Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
Henceforward Roman intervention forms a constant disturbing factor in Jewish history. The struggle between the Pharisees and the Sadducees continued indeed to be carried on, but only because the momentum of their old feud was not yet exhausted. The Pharisees in a sense had been victorious. While the two brothers were pleading their rival claims before Pompey, ambassadors from the Pharisees had made their appearance in Damascus to petition for the abolition of the kingship; this object had now to some extent been gained. Less
ambiguous than the victory of the Pharisees was the fall of the Sadducees, who in losing the sovereignty of the Jewish state lost all real importance. But the intervention of the foreign element exercised its most powerful influence upon the temper of the lower classes. Though in times of peace the masses still continued to accept the guidance of the rabbins, their patriotism instantly burst into flame as soon as a pretender to the throne, belonging to the family of Aristobulus, appeared in Palestine. During the decennia which immediately followed, Jewish history was practically absorbed in vain attempts to restore the old Hasmonæan kingdom. Insurrections of steadily increasing dimensions were made in favour of Aristobulus, the representative of the national cause. For Hyrcanus was not regarded as a Hasmonæan at all, but merely as the creature of Antipater and the Romans. First, in the year 57, Alexander the son of Aristobulus broke into rebellion, then in 56 Aristobulus himself and his son Antigonus, and in 55 Alexander again. Antipater was never able to hold his own; Roman intervention was in every case necessary. The division of the Hasmonæan state into five "aristocracies" by Gabinius had no effect in diminishing the feeling of national unity cherished by the Jews of Palestine. Once again, after the battle of Carrhæ, a rising took place, which Cassius speedily repressed.
In 49 the great Roman civil war broke out; Cæsar instigated Aristobulus against Antipater, who in common with the whole East had espoused the cause of Pompey. But Aristobulus was poisoned by the opposite party while yet in Italy, and about the same time his son Alexander was also put to death at Antioch; thus the danger to Antipater passed away. After the battle of Pharsalus he went over to Cæsar's side, and soon after rendered him an important service by helping him out of his difficulties at Alexandria. By this means he earned the good-will of Cæsar towards the whole body of the Jews and secured for himself (or Hyrcanus) a great extension of power and of territory. The five "synedria" or "aristocracies" of Gabinius were superseded, the most important conquest of the Hasmonæans restored, the walls of Jerusalem, which Pompey had razed, rebuilt.
However indisputable the advantages conferred by the rule of Antipater, the Jews could not forget that the Idumæan, in name of Hyrcanus, the rightful heir of the Hasmonæans, was in truth setting up an authority of his own. The Sadducæan aristocracy in particular, which
formerly in the synedrium had shared the supreme power with the high priest, endeavoured to restore reality once more to the nominal ascendancy which still continued to be attributed to the ethnarch and the synedrium. "When the authorities (οἱ ἐν τέλει) of the Jews saw how the power of Antipater and his sons was growing, their disposition towards him became hostile" (Josephus, Ant., xiv. 9, 3). They were specially jealous of the youthful Herod, to whom Galilee had been entrusted by his father. On account of the arbitrary execution of a robber chief Ezechias, who perhaps had originally been a Hasmonæan partisan, they summoned him before the synedrium, under the impression that it was not yet too late to remind him that he was after all but a servant. But the defiant demeanour of the culprit, and a threatening missive which at the same time arrived from Sextus Cæsar demanding his acquittal, rendered his judges speechless, nor did they regain their courage until they had heard the stinging reproaches of Sameas the scribe. Yet the aged Hyrcanus, who did not comprehend the danger that was threatening himself, postponed judgment upon Herod, and gave him opportunity to withdraw. Having been appointed strategus of Cœlesyria by Sextus Cæsar in the meanwhile he soon afterwards appeared before Jerusalem at the head of an army, and the authorities were compelled to address themselves in a conciliatory manner to his father and to Phasael his brother in order to secure his withdrawal.
The attempt to crush the serpent which had thus effected a lodgment in the Hasmonæan house came too late. The result of it simply was that the Herodians had now the advantage of being able to distinguish between Hyrcanus and his "evil counsellors." From that moment the downfall of the Sadducæan notables was certain. It was of no avail to them that after the battle of Philippi (42) they accused Herod and Phasael (Antipater having been murdered in 43) before Antony of having been helpful in every possible way to Cassius; Antony declared himself in the most decisive manner for the two brothers. In their despair—for properly speaking they were not national fanatics but only egoistic politicians—they ultimately made common cause with Antigonus the son of Aristobulus, and threw themselves into the arms of the Parthians, perceiving the interests of the Romans and of Herod to be inseparable (40). Fortune at first seemed to have declared in favour of the pretender. The masses unanimously took his side; Phasael committed suicide in
prison; with a single blow Herod was stripped of all his following and made a helpless fugitive. He took refuge in Rome, however, where he was named king of Judæa by the senate, and after a somewhat protracted war he finally, with the help of the legions of Sosius, made himself master of Jerusalem (37). The captive Antigonus was beheaded at Antioch.
