1 Maccabees - 6

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1King Antiochus, meanwhile, was making his way through the Upper Provinces; he had heard that inPersia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, 2and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there byAlexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. 3He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pil age it, but without success, the citizens havingbeen forewarned. 4They resisted him by force of arms. He was routed, and began retreating, very gloomily, towardsBabylon. 5But, while he was stil in Persia, news reached him that the armies which had invaded Judaea hadbeen routed, 6and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee beforethe Jews; that the latter were now stronger than ever, thanks to the arms, supplies and abundant spoils acquiredfrom the armies they had cut to pieces, 7and that they had pul ed down the abomination which he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem, hadencircled the sanctuary with high wal s as in the past, and had fortified Beth-Zur, one of his cities. 8When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bedand fel sick with grief, since things had not turned out for him as he had planned. 9And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until herealised that he was dying. 10Then, summoning al his Friends, he said to them, 'Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed byanxiety. 11I have been wondering how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as thatwhich now engulfs me -- I who was so generous and wel -loved in my heyday. 12But now I recall how wrongly I acted in Jerusalem when I seized al the vessels of silver and goldthere and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at al . 13This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholyin a foreign land.' 14He summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and made him regent of the whole kingdom. 15He entrusted him with his diadem, his robe and his signet, on the understanding that he was toeducate his son Antiochus and train him for the throne. 16King Antiochus then died, in the year 149. 17Lysias, learning that the king was dead, established on the throne in succession to him his sonAntiochus, whom he had brought up from childhood -- and styled him Eupator. 18The people in the Citadel at the time were blockading Israel round the sanctuary and were takingevery opportunity to harm them and to support the gentiles. 19Judas decided that they must be destroyed, and he mobilised the whole people to besiege them. 20They assembled and laid siege to the Citadel in the year 150, building batteries and siege-engines. 21But some of the besieged broke through the blockade, and to these a number of renegades fromIsrael attached themselves. 22They made their way to the king and said, 'How much longer are you going to wait before you seejustice done and avenge our fellows? 23We were content to serve your father, to comply with his orders, and to obey his edicts. 24As a result our own people will have nothing to do with us; what is more, they have kil ed al those ofus they could catch, and looted our family property. 25Nor is it on us alone that their blows have fal en, but on al your territories. 26At this moment, they are laying siege to the Citadel of Jerusalem, to capture it, and they have fortifiedthe sanctuary and Beth-Zur. 27Unless you forestall them at once, they wil go on to even bigger things, and then you wil never beable to control them.' 28The king was furious when he heard this and summoned al his Friends, the generals of his forcesand the marshals of horse. 29He recruited mercenaries from other kingdoms and the Mediterranean islands. 30His forces numbered a hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry and thirty-twoelephants with experience of battle conditions. 31They advanced through Idumaea and besieged Beth-Zur, pressing the attack for days on end; theyalso constructed siege-engines, but the defenders made a sortie and set these on fire, putting up a braveresistance. 32At this, Judas left the Citadel and pitched camp at Beth-Zechariah opposite the royal encampment. 33The king rose at daybreak and marched his army at top speed down the road to Beth-Zechariah,where his forces took up their battle formations and sounded the trumpets. 34The elephants were given a syrup of grapes and mulberries to prepare them for the battle. 35These animals were distributed among the phalanxes, to each elephant being al ocated a thousandmen dressed in coats of mail with bronze helmets on their heads; five hundred picked horsemen were alsoassigned to each beast. 36The horsemen anticipated every move their elephant made; wherever it went they went with it, neverquitting it. 37On each elephant, to protect it, was a stout wooden tower, kept in position by girths, each with itsthree combatants, as well as its mahout. 38The remainder of the cavalry was stationed on one or other of the two flanks of the army, to harassthe enemy and cover the phalanxes. 39When the sun glinted on the bronze and golden shields, the mountains caught the glint and gleamedlike fiery torches. 40One part of the royal army was deployed on the upper slopes of the mountain and the other in theval ey below; they advanced in solid, wel -disciplined formation. 41Everyone trembled at the noise made by this vast multitude, the thunder of the troops on the marchand the clanking of their armour, for it was an immense and mighty army. 42Judas and his army advanced to give battle, and six hundred of the king's army were killed. 43Eleazar, cal ed Avaran, noticing that one of the elephants was royal y caparisoned and was also tal erthan al the others, and supposing that the king was mounted on it, 44sacrificed himself to save his people and win an imperishable name. 45Boldly charging towards the creature through the thick of the phalanx, dealing death to right and left,so that the enemy scattered on either side at his onslaught, 46he darted in under the elephant, thrust at it from underneath, and kil ed it. The beast collapsed on topof him, and he died on the spot. 47The Jews however realising how strong the king was and how ferocious his army, retreated ahead ofthem. 48The royal army moved up to encounter them outside Jerusalem, and the king began to blockadeJudaea and Mount Zion. 49He granted peace terms to the people of Beth-Zur, who evacuated the town; it lacked store ofprovisions to withstand a siege, since the land was enjoying a sabbatical year. 50Having occupied Beth-Zur, the king stationed a garrison there to hold it. 51He besieged the sanctuary for a long time, erecting batteries and siege-engines, flame-throwers andballistas, scorpions to discharge arrows, and catapults. 52The defenders countered these by constructing their own engines and were thus able to prolong theirresistance. 53But they had no food in their stores since it was the seventh year, and because those who had takenrefuge in Judaea from the gentiles had eaten up the last of their reserves. 54Only a few men were left in the Holy Place, owing to the severity of the famine; the rest had dispersed and gone home. 55Meanwhile Philip, whom King Antiochus before his death had appointed to train his son Antiochus forthe throne, 56had returned from Persia and Media with the forces that had accompanied the king, and was planningto seize control of affairs. 57On hearing this, Lysias at once decided to leave, and said to the king, the generals of the army andthe men, 'We are growing weaker every day, we are short of food, and the place we are besieging is welfortified; moreover the affairs of the kingdom demand our attention. 58Let us offer the hand of friendship to these men and make peace with them and with their wholenation. 59Let us grant them permission to fol ow their own customs as before, since it is our abolition of thesecustoms that has provoked them into acting like this.' 60The king and his commanders approved this argument, and he offered the Jews peace terms, whichthey accepted. 61The king and the generals ratified the treaty by oath, and the besieged accordingly left the fortress. 62The king then entered Mount Zion, but on seeing how impregnable the place was, he broke the oathhe had sworn and gave orders for the encircling wall to be demolished. 63He then hurriedly withdrew, making off for Antioch, where he found Philip already master of the city.Antiochus gave battle and captured the city by force of arms.
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