Jews under Roman Rule - W. D. Morrison




The Final Conflicts

After the destruction of Jerusalem Titus left Judaea, and one of his lieutenants was entrusted with the task of extinguishing the last embers of resistance. In the autumn the victorious Roman celebrated the birthday of his brother Domitian and of his father Vespasian in a manner which rather belies his reputation for humanity. At the festivities which took place at Caesarea and Berytus in honour of these events thousands of Jewish captives were placed in the public arena, and either perished at the gladiatorial shows or in combats with wild beasts. But at Antioch and Alexandria, both of which cities he soon afterwards visited, Titus was restored to a better frame of mind, and would not listen to the solicitations of the Gentile population when they asked him to deprive the Jews of their ancient civil privileges.

"How can this be done," he said to the people of Antioch; "their country is now destroyed, and no other place will receive them." At this time Titus was deeply enamoured with a Jewish princess of the Herodian family, Berenice, one of King Agrippa's daughters, and a woman of great personal beauty and charm. This princess succeeded in fascinating the Roman soon after his arrival in the East; she became his inseparable companion, and, although her character for virtue was at a low ebb, it was currently believed that she would one day become his wife. It is possible that Berenice may have exerted her influence in favour of the Jews outside Palestine, but, as they had remained passive during the progress of the insurrection, there was no reason why they should be punished for the sins of their co-religionists in Judaea. The love of Titus for Berenice did not unfit him, like the famous amour of Antony and Cleopatra, for the serious business of life. A rumour arose after the fall of Jerusalem that Titus was aiming at the overthrow of Vespasian, and this rumour received fresh currency when it became known that he had worn a diadem during some religious festival in Egypt. Titus, in order to dispel these unjust suspicions, hurried home to Rome, and, appearing unexpectedly before the aged emperor, exclaimed, "I am here, my father, I am here!"

Immediately after his arrival in the capital Titus and Vespasian celebrated the triumph which the Senate had decreed them for their victories in Palestine. The triumphal pageant was organized on a scale of unusual magnificence, and the Roman populace were invited to gaze on representations of the battles which had been fought as well as on the actual trophies captured in the course of the campaign. Among these trophies were the spoils of the Temple the sacred vessels, the golden candlestick, and the rolls of the Law. Seven hundred of the tallest and most handsome among the Jewish captives walked in front of Vespasian and Titus, and when the great procession reached the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, it stood still until a tragic ceremony had been performed. It was an ancient Roman custom that the enemy's general should be put to death while the people waited at this sacred spot. On this occasion Simon Bar Giora, one of the principal leaders of the Zealots, was the hapless victim, and when the messenger arrived to announce that the Jewish captain was slain, the multitude sent up a shout of joy, and prayers and sacrifices were forthwith offered up with great solemnity in the Temple. To commemorate the overthrow of the Jews gold, silver, and bronze coins were also struck. On some of these pieces we find the image of a Jewish warrior with his hands bound; Judaea is also represented in the form of a woman sitting in desolation under the shade of a palm tree, while around is the sad inscription, "Judaea captive." The sacred ornaments of the Jewish Temple were deposited in the Roman Temple of Peace, and the Book of the Law was kept in the imperial palace. All these tokens of the humiliated people have long since passed away, but the magnificent arch which was soon afterwards erected in Rome to commemorate the exploits of Titus still bears witness in all its shattered grandeur to the downfall of the Jewish national cause.

