THE EMPEROR - PART 2 - VOLUME 7.
THE EMPEROR - PART 2 - VOLUME 7.
While Pollux and his mother who was much grieved waited for Euphorion's
return and while Papias was ingratiating himself with the Emperor by
pretending still to believe that Hadrian was nothing more than Claudius
Venator the architect Aurelius Verus nicknamed by the Alexandrians
"the sham Eros" had lived through strange experiences.
In the afternoon he had visited the Empress in the hope of persuading
her to look on at the gay doings of the people even if incognito; but
Sabina was out of spirits declared herself unwell and was quite sure
that the noise of the rabble would be the death of her. Having as she
said so vivacious a reporter as Verus she might spare herself from
exposing her own person to the dust and smell of the town and the uproar
of men. As soon as Lucilla begged her husband to remember his rank and
not to mingle with the excited multitude at any rate after dark the
Empress strictly enjoined him to see with his own eyes everything that
could be worth notice in the festival and more particularly to give
attention to everything that was peculiar to Alexandria and not to be
seen in Rome.
After sunset Verus had first gone to visit the veterans of the Twelfth
Legion who had been in the field with him against the Numidians and to
whom he gave a dinner at an eating-house as being his old fellow-
soldiers. For above an hour he sat drinking with the brave old fellows;
then quitting them he went to look at the Canopic way by night as it
was but a few paces thither from the scene of his hospitality. It was
brilliantly lighted with tapers torches and lamps and the large houses
behind the colonnades were gaudy with rich hangings; only the handsomest
and stateliest of them all had no kind of decoration. This was the abode
of the Jew Apollodorus.
In former years the finest hangings had decorated his windows which had
been as gay with flowers and lamps as those of the other Israelites who
dwelt in the Canopic way and who were wont to keep the festival in
common with their heathen fellow-citizens as jovially as though they were
no less zealous to do homage to Dionysus. Apollodorus had his own
reasons for keeping aloof on this occasion from all that was connected
with the holiday doings of the heathen. Without dreaming that his
withdrawal could involve him in any danger he was quietly sitting in his
house which was so splendidly furnished as to seem fitted for some
princely Greek rather than for a Hebrew. This was especially the case
with the men's living-room in which Apollodorus sat for the pictures on
the walls and pavement of this beautiful hall--of which the roof which
was half open was supported on columns of the finest porphyry--
represented the loves of Eros and Psyche; while between the pillars stood
busts of the greatest heathen philosophers and in the background a fine
statue of Plato was conspicuous. Among all the Greeks and Romans there
was the portrait of only one Jew and this was that of Philo whose
intellectual and delicate features greatly resembled those of the most
illustrious of his Greek companions.
In this splendid room lighted by silver lamps there was no lack of easy
couches and on one of these Apollodorus was reclining; a fine-looking
man of fifty with his mild but shrewd eyes fixed on a tall and aged
fellow-Israelite who was pacing up and down in front of him and talking
eagerly; the old man's hands too were never still now he used them in
eager gesture and again stroked his long white beard. On an easy seat
opposite to the master of the house sat a lean young man with pale and
very regular finely-cut features black hair and a black beard; he sat
with his dark glowing eyes fixed on the ground tracing lines and circles
on the pavement with the stick he held in his hand while the excited old
man his uncle urgently addressed Apollodorus in a vehement but fluent
torrent of words. Apollodorus however shook his head from time to time
at his speech and frequently met him with a brief contradiction.
It was easy to see that what he was listening to touched him painfully
and that the two diametrically different men were fighting a battle which
could never lead to any satisfactory issue. For though they both used
the Greek tongue and confessed the same religion all they felt and
thought was grounded on views as widely dissimilar as though the two men
had been born in different spheres. When two opponents of such different
calibre meet there is a great clatter of arms but no bloody wounds are
dealt and neither rout nor victory can result.
It was on account of this old man and his nephew that Apollodorus had
forborne to-day to decorate his house for the Rabbi Gamaliel who had
arrived only the day before from Palestine and had been welcomed by his
Alexandrian relatives condemned every form of communion with the
gentiles and would undoubtedly have quitted the residence of his host if
he had ventured to adorn it in honor of the feast-day of the false gods.
Gamaliel's nephew Rabbi Ben Jochai enjoyed a reputation little inferior
to that of his father Ben Akiba. The elder was the greatest sage and
expounder of the law--the son the most illustrious astronomer and the
most skilled interpreter of the mystical significance of the position of
the heavenly bodies among the Hebrews.
