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THE IMAGES OF THE CAESARS

Caesarea

I have heard from Caiaphas about John. He sends me an official answer which is most discreetly framed. You might like the text of it. It says:

'The Sanhedrim, having sent representatives to question John the son of Zacharias and having satisfied itself that he does not claim to be either the Messiah of the Jews or one of the Prophets, is of the opinion that he has committed no offence under the Law which would justify it in putting him on his trial. At the same time it recognizes that the civil power may reasonably take a wider view of the consequences which might follow an extension of his teaching.'

Caiaphas sent a private note by the messenger. He has no objection to my taking measures if I think them necessary. I am sure that at heart he and his friends hope I will. You see the game. John may easily become an embarrassment to them, even if he is not so already. They would like him out of the way, but it would suit them better for me to remove him than that they should bear the odium themselves. Upon my word, I would not oblige them but that I have thought of a new measure for teaching both them, and the common people, who is their master here. I told you that I had decided to send up more troops to Jerusalem in case this affair of John should cause disturbances. I have made up my mind that the new troops shall this time carry the Imperial images on the standards when they enter Jerusalem. 'What madness!' I hear you say, and at once you conjure up visions of riot, tumult and open war. But listen. You do not give your Pilate sufficient credit for sagacity. Do you think that only Jews are cunning? My troops will enter Jerusalem in the dead of night. In the morning, when the Jews awake, go about their business, throng into the Temple, they will see the standards, with the images prominently displayed upon them, already established on the ramparts of the Antonia. They will storm the Antonia, you say? Tell that to the Marines. But, if they did attempt it, what a story I should have to send to Rome! The tiresome, treacherous Jews making a direct attack upon Caesar's images and the standards of the legions after I had so far respected their scruples as to send the troops in under cover of the dark! What would our patriotic Roman mob say to that story? Why, I should be a hero for a day and have the Syrian legions placed at my disposal. But do not fear. When Jerusalem hears that the talker John is to be arrested and sees the Roman eagles in its midst, it will think twice before openly resisting. Caiaphas will be shocked at my imprudence, but it is time they understood that they are part of the Roman State, and I have given Marcius his orders.

I am sending you some Syrian pottery. I hope your slaves are more careful than mine. I have told mine that the next one who damages a valuable vase or statue will figure at the Games, and not as a spectator.


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