King Herod began his reign by reorganising the synedrium; he ordered the execution of forty-five of its noblest members, his most zealous opponents. These were the Sadducæan notables who long had headed the struggle against the Idumæan interlopers. Having thus made away with the leaders of the Jerusalem aristocracy, he directed his efforts to the business of corrupting the rest. He appointed to the most important posts obscure individuals, of priestly descent, from Babylon and Alexandria, and thus replaced with creatures of his own the old aristocracy. Nor did he rest content with this; in order to preclude the possibility of any independent authority ever arising alongside of his own, he abolished the life-tenure of the high-priestly office, and brought it completely under the control of the secular power. By this means he succeeded in relegating the Sadducees to utter insignificance. They were driven out of their native sphere—the political—into the region of theoretical and ecclesiastical discussion, where they continued, but on quite unequal terms, their old dispute with the Pharisees.
It was during the period of Herod's activity that the Pharisees, strictly speaking, enjoyed their greatest prosperity (Sameas and Abtalion, Hillel and Shammai); in the synedrium they became so numerous as almost to equal the priests and elders. Quite consistently with their principles they had abstained from taking any part in the life and death struggle for the existence of the national state. Their leaders had even counselled the fanatical defenders of Jerusalem to open the gates to the enemy; for this service they were treated with the highest honour by Herod. He made it part of his general policy to favour the Pharisees (as also the sect of the Essenes, insignificant though it was), it being his purpose to restrict the national life again within those purely ecclesiastical channels of activity which it had abandoned since the Maccabæan wars. However reckless his conduct in other respects, he was always scrupulously careful to avoid wounding religious susceptibilities (Ant., xiv. 16, 3). But although the Pharisees might be quite pleased that the high-priesthood and the kingship were no longer united in one and the
same person, and that interest in the law again overshadowed interest in politics, the populace for their part could never forgive Herod for overthrowing the old dynasty. That he himself, at least in religious profession, was a Jew did not improve his position, but rather made it worse. It was not easy for him to stifle the national feeling after it had once been revived among the Jews; they could not forget the recent past, and objected to being thrust back into the time when foreign domination was endured by them as a matter of course. The Romans were regarded in quite a different light from that in which the Persians and the Greeks had been viewed, and Herod was only the client of the Romans.
His greatest danger seemed to arise from the still surviving members of the Hasmonæan family, to whom, as is easily understood, the national hopes clung. In the course of the earlier years of his reign he removed every one of them from his path, beginning with his youthful brother-in-law Aristobulus (35), after whom came his old patron Hyrcanus II. (30), then Mariamne his wife (29), and finally his stepmother Alexandra (28), the daughter of Hyrcanus and the widow of Alexander Aristobuli. Subsequently, in 25, he caused Costobarus and the sons of Babas to be executed. While thus occupied with domestic affairs, Herod had constant trouble also in his external relations, and each new phase in his political position immediately made itself felt at home. In the first instance he had much to suffer from Cleopatra, who would willingly have seen Palestine reduced under Egyptian domination once more, and who actually succeeded in inducing Antony to take from Herod several fair and valuable provinces of his realm. Next, his whole position was imperilled by the result of the battle of Actium; he had once more ranged himself upon the wrong side. But his tact did not fail him in winning Octavianus, as before it had made Antony his friend. In fact he reaped nothing but advantage from the great overturn which took place in Roman affairs; it rid him of Cleopatra, a dangerous enemy, and gave him in the new imperator a much better master than before.
During the following years he had leisure to carry out those splendid works of peace by which it was his aim to ingratiate himself with the emperor. He founded cities and harbours (Antipatris, Cæsarea), constructed roads, theatres, and temples, and subsidised far beyond his frontier all works of public utility. He taxed the Jews heavily, but in compensation promoted their material interests with energy and discretion,
and built for them, from 20 or 19 B.C. onwards, the temple at Jerusalem. To gain their sympathies he well knew to be impossible. Apart from the Roman legions at his back his authority had its main support in his fortresses and in his system of espionage.
