Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Pariah in Memoirs of the Destruction

A dog begins to follow Dakis in AD 67, described as a “round dog with big shoulders like the Arabs use to guard their flocks.  He was the color of sand but he did not bark at me.”  The narrative indicates that the dog “was no one’s dog and would be no one’s dog,” a pariah.  I always wondered if this dog was meant to be a depiction of a dog at all, or rather some sort of spirit, or a fragment of conscience that took animal form in the wilderness Dakis was crossing at the time of his encounter with the animal.  The dog reappears several times but never follows Dakis into a city. 

Les bergers, conduits par l'etoile, se rendent a Bethleem
I had always assumed that Jacob described this dog from a visit he took to Palestine before the war, in 1936.  It is known from his correspondence that he accompanied a caravan from Palmyra to Damascus, where he may have seen such dogs.  This, I think, is the most likely explanation but there are also artistic depictions of similar dogs that may have been an influence.  One is a painting that I recently saw in the Musée d’Orsay by Octave Penguilly-L’Haridon entitled “Shepherds, Guided by a Star, Go to Bethlehem,” the left side of which is shown here. The dog at the extreme left would appear to fit the description, perhaps a pariah with Molossian traits.  Whether Jacob knew anything about the history of dogs in the region, or was merely projecting backwards from what he saw in person or in paintings, is not something about which I am qualified to speculate.  – JE

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jacob Watts

Memoirs of The Destruction is the second manuscript that Jacob Watts left with my mother, Audrey Helen Watts, in 1954 or 1955. Portions of one of the narratives that is interwoven here were written originally in German, which was translated by my father more than fifty years ago. My mother believed that another version of the manuscript, perhaps entirely in German, was left with an Anglican rector in Winnipeg. To date I have not been able to verify this.

As with The Sailing of Isis, two perspectives tell the story, this one of the revolt of AD 66 to 70 and the final days of the Second Temple. One narrative is that of a physician in service to Queen Berenice, one of the last of the Herods, who with her brother, usually called Agrippa II by historians, was in Jerusalem at the beginning of the revolt and tried to stop it. The other narrative is that of a boy from a minor priestly family who becomes a rebel but escapes the final conflagration. Mahli son of Zabdi in time joins the Pharisees and others who begin those debates on the law that a century later would produce the Mishnah and eventually the Talmud. I do not believe there is any historical basis for either character but, not being multilingual as was my uncle, my access to the historical sources is minimal.

John Ensminger, November 11, 2009

Synopsis of the Historical Period Covered in the Narratives

The burning and collapse of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 is sometimes known in later Jewish sources as The Destruction.  This catastrophic event came at the end of four years of war in Judaea and Galilee.  Although the revolt began in AD 66 because a Roman procurator entered the temple treasury in order to collect tribute that was in arrears, the anger of the Jews at the Romans was so great and long-festering that the resistance continued even after Agrippa, great-grandson of Herod the Great, had restored the wealth of the temple treasury.  Some of the great priestly families, seeing the temple once again secure, were willing to end their resistance to Rome, but many of the younger priests objected to any accommodation either with Rome or with Agrippa.  As the fighting continued, more radical factions gained control of the rebellion, though there was never a unified leadership and some of the factions fought each other in intervals when the Roman threat was distant.    

Rome also transformed during the progress of the war.  When the Jews revolted, the governor of Syria, Cestius Gallus, moved south to end the disturbance and gained control of part of Jerusalem before retreating in disgrace, perhaps because a fall storm was choking his supply lines, perhaps in part because of unfavorable omens.  Nero then sent Vespasian to command the eastern legions.  More careful than Gallus, Vespasian began to prosecute the war by methodically destroying every city in which rebels could be found.  He was preparing to advance on Jerusalem when several generals revolted against Nero. 

