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William Shepard

Vespasian and His Sons Celebrate a Triumph

While Titus remained at Cæsarea he celebrated his brother's birthday with great splendor, and put to death a great number of the prisoners. After this he removed to Berytus, a Roman colony in Phœnicia. Here he made quite a long stay, and celebrated his father's birthday by killing many more of his Jewish captives.

While Titus was besieging Jerusalem, his father, Vespasian, had set out from Alexandria to Rome, and Titus now obtained news of the splendid manner in which he had been received by all the Italian cities. When he drew near Rome, the people poured out in crowds to meet him, and joyfully hailed him as their emperor. The city was hung with garlands, and for days the multitudes feasted, and offered sacrifices to their gods that the empire of Vespasian might long be preserved.

After hearing this good news, Titus left Berytus and marched towards Antioch, passing through many cities of Syria, in which he put to death many more of his prisoners by making them fight one another as gladiators.

When Titus drew near Antioch, the people hastened forth to meet him, and received him with loud acclamations; and at the same time they besought him to drive all the Jewish inhabitants out of the town.

Now, there were a great many Jews in Antioch, and they were much attached to the city, because they had always enjoyed equal rights with the native Syrians. And they had built there a very large and magnificent temple.

But at the time when the war had first broken out, and Vespasian had just landed in Syria, and when hatred of the Jews was everywhere at its height, a man of their own race, called Antiochus, the son of the chief magistrate of the Jews in Antioch, excited much hatred against his brethren in Antioch by bearing false witness against them. For he charged the Jews, and among them his own father, with having formed a design to burn the whole of the city during a certain night, and he delivered up some foreign Jews as accomplices in the plot.

The native inhabitants of course became very much incensed, and they immediately put to death those Jews that had been delivered up to them. The people then rushed against the other Jews, thinking that by putting them all to death they would save their city from being burned down. A number of them were massacred, and those that escaped this fate were cruelly persecuted. Antiochus, aided by a body of Roman troops sent by the governor of Syria, lorded it over the Jews, and would not even allow them to rest upon the Sabbath.

In a little while it happened that a fire broke out in the market-place, which burned down a number of the public buildings, and was with difficulty kept from spreading over the whole town. Antiochus charged the Jews with this deed. Upon this the Syrian inhabitants attacked the poor Jews with the greatest rage. Cneus Collegas, the commander of the Roman troop, interposed and saved the Jews from a general massacre, and allayed the fury of the inhabitants, promising to lay the matter before Cæsar.

Collegas began to investigate the affair, and found out that the Jews were not to blame, but that the market-place had been set on fire by some wicked men who owed large sums of money, and who thought if they could destroy the public buildings in which the records of their debts were kept they would escape from having to pay them.

Still the inhabitants hated the Jews; so when Titus came they begged him to drive them from the city. Titus, however, did not give any answer, but went immediately on to Zeugma, a town upon the Euphrates.

But he very soon returned to Antioch, and visited the theatre, where all the people had assembled to receive him. There they again besought him to expel the Jews from the city. But Titus answered,—

"The country of the Jews is destroyed; thither they cannot return. It would be hard to allow them no home to which they can retreat. Leave them in peace."

Failing in this request, the people then asked that the rights of the Jews should be taken away from them. But this Titus also refused, and, leaving the Jews every right that they had formerly enjoyed in Antioch, he set out for Egypt.

On his way thither Titus passed by Jerusalem, and, as he surveyed the ruins, he could not help thinking of the beautiful city that had formerly stood there. And he felt very sorry that he had been compelled by the insurgents to destroy so great and splendid a city.

Titus now made haste towards Egypt, and, crossing the desert with great speed, he soon reached Alexandria. Here he dismissed his two legions, and set sail for Italy. The two leaders, Simon and John, with seven hundred Jewish captives, whom he had selected on account of their beauty and height, he ordered to be sent after him, that they might grace his triumph in Rome.

Titus enjoyed a safe and speedy voyage, and received a warm welcome in Rome. His father and his younger brother, Domitian, who had lately returned to Rome after quelling a revolt among the Germans, came out to meet him. The people were overjoyed to see the father and his sons united, and great rejoicings took place.

Vespasian and his sons agreed that they should celebrate their successes in war upon the same day by one common triumph, although the senate had decreed a separate day for each. When the day arrived, the whole multitude poured out to view the pageant.

Before sunrise all the military forces marched out in companies and divisions under their officers, and drew up around the gates, near the temple of Isis, where the imperial family had reposed for the night.

When morning broke, Vespasian and Titus came forth, crowned with laurel and clothed in purple garments, and ascended a high tribunal which had been erected for them. Instantly a joyous shout burst from the troops, and Vespasian bowed his head to his soldiers, and then made them a signal to be silent. The emperor then rose, and, covering his head with his cloak, he, together with Titus, offered up prayers to the Roman gods. This done, Vespasian made a short speech to the soldiers, and then dismissed them to a repast he had provided.

After the repast the pageant entered the city, passing through the theatres, that the assembled crowds might have a better view. Words could not describe the beauty and magnificence of the procession which took place, and the splendor of the articles which were displayed to view,—gold and silver and ivory, wrought in various forms, beautiful tapestries, worked in Babylon, jewels and crowns of gold, and images of gods made of costly materials.

Different kinds of wild animals were led along by men clad in splendid garments, and numbers of captives dressed in the costumes of their nation. But nothing in the pageant excited so much wonder and admiration as some huge structures rising to the height of three or four stories. These were divided into platforms rising one above the other, and on each was represented some feature of the war.

Here was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and there an army slain and routed; some again in flight, others being led into captivity; high walls laid in ruins by engines; strong fortresses battered down; populous cities overrun by armies; houses thrown down, and their owners buried in the ruins; rivers running through lands laid waste and wrapped in flames on every side.

On each of these platforms was placed the governor of one of the captured cities. A number of ships also followed. Then the spoils of the war were displayed in confused heaps, and among them, and placed where all could see, were the sacred treasures taken from the temple of Jerusalem. Last of all was borne the Jewish Book of the Law. Next came a body of men carrying images of Victory made of gold and ivory; and next Vespasian was driven along in a chariot, followed by Titus, while Domitian rode beside him upon a beautiful horse.

The procession stopped before the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and waited until the Jewish general Simon had been put to death. For he had been led along by a halter, and was now dragged to a place overlooking the Forum, and there was executed. When the tidings spread that Simon was no more, the people gave a shout of joy, and, after offering up sacrifices, they dispersed.

Some were entertained at a banquet by the emperor and princes themselves, while all had feasts prepared at home, for all the Romans kept festival that day in celebration of the victories gained by the imperial family.

When the triumphs were over, Vespasian commenced to build a beautiful temple, which he dedicated to Peace. When it was finished, he stored in it beautiful statues and paintings, taken from different countries, and for a sight of which men had before wandered over the whole world. Here he placed also the golden vessels taken from the temple of Jerusalem. But the purple veils of the sanctuary and the Book of the Law he kept in his own palace.