XXXII. (225) In this way did they bewail their fate; but when the inhabitants of the holy city and of all the region round about heard of the design which was in agitation, they all arrayed themselves together as if at a concerted signal, their common misery having given them the word, and went forth in a body, and leaving their cities and their villages and their houses empty, they hastened with one accord into Phoenicia, for Petronius happened to be in that country at the moment. (226) And when some of the guards of Petronius saw a countless multitude hastening towards them they ran to their general to bring him the news, and to warn him to take precautions, as they expected war; and while they were relating to him what they had seen, he was still without any guards; and the multitude of the Jews suddenly coming upon him like a cloud, occupied the whole of Phoenicia, and caused great consternation among the Phoenicians who thus beheld the enormous population of the nation; (227) and at first so great an outcry was raised, accompanied with weeping and beating of the breast, that the very ears of those present could not endure the vastness of the noise; for it did not cease when they ceased, but continued to vibrate even after they were quiet: then there were approaches to the governor, and supplications addressed to him such as the occasion suggested; for calamities are themselves teachers of what should be done in an existing emergency. And the multitude was divided into six companies, one of old men, one of young men, one of boys; and again in their turn one band of aged matrons, one of women in the prime of life, and one of virgins; (228) and when Petronius appeared at a distance all the ranks, as they had been appointed, fell to the ground, uttering a most doleful; howling and lamentation, mingled with supplications. But when he commanded them to rise up, and to come nearer to him, they would for a long time hardly consent to rise, and scattering abundance of dust upon their heads, and shedding abundance of tears, they put both their hands behind them like captives who are fettered in this way, and thus they approached him. (229) Then the body of the old men, standing before him, addressed him in the following terms: “We are, as you see, without any arms, but yet as we passed along some persons have accused us as being enemies, but even the very weapons of defence with which nature has provided each individual, namely our hands, we have averted from you, and placed in a position where they can do nothing, offering our bodies freely an easy aim to any one who desires to put us to death. (230) We have brought unto you our wives, and our children, and our whole families, and in your person we will prostrate ourselves before Gaius, having left not one single person at home, that you may either preserve us all, or destroy us all together by one general and complete destruction. Petronius, we are a peaceful nation, both by our natural disposition and by our determined intentions, and the education which has been industriously and carefully instilled into us has taught us this lesson from our very earliest infancy. (231) When Gaius assumed the imperial power we were the first people in all Syria to congratulate him, Vitellius at that time being in our city, from whom you received the government as his successor, to whom writings concerning these matters were sent, and the happy news proceeding onwards from our city, where it had been received with joy, reached the other cities with similar acceptance. (232) Ours was the first temple which received sacrifices for the happy reign of Gaius. Did it do so that it might be the first or the only temple to be deprived of its customary modes of worship? “We have now left our cities, we have abandoned our houses and our possessions, we will cheerfully contribute to you all our furniture, all our cattle, and all our treasures, everything in short which belongs to us, as a willing booty. We shall think that we are receiving them, not giving them up. We only ask one thing instead of and to counterbalance all of them, namely, that no innovations may take place in respect of our temple, but that it may be kept such as we have received it from our fathers and our forefathers. (233) And if we cannot prevail with you in this, then we offer up ourselves for destruction, that we may not live to behold a calamity more terrible and grievous than death. We hear that great forces of infantry and cavalry are being prepared by you against us, if we oppose the erection and dedication of this statue. No one is so mad as, when he is a slave, to oppose his master. We willingly and readily submit ourselves to be put to death; let your troops slay us, let them sacrifice us, let them cut us to pieces unresisting and uncontending, let them treat us with every species of cruelty that conquerers can possibly practise, (234) but what need is there of any army? We ourselves, admirable priests for the purpose, will begin the sacrifice, bringing to the temple our wives and slaying our wives, bringing our brothers and sisters and becoming fratricides, bringing our sons and our daughters, that innocent and guiltless age, and becoming infanticides. Those who endure tragic calamities must needs make use of tragic language. (235) Then standing in the middle of our victims, having bathed ourselves deeply in the blood of our kinsfolk (for such blood will be the only bath which we shall have wherewith to cleanse ourselves for the journey to the shades below), we will mingle our own blood with it, slaughtering ourselves upon their bodies. (236) And when we are dead, let this commandment be inscribed over us as an epitaph, ‘Let not even God blame us, who have had a due regard to both considerations, pious loyalty towards the emperor and the reverential preservation of our established holy laws.’ “And this will be what will be deservedly said of us if we give up our miserable life, holding it in proper contempt. (237) We have heard of a most ancient tradition, which has been handed down throughout Greece by their historians, who have affirmed that the head of the Gorgon had such mighty power, that those who beheld it immediately became stones and rocks. But this appears only to be a fiction and fable, the truth being that great, and unexpected, and wonderful events do often bring after them great disaster; for instance, the anger of a master causes death, or calamities equivalent to death. (238) “Do you suppose (may God forbid that any such event should ever take place) that if any of our countrymen were to see this statue being brought into our temple, it would not change them into stones? Their limbs being all congealed, and their eyes becoming fixed so as not to be capable of motion, and their whole body losing all its natural motions in every one of its united parts and limbs! (239) We will, however, now, O Petronius, address to you one last and most righteous and just request; we say that you ought not to do what you are commanded, but we entreat you to grant us a respite, and we most earnestly supplicate you to delay a little while till we appoint an embassy, and send it to approach your master, and to convey our entreaties to him. (240) Perhaps in our embassy we may find some argument or other to persuade him, either by bringing before him all the considerations respecting the honour of God, or the preservation of our indestructible and unalterable laws, or by urging upon him that we ought not to be subjected to a worse fate than all the nations even in the very most remote extremities of the earth, who have been allowed to preserve their national customs; with reference to which his grandfather and great-grandfather came to a righteous decision when they confirmed and set the seal to our customs with all care. (241) Perhaps when he hears these arguments he will be more merciful to us. The intentions of the great do not always continue the same, and those which are adopted in anger are the quickest to change. We have been grievously calumniated. Suffer us to refute the false accusations which have been brought against us. It is hard to be condemned without being heard in our own defence. (242) “And if we fail to convince him, what will after that prevent him from doing the things which he at present intends to do? Until, then, we have sent this embassy, do not cut off all the hopes of so many myriads of men, since our zeal and earnestness is displayed not in the cause of gain, but in that of religion; though indeed we speak foolishly in using such an expression as that, for what can be a more real and beneficial gain to them than holiness?”