Unpopular because of his excesses, Nero fled Rome and committed suicide.  Galba, a general in Spain was declared emperor by the Senate.  Soon after his arrival in Rome, Galba was assassinated by Otho, who had purchased the loyalty of the praetorian guards in exchange for being made emperor.  Vitellius, a general in Germany, also declared himself emperor and moved on Rome, defeating Otho’s forces near Cremona in northern Italy.  Vespasian had suspended operations in Judaea and was saluted as emperor by the legions in Alexandria.  The governor of Syria, Mucianus, supported Vespasian’s cause and one of his generals, Antonius Primus, defeated Otho’s forces, also near Cremona.  The civil wars came to an end.

Vespasian appointed his son, Titus, commander of the eastern legions and Titus resumed the war to suppress the Jewish rebellion.  The rebel forces had lost most of Judaea and were concentrated in Jerusalem, many expecting that armies of angels would give victory their increasingly desperate cause.  The siege of Jerusalem was one of the longest and bloodiest in Roman history, but Titus gradually controlled most of the city and began to pound the temple with large catapults before entering the precinct in bloody fighting while the temple structures burned.  The destruction of the temple ended the revolt for most of the Jews who survived, though some rebel elements escaped to Masada, which was only captured several years later.  Although the Jews were allowed to remain in Judaea and Galilee, their temple was never rebuilt. 

A Roman temple was built on the location of the Jerusalem temple during the reign of Hadrian.  This became a church after the triumph of Constantine.  A  Mohammedan mosque was built on the site after the advance of Islam, which remains to this day.  

John Ensminger, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Narrators and Principal Characters

The manuscript has two narrators each of whom appears several times sequentially in each chapter.  Lucas saw the Roman side of the conflict, while Mahli saw the Jewish side. 

Narrators:

Lucas, physician trained in the household of Alcmaeus of Alexandria. On a visit to Alexandria, Agrippa purchased Lucas to serve his sister, Berenice.  Although raised by a Jewish physician, Lucas had little experience with Jewish customs or religion until he served Berenice.  Lucas attended Agrippa in the field during Vespasian’s advance into Galilee and later ran a military hospital for soldiers wounded in the war.  He accompanied Berenice and Agrippa to Rome and escaped with them when their situation became precarious after the defeat of the emperor Otho by Vitellius.  Lucas was given his freedom after the Jewish war and began a medical school in Ephesus with donatives he received from Agrippa and Titus.  He died at 102 years of age, one the longest-lived physicians in antiquity. 

Mahli, son of Zabdi, the oldest son of a priest of the great temple in Jerusalem, and therefore initially expected to become a priest like his father.  Mahli began to have dreams that he understood to predict future events, but the interpretation of the dreams was his own and the chief priests determined that the dreams made him inappropriate for the priesthood.  Mahli’s younger brother, Dinai, replaced him as the member of the family designated to become a priest.  Mahli was early associated with the rebels in Jerusalem when the revolt started but spent some of the war hiding in Caesarea while leading a dissolute life.  He returned to Jerusalem and fought again with the rebels in the final battles.  After the war he sought out those around Johannon ben Zakkai, whose rabbinical teachings would in time establish the strand of Judaism that exists today. 

Other Major Characters:

Agrippa, Marcus Julius Agrippa, son of the last Herodian king of Judaea, Agrippa’s authority in Jerusalem was limited to control of certain matters regarding the temple.  His interference in temple procedures built resistance among the priests and when the revolt began in AD 66, his Roman education and worldly attitudes made him unpopular with the increasingly radical populace and he was forced to flee Jerusalem with Berenice.  He aided the Roman side in suppressing the revolt and commanded auxiliary units of archers and scouts during the war.  He hoped that his loyalty to Vespasian and Titus might lead them to make him king of Judaea but Roman sentiment was against any self-rule in a region that had begun such a costly and extended revolt. 

Agrippinensis, son of Aggripinensis.  The elder Agrippinensis was a Jerusalem trader who had lived in Rome and supplied Claudius with horses for the charioteers the emperor favored.  With wealth gained in Rome, and having been given Roman citizenship, Agrippinensis returned to Jerusalem to please his wife.  He and his son were put on crosses by the Romans in the first day of the revolt in AD 66.  The father died but Lucas kept the son alive.  The mistake in executing a Roman citizen was a sufficient embarrassment to Gessius Florus that Berenice was able to force the procurator to leave Jerusalem.  She briefly restored calm to the city but the anger at the Roman administration was too great and war soon erupted despite her efforts. 

Alcmaeus, physician of Alexandria, a writer of many medical texts and teacher in the Hippocratic tradition.  Alcmaeus raised Lucas almost as a son but sold him to Agrippa so that he might make his fortune serving the descendants of the Herodian line. 

Arakh, son of Arakh of Tiberias, a rebel and after his capture a gladiator.  Freed by the Romans after becoming a popular fighter at the games in Caesarea, Arakh and Mahli took a red bull as an offering to Jerusalem when Vespasian was trying to make peace with the Jewish rebels so that he could free his army for a civil war against Vitellius. The offering was not accepted by the rebel priests but Arakh again joined the revolt and died in the final siege of Jerusalem.    

Berenice, Julia Berenice, queen of Cilicia, a Herodian princess, daughter of Marcus Julius Agrippa, last king of Judaea, and sister of Agrippa.  Widely known for her beauty and intelligence, she had three marriages, but was closer to her brother than any of her husbands and with him tried to suppress the revolt that began in Judaea in AD 66.  Early in that war she met Titus, son of the Roman general Vespasian, who became infatuated with her and eventually lived with her in Rome after the war.  Titus, responding to public criticism that compared her to Cleopatra and him to Antony, did not marry her and she returned to the east though occasionally visiting Rome.  

Costobar, a cousin of Agrippa and Berenice who tried to hold one of the Herodian palaces in Jerusalem after Agrippa and Berenice fled.  Costobar and some of his men hid in one of the cisterns in Jerusalem for several years to spy on the rebels, occasionally sending messengers to Agrippa. 

Dinai, second son of Zabdi, younger brother of Mahli.   Dinai was selected for the priesthood after Mahli was no longer deemed suitable.  He long obeyed his father’s command to avoid association with the rebels, but towards the end of the revolt became a dedicated partisan.  He fought in defense of the temple during its final days. 

Domitian, second son of Vespasian, who succeeded Titus as emperor in AD 81.  Domitian was in Rome when Nero committed suicide in AD 68 and during the short reigns of his three successors. Agrippa and Berenice attempted to persuade Domitian to come east with them so that his father could protect him, but Domitian refused to leave Rome. After the defeat of Vitellius at the hands of one of Vespasian’s generals at Cremona, Domitian disguised himself as a priest of Isis to hide from enraged Vitellians seeking vengeance for the loss. Towards the end of his reign he ordered the first systematic persecution of the Christians. He died in AD 96.  

Dosa, younger brother of Zabdi, Mahli’s uncle.  Dosa was a trader who took caravans as far as Arabia and knew the roads throughout the Roman province of Syria. He made plans to move his family and some of Zabdi’s family out of Jerusalem in the final stages of the war but was killed by Persian traders near Pella.  He entrusted Mahli with information about where refuge could be had beyond the Jordan which Mahli attempted to use to save his sister, Salome, near the war’s end. 

Dosithea, daughter of Lucas and Tryphaina.  Dosithea married a Roman equestrian and had a daughter with whom Lucas lived until he died at the age of 102. 

Eleazar, captain of the temple guard, son of Ananias, one of the last great high priests.  Eleazar was the first leader of the rebels, believing that the Romans and Agrippa had offended the temple.  After his father’s murder by another rebel leader, Eleazar began to doubt that the rebel cause could be controlled or that the temple would survive.  He remained in the city during the revolt but did not command a significant force after the rebel ranks were swollen by refugees from Galilee.  Mahli remained loyal to Eleazar while he was in Jerusalem and foraged beyond the Jordan on behalf of Eleazar's faction.   

Elena, fugitive of Gerasa, rescued from brigands by Mahli as he tried to return to Jerusalem after convalescing under a disguised identity at Agrippa’s military hospital at Paneas.  Elena remained with Mahli for a time but left him at Beth Horon.  Mahli never learned where she had gone. 

Gessius Florus, procurator of Judaea, whose collection of the arrears in tribute for Judaea by riding with horses into the treasury of the Jerusalem Temple sparked the revolt. 

Io, soldier in service to Agrippa, assigned to protect Lucas during the campaign against the rebels in AD 66 and 67.  Io was also with Lucas when they both accompanied Berenice and Agrippa to Rome in AD 68 and 69.  Io and Lucas visited the Jews who lived beyond the Vatican Hill in Rome and learned about the divisions in the Jewish community, including the existence of a Christian group inside that community. 

Sabakon, a captain and later general of Agrippa’s army.  An Idumaean distantly related to the Herods, Sabakon was with Berenice when she tried to calm Jerusalem after the procurator, Gessius Florus, took 17 talents from the treasury of the Jerusalem temple.  He was Agrippa’s commanding general throughout the war and was credited by Roman officers with devising strategies for capturing several rebel strongholds in Galilee.  He was present at the fall of Jerusalem and found Lucas after the physician escaped from his captors.   

Salome, sister of Mahli, called Shelamzion at birth.  Mahli attempted to take Salome from Jerusalem before the final siege but, while hiding in a tree some miles south of the city, the two overheard the plans of one of the Roman generals, which included information about a traitor inside of Jerusalem. They returned to warn the rebels but were unable to leave the city again.  Salome worked with the injured rebels at a makeshift hospital in one of the Herodian palaces as Rome laid siege to the city. 

Titus, son of Vespasian who succeeded him as emperor in AD 79. During the Jewish revolt, Titus was one of his father’s generals, and followed him in command of the eastern legions after Vespasian became emperor.  Titus is sometimes known as The Destroyer because he was in command in the final siege of Jerusalem and was present when the temple burned and collapsed. Accounts vary as to whether he attempted to stop the fire after capturing the temple precinct. 

Tryphaina, slave of Berenice, wife of Lucas.  Tryphaina held a minor position in the household of Berenice until most of Berenice’s personal slaves were killed by her third husband, who was attempting to kidnap her while she was traveling in Syria.  Surviving the slaughter, Berenice made Tryphaina one of her most trusted servants.  Although angry on learning that Tryphaina and Lucas were lovers, Berenice permitted them to marry.   

Uzziah, an Idumaean archer who was badly wounded and taken to the king’s hospital at Paneas.  Uzziah convalesced with Mahli after the battle on the lake.  Though recognizing Mahli as a rebel, Uzziah taught Mahli how to use a sword so that Mahli would take a message to Uzziah’s brother in Jerusalem after Mahli escaped.  Mahli gave the name Uzziah to a dog that followed him through much of the war, feeling that the dog had something of his friend’s spirit. 

Vespasian, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, an experienced Roman general put in charge of the Roman army in the east by Nero in AD 67 to suppress the Jewish revolt after the disgrace of Cestius Gallus.  Vespasian began to prosecute the war and might have ended the revolt within two years had not popular opposition to Nero solidified, resulting in his condemnation by the senate and a series of three generals claiming the imperial title.  Vitellius, the last of the three, was defeated by Vespasian's forces at Cremona in AD 69. Vespasian's reign lasted for ten years and is generally described as a period of calm and stability.  His sons, Titus and Domitian, followed him as emperors.  The three are referred to as the Flavian emperors from the family name.  

John Ensminger, November 12, 2009