Marcius has returned to Caesarea bringing two pieces of information. The first is that I have become popular in Jericho, the border-city down by the river Jordan. It is a most important place, for the commerce of the lower Jordan valley passes through it and the customs-revenue is large. Some time ago complaints of gross extortion against the customs-staff were made to me. The chief collector is - was, I should say - a low-class Jew. He was robbing the merchants right and left and the proceeds were not reaching my treasury. One of his underlings, another Jew, who thought he was not getting a fair share of the spoils, betrayed him and two subordinates. It was a bad case; they had kept back some of our moneys as well as the profits of their own extortions. I tried them here in Caesarea and then sent them back to Jericho, the leader to be crucified and the other two to be scourged to death. The Jews were delighted, not only because the chief collector had robbed them but because he was a Jew whom they hated for entering our service. Now they can hate his successor, for I am going to appoint the informer to his place. I ought to be able to rely on his loyalty if he is not murdered by his countrymen.

The other news is that John has escaped me. He went on one of his preaching expeditions into Antipas's country. The result was the same as with us: crowds of wretched peasants working themselves up into frenzy and wanting to know whether they could not follow his leadership. Antipas can do with talk of a new Kingdom even less than we can. If there is any trouble in his country, Roman troops will be sent in to help him, and once they are there it will be good-bye to his ridiculous little monarchy. He knows that and he was waiting for John. The preacher is safely put away now in the dungeons of Machaerus, an unpleasant, gloomy fortress in the hills east of the Dead Sea. I should say that he has seen the last of his Judaea. If Antipas has any sense he will make an end of him. It is the only safe method, believe me, with people who mix up their religion and their politics.

I am not sorry, on reflection, that Antipas has taken this business on himself. A certain amount of odium will attach to him, for John has many followers. But sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I wish that I had had the handling of John. The Jericho tax-collector is a poor substitute.

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