately. So when his army of horsemen and footmen was ready, he marched to Diospolis, whither the Arabians came also to meet them, for they were not unapprized of this war that was coming upon them; and after a great battle had been fought, the Jews had the victory. But afterward there were gotten together another numerous army of the Arabians, at Cana, which is a place of Celesyria. Herod was informed of this beforehand; so he came marching against them with the greatest part of the forces he had; and when he was come near to Cana, he resolved to encamp himself; and he cast up a bulwark, that he might take a proper season for attacking the enemy; but as he was giving those orders, the multitude of the Jews cried out that he should make no delay, but lead them against the Arabians. They went with great spirit, as believing they were in very good order; and those especially were so that had been in the former battle, and had been conquerors, and had not permitted their enemies so much as to come to a close fight with them. And when they were so tumultuous, and showed such great alacrity, the king resolved to make use of that zeal the multitude then exhibited; and when he had assured them he would not be behindhand with them in courage, he led them on, and stood before them all in his armor, all the regiments following him in their several ranks: whereupon a consternation fell upon the Arabians; for when they perceived that the Jews were not to be conquered, and were full of spirit, the greater part of them ran away, and avoided fighting; and they had been quite destroyed, had not Anthony fallen upon the Jews, and distressed them; for this man was Cleopatra's general over the soldiers she had there, and was at enmity with Herod, and very wistfully looked on to see what the event of the battle would be. He had also resolved, that in case the Arabians did any thing that was brave and successful, he would lie still; but in case they were beaten, as it really happened, he would attack the Jews with those forces he had of his own, and with those that the country had gotten together for him. So he fell upon the Jews unexpectedly, when they were fatigued, and thought they had already vanquished the enemy, and made a great slaughter of them; for as the Jews had spent their courage upon their known enemies, and were about to enjoy themselves in quietness after their victory, they were easily beaten by these that attacked them afresh, and in particular received a great loss in places where the horses could not be of service, and which were very stony, and where those that attacked them were better acquainted with the places than themselves. And when the Jews had suffered this loss, the Arabians raised their spirits after their defeat, and returning back again, slew those that were already put to flight; and indeed all sorts of slaughter were now frequent, and of those that escaped, a few only returned into the camp. So king Herod, when he despaired of the battle, rode up to them to bring them assistance; yet did he not come time enough to do them any service, though he labored hard to do it; but the Jewish camp was taken; so that the Arabians had unexpectedly a most glorious success, having gained that victory which of themselves they were no way likely to have gained, and slaying a great part of the enemy's army: whence afterward Herod could only act like a private robber, and make excursions upon many parts of Arabia, and distress them by sudden incursions, while he encamped among the mountains, and avoided by any means to come to a pitched battle; yet did he greatly harass the enemy by his assiduity, and the hard labor he took in this matter. He also took great care of his own forces, and used all the means he could to restore his affairs to their old state.

2. At this time it was that the fight happened at Actium, between Octavius Caesar and Antony, in the seventh year of the reign of Herod477477    The reader is here to take notice, that this seventh year of the reign of Herod, and all the other years of his reign, in Josephus, are dated from the death of Antigonus, or at the soonest from the conclusion of Antigonus, and the taking of Jerusalem a few months before, and never from his first obtaining the kingdom at Rome, above three years before, as some have very weakly and injudiciously done. and then it was also that there was an earthquake in Judea, such a one as had not happened at any other time, and which earthquake brought a great destruction upon the cattle in that country. About ten thousand men also perished by the fall of houses; but the army, which lodged in the field, received no damage by this sad accident. When the Arabians were informed of this, and when those that hated the Jews, and pleased themselves with aggravating the reports, told them of it, they raised their spirits, as if their enemy's country was quite overthrown, and the men were utterly destroyed, and thought there now remained nothing that could oppose them. Accordingly, they took the Jewish ambassadors, who came to them after all this had happened, to make peace with them, and slew them, and came with great alacrity against their army; but the Jews durst not withstand them, and were so cast down by the calamities they were under, that they took no care of their affairs, but gave up themselves to despair; for they had no hope that they should be upon a level again with them in battles, nor obtain any assistance elsewhere, while their affairs at home were in such great distress also. When matters were in this condition, the king persuaded the commanders by his words, and tried to raise their spirits, which were quite sunk; and first he endeavored to encourage and embolden some of the better sort beforehand, and then ventured to make a speech to the multitude, which he had before avoided to do, lest he should find them uneasy thereat, because of the misfortunes which had happened; so he made a consolatory speech to the multitude, in the manner following:

