Congratulate me, my friend, for I have reached my 'province.' Wish me a quiet and uneventful term, without rebellion, droughts or tumults, so that I may earn promotion and in some higher post than this help to make history.
I have left Procula on deck. She is wildly excited. She expected, I believe, to find tents and savages, and here is a city which looks, she says, almost as good as Naples. Certainly there is nothing Jewish about its appearance. The first thing we saw, from many miles out, was a temple of white, gleaming marble high up on a hill. Then the outline of a great amphitheatre, also white. Next, as we came nearer, a tall, dark tower standing straight up, as it seemed, out of the water. We found that it was established on the end of a gigantic mole made of enormous blocks of stone. I have seen nothing so striking as this mole in Italy. It runs out crescent-shaped, from the southern end of the city towards the north; it is several times as broad as any of our roads, with towers upon it and arches where seamen may lodge. It projects so far towards the northern shore that it leaves only a narrow entrance from the open sea and within it is the haven of calm waters in which we now lie. The size of the stones is almost beyond belief, and how Herod contrived to get them here and have them hewn and plant them in position is more than I can understand. He must have searched all Asia and Africa for skilled engineers.
Before Herod built the harbour and called it after Caesar, the place was a mere roadstead, open and dangerous. Now the commerce of the whole country can flow through it and much comes here that used to go to Tyre, farther north. I hope still more will come that I may get the benefit of the customs duties!
As we approached the entrance, Marcius pointed out to me first one building and then another, and always he added, 'Herod built it - Herod built them all.' Truly he was a wonderful man, for this is only one of the cities that he created out of nothing, and wherever he built he never forgot to build to the glory of Caesar and of Rome. (The temple that I first saw is dedicated to Caesar.)
As I watched and listened to Marcius I exclaimed, 'A great king, no wonder Caesar praised him!'* I was astonished to hear a harsh voice near me saying, 'A great murderer!' and there, if you please, was my humble Alexander, with a scowl on his face and a snarl in his voice, looking as though he hated (as I am sure he does) even the stones that Herod had set up.'He was a Jew himself,' I said, in order to tease Alexander. I knew that Herod was only a half-Jew, being of the race of Idumaeans, and I suppose that if there are any persons whom the Jews hate more than pure Romans and Greeks, it is people who are part-Jew like Idumaeans and Samaritans.***It was reported that the Emperor Augustus and his minister Agrippa had said that 'the dominions of Herod were too little for the greatness of his soul.''He was no Jew,' said Alexander curtly. 'And he was the vilest murderer that ever came even from Idumaea.'**The Idumaeans, whose country lay south of Judaea, had been defeated in war and forcibly 'Judaized' by the Jewish ruler, John Hyrcanus I (135-105 B.C.).
'Whom did he murder?' I asked. 'I know he executed rebels somewhat freely, but I expect that most of them deserved no less. You mean the executions in his own family?'
'Murders!' said Alexander. (He is rather pertinacious.) 'He put to death Hyrcanus, the aged grandfather of his wife Mariamne, and then her brother. He put to death her mother Alexandra. He put to death Mariamne herself and for that, by the justice of God, for he had a deep passion for her, he suffered the tortures of the damned. He put to death his own two sons by Mariamne and another son by another wife, who had set his mind against those two. He put to death -' and then he rolled off a long list. I cannot remember all of them - I have so much to think of - but I know there were two successive husbands of Herod's own sister Salome among them. I asked Alexander what motive Herod had. Was it merely pleasure in killing?
'No,' he said, 'the family of Hyrcanus was of the princely Jewish stock and Herod exterminated every member of it lest it should produce a rival to himself.'
'At Rome they call that statesmanship,' I said, I hope not indiscreetly.* I asked Marcius what was his view of Herod. He was thoughtful. 'A great prince,' he said. 'He had large ideas about everything. Caesar Augustus was right when he said that Herod was big enough to rule both Syria and Egypt. He was the shrewdest man that Rome has had to deal with in these parts. He knew how to be useful to Rome and also how to use her. But at home he was a wild beast; he lived on blood.'It is true enough. His own wife and his own sons! That takes some stomaching.*Apparently an allusion (and a dangerous one) to the jealousy with which the Emperor Tiberius regarded all possible claimants to the Imperial power.
The streets are decorated in our honour, and we can hear the noise of the crowds assembling to greet our procession.
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