When Titus returned from the East he was admitted by his father Vespasian to a share of the supreme power. Amid the responsibilities of empire Titus still retained his affection for Berenice; she was invited to visit him at Rome, and for some years lived in the imperial palace as if she were his wife. The amour had become so notorious that the Athenians erected a statue in her honour, bearing the inscription, "The great queen daughter of the great king, Julius Agrippa." But the people of Rome were not so complaisant as the Greek provincials; they had a peculiar hatred of Eastern women, and after a time Titus, in deference to a rising tide of popular feeling, was obliged to break off his connection with the Jewish princess. After the death of Vespasian (A.D. 79) and the accession of Titus Berenice again appeared in Rome, animated with the hope of renewing the old relations with her lover. It is possible that Titus, when they unwillingly separated, held out this prospect before her, but time and prudence had produced an alteration in his designs, or perhaps he was resolved to show the Romans that their emperor had the power of sacrificing affairs of the heart to the imperative demands of state, for it is related that Berenice exercised her blandishments upon him in vain. This princess was the last of the Herodian family who played a conspicuous part before the world, and after the death of her brother Agrippa, who held a small principality in the northeast of Palestine, the Herodians sank back into obscurity.

The reign of Titus was of short duration (A.D. 79-81), but in the brief period to which it was confined he succeeded to such an extent in gaining the affection of all classes that he was afterwards spoken of as the Delight of the human races Feeling that his end was approaching, he opened the curtains of his litter on his way to the Cutilian springs, and, looking wistfully into the heavens, pathetically exclaimed that he did not deserve to die, for, with one exception, there was none of his acts that needed to be repented of. Titus was succeeded by his brother Domitian (A.D. 81-96), a man whose character was full of contradictory elements. During the first half of his reign Domitian administered the affairs of the empire with wisdom and firmness, but in the latter part the innate ferocity of his disposition gained the mastery over him, and led him at times to perpetrate the most wanton and barbarous atrocities.

At this time many of the Jews who had sought a refuge in Rome after the destruction of their country had to live in a condition of the most abject poverty. They inhabited the lowest quarters of the city, and all their earthly possessions consisted in a basket and a bed of straw. It was only by resorting to begging at the houses of the wealthy that these wretched outcasts were able to eke out a miserable and precarious existence. In these circumstances it is not surprising that many of them, in order to evade the small tribute that Vespasian had imposed upon the race, either dissimulated their origin, or did not make the statutory public declaration of the fact. The agents of Domitian, who were embarrassed for want of money towards the close of his reign, sometimes resorted to the most stringent measures in order to collect the Jewish tax, and Suetonius, the Roman historian, says that, when he was a youth, he once saw an imperial procurator in the midst of a large crowd compel an old man of ninety to pass through the degrading ordeal of proving whether he was circumcised or not. The painful impression which this incident produced upon the historian shows that such arbitrary proceedings were not usual with the Roman administration, and it is probable that it was the isolated act of an over-zealous official, and not part of any organized system for extorting the Jewish tribute. On the other hand, however, Domitian visited the utmost penalties of the law upon certain Romans who were charged with Judaism.

According to Roman ideas to renounce one's religion was equivalent to renouncing one's country, and at a period when all religions, with the exception of Christianity the universalistic principles of which were then almost unknown were national and a part of patriotism, the Roman view of the matter was substantially correct. In accordance with a statute, probably dating from the time of Vespasian, which forbade Judaizing, Domitian caused two Roman nobles, Flavius Clemens and Acilius Glabrio, to be executed. But in instituting proceedings against these senators it is very likely that the tyrant was merely actuated by political motives, for Clemens was his relative, and Glabrio was also accused of fighting with wild beasts in the arena, an accusation quite inconsistent with the other charge of Judaism. At the time the sentences were inflicted Domitian was aware that the Romans had become weary of his hateful yoke; conspiracies and plots were thickening around him, and he no doubt hoped that a few acts of vigour would strike terror among his enemies. But in these expectations he was disappointed, and a few months after the death of Clemens, Domitian perished by assassination (A.D. 96).