It redounded greatly to the honor of Apollodorus that he should be
privileged to shelter under his roof the sage Gamaliel and the famous son
of so great a father and in his hours of leisure he loved to occupy
himself with learned subjects so he had done his utmost to make their
stay in his house in every way agreeable to them. He had bought on
purpose for them a kitchen slave himself a strict Jew and familiar with
the requirements of the Levitical law as to food who during their stay
was to preside over the mysteries of the hearth instead of the Greek
cook who usually served him so that none but clean meat should be
prepared according to the Jewish ritual. He had forbidden his grown-up
sons to invite any of their Greek friends into the house during the visit
of the illustrious couple or to discuss the festival; they were also
enjoined to avoid using the names of the gods of the heathen in their
conversation--but he himself was the first to sin against this
He like all the Hebrews of good position in Alexandria had acquired
Greek culture felt and thought in Greek modes and had remained a Jew
only in name; for though they still believed in the one God of their
fathers instead of in a crowd of Olympian deities the One whom they
worshipped was no longer the almighty and jealous God of their nation
but the all-pervading plasmic and life-giving Spirit with whom the Greeks
had become familiar through Plato.
Every hour that they had spent in each other's company had widened
the gulf between Apollodorus and Gamaliel and the relations of the
Alexandrian to the sage had become almost intolerable when he learnt
that the old man--who was related to himself--had come to Egypt with his
nephew in order to demand the daughter of Apollodorus in marriage. But
the fair Ismene was not in the least disposed to listen to this grave and
bigoted suitor. The home of her people was to her a barbarous land the
young astronomer filled her with alarm and besides all this her heart
was already engaged; she had given it to the son of Alabarchos who was
the Superior of all the Israelites in Egypt and this young man possessed
the finest horse in the whole city with which he had won several races
in the Hippodrome and he also had distinguished her above all the
maidens. To him if to any one would she give her hand and she had
explained herself to this effect to her father when he informed her of
Ben Jochai's suit and Apollodorus who had lost his wife several years
before had neither the wish nor the power to put any pressure on his
To be sure the temporizing nature of the man rendered it very difficult
to him to give a decided no to his venerable old friend; but it had to be
done sooner or later and the present evening seemed to him an
appropriate moment for this unpleasant task.
He was alone with his guests. His daughter had gone to the house of a
friend to look on at the gay doings in the street his three sons were
out all the slaves had leave to enjoy their holiday till midnight;
nothing was likely to disturb them and so after many warm expressions
of his deep respect he found courage to confess to them that he could
not support Ben Jochai's pretensions. His child he said clung too
fondly to Alexandria to wish to quit it and his learned young friend
would be but ill suited with a wife who was accustomed to freer manners
and habits and could hardly feel herself at ease in a home where the
laws of her fathers were strictly observed and in which therefore no
kind of freedom of life would be tolerated.
Gamaliel let the Alexandrian speak to the end but then as his nephew
was beginning to argue against their host's hesitancy the old man
abruptly interrupted him. Drawing up his figure which was a little
bent to its full height and passing his hand among the blue veins and
fine wrinkles that marked his high forehead he began:
Our house was decimated in our wars against the Romans and among the
daughters of our race Ben Akiba found not one in Palestine who seemed to
him worthy to marry his son. But the report of the good fortune of the
Alexandrian branch of our family had reached Judea and Ben Akiba thought
that he would do like our father Abraham and he sent me his Eliezer
into a strange land to win the daughter of a kinsman to wife for his
Isaac. Now who and what the young man is and the esteem in which he
and his father are held by men--"
"I know well" interrupted Apollodorus "and my house has never been so
highly honored as in your visit."
"And notwithstanding" continued the Rabbi "we must return home as we
came; and indeed this will not only suit you best but us too and my
brother whose ambassador I am for after what I have learnt from you
within this last hour we must in any case withdraw our suit. Do not
interrupt me! Your Ismene scorns to veil her face and no doubt it is
a very pretty one to look upon--you have trained her mind like that of
a man and so she seeks to go her own way. That may be all very well for
a Greek woman but in the house of Ben Akiba the woman must obey her
husband's will as the ship obeys the helm and have no will of her own;
her husband's will always coincides with what the law commands which you
yourself learnt to obey."
"We recognize its excellence" replied Apolloderus but even if all the
laws which Moses received on Sinai were binding on all mortals alike the
various ordinances which were wisely laid down for the regulation of the
social life of our fathers are not universally applicable for the
children of our day. And least of all can we observe them here where
though true to our ancient faith we live as Greeks among Greeks."
"That I perceive" retorted Gamaliel "for even the language--that
clothing of our thoughts--the language of our fathers and of the
scriptures you have abandoned for another sacrificed to another."
"You and your nephew also speak Greek."
"We do it here because the heathen because you and yours no longer
understand the tongue of Moses and the prophets."
