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I have decided to go up to Jerusalem shortly. Here I see next to nothing of my Jews. Caesarea is full of Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, and all that sort of rabble. There are many Jews, it is true, but they are of the common sort - traders, moneylenders and the like. The men who count are at Jerusalem, and it might be thousands of miles away, though it is just up in the hills. Caiaphas is careful to keep in touch with me, but so far as most of them are concerned I might not exist at all. I am going up, therefore, to make the acquaintance of Annas and his friends.

Besides, I want to see their head-quarters: the nest in which they harbour their seditions, if any there be; the stronghold which, according to Marcius, will give even Rome no little trouble if ever they should defy us. I must take a look at the defences and consider how my little garrison will be situated if there should be a rising. The roads, too, and the water-supply - you will commend me for this, I know - these things are always bad until the Romans take them in hand. Also I am curious to see their Temple, though I suppose they will hardly let me take a look at it, and I must find out where they keep the Temple-money, if only to protect it against robbers. You need not suspect me; I shall not emulate Crassus or Sabinus,* but you know that if anyone raided their treasury I would get the blame. I assure you I am ready to get on with them, but I must find out what sort of people they are and what they are doing. Here in Caesarea I feel that I am cut off from my own province, and I remain uneasy, though the chief of my intelligence section reports that all is quiet and no sign of trouble brewing. He, by the way, is a Graecized Samaritan, Joseph by name. Most of his family lost lands and life at the hands of Herod. He hates Herod's sons and he hates the Jews, so he is a useful servant to us. I hope to go to Jerusalem in three weeks' time.

*Both these Roman Generals had plundered the Temple treasury.
The Games went off very well. The Gauls and Britons fought magnificently. The crowd were so delighted that they insisted on them fighting again and again with new antagonists until almost all were killed. The contest between the lions and the Idumaeans was not so successful; the lions separated the Idumaeans, so it was soon over. One of the Idumaeans fought splendidly and I would have liked to save him, but the lions were too quick.

There was one curious episode which illustrates the obstinacy of these Jews. There were four of them in prison here condemned to death for highway robbery. I offered to let them fight against a tiger, the conditions being that they should be armed with any sort of wooden weapons that they liked to choose or make, but that they should first do public homage to the bust of Caesar in the arena. They were quite willing to fight - they were fine strong men, all of them - but they refused to sacrifice to Caesar. I told them they would be thrown to the tiger as they were, and they laughed at me. So thrown they were, and now Alexander, with a glum face, warns me that the Jews have some religious objection (apart from the personal one) to having their bodies torn by animals. They have so many religious objections.


I have opened this letter to inform you that Alexander, supported by Marcius, Joseph and every one else, now tells me that I cannot go up to Jerusalem on the day which I had fixed, because it is the Sabbath of the Jews. It would give deep offence, they say; it would be taken as a deliberate provocation; there would be mourning and protests and perhaps rioting. 'Rioting on the Sabbath!' I said. 'Surely not!' But I suppose they might make an exception to do a little rioting. Of course, I had to give way; I could tell that at once from Marcius's face. The Sabbath is incredible sacred to them, he says; they will neither do nor tolerate labour of any kind; you must not do this, you must not do the other; it seems to me there is scarcely anything you can do. I wonder, does their sacred river Jordan flow on the Sabbath or does it take a rest? I asked Marcius the question. 'There are some of them,' he replied, 'who will not eat an egg if it is laid on the Sabbath.' 'if you have a wooden leg,' I asked, 'can you walk it out with you upon the Sabbath?' Nothing disturbs my Marcius. 'I believe,' he answered, 'that their learned men are divided on that subject.'* I could hardly contain myself. 'Of course,' I said, 'on the Sabbath they do not perform the functions of Nature?' Alexander intervened. 'You are quite right,' he said, looking at me with admiration. 'Some of them do not.'** I was a little puzzled. 'But supposing - ' I said, and then we were interrupted and the subject dropped.

*This was, in fact, a subject of controversy among the learned.

**The ascetics of the Essene sect.

You had better write me another of your admirable essays on the virtue of toleration and the equality of man, for I assure you I am at present in great need of it.

LETTERS OF PONTIUS PILATE: --back to table of contents