projected attempt, thinking that he had not yet said sufficient to stimulate the minds of the officers and soldiers, as the importance of the occasion seemed to demand, he went round the whole armament: he exhorted them with a cheerful and magnanimous firmness, to remember the vicissitudes of war, and the instability of fortune. Though hitherto unsuccessful, the vastness of the preparations should induce them to hope that victory would again be theirs. Men, who had undergone and surmounted so many and great dangers, should not, in the trying and decisive moment, darken future success by the remembrance and the regret of past defeat. It was yet in their power to defend their lives, their liberty, their friends, and, what ought to be dearer to them than every thing besides, their country, and the mighty name of Athens. But should this opportunity be neglected or improperly used, the destruction of every thing near and dear to them must follow, and the glory of their nation be no more !

In the mean time, the bustle of preparation in the naval camp of the Athenians had been observed by the Syracusans, who were informed of the grappling irons with which the Athenian prows were armed. They, therefore, prepared to counteract the new mode of action proposed by the Athenians: the forecastles of their gallies they covered with bullhides, on which the grappling irons would have no effect.

Nicias having led the troops to the shore, committed the last hope of the republic to the active valour of Demosthenes, Meander, and Euthydemus; and returned to the camp, with a feeble and emaciated body, and an anxious mind. The first shock of the Athenians was irresistible, and they made themselves masters of the vessels that opposed their passage, and burst through the bar. As the entrance widened, the Syracusans rushed into the harbour. Thither also the Athenian galleys followed, either repelled by the enemy, or that they might assist their comrades. In the mouth of the harbour the engagement became general; and in this narrow space, two hundred galleys fought with an obstinate and persevering valour during the greatest part of the day. The battle was not long confined to the shocks of adverse prows, and to the distant hostility of darts and arrows. The vessels grappled with each other; and their decks soon fowed with blood. The heavyarmed troops boarded the galley with which they contended; and by that means left their own ships exposed to the same misfortune. The fleets became massive clusters of adhering gal.eys. The Athenians, sensible of the importance of the action, exhorted one another not to abandon an element on which their republic had ever acquired victory and glory, for the

dangerous refuge of a hostile shore; while the Syracusans encouraged each other not to tlee froni enemies, whose weakness or cowardice had caused them for a long time to meditate retreat. The lamentations of the wounded, and of those who were perishing in the water, the noise of the oars, and the acclamation from the ramparts and the shore, prevented any orders from being either heard or obeyed.

The spectacle of a baule, more fierce and obstinate than had ever before been seen in the Grecian seas, restrained the activity and wholly suspended the powers of the numerous and adverse battalions, that lined the coast of the surrounding shore. The spectators and the actors were alike interested in the result of his singular and tremendous engagement. But the former, who had nothing besides to engage their attention, felt more deeply, and expressed more forcibly, the various emotions by which they were actuated. The fight was long and dreadful, and the slaughter on both sides incredibly great. But at length, with various fortune at times in various parts, the advantage of the Syracusans became decisive, and the whole Athenian feet was pursued by the enemy to the shore. Then grief, indignation, and dismay, in the highest pitch that can possibly be imagined, seized the Athenian army on land. Their circumstances now were desperate, and they became hopeless. Some of the vanquished escaped to the camp; others fled, not knowing whither to direct their steps. Nicias, however, with a small but fearless troop, remained on the shore, to assist and protect their unfortunate companions. In this well fought battle, the victors lost forty, and the vanquished fifty galleys.

Cicero has justly and elegantly observed, that not only the navy of Athens, but the glory and empire of the republic, perished in the harbour of Syracuse. The dejection of the Athenians, on this disastrous occasion, was so great, and the impending danger so urgent, that they neglected a duty always before observed, and which had formed a very respectable part of their national character. No herald was sent to demand the restoration of the dead; and they abandoned to indignities and insults the bodies of the slain. Amid the general despair, however, Demosthenes did not lose his usual energy and pre. sence of mind. He proposed that, as the Athenians had still sixty, and the enemy only fifty galleys, they should again attempt to force a passage; and he considered the measure as very practicable, if, embarking that night, they made the effort the next morning. Nicias approved of the proposal, but the forces absolutely refused. They would go any where by land, they said, and fight their way, if necessary, but, by sea, the experience of the past sufficiently proved that they could expect nothing but destruction. Thus was the execution of this salutary measure prevented by excess of despondency, arising from the contemplation of previous disasters.


While Jerusalem was a prey to ferocious and devouring factions, every part of Judea was scourged and laid waste by bands of robbers and murderers, who plundered the towns, and, in case of resistance, slew the inhabitants, not sparing either women or children. Simon, son of Gioras, the commander of one of these bands, at the head of forty thousand banditti, having with some difficulty entered Jerusalem, gave birth to a third faction, and the flame of civil discord blazed out again with still more destructive fury. The three factions, rendered frantic by drunkenness, rage, and desperation, trampling on heaps of slain, fought against each other with brutal savageness and madness. Even such as brought sacrifices to the temple were murdered. The dead bodies of priests and worshippers, both natives and foreigners, were heaped together, and a lake of blood stagnated in the sacred courts. John of Gischala, who headed one of the factions, burnt storehouses full of provisions; and Simon, his great antagonist, who headed another of them, soon afterwards followed his example. Thus they cut the very sinews of their own strength. At this critical and alarming conjuncture, intelligence arrived that the Roman army was approaching the city. The Jews were petrified with astonishment and fear; there was no time for counsel, no hope of pacification, no means of flight :-all was wild disorder and perplexity :—nothing was to be heard but the confused noise of the warrior,”-nothing to be seen but " garments rolled in blood,-nothing to be expected from the Romans but signal and exemplary vengeance. A ceaseless cry of combatants was heard day and night, and yet the lamentations of mourners were still more dreadful. The consternation and terror which now prevailed, induced many of the inhabitants to desire that a foreign foe might come, and effect their deliverance. Such was the horrible condition of the place when Titus and his army presented themselves, and encamped before Jerusalem.

