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MEETING WITH HIS PREDECESSOR VALERIUS

Alexandria

My time has been so fully occupied that I am only now able to write to you, and we sail for Caesarea in a few hours. Every few minutes there is some interruption; but I will write this letter though I miss the ship.

There is one thing of great importance which I must say at once lest I forget it; the Jews can wait. You told me, you may remember, of a new wash which you had devised for your vine-plants - more efficacious against pests than any known to you, and you attributed to it the generous crop that you had last year. I have told my freedman Leon who manages my farm at Laurentum to write and ask you for the particulars, and I shall be grateful if you will give them to him. He is himself ingenious in all such experiments and omits no pains; you may be sure that you will not have the annoyance of finding that your advice has been sought by those who have not the wit or the will to make the best of it.

I have seen Valerius - a rubicund, jolly fellow, delighted at the prospect of going home. I wanted to ask about Judaea; he would scarcely talk of anything but Rome and chariot-racing, for which he has a passion. However, he told me enough about the furnishing of Herod's palaces to make it clear that my worst fears are true. He says that Archelaus, when Caesar deposed him, sold the contents of the palaces as being his private property, and that consequently every governor since then has had to furnish anew or buy the 'fixtures' of his predecessor. 'How can I pay so much,' I said, 'at the beginning of my term of office?' 'Borrow the money from the Jews,' said Valerius, 'and then increase their taxes in order to pay it back.' 'But,' I replied, 'I am just going to inform a Jewish deputation that out of respect and admiration for their race I intend graciously to remit a tenth part of the taxes.' 'Why not?' said Valerius, 'I did the same myself. But in six months you must restore the ten per cent. and in twelve months put another tenth on that.' He told me also that I should by all means encourage the Jews who throng to Jerusalem from Asia and Africa at the time of the great festivals, especially the Passover. So long as Caesar maintains peace in the provinces, the Jews flourish. They travel in tens of thousands to Judaea, carrying their money with them. 'Then is your chance,' said he. 'Make them pay a visitors' tax when they enter, raise the customs duties on everything that is bought and sold while they are there, and put a specially heavy tax on all the momentoes that they carry away when they go back. They will grumble, but since they are departing to other provinces, that need not trouble you, and the Jews in Judaea, having helped to suck them dry, will take no further interest in them.'

I like Valerius: he knows what is helpful, and is practical.

I had meant to describe the Jewish deputation to you but, after all, that must wait. I shall have more leisure to do it adequately on the way to Caesarea. You may think of me, during the voyage, taking lessons on Judaea from Alexander. What kind of man is he, you ask. You know the sort of Jew that is aggressive, insistent, loud? He is the other sort. He is quiet, deferential, often obsequious - and, unless I am mistaken, as deep and disdainful of me and you, of Rome and Caesar as the noisiest of them all.

At present Alexander is engaged in a brisk flirtation with Acme, Procula's Greek slave, a pretty girl. He has succeeded Marcius. Jew does not marry non-Jew, I believe, but outside marriage they are not particular.


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