"But wherever the Great Alexander bore his arms Greek is spoken; and
does not the Greek version of the scriptures translated by the seventy
interpreters under the direct guidance of our God exactly reproduce the
"And would you exchange the stone engraved by Bryasis that you wear on
your finger and showed me yesterday with so much pride for a wax
impression of the gem?"
"The language of Plato is not an inferior thing; it is as noble as the
"But ours came to us from the lips of the Most High. What would you
think of a child that disdaining the tongue Of its father listened only
to that of its neighbors and made use of an interpreter to be able to
understand its parents' commands?"
"You are speaking of parents who have long since left their native land.
The ancestor need not be indignant with his descendants when they use the
language of their new home so long as they continue to act in accordance
with his spirit."
"We must live not merely in accordance with the spirit but by the words
of the Most High for not a syllable proceeds from His lips in vain. The
more exalted the spirit of a discourse is the more important is every
word and syllable. One single letter often changes the meaning of whole
sentences.--What a noise the people outside are making! The wild tumult
penetrates even into this room which is so far from the street and your
sons take delight in the disorders of the heathen! You do not even
withhold them by force from adding to the number of those mad devotees of
"I was young once myself and I think it no sin to share in the universal
"Say rather the disgraceful idolatry of the worshippers of Dionysus. It
is in name alone that you and your children belong to the elect people of
God in your hearts you are heathens!"
"No Father" exclaimed Apollodorus eagerly. "The reverse is the case.
In our hearts we are Jews but we wear the garments of Greeks."
"Why your name is Apollodorus--the gift of Apollo."
"A name chosen only to distinguish me from others. Who would ever
enquire into the meaning of a name if it sounds well."
"You everybody who is not devoid of sense" cried the Rabbi. "You think
to yourself 'need Zenodotus or Hermogenes some Greek you meet at the
bath or else where know at once that the wealthy personage with whom
he discussed the latest interpretation of the Hellenic myths is a Jew?'
And how charming is the man who asks you whether you are not an Athenian
for your Greek has such a pure Attic accent! And what we ourselves like
we favor in our children so we choose names for them too which flatter
our own vanity."
A faint mocking smile crossed Gamaliel's lips and interrupting the
Alexandrian he said:
"Is there any particularly worthy man among our Alexandrian fellow-
believers whose name is Heracles?"
"No one" cried the Alexandrian "ever thinks of the son of Alcmene when he
asseverates--it only means 'really--truly--'"
"To be sure you are not fastidiously accurate in the choice of your words
and names and where there is so much to be seen and enjoyed as there is
here one's thoughts are not always connected. That is intelligible--
quite peculiarly intelligible! And in this city folks are so polite
that they are fain to wrap truth in some graceful disguise. May I a
barbarian from Judea be allowed to set it before you bare of clothing
naked and unadorned."
"Speak I beg you speak."
"You are Jews; but you had rather not be Jews and you endure your origin
as an inevitable evil. It is only when you feel the mighty hand of the
Most High that you recognize it and claim your right to be one of His
chosen people. In the smooth current of daily life you proudly number
yourselves with his enemies. Do not interrupt me and answer honestly
what I shall ask you. In what hour of your life did you feel yourself
that you owed the deepest gratitude to the God of your fathers?"
"Why should I deny it?--In the hour when my lost wife presented me with
my first-born son."
"And you called him?"
"You know his name is Benjamin."
"Like the favorite son of our forefather Jacob for in the hour when you
thus named him you were honestly yourself you felt thankful that it had
been vouchsafed to you to add another link to the chain of your race--you
were a Jew--you were confident in our God--in your own God. The birth of
your second son touched your soul less deeply and you gave him the name
of Theophilus and when your third male child was born you had altogether
ceased to remember the God of your fathers for he is named after one of
the heathen gods Hephaestion. To put it shortly: You are Jews when the
Lord is most gracious to you or threatens to try you most severely but
you are heathen whenever your way does not lead you over the high hills
or through the dark abysses of life. I cannot change your hearts--but
the wife of my brother's son the daughter of Ben Akiba must be a
daughter of our people morning noon and night. I seek a Rebecca for
my daughter and not an Ismene."
"I did not ask you here" retorted Apollodorus. "But if you quit us
to-morrow you as will be followed by our reverent regard. Think no
worse of us because we adapt ourselves more perhaps than is fitting
to the ways and ideas of the people among whom we have grown up and in
whose midst we have been prosperous and whose interests are ours. We
know how high our faith is beyond theirs. In our hearts we still are
Jews; but are we not bound to try to open and to cultivate and to elevate
our spirits which God certainly made of stuff no coarser than that of
other nations whenever and wherever we may? And in what school may our
minds be trained better or on sounder principles than in ours--I mean
that of the Greek sages? The knowledge of the Most High--"
"That knowledge" cried the old man gesticulating vehemently with his
arms. "The knowledge of God Most High and all that the most refined
philosophy can prove all the sublimest and purest of the thinkers of
whom you speak can only apprehend by the gravest meditation and heart-
searching--all this I say has been bestowed as a free gift of God on
every child of our people. The treasures which your sages painfully seek
out we already possess in our scriptures our law and our moral
ordinances. We are the chosen people the first-born of the Lord and
when Messiah shall rise up in our midst--"
"Then" interrupted Apollodorus "that shall be fulfilled which like
Philo I hope for we shall be the priests and prophets for all nations.