3. "You are not unacquainted, my fellow soldiers, that we have had, not long since, many accidents that have put a stop to what we are about, and it is probable that even those that are most distinguished above others for their courage can hardly keep up their spirits in such circumstances; but since we cannot avoid fighting, and nothing that hath happened is of such a nature but it may by ourselves be recovered into a good state, and this by one brave action only well performed, I have proposed to myself both to give you some encouragement, and, at the same time, some information; both which parts of my design will tend to this point; that you may still continue in your own proper fortitude. I will then, in the first place, demonstrate to you that this war is a just one on our side, and that on this account it is a war of necessity, and occasioned by the injustice of our adversaries; for if you be once satisfied of this, it will be a real cause of alacrity to you; after which I will further demonstrate, that the misfortunes we are under are of no great consequence, and that we have the greatest reason to hope for victory. I shall begin with the first, and appeal to yourselves as witnesses to what I shall say. You are not ignorant certainly of the wickedness of the Arabians, which is to that degree as to appear incredible to all other men, and to include somewhat that shows the grossest barbarity and ignorance of God. The chief things wherein they have affronted us have arisen from covetousness and envy; and they have attacked us in an insidious manner, and on the sudden. And what occasion is there for me to mention many instances of such their procedure? When they were in danger of losing their own government of themselves, and of being slaves to Cleopatra, what others were they that freed them from that fear? for it was the friendship. I had with Antony, and the kind disposition he was in towards us, that hath been the occasion that even these Arabians have not been utterly undone, Antony being unwilling to undertake any thing which might be suspected by us of unkindness: but when he had a mind to bestow some parts of each of our dominions on Cleopatra, I also managed that matter so, that by giving him presents of my own, I might obtain a security to both nations, while I undertook myself to answer for the money, and gave him two hundred talents, and became surety for those two hundred more which were imposed upon the land that was subject to this tribute; and this they have defrauded us of, although it was not reasonable that Jews should pay tribute to any man living, or allow part of their land to be taxable; but although that was to be, yet ought we not to pay tribute for these Arabians, whom we have ourselves preserved; nor is it fit that they, who have professed (and that with great integrity and sense of our kindness) that it is by our means that they keep their principality, should injure us, and deprive us of what is our due, and this while we have been still not their enemies, but their friends. And whereas observation of covenants takes place among the bitterest enemies, but among friends is absolutely necessary, this is not observed among these men, who think gain to be the best of all things, let it be by any means whatsoever, and that injustice is no harm, if they may but get money by it: is it therefore a question with you, whether the unjust are to be punished or not? when God himself hath declared his mind that so it ought to be, and hath commanded that we ever should hate injuries and injustice, which is not only just, but necessary, in wars between several nations; for these Arabians have done what both the Greeks and barbarians own to be an instance of the grossest wickedness, with regard to our ambassadors, which they have beheaded, while the Greeks declare that such ambassadors are sacred and inviolable.478478    Herod says here, that as ambassadors were sacred when they carried messages to others, so did the laws of the Jews derive a sacred authority by being delivered from God by angels, [or Divine ambassadors,] which is St. Paul's expression about the same laws, Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2;2. And for ourselves, we have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our law, by angels or ambassadors; for this name brings God to the knowledge of mankind, and is sufficient to reconcile enemies one to another. What wickedness then can be greater than the slaughter of ambassadors, who come to treat about doing what is right? And when such have been their actions, how is it possible they can either live securely in common life, or be successful in war? In my opinion, this is impossible; but perhaps some will say, that what is holy, and what is righteous, is indeed on our side, but that the Arabians are either more courageous or more numerous than we are. Now, as to this, in the first place, it is not fit for us to say so, for with whom is what is righteous, with them is God himself; now where God is, there is both multitude and courage. But to examine our own circumstances a little, we were conquerors in the first battle; and when we fought again, they were not able to oppose us, but ran away, and could not endure our attacks or our courage; but when we had conquered them, then came Athenion, and made war against us without declaring it; and pray, is this an instance of their manhood? or is it not a second instance of their wickedness and treachery? Why are we therefore of less courage, on account of that which ought to inspire us with stronger hopes? and why are we terrified at these, who, when they fight upon the level, are continually beaten, and when they seem to be conquerors, they gain it by wickedness? and if we suppose that any one should deem them to be men of real courage, will not he be excited by that very consideration to do his utmost against them? for true valor is not shown by fighting against weak persons, but in being able to overcome the most hardy. But then if the distresses we are ourselves under, and the miseries that have come by the earthquake, hath aftrighted any one, let him consider, in the first place, that this very thing will deceive the Arabians, by their supposal that what hath befallen us is greater than it really is. Moreover, it is not right that the same thing that emboldens them should discourage us; for these men, you see, do not derive their alacrity from any advantageous virtue of their own, but from their hope, as to us, that we are quite cast down by our misfortunes; but when we boldly march against them, we shall soon pull down their insolent conceit of themselves, and shall gain this by attacking them, that they will not be so insolent when we come to the battle; for our distresses are not so great, nor is what hath happened all indication of the anger of God against us, as some imagine; for such things are accidental, and adversities that come in the usual course of things; and if we allow that this was done by the will of God, we must allow that it is now over by his will also, and that he is satisfied with what hath already happened; for had he been willing to afflict us still more thereby, he had not changed his mind so soon. And as for the war we are engaged in, he hath himself demonstrated that he is willing it should go on, and that he knows it to be a just war; for while some of the people in the country have perished, all you who were in arms have suffered nothing, but are all preserved alive; whereby God makes it plain to us, that if you had universally, with your children and wives, been in the army, it had come to pass that you had not undergone any thing that would have much hurt you. Consider these things, and, what is more than all the rest, that you have God at all times for your Protector; and prosecute these men with a just bravery, who, in point of friendship, are unjust, in their battles perfidious, towards ambassadors impious, and always inferior to you in valor."