The Senate selected one of its own members, Marcus Cocceius Nerva (A.D. 96-98), as Domitian's successor. The new emperor had reached the age of sixty-five when he was called to supreme power, and although he had occupied high positions in the State he was neither distinguished by great talents nor conspicuous services. It is very probable that he was chosen by the senators on account of the well known mildness and moderation of his character. When Nerva assumed the imperial purple he did not belie his antecedents, and the humane measures which characterized his short reign of sixteen months were in signal contrast to the harshness and barbarity that disgraced the name of his predecessor. His accession was a welcome change to the Jews, and although the Jewish tribute was not remitted it was henceforth levied with so much discretion and forbearance that coins were struck to commemorate the fact. During this period the friends of Judaism could also breathe more freely, and it was no longer permitted, as in the time of Domitian, to bring accusations against them because of their beliefs. It was perhaps fortunate for Nerva that his reign was short; his excessive mildness degenerated into mere weakness and timidity, and it was said by a competent witness that the empire was falling to pieces under his rule. Nerva, however, had the wisdom to perceive that he needed the assistance of a stronger hand than his own, and accordingly adopted Trajan, the most distinguished general of his time. Three months after this event Nerva died, and Trajan was accepted as his successor by the army and the Senate (A.D. 98).

In selecting Trajan (A.D. 98-117) Nerva rendered a most important service to the Roman people. The new emperor is one of the most commanding and attractive figures in the history of ancient society, and his character is equally worthy of admiration, whether we look at him as a soldier, as a statesman, or in his private capacity as a man. Brave and intrepid in the field, just, laborious, and economical as an administrator, genial, affable, and modest as a companion, Trajan, with his fine figure and noble countenance, happily united in his own person all the highest qualities of the Roman race. To Trajan has been ascribed the lofty sentiment that it is better the guilty should escape than that the innocent should suffer, and such was the veneration in which his memory was held by later times, that it became a custom with the Senate on the accession of a new emperor to hail him with the salutation, "May you be more fortunate than Augustus and better than Trajan! " From such a prince the Jews had nothing to fear and it is likely that they participated in the general prosperity which distinguished his reign. But the destruction of the Holy City and the demolition of the Temple had awakened feelings of resentment which even an era of unwonted prosperity could not mollify or assuage, and after a truce of nearly fifty years the Jews once more resolved to measure themselves against the colossal force of Rome. It was whilst Trajan was engaged in war with the Parthians that the Jews broke out into revolt (A.D. 116), and on this occasion the insurrectionary movement was participated in by the whole Jewish population of the East. The Parthian war was not of Trajan's seeking. For forty years the Romans had acquired the right of placing a king on the throne of Armenia, but in the year 114 the Parthian monarch set aside the prince appointed by Trajan, and conferred the kingdom of Armenia on one of his own nominees. Sometime before this signal affront to Roman pride the attitude of the Parthians had frequently been one of ill-concealed hostility, and although Trajan was now about sixty years of age he determined to take the field in person to chastise the insolence of his enemy and strengthen the frontiers of the empire. In the spring of 115 the old emperor having restored discipline among the Syrian legions and reinforced them with veterans from Pannonia, began his march from Antioch to the Euphrates. After futile negotiations with the Parthians Armenia was made a Roman province, and the whole of Mesopotamia submitted without a blow. In the following year Trajan pursued his way along the banks of the Tigris: Ctesiphon, the Persian capital, fell into his hands, and his progress was only stopped by the waters of the Persian Gulf. Seeing a vessel about to sail for India, and recollecting the exploits of Alexander, he is reported to have said, "Were I yet young I would not stop till I, too, had reached the limits of the Macedonian conquest." But these aspirations, if it is true that Trajan ever cherished them, were soon dissipated by the news that the populations behind him had risen in revolt. Trajan hastily retraced his steps, and after much severe fighting in which one legion was cut to pieces, the emperor succeeded in mastering the insurgents.

Among the most determined of Trajan's opponents in the course of this insurrection were the Jews of Mesopotamia. Lucius Quietus, one of the emperor's most trusted lieutenants, operated against them, and received orders from his chief to expel the Jewish population from the province. While Quietus was endeavouring to carry these instructions into effect news arrived at the Roman headquarters of the alarming revolt that had taken place among the Jewish colonists on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean (A.D. 116). Concerning the immediate cause of this widespread outbreak it is impossible to speak with certainty; it must have been to some extent preconcerted, otherwise it would not have sprung into existence almost simultaneously in so many districts. The revolting atrocities which characterized the conduct of the Jews tend to show that they were largely under the sway of a wild and aimless fanaticism, and if they had any settled purpose it apparently consisted in a resolve to exterminate their Gentile fellow-citizens, and to found an independent Jewish state amid the desolation they had created. In the island of Cyprus alone the Jews put two hundred and forty thousand of the native population to death, and in Cyrene on the African coast more than two hundred thousand Greeks and Romans were brutally massacred. In both of these provinces it is probable that the Jews outnumbered the rest of the inhabitants. After the revolt was quelled Cyrene had to be re-colonized. Wherever the Jews obtained the mastery they behaved like hordes of cannibals, eating the flesh of their victims and smearing themselves with their blood.

[Illustration] from The Jews Under Roman Rule by W. D. Morrison
ROMAN THEATRE MAMAS


The moment for revolt was well chosen, and the temporary success which attended it was no doubt owing to the fact that the exigencies of the Parthian war had almost depleted the Eastern provinces of Roman troops. When the insurrection extended to Egypt the Prefect Lupus was unable to hold the field, and had to take refuge among the fortifications of Alexandria. Here he awaited the arrival of Martius Turbo, who was dispatched by Trajan with powerful reinforcements to the scene of hostilities. Turbo was an able officer, and once more taught the Jews that the frantic onset of Oriental fanaticism was unavailing against the cool bravery of the West. After a bitter and somewhat prolonged struggle the Roman commander succeeded in rescuing the oppressed populations of Egypt, Cyrene, and Cyprus; everywhere he cut down the insurgents without mercy, and at Alexandria the rebel population was almost annihilated. As a result of their atrocities, the Jews were henceforth forbidden to set foot on the island of Cyprus, and the feeling of resentment against them had reached such a pitch among the inhabitants that even shipwrecked Jews were threatened with death.

The rebellious attitude of the Jews had seriously interfered with the success of Trajan's policy in the East. From a military point of view the Euphrates was not a satisfactory frontier, and Trajan considered that the empire would enjoy greater security if its boundaries were extended to the banks of the Tigris. The line of the Tigris was much more easy to defend against incursions from the East, and it was not so much lust of conquest as the exposed position of the Romans in that quarter of the world which led the emperor to involve himself in a Parthian war. But the formidable outbreak of the Jews in Mesopotamia and on the Mediterranean contributed not a little to throw the emperor's great designs into confusion, and when he returned to Antioch (A.D. 117) with his legions shattered in an unsuccessful attempt to carry the desert fortress of Hatra, the Romans retained but a shadowy authority over the vast regions which had been lying at their feet the year before. The emperor, however, was not to be baffled in his purpose by these unforeseen strokes of adversity, and had determined to renew the campaign in the following spring. But while meditating on these warlike schemes for the future the hand of death was upon him; on the journey from Antioch to Rome, where a triumph awaited him, his martial spirit passed away (Aug. 8, 117).

