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á large amphitheatre in the plain. In the theatre he instituted magnificent plays and shows, thymelici, which were music meetings, and chariot races, where the chariots were drawn by two, three, or four pair of horses. The sober Jews looked on these as heathenish sports, tending to corrupt the morals of their nation, to bring them into contact with Pagan idolatry and manners. They condemned them as tending to the immediate dissolution of the Mosaic law. Our modern masquerades, plays, operas, with other pomps and vanities of the world, are as mercilessly, but with less reason, censured by a certain class of Christian enthusiasts. The Jews were to be separated from the world; we constitute it.
A mob took this matter up offensively: but Herod got clear of the multitude, and allayed the violence of their passion. The greatest part of the people were disposed to change their conduct, and not to be displeased with him any longer. Still the resentment of some was unabated, for his introduction of new practices. They foreboded the origin of great mischief from the violation of the laws, and considered themselves as called upon by piety to hazard their own lives, rather than seem to acquiesce in such a change of government, and the violent introduction of foreign habits. They represented Herod as a king only in pretence, but in reality an enemy to their whole nation. On this account, ten citizens of Jerusalem conspired, and bound themselves to each other by oath, to undergo any dangers in their attempt. They armed themselves with daggers under their garments, for the purpose of killing Herod.
Among the conspirators there was a blind man, who
became a great encourager of the rest, through indignation at what he had only heard of. He was incapable of affording them personal assistance, but anxious to share their hazards and risk their sufferings.
With this common resolve, they went into the theatre, in the hope that Herod himself could not escape them, as they meant to fall on him unexpectedly. But if they missed him, they were likely to kill many of his attendants. They determined to do this, should they die for it ; by way of reading a lesson to the king, on the injuries he had done the multitude. The conspirators thus prepared, went about their design with alacrity. But one of Herod's spies, appointed to hunt out conspiracies, discovered this, and told the king of it, just as he was going into the theatre. The citizens did execution on the informer. Herod made a strict scrutiny, and put many to severe torture: but he would never have discovered the perpetrators of the assassination, had not certain women in their agonies confessed what they had
The authors of the fact were terribly punished by the king, and their families destroyed for this rash attempt. Herod was not rendered more mild by the obstinacy of the people, and their constancy in defence of their laws. To prevent his innovations from producing open rebellion, he determined to encompass the multitude on
He now married again. One Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there, had a daughter, esteemed the most beautiful woman of her time. The people of Jerusalem spoke loudly
in her praise. Herod was much moved by what he heard of her; and when he saw the damsel, was smitten with her beauty. But he entertained no design of using his authority to abuse her, justly believing, that he should so be stigmatised with violence and tyranny. He determined therefore to make her his wife.
In the time of a great famine, he thought it politic to use his utmost endeavours in assisting his people. He cut off the rich furniture of his palace, both silver and gold, without sparing his finest, and most elaborately chased vessels. The money so raised was sent to Petronius, prefect of Egypt, appointed by Cæsar, to whom several had fled in their necessities. This person was Herod's particular friend, and anxious to preserve his subjects. He gave them leave to export corn, which he assisted them in purchasing. He was indeed the principal, if not the only person, who gave them any help Herod took care the people should understand, that this assistance came from himself. He thus removed their past ill opinion, and proved his regard and care of them. He distributed portions of corn with the utmost exactness to such as were able to provide their own food.
The bakers were commissioned to make their bread ready for the aged, the infirm,
and the poor.
All Herod's designs had now succeeded according to his hopes; nor had he the least suspicion that any troubles could arise in his kingdom. He was implacable in the infliction of his punishments, and so retained the people in obedience by the influence of fear. Yet he had displayed the most provident care of them, and behaved in the most
magnanimous manner in their distresses, and thus earned, notwithstanding his tyranny, the title of Herod the Great. But he took further measures for external security, and raised a moral fortress for his government, against his subjects.
His orations to the cities were eloquent, and full of benevolent sentiments. He cultivated a politic understanding with their governors, and purchased the friendship of each by seasonable presents. He thus secured his kingdom by the magnificence of his temper, while his resources were continually increasing. Yet his real disposition was tyrannical and extravagant, and displayed itself with least reserve in his Grecian cities. In the cities of the Jews, even he was obliged to be cautious in introducing plays, shows, and idolatrous temples, in consequence of a still subsisting zeal for the laws of Moses.
Dean Prideaux, in his excellent Connection of the History of the Old and New Testament, has an admirable reflection on ambition, in reference to Pompey and Cæsar, which is applicable to tyrants of all ages and countries. « One of them could not bear an equal, nor the other a superior : And through this ambitious humour and thirst after more power in these two men, the whole Roman empire being divided into two opposite factions, there was produced hereby the most destructive war that ever afflicted it. And the like folly too much reigns in all other places. Could about thirty men be persuaded to live at home in peace, without enterprizing upon the rights of each other for the vain glory of conquest, and the enlargement of power, the whole world might be at quiet; but their ambition, their follies,
and their humour leading them constantly to encroach upon, and quarrel with each other, they involve all that are under them in the mischiefs hereof, and many thousands are they which yearly perish by it: so that it may almost raise a doubt, whether the benefit which the world receives from government, be sufficient to make amends for the calamities which it suffers from the follies, mistakes, and male-administrations of those that manage it."Part ii. book 7.
Among Herod's other public works, he built Cæsarea. To rectify the inconvenience of an exposure to the south wind, he laid out such a compass towards the land as might be sufficient for a haven, where ships might lie in safety. This he effected by letting down vast stones of above fifty feet in length, not less than eighteen in breadth, and nine in depth, into twenty fathom deep. Some were less, but others exceeded those dimensions. He also built a theatre of stone, and on the south quarter, behind the port, a very capacious amphitheatre, with an agreeable prospect towards the
In one passage, the rebuilding and decora, tion of Cæsarea is stated to have occupied twelve years, in another, ten.
The true number cannot now probably be determined; nor is the point of the slightest importance.
While Herod was thus employed, and after he had rebuilt Sebaste, the Greek name for Samaria, he determined on sending his sons Alexander and Aristobulus to Rome, that they might profit by Cæsar's company. On their arrival they lived at the house of Pollio; not the Pharisee twice mentioned by Josephus, but Asinius Pollio the Roman, who was much attached to Herod. They had leave