But just as the acme of his splendour had been reached, he himself became the instrument of a terrible vengeance for the crimes by which his previous years had been stained; as executioner of all the Hasmonæans, he was now constrained to be the executioner of his own children also. His suspicious temper had been aroused against his now grown-up sons by Mariamne, whose claims through their mother to the throne were superior to his own; his brother Pheroras and his sister Salome made it their special business to fan his jealousy into flame. To show the two somewhat arrogant youths that the succession was not so absolutely secure in their favour as they were supposing, the father summoned to his court Antipater, the exiled son of a former marriage. Antipater, under the mask of friendship, immediately began to carry on infamous intrigues against his half brothers, in which Pheroras and Salome unconsciously played into his hands. For years he persevered alike in favouring and unfavouring circumstances with his part, until at last, by the machinations of a Lacedemonian, Eurycles, who had been bribed, Herod was induced to condemn the sons of Mariamne at Berytus, and cause them to be strangled (Samaria, 7-6 B.C.). Not long afterwards a difference between Antipater and Salome led to the exposure of the former. Herod was compelled to drain the cup to the dregs; he was not spared the knowledge that he had murdered his children without a cause. His remorse threw him into a serious illness, in which his strong constitution wrestled long with death. While he lay at Jericho near his end he gave orders for the execution of Antipater also; and to embitter the joy of the Jews at his removal he caused their elders to be shut up together in the hippodrome at Jericho with the injunction to butcher them as soon as he breathed his last, that so there might be sorrow throughout the land. The latter order, however, was not carried out.
His death (4 B.C.) gave the signal for an insurrection of small beginnings which gradually spread until it ultimately infected all the people; it was repressed by Varus with great cruelty. Meanwhile Herod's connexions were at Rome disputing about the inheritance. The deceased king (who was survived by several children of various marriages) had
made a will, which was substantially confirmed by Augustus. By it his son Philip received the northern portion of the territory on the east of the Jordan along with the district of Paneas (Cæsarea Philippi); his thirty-seven years’ reign over this region was happy. Another son, Herod Antipas, obtained Galilee and Peræa; he beautified his domains with architectural works (Sepphoris, Tiberias; Livias, Machærus), and succeeded by his fox-like policy in ingratiating himself with the emperors, particularly with Tiberius, for that very cause, however, becoming odious to the Roman provincial officials. The principal heir was Archelaus, to whom Idumæa, Judæa, and Samaritis were allotted; Augustus at first refused him the title of king. Archelaus had experienced the greatest difficulty in carrying through his claims before the emperor in face of the manifold oppositions of his enemies; the vengeance which he wreaked upon his subjects was so severe that in 6 A.D. a Jewish and Samaritan embassy besought the emperor for his deposition. Augustus assented, banishing Archelaus to Vienne, and putting in his place a Roman procurator. Thenceforward Judæa continued under procurators, with the exception of a brief interval (41-44 A.D.), during which Herod Agrippa I. united under his sway all the dominions of his grandfather. 1
The termination of the vassal kingship resulted in manifest advantage to the Sadducees. The high priest and synedrium again acquired political importance; they were the responsible representatives of the nation in presence of the suzerain power, and conceived themselves to be in some sort lords of land and people (John xi. 48). For the Pharisees the new state of affairs appears to have been less satisfactory. That the Romans were much less oppressive to the Jews than the rulers of the house of Herod was a consideration of less importance to them than the fact that the heathen first unintentionally and then deliberately were guilty of the rudest outrages upon the law,
outrages against which those sly half-Jews had well understood how to be on their guard. It was among the lower ranks of the people, however, that hatred to the Romans had its proper seat. On the basis of the views and tendencies which had long prevailed there, a new party was now formed, that of the Zealots, which did not, like the Pharisees, aim merely at the fulfilment of all righteousness, i.e., of the law, and leave everything else in the hands of God, but was determined to take an active part in bringing about the realisation of the kingdom of God (Josephus, Ant., xviii. 1, 1).
As the transition to the new order of things was going on, the census of Quirinius took place (6-7 A.D.); it occasioned an immense excitement, which, however, was successfully allayed. On the withdrawal of Quirinius, Coponius remained behind as procurator of Judæa; he was followed, under Augustus, by Marcus Ambivius and Annius Rufus; under Tiberius, by Valerius Gratus (15-26 A.D.) and Pontius Pilatus (26-36 A.D.); under Caligula, by Marcellus (36-37) and Marullus (37-41 A.D.). The procurators were subordinate to the imperial legati of Syria; they resided in Cæsarea, and visited Jerusalem on special occasions only. They had command of the military, and their chief business was the maintenance of the peace and the care of the revenue. They interested themselves in affairs of religion only in so far as these had a political side; the temple citadel Antonia was constantly garrisoned with a cohort. The administration of justice appears to have been left to a very considerable extent in the hands of the synedrium, but it was not allowed to give effect to any capital sentence. At the head of the native authorities stood at this time not so much the actual high priest as the college of the chief priests. The actual office of high priest had lost its political importance in consequence of the frequency with which its holders were changed; thus, for example, Annas had more influence than Caiaphas.