Before setting out for the capital Trajan left his relative Hadrian in command of the legions at Antioch. Whether Trajan in the closing moments of his life adopted Hadrian or not is a matter of some uncertainty. The distinctions which were conferred one after another upon Hadrian from the time of his entry into public life, culminating in his appointment to the most important military position in the empire, point almost conclusively to the supposition that the aged emperor intended Hadrian to succeed him, But whatever may have been the circumstances which elevated Hadrian to the imperial dignity, his accession (A.D. 117-138) was a fortunate event for the commonwealth. He was in every way capable of being entrusted with the destinies of the vast and intricate organization of which he had become the chief. Hadrian was a man of great versatility and breadth of view. He had an insatiable desire for light on all conceivable subjects, and delighted to range over the whole field of knowledge, speculation, and superstition. With the reputation of being the very reverse of austere in his private life, he still appreciated the severe philosophy of the Stoics, and was at the same time at home among the soothsayers and magic men who crowded around him in the East. Hadrian took a keen, and yet amused, interest in the multitude of faiths which in his day were contending with one another for supremacy, but he gave a complete adhesion to none of them, and was always more anxious to understand than to believe their doctrines. In public life Hadrian displayed many of the highest qualities of a ruler. He did more than any of his predecessors to organize the imperial system, and tempered its inherent absolutism by surrounding the head of the executive with a trained body of competent officials for the different departments of public business. Hadrian lived very little in Rome; most of his time was spent in visiting the various provinces of the empire, and in making himself accurately acquainted with the real condition of the inhabitants. The happiness of the people was the supreme object of Hadrian's policy; justice and moderation was the spirit in which that object was pursued.

In the East the new emperor reverted to the principles of Augustus. He abandoned Trajan's schemes of aggrandizement, concluded peace with the Parthians, and the line of the Euphrates continued to be the eastern limit of the empire. Although Hadrian was a good soldier he had no desire to play the part of a conqueror, and his inexhaustible activity was devoted to works of reform and peace. The pacific temper of Hadrian's administration produced a favourable impression upon many of the Jews, and the putting of Lucius Quietus to death soon after his accession was looked upon by some of them as a punishment for the harsh manner in which this commander had suppressed the rebellion in Palestine and Mesopotamia. Hadrian is the only emperor who is spoken of in the Sibylline Oracles of this period in a sincere tone of admiration. Great hopes are built upon him by the pious Jew of Alexandria who gives utterance to his expectations through the medium of the Sibyl. Hadrian is described by this writer in an oracular manner as the man with a silver helmet who bears the name of a sea. He is apostrophized in lofty terms as an eminent, an excellent, a brilliant sovereign who knows all things. He is a second Cyrus, and the priests are exhorted to appear before him in their white linen garments in order that the Temple of God may be restored.

The hopes of the Sibyl were probably based upon Hadrian's well-known love for restoring the decayed magnificence of the past. Whenever the emperor in the course of his wanderings came upon the desolate remains of former greatness it was difficult for him to resist the temptation to restore them. His immense constructions were to be seen in every province of the empire, and many of the dilapidated towns of Syria were for a time called back to life through his instrumentality. On Roman coins of this period Hadrian is represented as raising Judaea and her children from the dust, and it is possible that these coins were intended to commemorate some decree of his for the restoration of Jerusalem. Since its destruction by Titus the Holy City had remained in ruins and the sanctuary of Israel had become a haunt for beasts of prey. Hadrian had seen the desolation created by his predecessor, and was induced by a variety of reasons to rebuild the ill-fated town (circa 130). In addition to gratifying his antiquarian tastes and reviving an ancient seat of civilization, Hadrian, who never liked his soldiers to be idle, found the restoration of Jerusalem an excellent means of occupying the legion which had been stationed there since the time of Vespasian. But the new city was not intended to be a future centre of Judaism. It was, on the contrary, to be a Roman town, and to offer a home for the veterans of the neighbouring camp after their period of service had expired. So distinctly was this the case that the hallowed name of Jerusalem was discarded for the new constructions which were to spring up on the hills of Zion: the sacred spot was to have all traces of its past obliterated; it was henceforth to be spoken of as Aella Capitolina, a name given it in honour of the emperor and the supreme divinity of Rome. Jerusalem was to be a heathen city; within its walls Venus was to have her shrine, and a temple to Jupiter was to stand on the ruins that had been consecrated to the worship of Israel's God.