4. When the Jews heard this speech, they were much raised in their minds, and more disposed to fight than before. So Herod, when he had offered the sacrifices appointed by the law479479    This piece of religion, the supplicating God with sacrifices, by Herod, before he went to this fight with the Arabians, taken notice of also in the first book of the War, ch. 19. sect. 5, is worth remarking, because it is the only example of this nature, so far as I remember, that Josephus ever mentions in all his large and particular accounts of this Herod; and it was when he had been in mighty distress, and discouraged by a great defeat of his former army, and by a very great earthquake in Judea, such times of affliction making men most religious; nor was he disappointed of his hopes here, but immediately gained a most signal victory over the Arabians, while they who just before had been so great victors, and so much elevated upon the earthquake in Judea as to venture to slay the Jewish ambassadors, were now under a strange consternation, and hardly able to fight at all. made haste, and took them, and led them against the Arabians; and in order to that passed over Jordan, and pitched his camp near to that of the enemy. He also thought fit to seize upon a certain castle that lay in the midst of them, as hoping it would be for his advantage, and would the sooner produce a battle; and that if there were occasion for delay, he should by it have his camp fortified; and as the Arabians had the same intentions upon that place, a contest arose about it; at first they were but skirmishes, after which there came more soldiers, and it proved a sort of fight, and some fell on both sides, till those of the Arabian side were beaten and retreated. This was no small encouragement to the Jews immediately; and when Herod observed that the enemy's army was disposed to any thing rather than to come to an engagement, he ventured boldly to attempt the bulwark itself, and to pull it to pieces, and so to get nearer to their camp, in order to fight them; for when they were forced out of their trenches, they went out in disorder, and had not the least alacrity, or hope of victory; yet did they fight hand to hand, because they were more in number than the Jews, and because they were in such a disposition of war that they were under a necessity of coming on boldly; so they came to a terrible battle, while not a few fell on each side. However, at length the Arabians fled; and so great a slaughter was made upon their being routed, that they were not only killed by their enemies, but became the authors of their own deaths also, and were trodden down by the multitude, and the great current of people in disorder, and were destroyed by their own armor; so five thousand men lay dead upon the spot, while the rest of the multitude soon ran within the bulwark for safety, but had no firm hope of safety, by reason of their want of necessaries, and especially of water. The Jews pursued them, but could not get in with them, but sat round about the bulwark, and watched any assistance that would get in to them, and prevented any there, that had a mind to it, from running away.

5. When the Arabians were in these circumstances, they sent ambassadors to Herod, in the first place, to propose terms of accommodation, and after that to offer him, so pressing was their thirst upon them, to undergo whatsoever he pleased, if he would free them from their present distress; but he would admit of no ambassadors, of no price of redemption, nor of any other moderate terms whatever, being very desirous to revenge those unjust actions which they had been guilty of towards his nation. So they were necessitated by other motives, and particularly by their thirst, to come out, and deliver themselves up to him, to be carried away captives; and in five days' time the number of four thousand were taken prisoners, while all the rest resolved to make a sally upon their enemies, and to fight it out with them, choosing rather, if so it must be, to die therein, than to perish gradually and ingloriously. When they had taken this resolution, they came out of their trenches, but could no way sustain the fight, being too much disabled, both in mind and body, and having not room to exert themselves, and thought it an advantage to be killed, and a misery to survive; so at the first onset there fell about seven thousand of them, after which stroke they let all the courage they had put on before fall, and stood amazed at Herod's warlike spirit under his own calamities; so for the future they yielded, and made him ruler of their nation; whereupon he was greatly elevated at so seasonable a success, and returned home, taking great authority upon him, on account of so bold and glorious an expedition as he had made.

« Prev CHAPTER 5. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |