|Josephus, War, VII, 3-4: |
2. It happened also about this time, that the Jews who remained at Antioch were under accusations, and in danger of perishing, from the disturbances that were raised against them by the Antiochians; and this both on account of the slanders spread abroad at this time against them; and on account of what pranks they had played not long before: which I am obliged to describe without fail, though briefly: that I may the better connect my narration of future actions, with those that went before.
3. For as the Jewish nation is widely dispersed over all the habitable earth, among its inhabitants; so is it very much intermingled with Syria, by reason of its neighbourhood; and had the greatest multitudes in Antioch, by reason of the largeness of the city: wherein the Kings, after Antiochus, had afforded them an habitation, with the most undisturbed tranquillity. For though Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, laid Jerusalem waste, and spoiled the temple; yet did those that succeeded him in the Kingdom restore all the donations that were made of brass to the Jews of Antioch, and dedicated them to their synagogue, and granted them the enjoyment of equal privileges of citizens with the Greeks themselves. And as the succeeding Kings treated them after the same manner, they both multiplied to a great number, and adorned their temple4 gloriously by fine ornaments, and with great magnificence, in the use of what had been given them. They also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually; and thereby, after a sort, brought them to be a portion of their own body. But about this time when the present war began, and Vespasian was newly sailed to Syria, and all men had taken up a great hatred against the Jews; then it was that a certain person, whose name was Antiochus, being one of the Jewish nation, and greatly respected on account of his father, who was governor of the Jews at Antioch, (5) came upon the theatre at a time when the people of Antioch were assembled together; and became an informer against his father, and accused both him and others, that they had resolved to burn the whole city in one night: he also delivered up to them some Jews that were foreigners, as partners in their resolutions. When the people heard this, they could not refrain their passion, but commanded that those who were delivered up to them should have fire brought to burn them: who were accordingly all burnt upon the theatre immediately. They did also fall violently upon the multitude of the Jews; as supposing that by punishing them suddenly they should save their own city. As for Antiochus, he aggravated the rage they were in; and thought to give them a demonstration of his own conversion, and of his hatred of the Jewish customs, by sacrificing after the manner of the Greeks. He persuaded the rest also to compel them to do the same; because they would by that means discover who they were that had plotted against them; since they would not do so. And when the people of Antioch tried the experiment, some few complied: but those that would not do so were slain. As for Ailtiochus himself, he obtained soldiers from the Roman commander, and became a severe master over his own citizens. Not permitting them to rest on the seventh day; but forcing them to do all that they usually did on other days. And to that degree of distress did he reduce them in this matter, that the rest of the seventh day was dissolved, not only at Antioch; but the same thing, which took thence its rise, was done in other cities also in like manner, for some small time.
4. Now after these misfortunes had happened to the Jews at Antioch a second calamity befel them; the description of which when we were going about we premised the account foregoing. For upon this accident, whereby the four-square market place was burnt down, as well as the archives, and the place where the publick records were preserved, and the royal palaces; and it was not without difficulty that the fire was then put a stop to, which was likely, by the fury wherewith it was carried along, to have gone over the whole city; Antiochus accused the Jews, as the occasion of all the mischief that was done. Now this induced the people of Antioch, who were now under the immediate persuasion, by reason of the disorder they were in, that this calumny was true; and would have been under the same persuasion, even though they had not borne an ill will at the Jews before, to believe this man’s accusation: especially when they considered what had been done before; and this to such a degree, that they all fell violently upon those that were accused, and this, like madmen, in a very furious rage also, even as if they had seen the Jews in a manner setting fire themselves to the city. Nor was it without difficulty that one Cneus Collegas, the legate, could prevail with them to permit the affairs to be laid before Cæsar. For as to Cesennius Petus, (6) the president of Syria, Vespasian had already sent him away. And so it happened that he was not yet come back thither. But when Collegas had made a careful enquiry into the matter, he found out the truth: and that not one of those Jews that were accused by Antiochus had any hand in it: but that all was done by some vile persons greatly in debt; who supposed, that if they could once set fire to the market-place, and burn the publick records, they should have no farther demands made upon them. So the Jews were under great disorder, and terror, in the uncertain expectations of what would be the upshot of these accusations against them.
|Tacitus, Annals 15:44 :|
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good but rather to glut the cruelty of one man that they were being destroyed.