The principle of interfering as little as possible with the religious liberty of the Jews was rudely assailed by the Emperor Caius, who like a second Antiochus, after various minor vexations, gave orders that his image should be set up in the temple of Jerusalem as in others elsewhere. It was entirely through the courage and tact of the Syrian governor P. Petronius that the execution of these orders was temporarily postponed until the emperor was induced by Agrippa I. to withdraw them. Caius soon afterwards died, and under the rule of Agrippa I., to whom the government of the entire kingdom of his grandfather was committed
by Claudius, the Jews enjoyed much prosperity; in every respect the king was all they could wish. This very prosperity seems, however, to have caused them fresh danger. For it made them feel the government by procurators, which was resumed after the death of Agrippa I., to be particularly hard to bear, whatever the individual characters of these might be. They were Cuspius Fadus (from 44, under whom Theudas), Tiberius Alexander (the Romanised nephew of Philo, till 48), Cumanus (48-52, under whom the volcano already began to give dangerous signs of activity), and Felix (52-60). Felix, who has the honour to be pilloried in the pages of Tacitus, contrived to make the dispeace permanent. The influence of the two older parties, both of which were equally interested in the maintenance of the existing order, and in that interest were being drawn nearer to each other, diminished day by day. The masses broke loose completely from the authority of the scribes; the ruling nobility adapted itself better to the times; under the circumstances which then prevailed, it is not surprising that they became thoroughly secular and did not shrink from the employment of directly immoral means for the attainment of their ends. The Zealots became the dominant party. It was a combination of noble and base elements; superstitious enthusiasts (Acts xxi. 38) and political assassins, the so-called sicarii, were conjoined with honest but fanatical patriots. Felix favoured the sicarii in order that he might utilise them; against the others his hostility raged with indiscriminating cruelty, yet without being able to check them. The anarchy which he left behind him as a legacy was beyond the control of his able successor Porcius Festus (60-62), and the last two procurators, Albinus (62-64) and Gessius Florus, acted as if it had been their special business to encourage and promote it. All the bonds of social order were dissolved; no property was secure; the assassins alone prospered, and the procurators went shares with them in the profits.
It was inevitable that deep resentment against the Romans should be felt in every honest heart. At last it found expression. During his visit to Jerusalem in May 66 Florus laid hands upon the temple treasure; the Jews allowed themselves to go so far as to make a joke about it, which he avenged by giving over a portion of the city to be plundered, and crucifying a number of the inhabitants. He next insisted upon their kissing the rod, ordering that a body of troops which was approaching should be met and welcomed. At the persuasion of their leaders the Jews forced
themselves even to this; but a constant succession of fresh insults and cruelties followed, till patience was quite exhausted at last, and in a violent street fight the Romans were so handled that the procurator withdrew from the town, leaving only the cohort in Antonia. Once again was an attempt at pacification made by Agrippa II., who hastened from Alexandria with this purpose, but the Jews could not bring themselves to make submission to Gessius Florus. It so happened that at this juncture the fortress of Masada on the Dead Sea fell into the hands of the Zealots; the courage of the party of action rose, and at the instance of the hot-headed Eleazar the son of Ananias, a man, still young, of highest priestly family, the sacrifice on behalf of the emperor was discontinued, i.e., revolt was declared. But the native authorities continued opposed to a war. At their request King Agrippa sent soldiers to Jerusalem; at first they appeared to have some effect, but ultimately they were glad to make their escape in safety from the city. The cohort in Antonia was in like manner unable to hold its own; freedom was given it to withdraw; but, contrary to the terms of capitulation, it was put to the sword. The war party now signalised its triumph over all elements of opposition from within by the murder of the high priest Ananias.
A triumph was gained also over the outer foe. The Syrian legate, Cestius Gallus, appeared before Jerusalem in the autumn of 66, but after a short period raised the siege; his deliberate withdrawal was changed into a precipitate flight in an attack made by the Jews at Bethhoron. The revolt now spread irresistibly through all ranks and classes of the population, and the aristocracy found it expedient itself to assume the leadership. An autonomous government was organised, with the noblest members of the community at its head; of these the most important was the high priest Ananus.
