XXXI. (207) And the letter respecting the erection of the statue was written not in plain terms, but with as much caution and prudence as possible, taking every measure which could tend to security; for he commands Petronius, the lieutenant and governor of all Syria, to whom indeed he wrote the letter, to lead half the army which was on the Euphrates, to guard against any passage of that river by any of the eastern kings or nations, into Judaea as an escort to the statue; not in order to honour its erection with any especial pomp, but to chastise with death any attempt that might be made to hinder it. (208) What sayest thou, O master? Are you making war upon us, because you anticipate that we will not endure such indignity, but that we will fight on behalf of our laws, and die in defence of our national customs? For you cannot possibly have been ignorant of what was likely to result from your attempt to introduce these innovations respecting our temple; but having previously learnt with perfect accuracy what was likely to happen as well as if it had already taken place, and knowing the future as thoroughly as if it were actually present, you commanded your general to bring up an army in order that the statue when erected might be consecrated by the first sacrifice offered to it, being of a most polluted kind, stained with the blood of miserable men and women. (209) Accordingly Petronius, when he had read what he was commanded to do in this letter, was in great perplexity, not being able to resist the orders sent to him out of fear, for he heard that the emperor’s wrath was implacable not only against those who did not do what they were commanded to do, but who did not do it in a moment; and on the other hand, he did not see how it was easy to perform them, for he knew that the Jews would willingly, if it were possible, endure ten thousand deaths instead of one, rather than submit to see any forbidden thing perpetrated with respect to their religion; (210) for all men are eager to preserve their own customs and laws, and the Jewish nation above all others; for looking upon their laws as oracles directly given to them by God himself, and having been instructed in this doctrine from their very earliest infancy they bear in their souls the images of the commandments contained in these laws as sacred; (211) and secondly, as they continually behold the visible shapes and forms of them, they admire and venerate them in their minds and they admit such foreigners as are disposed to honour and worship them, to do so no less than their own native fellow citizens. But all who attempt to violate their laws, or to turn them into ridicule, they detest as their bitterest enemies, and they look upon each separate one of the commandments with such awe and reverence that, whether one ought to call it the invariable good fortune or the happiness of the nation, they have never been guilty of the violation of even the most insignificant of them; (212) but above all other observances their zeal for their holy temple is the most predominant, and vehement, and universal feeling throughout the whole nation; and the greatest proof of this is that death is inexorably pronounced against all those who enter into the inner circuit of the sacred precincts (for they admit all men from every country into the exterior circuit), unless he be one of their own nation by blood. (213) Petronius, having regard to these considerations, was very reluctant to attempt what he was commanded to do, considering what a great and wicked piece of daring he should be committing, and invoking all the deliberative powers of his soul as to a council, he inquired into the opinion of each of them, and he found every faculty of his mind agreeing that he should change nothing of these observances and customs which had been hallowed from the beginning of the world; in the first place because of the natural principles of justice and piety by which they were dictated, and secondly because of the danger which threatened any attempt at innovation upon them, not only from God, but also from the people who would be insulted by such conduct. (214) He also gave a thought to the circumstances of the nation itself, to its exceeding populousness, so that it was not contained as every other nation was by the circuit of the one region which was allotted to it for itself, but so that, I may almost say, it had spread over the whole face of the earth; for it is diffused throughout every continent, and over every island, so that everywhere it appears but little inferior in number to the original native population of the country. (215) Was it not, then, a most perilous undertaking to draw upon himself such innumerable multitudes of enemies? And was there not danger of allies and friends from all quarters arriving to their assistance? It would be a result of very formidable danger and difficulty, besides the fact that the inhabitants of Judaea are infinite in numbers, and a nation of great stature and personal strength, and of great courage and spirit, and men who are willing to die in defence of their national customs and laws with unshrinking bravery, so that some of those who calumniate them say that their courage (as indeed is perfectly true) is beyond that of any barbarian nation, being the spirit of free and nobly born men. (216) And the state of all the nations which lie beyond the Euphrates added to his alarm; for he was aware that Babylon and many others of the satrapies of the east were occupied by the Jews, knowing this not merely by report but likewise by personal experience; for every year sacred messengers are sent to convey large amounts of gold and silver to the temple, which has been collected from all the subordinate governments, travelling over rugged, and difficult, and almost impassable roads, which they look upon as level and easy inasmuch as they serve to conduct them to piety. (217) Therefore, being exceedingly alarmed, as was very natural, lest if they heard of the unprecedented design of erecting this colossal statue in the temple, they might on a sudden direct their march that way and surround him, some on one side and some on the other, so as to hem him in completely, and co-operating with and joining one another might treat the enemy who would be thus enclosed in the midst of them with terrible severity, he hesitated long, attaching great weight to all these considerations. (218) Then again he was drawn in the opposite direction by considerations of a contrary character, saying to himself, “This is the command of one who is my master and a young man, and of one who judges everything which he wishes to have done to be expedient and becoming, and who is resolved that everything which he has once decided on shall be at once performed even though it may be the most injurious measure possible and full of all contention and insolence; and now having passed beyond all human nature he has actually recorded himself to be God; and great danger of my life impends over me whether I oppose him or whether I comply with his commands; if I comply with them the result will very probably be war, and one that perhaps may be attended with doubtful success and which will be far from turning out as it is expected to do; and if I oppose him I shall then be exposed to the open and implacable hatred of Gaius.” (219) And with this opinion of his, many of those Romans who were joined with him in the administration of the affairs of Syria coincided, knowing that the anger of Gaius and the punishments which he would inflict would come upon them first as being accomplices in the disobedience to the injunctions which he had sent; (220) but at last when it arrived the fashion of the statue afforded them a pretext for delay during which they might have time for a more deliberate consideration of the matter; for they did not send any man from Rome (as it appears to me because the providence of God overruled the matter in this way, who thus invisibly stayed the hand of these wicked doers), nor did he command the most skilful man or him who was accounted so in Syria to manage the matter, since while he was pressing on this lawless action with all speed a war was suddenly kindled. (221) Therefore having now opportunity to consider what course would be most advantageous (for when great events suddenly come altogether, they break down and perplex the mind), he commanded the statue to be made in some one of the bordering regions. (222) Therefore Petronius, sending for the most skilful and renowned artists in Phoenicia, gave them the materials requisite for the making of the statue; and they took them to Sidon, and there proceeded to make it. He also sent for the magistrates of the Jews and the priests and rulers of the people, both to announce to them the commands which he had received from Gaius and also to counsel them to submit cheerfully to the commands which had been imposed by their master, and to give due consideration to the dangers before their eyes; for that the most warlike of the military powers in Syria were all ready, and would soon cover all the country with dead bodies; (223) for he thought that if he could previously weaken their resolution he would be able by their means to work upon all the rest of the multitude and to persuade them not to oppose the will of the emperor; but, as was natural, he was wholly disappointed in his expectations; for it is said indeed that they were amazed at his first words, and that at first they were utterly overwhelmed by his announcement of their real danger and misery, and that they stood speechless and poured forth a ceaseless abundance of tears as if from a fountain, tearing their beards and the hair of their head, and saying, (224) “We who were formerly very fortunate, have now advanced through many events to an exceeding old age that we might at last behold what no one of our ancestors ever saw. With what eyes can we endure to look upon these things? Let them rather be torn out, and let our miserable lives and our afflicted existence be put an end to, before we behold such an evil as this, such an intolerable spectacle which it is impious to hear of or to conceive.”