The day on which Titus encompassed Jerusalem was the feast of the passover; and it is deserving of the very particular attention of the reader, that this was the anniversary of that memora' le period in which the Jews crucified their Messiah !

On the appearance of the Roman army, the factious Jews united, and, rushing furiously out of the city, repulsed the ten h legion, which was with difficulty preserved. This event



caused a short suspension of hostilities, and, by opening the gates; gave an opportunity to such as were so disposed, to make their escape; which, before this, they could not have attempted without interruption, from the suspicion that they wished to revolt to the Romans. This success inspired the Jews with confidence, and they resolved to defend their city to the very uttermost; but it did not prevent the renewal of their civil broils. The faction under Eleazar having dispersed, and arranged themselves under the two other leaders, John and Simon, there ensued a scene of the most dreadful contention, plunder, and conflagration : the middle space of the city being burnt, and the wretched inhabitants made the prize of the contending parties. The Romans, at length, gained possession of two of the three walls which defended the city, and fear once more united the factions. This pause to their fury had, however, scarcely begun, when famine made its ghastly appearance in the Jewish army. It had for some time been silently approaching, and many of the peaceful and the poor had already perished for want of necessaries. With this new calamity, strange to relate, the madness of the factions again returned, and the city presented a new picture of wretchedness. Impelled by the cravings of hunger, they snatched the staff of life out of each other's hands, and many devoured the grain unprepared. Tortures were inflicted for the discovery of a handful of meal; women forced food from their husbands, and children from their fathers, and even mothers from their infants; and, while sucking children were wasting away in their arms, they scrupled not to take away the vital drops which sustained them! So justly did our Lord pronounce a wo on " them who should give suck in those days.This dreadful scourge, at length, drove multitudes of the Jews out of the city, into the enemies' camp, where the Romans crucified them in such numbers, that, as Josephus relates, space was wanted for the crosses, and crosses for the captives; and it having been discovered that some of them had swallowed gold, the Arabs and Syrians, who were incorporated in the Roman army, impelled by avarice, with unexampled cruelty, ripped open two thousand of the deserters in one night. Titus, touched by these calamities, in person entreated the Jews to surrender, but they answered him with revilings. Exasperated by their obstinacy and insodence, he now resolved to surround the city by a circumvallation, which, with astonishing activity, was effected by the sol. diers in three days. Thus was fulfilled another of our Lord's predictions, for be had said, while addressing this devoted city, 1. Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round about, and keep thee in on every side:As no supplies whatever could now enter the walls, the famine rapidly extended itself, and, increasing in horror, devoured whole families. The tops of houses, and the recesses of the city, were covered with the carcasses of women, children, and aged men. The young men appeared like spectres in the places of public resort, and fell down lifeless in the streets. The dead were too numerous to be interred, and many expired in the performance of this office. The public calamity was too great for lamentation. Silence, and, as it were, a black and deadly night overspread the city. But even such a scene could not awe the robbers; they spoiled the tombs, and stripped the dead of their grave-clothes, with an unfeeling and wild laughter. They tried the edges of their swords on their carcasses, and even on some that were yet breathing; while Simon Gioras chose this melancholy and awful period to manifest the deep malignity and cruelty of his nature, in the execution of the High Priest Matthias, and his three sons, whom he caused to be condemned as favourers of the Romans. The father, in consideration of his having opened the city gates to Simon, begged that he might be executed previously to his children; but the unfeeling tyrant gave orders that he should be dispatched in the last place, and, in his expiring moments, insultingly asked him, whether the Romans could then relieve him. Meanwhile, the horrors of famine grew


more melancholy and afflictive. The Jews, for want of food, were at length compelled to eat their belts, their sandals, the skins of their shields, dried grass, and even the ordure of oxen. In the depth of this horrible extremity, a Jewess of noble family, urged by the intolerable cravings of hunger, slew her infant child, and prepared it for a meal; and had actually eaten one half thereof, when the soldiers, allured by the smell of food, threatened her with instant death if she refused to discover it. Intimidated by this menace, she immediately produced the remains of her son, which petrified them with horror. At the recital of this melancholy and affecting occurrence, the whole city stood aghast, and poured forth their congratulations on those whom death had hurried away from such heart-rending scenes. Indeed, humanity at once shudders and sickens at the narration; nor can any one, of the least sensibility, reflect

the pitiable condition, to which the female part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem must at this time have been reduced, without experiencing the tenderest emotions of sympathy: or refrain from tears while he reads our Saviour's pathetic address to the women who “ bewailed him" as he was led to Calvary, wherein he evidently refers to these very calamities : “ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your


« ElőzőTovább »