Meanwhile Nero entrusted the conduct of the Jewish war to Vespasian, his best general. In the spring of 67 he began his task in Galilee, where the historian Josephus had command of the insurgents. The Jews entirely distrusted him and he them; in a short time the Romans were masters of Galilee, only a few strong places holding out against them. Josephus was besieged in Jotapata, and taken prisoner; the other places also were unable to hold out long. Such of the champions of freedom in Galilee as escaped betook themselves to Jerusalem; amongst these was the Zealot leader John of Giscala. There they told
the story of their misfortunes, of which they laid the blame upon Josephus, and upon the aristocratic government as having no heart for the common cause and having treachery for their motto. The Zealots now openly aimed at the overthrow of the existing government, but Ananus bravely withstood them, and pressed so hard on them that they summoned the Idumæans into the city to their aid. These honourable fanatics indeed withdrew again as soon as they had discovered that they were being used for sinister designs; but in the meanwhile they had accomplished the work of the Zealots. The old magistracy of Jerusalem was destroyed, Ananus with the heads of the aristocracy and very many other respectable citizens put to death. The radicals, for the most part not natives of the city, came into power; John of Giscala at their head tyrannized over the inhabitants.
While these events were taking place in Jerusalem, Vespasian had subdued the whole country, with the exception of one or two fortresses. But as he was setting about the siege of the capital, tidings arrived of the death of Nero, and the offensive was discontinued. For almost two years (June 68 to April 70), with a short break, war was suspended. When Vespasian at the end of this period became emperor, he entrusted to Titus the task of reducing Jerusalem. There in the interval the internal struggle had been going on, even after the radicals had gained the mastery. As a counterpoise to John of Giscala the citizens had received the guerilla captain Simon bar Giora into the city; the two were now at feud with each other, but were alike in their rapacity towards the citizens. John occupied the temple, Simon the upper city lying over against it on the west. For a short time a third entered into competition with the two rivals, a certain Eleazar who had separated from John and established himself in the inner temple. But just as Titus was beginning the siege (Easter, 70) John contrived to get rid of this interloper.
Titus attacked from the north. After the lower city had fallen into his hands, he raised banks with a view to the storm of the temple and the upper city. But the defenders, who were now united in a common cause, taught him by their vigorous resistance that his object was not to be so quickly gained. He therefore determined to reduce them by famine, and for this end completely surrounded the city with a strong wall. In the beginning of July he renewed the attack, which he directed in the first instance against the temple. The tower of Antonia fell on the 5th, but the temple continued to beheld notwithstanding; until the 17th the
daily sacrifice continued to be offered. The Romans succeeded in gaining the outer court in August only. To drive them out, the Jews in the night of August 10-11 made a sortie, but were compelled to retire, the enemy forcing their way behind them into the inner court. A legionary flung a firebrand into an annexe of the temple, and soon the whole structure was in flames. A terrible slaughter of the defenders ensued, but John with a determined band succeeded in cutting his way out, and by means of the bridge over the Tyropœon valley made his escape into the upper city.
No attack had as yet been directed against this quarter; but famine was working terrible ravages among the crowded population. Those in command, however, refused to capitulate unless freedom to withdraw along with their wives and children were granted. These terms being withheld, a storm, after the usual preparations on the part of the Romans, took place. The resistance was feeble; the strong towers were hardly defended at all; Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala now thought only of their personal safety. In the unprotected city the Roman soldiers spread fire and slaughter unchecked (September 7, 70).
Of those who survived also some were put to death; the rest were sold or carried off to the mines and amphitheatres. The city was levelled with the ground; the tenth legion was left behind in charge. Titus took with him to Rome for his triumphal procession Simon bar Giora and John of Giscala, along with seven hundred other prisoners, also the sacred booty taken from the temple, the candlestick, the golden table, and a copy of the Torah. He was slightly premature with his triumph; for some time elapsed, and more than one bloody battle was necessary before the rebellion was completely stifled. It did not come wholly to an end until the fall of Masada (April 73).
533:1 Agrippa was the grandson of Mariamne through Aristobulus. Caligula, whose friendship he had secured in Rome, bestowed upon him in 37 the dominions of Philip with the title of king, and afterwards the tetrarchy of Antipas, whom he deposed and banished to Lugdunum (39). Claudius added the possessions of Archelaus. But the kingdom was again taken away from his son Agrippa II. (44), who, however, after the death of his uncle, Herod of Chalcis, obtained that principality for which at a later period (52) the tetrarchy of Philip was substituted. His sister Berenice is known as the mistress of Titus; another sister, Drusilla, was the wife of the procurator Felix. The descendants of Mariamne through Alexander held for some time an Armenian principality.