The sacking of Jerusalem depicted on Titus' arch.

Tomorrow is 9/11/11, marking ten years since the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, NY. It is amazing how videos of two buildings filled with citizens of the United States could cause eery silence from many while resulting in cheers of victory for others. In many ways there is a parallel with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

This is what Flavius Philostratus (c. 170-c.247) wrote over a century later in his Life of Apollonius 29 (trans. F.C. Conybeare):

After [Verspasian’s son] Titus had taken Jerusalem, and when the country all round was filled with corpses, the neighboring races offered him a crown; but he disclaimed any such honor to himself, saying that it was not himself that had accomplished this exploit, but that he had merely lent his arms to God, who had so manifested his wrath; and Apollonius praised his action, for therein he displayed a great deal of judgment and understanding of things human and divine, and it showed great moderation on his part that he refused to be crowned because he had shed blood. Accordingly Apollonius indited to him a letter, which he sent by the hands of Damis and of which the text was as follows:

Apollonius sends greetings to Titus the Roman general.

     Whereas you have refused to be proclaimed for success in war and for shedding the blood of your enemies, I myself assign to you the crown of temperance and moderation, because you thoroughly understand what deeds really merit a crown. Farewell.

Now Titus was overjoyed with this epistle, and replied:

In my own behalf I thank you, no less then in behalf of my father, and I will not forget your kindness; for although I have captured Jerusalem, you have captured me.

Apollonius was a teacher and miracle worker that Philostratus admired greatly. I don’t know if that impacts the historicity of this account, but it does show that Titus was admired for what he did and how he allowed the gods to use him.

Josephus, a Jewish historian writing The Wars of the Jews (VII.1) in the Roman context after 70 recalls the story like this:

Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other such work to be done) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne, and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.

Josephus doesn’t describe Titus as having as much reserve as the idealistic letter attributed to Apollonius does. In fact, one could suggest that Josephus sees Titus’ actions as a bit excessive. In Wars of the Jews V.1 to this point and beyond it is hard to find honor in how the Romans devastated the Jew’s holy city and temple, though Josephus doesn’t demonize his new patrons, which is understandable.. The Jews fought thinking that their God was behind them and that their God would bring victory like he did against Pharaoh or Antiochus Epiphanes, but this was not so.

After 9/11 many Christians wondered where their God had been to allow this. Many Muslims thought their God has been victorious. Since then many Christians have thought their God was brining victory in Afghanistan and Iraq while many Muslims likely wonder why their God is allow this. Some things never change.