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William Shepard

The Sedition in Cyrene

The last attempt at revolt took place in the city of Cyrene. Here an abandoned Jew, by the name of Jonathan, who had found a refuge in that city, persuaded a multitude of the meaner classes of Jews to follow him out of the city into a desert. He pretended that he would show them great signs and wonders. But the men of rank among the Jews of Cyrene sent word to Catullus, the governor of the Libyan Pentapolis, about Jonathan's march into the wilderness.

Catullus despatched a body of horse and foot, who obtained an easy victory over Jonathan and his followers. A great many of the latter perished in the fight, and the rest were brought back to Cyrene. Jonathan for a while managed to escape capture, but at length he was taken prisoner. When he was brought before Catullus, he said that a number of the wealthiest among the Jews were accomplices in his plot.

Catullus listened eagerly to his charges, and pretended to believe them all, because he hated the Jews. Moreover, he wished to make the affair appear as big and dangerous as possible, that he too might seem to have ended a Jewish war. And he even named some of the Jews whom he was anxious to kill, and made Jonathan and some of his followers swear that they were in the plot. In this way he put to death a Jew, named Alexander, with whom he had quarrelled, and also his wife. After this he slew all the wealthiest Jews, to the number of three thousand, and added their property to the revenues of the emperor.

Lest any of the Jews elsewhere should expose his crimes, Catullus got Jonathan and his associates to charge the leading Jews in Alexandria and Rome with being aiders in the sedition. Among those charged with sedition in Rome was Josephus, the historian.

Catullus went to Rome with his witnesses. But Vespasian made strict inquiry, and found out that all the charges were false. He acquitted the accused Jews, and condemned Jonathan to be burnt alive. Catullus was allowed to live, but was soon after seized with a terrible disease, and died in great agony. For God punished him for his wicked deeds.

The feeble sedition led by Jonathan was the last attempt made by the Jews to revolt from the power of Rome, and with it ends the history of the Jewish war.