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EVERY reader will at once perceive from the nature of the interest, and from the language, that this drama was neither written with a view to public representation, .nor can be adapted to it without being entirely remodelled and rewritten. The critic will draw the same conclusion from certain peculiarities in the composition, irreconcileable with the arrangements of the theatre; the introducing and dismissing of the subordinate characters after a single appearance; and yet appropriating to them some of the most poetical speeches.
The groundwork of the poem is to be found in Josephus, but the events of a considerable time are compressed into a period of about
thirty-six hours. Though their children are fictitious characters, the leaders of the Jews, Simon, John, and Eleazar, are historical. At the beginning of the siege the defenders of the city were divided into three factions. John, however, having surprised Eleazar, who occupied the Temple, during a festival, the party of Eleazar became subordinate to that of John. The character of John the Galilean was that of excessive sensuality, I have therefore considered him as belonging to the sect of the Sadducees; Simon, on the other hand, I have represented as a native of Jerusalem, and a strict Pharisee; although his soldiers were chiefly Edomites. The Christians, we learn from Eusebius, abandoned the city previous to the siege (by divine command, according to that author), and took refuge in Pella, a small town on the further side of the Jordan. The constant tradition of the Church has been, that no one professing that faith perished during all the havoc which attended on this most awful visitation.