Then we shall in truth be a race of priests whose vocation it shall be to
call down the blessing of the Most High on all mankind."
"For us--for us alone shall the messenger of God appear to make us the
kings and not the slaves of the nations."
Apollodorus looked with surprise into the face of the excited old man
and asked with an incredulous smile: "The crucified Nazarene was a false
Messiah; but when will the true Messiah appear?"
"When will He appear?" cried the Rabbi. "When? Can I tell when? Only
one thing I do know; the serpent is already sharpening its fangs to sting
the heel of Him who shall tread upon it. Have you heard the name of Bar
"Uncle" said Ben Jochai interrupting the old Rabbi's speech and rising
from his seat: "Say nothing you might regret."
"Nay nay" answered Gamaliel earnestly. "Our friends here prefer the
human above the divine but they are not traitors." Then turning again
to Apollodorus he continued:
"The oppressors in Israel have set up idols in our holy places and
strive again to force the people to bow down to them; but rather shall
our back be broken than we will bend the knee or submit!"
"You are meditating another revolt?" asked the Alexandrian anxiously.
"Answer me--have you heard the name of Bar Kochba?"
"Yes as that of the foolhardy leader of an armed troup."
"He is a hero--perhaps the Redeemer."
"And it was for him that you charged me to load my next corn vessel to
Joppa with swords shields and lance-heads?"
"And are none but the Romans to be permitted to use iron?"
"Nay--but I should hesitate to supply a friend with arms if he proposed
to use them against an irresistible antagonist who will inevitably
"The Lord of Hosts is stronger than a thousand legions!"
"Be cautious uncle" said Ben Jochai again in a warning voice.
Gamaliel turned wrathfully upon his nephew but before he could retort on
the young man's protest he started in alarm for a wild howling and the
resounding clatter of violent blows on the brazen door of the house rang
through the hall and shook its walls of marble.
"They are attacking my house" shouted Apollodorus.
"This is the gratitude of those for whom you have broken faith with the
God of your fathers" said the old man gloomily. Then throwing up his
hands and eyes he cried aloud: "Hear me Adonai! My years are many and I
am ripe for the grave; but spare these have mercy upon them."
Ben Jochai followed his uncle's example and raised his arms in
supplication while his black eyes sparkled with a lowering glow in his
But their prayers were brief for the tumult came nearer and nearer;
Apollodorus wrung his hands and struck his fist against his forehead;
his movements were violent--spasmodic. Terror had entirely robbed him of
the elegant measured demeanor which be had acquired among his Greek
fellow-citizens and mingling heathen oaths and adjurations with appeals
to the God of his fathers he flew first one way and then another. He
searched for the key of the subterranean rooms of the house but he could
not find it for it was in the charge of his steward who with all the
other servants was taking his pleasure in the streets or over a
brimming cup in some tavern.
Now the newly-purchased kitchen-slave--the Jew to whom the keeping of the
Dionysian feast was an abomination--rushed into the room shrieking out
as he plucked at his hair and beard:
"The Philistines are upon us! save us Rabbi great Rabbi! Cry for us
to the Lord oh! man of God! They are coming with staves and spears and
they will tread us down as grass and burn us in this house like the
locusts cast into the oven."
In deadly terror he threw himself at Gamaliel's feet and clasped them in
his hands but Apollodorus exclaimed: "Follow me follow me up on to the
"No no" howled the slave "Amalek is making ready the firebrand to
fling among our tents. The heathen leap and rage the flames they are
flinging will consume us. Rabbi Rabbi call upon the Hosts of the Lord!
God of the just! The gate has given way. Lord! Lord! Lord!"
The terrified wretch's teeth chattered and he covered his eyes with his
hands groaning and howling.
Ben Jochai had remained perfectly calm but he was quivering with rage.
His prayer was ended and turning to Gamaliel he said in deep tones:
"I knew that this would happen I warned you. Our evil star rose when we
set forth on our wanderings.
"Now we must abide patiently what the Lord hath determined. He will be
"Vengeance is His!" echoed the old man and he covered his head with his
"In the sleeping-room--follow me! we can hide under the beds!" shrieked
Apollodorus; he kicked away the slave who was embracing the Rabbi's feet
and seized the old man by the shoulder to drag him away with him. But it