At the time the emperor was planning the transformation of Jerusalem into a heathen city, the jurists of Rome advised him to forbid the practice of circumcision. This prohibition, like the edict against mutilation, was unquestionably issued in the interest of morals and had no ulterior purpose, but the Jews not unnaturally regarded it as an attack upon their faith. The impracticability of enforcing this edict would have made it endurable, and the issuing of it might not have led to serious results. But the desecration of the Holy City was more than the Jews could bear, and the outcome of this portion of Hadrian's policy was one of the most sanguinary and protracted revolts in the annals of the Roman Empire. Judaea was the centre of hostilities, but the insurrectionary movement was supported by the Jewish race throughout the world.

A mysterious personage named. Bar-Kokheba or Ben-Kosiba, placed himself at the head of the insurgents (A.D. 132-5). It is certain that Bar-Kokheba was a man of great valour and military ability, but the information which has come down to us concerning him makes it impossible to say whether he was a fanatic or an imposter. Notwithstanding the fact that Bar-Kokheba led the Jewish host, Rabbi Akiba was the soul of the revolt. At this period Akiba was holding a pre-eminent position as a doctor of the Law. Among the Jews of Palestine, as well as among their co-religionists abroad, his name was held in the highest veneration. He was the originator of new methods of interpretation; he had the reputation of being a second Ezra, and it became a saying among the doctors that the power of Moses was weak till he was interpreted by Rabbi Akiba. Akiba was a man of the people as well as a scribe; his heart was full of charity and affection for the multitude; his interest in their welfare was so deep and genuine that he ultimately came to be called "the Hand of the Poor." A portion of Akiba's life had been spent in visiting the Jewish communities in the Roman and Parthian Empires, and in his contact with the heathen he had learnt that some of their customs were worthy of respect. Considering the age in which he lived and the almost universal belief in such arts as magic and astrology, Akiba's mind was singularly free from vulgar superstitions, and it was a saying of his that Israel stood under no planet. But in spite of all these admirable qualities of mind and heart this eminent rabbi's belief in the immediate coming of the Messiah made him one of the most disastrous teachers the Jews had ever seen. These Messianic ideas created an alarming ferment among the credulous population. One of the wiser doctors of the time, apprehending their dire results, tried to cast ridicule upon them by saying, "Grass shall grow from thy jaws, O Akiba, before the Messiah appears." But the hopes of the infatuated rabbi were of a nature which neither reason nor mockery could affect, and when Bar-Kokheba appeared upon the scene Akiba immediately pointed him out as the long-predicted Messianic king. The rebel chief was the star (kokab) that should come forth out of Jacob; hence his name Bar-Kokheba, "the Son of the Star." Akiba's devotion reached such a pitch that he abandoned his life-long meditation on the Law and accepted the humble position of Bar-Kokheba's armour-bearer.

The recognition of Bar-Kokheba as the Messiah by so distinguished and revered a rabbi was in the nature of a consecration. It surrounded him with a halo of sanctity, and he was looked upon by multitudes with passionate enthusiasm as the long-expected deliverer of Israel from the yoke of Rome. Before the Romans were roused to the serious character of Bar-Kokheba's rebellion it had assumed very formidable proportions. All the towns in Judaea which had no Roman garrison declared for the insurgent chief, and a strongly fortified place called Bethar, some distance southwest of Jerusalem, became the headquarters of the Jews. In the closing years of their national life the use of Roman money had sorely perplexed the conscience of the Jews, and one of the first acts of Bar-Kokheba was to re-stamp die imperial coinage. Some of his coins are intended to commemorate the deliverance of Israel, and on this money of the revolt, as it was called, may still be seen the impression of two trumpets for the purpose of giving symbolical expression to the fact that Israel was being summoned together for a holy war. Success at first crowned the Jewish cause; the Roman forces in Palestine were too small to hold the field; even Publicius Marcellus, at that time legate of Syria, was not strong enough to cope with the insurrection. When Hadrian became aware of the alarming condition of affairs in Judaea reinforcements were sent to the scene of hostilities under the command of Sextus Julius Severus, the most distinguished soldier of his age. Severus was recalled from Britain to conduct the campaign. Adopting the tactics of his predecessor Vespasian, he declined a general engagement with the infuriated masses opposed to him. Severus, who was ably seconded by experienced lieutenants, divided his army into a number of separate corps and attacked the Jews in detail. One after another of the Jewish strongholds was captured , the defenders were decimated and the country laid in ruins. The fortress of Bethar with its wonderful subterranean passages was held by Bar-Kokheba with the tenacity of despair. But the Romans, aided by the horrors of thirst and famine, eventually obtained the mastery, and the rebel leader perished amid the ruins of his cause.

