And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been a most excellent person, upon the comparison; for the former did the greatest part of his rogueries in private, and with a sort of dissimulation; but Gessius did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a pompons manner; and as though he had been sent as an executioner to punish condemned malefactors, he omitted no sort of rapine, or of vexation; where the case was really pitiable, he was most barbarous, and in things of the greatest turpitude he was most impudent. Nor could any one outdo him in disguising the truth; nor could any one contrive more subtle ways of deceit than he did. He indeed thought it but a petty offense to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils they got. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces. And truly, while Cestius Gallus was president of the province of Syria, nobody durst do so much as send an embassage to him against Florus; but when he was come to Jerusalem, upon the approach of the feast of unleavened bread, the people came about him not fewer in number than three millions 1 these besought him to commiserate the calamities of their nation, and cried out upon Florus as the bane of their country. But as he was present, and stood by Cestius, he laughed at their words. However, Cestius, when he had quieted the multitude, and had assured them that he would take care that Florus should hereafter treat them in a more gentle manner, returned to Antioch. Florus also conducted him as far as Cesarea, and deluded him, though he had at that very time the purpose of showing his anger at the nation, and procuring a war upon them, by which means alone it was that he supposed he might conceal his enormities; for he expected that if the peace continued, he should have the Jews for his accusers before Caesar; but that if he could procure them to make a revolt, he should divert their laying lesser crimes to his charge, by a misery that was so much greater; he therefore did every day augment their calamities, in order to induce them to a rebellion. Now at this time it happened that the Grecians at Cesarea had been too hard for the Jews, and had obtained of Nero the government of the city, and had brought the judicial determination: at the same time began the war, in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, and the seventeenth of the reign of Agrippa, in the month of Artemisins [Jyar.] Now the occasion of this war was by no means proportionable to those heavy calamities which it brought upon us. For the Jews that dwelt at Cesarea had a synagogue near the place, whose owner was a certain Cesarean Greek : the Jews had endeavored frequently to have purchased the possession of the place, and had offered many times its value for its price; but as the owner overlooked their offers, so did he raise other buildings upon the place, in way of affront to them, and made working-shops of them, and left them but a narrow passage, and such as was very troublesome for them to go along to their synagogue. Whereupon the warmer part of the Jewish youth went hastily to the workmen, and forbade them to build there; but as Florus would not permit them to use force, the great men of the Jews, with John the publican, being in the utmost distress what to do, persuaded Florus, with the offer of eight talents, to hinder the work. He then, being intent upon nothing but getting money, promised he would do for them all they desired of him, and then went away from Cesarea to Sebaste, and left the sedition to take its full course, as if he had sold a license to the Jews to fight it out. Now on the next day, which was the seventh day of the week, when the Jews were crowding apace to their synagogue, a certain man of Cesarea, of a seditious temper, got an earthen vessel, and set it with the bottom upward, at the entrance of that synagogue, and sacrificed birds. This thing provoked the Jews to an incurable degree, because their laws were affronted, and the place was polluted. Whereupon the sober and moderate part of the Jews thought it proper to have recourse to their governors again, while the seditious part, and such as were in the fervor of their youth, were vehemently inflamed to fight. The seditions also among the Gentiles of Cesarea stood ready for the same purpose; for they had, by agreement, sent the man to sacrifice beforehand [as ready to support him;] so that it soon came to blows. Hereupon Jucundus, the master of the horse, who was ordered to prevent the fight, came thither, and took away the earthen vessel, and endeavored to put a stop to the sedition; but when he was overcome by the violence of the people of Cesarea, the Jews caught up their books of the law, and retired to Narbata, which was a place to them belonging, distant from Cesarea sixty furlongs. But John, and twelve of the principal men with him, went to Florus, to Sebaste, and made a lamentable complaint of their case, and besought him to help them; and with all possible decency, put him in mind of the eight talents they had given him; but he had the men seized upon, and put in prison, and accused them for carrying the books of the law out of Cesarea.2
1Flavius Josephus, De Bello Judaico Libri VII: Machine Readable Text, ed. B. Niese (Medford, MA: Trustees of Tufts University, 2013), section: 2.277-2.292.
2Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews: Machine Readable Text, trans. William Whiston (Trustees of Tufts University, 2009), section: 2.277-2.292.
Josephus, De Bello Judaico Libri VII, in Flavii Iosephi opera, ed. Benedict Niese, vol. 6 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1885), section: 2.277-2.292.
Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, in The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus: The Celebrated Jewish Historian. Comprising the History and Antiquities of the Jews, with the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and Dissertations Concerning Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, James the Just, and the Sacrifice of Isaac, Together with a Discourse on Hades, or Hell ; With His Autobiography, trans. William Whiston (Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co., 1895), 498–707, section: 2.277-2.292.
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Bianca Gardner et al., “Josephus, The Jewish War 2.277-2.292.” In Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, edited by Joseph L. Rife., edited by Joseph L. Rife. Caesarea City and Port Exploration Project,
Entry published March 30, 2020. https://caesarea-maritima.org/testimonia/27.
About this Entry
Entry Title:Josephus, The Jewish War 2.277-2.292
Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:
Joseph L. Rife, general editor, Vanderbilt University
Joseph L. Rife, editor, Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia
Michelson, Daniel L. Schwartz, and William L. Potter, technical editors, “Josephus, The Jewish War 2.277-2.292”
Bianca Gardner and Joseph L. Rife, entry contributors, “Josephus, The Jewish War 2.277-2.292”