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THE PROBLEM OF THE AQUEDUCT

Caesarea

I was not surprised to hear that the two Herods had lodged a complaint against me at Rome when they heard about the images. The dogs! They have the morals of the mongrel tribes from which they spring. But - thanks no doubt to you and my other friends - I have defeated them. I have received an official letter in Caesar's name (written by one of Sejanus's freedmen) commending me for getting out of a difficult situation without bloodshed and at the same time censuring my action in getting into it. The moral is that one must not fail; one should indeed think long before taking action but then go through despite all opposition.

Antipas is too busy with his schemes against me. It is many weeks now since he imprisoned John and he has just sent me a letter, a suave piece of hypocrisy, saying that a certain John, a dangerous fanatic, had been arrested on his side of the frontier, but since the man belonged to my province and had preached disaffection for a considerable time within my border, he presumed that I would wish to deal with him myself and he was therefore ready to hand him over to me. I have replied that my officers would several times have arrested John had he not been able to take refuge in Antipas's territory and that Antipas had therefore better handle the incidents that arose on his own ground. I may have yet to face difficulties of my own, for I hear that some of John's followers are going up and down, following his example and, needless to say, declaring that their master will come back.

It is a relief to turn to the making of roads and aqueducts. I am really happy when I see the gangs of labourers at work on the hill-roads up to Jerusalem: 'roads,' mark you, my good Seneca, not 'road,' for I am remaking both that which runs up from the coast and that which leads up from the Jordan and Jericho. 'Why bother?' you say. 'Is that not an extravagance?' No, because by those roads the materials come up for my Jerusalem aqueduct. I shall be proud of the aqueduct, I can assure you. I shall rely on it to perpetuate my name in history. I have spent more time in the hills south of Jerusalem during the last few weeks than I have spent in Caesarea. There are twenty-four miles of the roughest country imaginable to be subdued and I ride from point to point watching the men cutting through the hills, breaking up rocks, bridging ravines, laying the foundations for my reservoirs. I have drawn labourers from all the surrounding regions, from Galilee and Samaria, Trans-Jordan, Idumaea, and even from Syria, but comparatively few from Jerusalem, the place which is to benefit. The people of Jerusalem will have nothing to do with us even when we seek to help them. They have nothing but scorn for Samaritans and Galileans who take our part to bring them a good supply of water. They would sooner go without water, or have it foul, than take a Roman wage. Let me tell you a story. There is a Rabbi at Jerusalem who said that probably there were only two really good Jews in the whole world - himself and his son. Or perhaps, he added, there was but one - himself.

I am anxious over the cost of the aqueduct. The men are paid regularly, but large sums will soon be due to the contractors. They cannot come out of the ordinary taxes nor, so far as I can see, can I make a special levy which would produce the necessary amount. I have asked the Sanhedrim to make suggestions to me, but they are unhelpful. They talk and talk but they make no proposals. They say the contractors are extravagant or they admit the necessity of the aqueduct but say the work should have been postponed or they declare outright that Rome should pay for it. I will make them sing a different tune, when I have finished with them.


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