[Illustration] from The Jews Under Roman Rule by W. D. Morrison
HEAD OF HADRIAN, FOUND NEAR THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS


It is perhaps well that we possess so few details respecting the course of this revolt and the manner in which it was suppressed. According to the scattered intimations of ancient writers it was a war of extermination. The devastation and massacre which marked its progress and crowned its close were of much greater magnitude than the terrible scenes enacted in the days of Vespasian and Titus. Without taking account of the vast numbers that perished by famine and disease, it is credibly reported that over half a million men fell fighting in the field. The miserable survivors whose lives were spared glutted the slave markets of the East. Some of the fugitives from Roman vengeance concealed themselves in caves and subterranean passages; many of them were impelled by hunger to devour the bodies of the dead, and those were considered fortunate who escaped into the wilderness. It would almost seem to have been the object of the Roman administration to make Palestine intolerable to the children of Abraham, and the desolate aspect of Judaea at the present day is a silent witness of the awful severity with which this final rising was suppressed. As a consequence of the insurrection the name of Judaea became so hateful to the Roman authorities that it was generally discarded, and the province was henceforth known as Syria Palaestina. The Jews were forbidden on pain of death to set foot in Jerusalem; they were even denied the melancholy satisfaction of gazing afar off upon its ruins. In the third century this edict fell into disuse, and was not again put in operation till the reign of the emperor Constantine. But this general prohibition did not apply to one day in the year the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem by Titus. On that day of bitter memory the Jews could obtain permission to weep over the site of the Temple and to anoint the stone where it was believed the Holy of Holies had stood.

[Illustration] from The Jews Under Roman Rule by W. D. Morrison
FIGHTING WITH WILD BEASTS.


The revolt under Hadrian was the last supreme effort of the Jews to separate themselves from the confederation of nations held together by Roman arms. Under succeeding emperors the facilities afforded by the caves of Palestine for leading a lawless life sometimes produced temporary disturbances, but these movements, although professedly patriotic, were often mere outbreaks of brigandage, and never assumed a serious aspect. The military power of the people had been completely destroyed. But if their power had perished their animosity became, if possible, more bitter and profound. So long, however, as peace was not broken the Romans paid comparatively little heed to Jewish rancour, and on the whole continued to allow the race a considerable measure of religious and political toleration. Hadrian's mistaken edict forbidding circumcision was abrogated by his successor, Antoninus Pius, and the Jews had henceforth perfect liberty to perform this rite upon their own children. As before the war, they were free from service in the legions, and at least from the reign of Severus, they were excused the performance of such municipal duties as ran counter to their religious prejudices. In fact, it had never been a part of Roman policy to treat the Jews with greater harshness than the rest of the provincials; their position in this respect was even a favoured one, and the calamities which fell upon them under Roman domination were almost entirely of their own choosing. However much we may honour the motives and heroism of a Bar-Kokheba or a Simon Bar-Giora, it was neither in the interests of Jewish liberty nor for the general welfare of mankind that such leaders should prevail. Their success would have immediately involved the Jews in anarchy, and the era of religious persecution they would undoubtedly have inaugurated against the non-Jewish population must, sooner or later, have compelled the nations to do the repressive work which was unwillingly undertaken by the emperors Vespasian, Trajan, and Hadrian.