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THE ROMAN'S BURDEN

Caesarea

Commend me, my friend, for a good Roman. I too am carrying the blessings of Italy to the benighted East. I have brought two surveyors, one from Alexandria and one from Antioch. I have instructed them to present plans to me for remaking certain roads, for constructing baths at Samaria, and for leading a good supply of water to Jerusalem from the springs south of the City. I shall get no thanks for this, but where or when does the Roman receive gratitude for the benefits which he brings to the Eastern peoples? They live like pigs and when he raises them from their filthy state they only complain that he sweats money out of them to pay for public works which he wants and not they. Was it not Caesar Augustus - or was it the great Julius - who called this the Roman's burden, which, whatever his inclinations, he cannot avoid?

Would you believe that at Samaria there are no baths, although our officers, both military and civil, go up there in the hot weather for their health? As to the roads, I propose to reconstruct that which runs along the coast and the two which run into Jerusalem from the north and the east. Our troops will move much more quickly, and so of course will trade and the pilgrim traffic, which will help my revenues. As to the water-supply, it will be a pure benefaction to Jerusalem for which they ought to set me up a statue. Yet, do you know, the only question that interests them at all is, who is to pay for it. How in the world they survive at all under present conditions at the time of their great festivals I cannot understand. Normally, perhaps, Jerusalem has some 50,000 inhabitants, and there are only a few wells of water to supply them all. But at the time of the Passover the pilgrims arrive by tens of thousands. No one knows the exact total, but some say that there are half a million people crowded into Jerusalem and the surrounding villages. Jerusalem itself is packed out; they sleep on the roofs and even in the streets, and they flock in droves each morning from the surrounding country. Where do they all get their water from for drinking and for their ceremonial washings? I cannot tell you, unless perhaps their god Yahveh provides it by a miracle or the festival counts as a continuous Sabbath and they must not drink at all. However, water they shall have, both clean and plentiful, whether they like it or not, and pay for it they must according to the custom of the Roman provinces.

The troops have gone, with Marcius in command. They carry the images of three Caesars - Tiberius himself, Augustus and Julius. They will be in the Antonia before dawn to-morrow. I addressed the men personally. I told them that the name of Rome and the Caesars was in their charge and that they must protect it, but that on their side there must be no provocation.

I have told Marcius to send a troop, arrest John and dispatch him to me at Caesarea. I must do this in any case, since if Antipas knows, as he does, that disaffection is being stirred up on my side of the border, he will make the most of it.


17--CONFLICT WITH THE JEWS: --next letter of LETTERS OF PONTIUS PILATE
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