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[335] When these ambassadors were come to Rome, they had a fit opportunity of delivering their letters to Caesar, because they found him reconciled to Herod; for the circumstances of Nicolaus's embassage had been as follows: As soon as he was come to Rome, and was about the court, he did not first of all set about what he was come for only, but he thought fit also to accuse Sylleus. Now the Arabians, even before he came to talk with them, were quarrelling one with another; and some of them left Sylleus's party, and joining themselves to Nicolaus, informed him of all the wicked things that had been done; and produced to him evident demonstrations of the slaughter of a great number of Obodas's friends by Sylleus; for when these men left Sylleus, they had carried off with them those letters whereby they could convict him. When Nicolaus saw such an opportunity afforded him, he made use of it, in order to gain his own point afterward, and endeavored immediately to make a reconciliation between Caesar and Herod; for he was fully satisfied, that if he should desire to make a defense for Herod directly, he should not be allowed that liberty; but that if he desired to accuse Sylleus, there would an occasion present itself of speaking on Herod's behalf. So when the cause was ready for a hearing, and the day was appointed, Nicolaus, while Aretas's ambassadors were present, accused Sylleus, and said that he imputed to him the destruction of the king [Obodas], and of many others of the Arabians; that he had borrowed money for no good design; and he proved that he had been guilty of adultery, not only with the Arabian, but Reinan women also. And. he added, that above all the rest he had alienated Caesar from Herod, and that all that he had said about the actions of Herod were falsities. When Nicolaus was come to this topic, Caesar stopped him from going on, and desired him only to speak to this affair of Herod, and to show that he had not led an army into Arabia, nor slain two thousand five hundred men there, nor taken prisoners, nor pillaged the country. To which Nicolaus made this answer: "I shall principally demonstrate, that either nothing at all, or but a very little, of those imputations are true, of which thou hast been informed; for had they been true, thou mightest justly have been still more angry at Herod." At this strange assertion Caesar was very attentive; and Nicolaus said that there was a debt due to Herod of five hundred talents, and a bond, wherein it was written, that if the time appointed be lapsed, it should be lawful to make a seizure out of any part of his country. "As for the pretended army," he said, "it was no army, but a party sent out to require the just payment of the money; that this was not sent immediately, nor so soon as the bond allowed, but that Sylleus had frequently come before Saturninus and Volumnius, the presidents of Syria; and that at last he had sworn at Berytus, by thy fortune, 1 that he would certainly pay the money within thirty days, and deliver up the fugitives that were under his dominion. And that when Sylleus had performed nothing of this, Herod came again before the presidents; and upon their permission to make a seizure for his money, he, with difficulty, went out of his country with a party of soldiers for that purpose. And this is all the war which these men so tragically describe; and this is the affair of the expedition into Arabia. And how can this be called a war, when thy presidents permitted it, the covenants allowed it, and it was not executed till thy name, O Caesar, as well as that of the other gods, had been profaned? And now I must speak in order about the captives. There were robbers that dwelt in Trachonitis; at first their number was no more than forty, but they became more afterwards, and they escaped the punishment Herod would have inflicted on them, by making Arabia their refuge. Sylleus received them, and supported them with food, that they might be mischievous to all mankind, and gave them a country to inhabit, and himself received the gains they made by robbery; yet did he promise that he would deliver up these men, and that by the same oaths and same time that he sware and fixed for payment of his debt: nor can he by any means show that any other persons have at this time been taken out of Arabia besides these, and indeed not all these neither, but only so many as could not conceal themselves. And thus does the calumny of the captives, which hath been so odiously represented, appear to be no better than a fiction and a lie, made on purpose to provoke thy indignation; for I venture to affirm that when the forces of the Arabians came upon us, and one or two of Herod's party fell, he then only defended himself, and there fell Nacebus their general, and in all about twenty-five others, and no more; whence Sylleus, by multiplying every single soldier to a hundred, he reckons the slain to have been two thousand five hundred."

1 This oath, by the fortune of Caesar, was put to Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna, by the Roman governor, to try whether he were a Christian, as they were then esteemed who refused to swear that oath. Martyr. Polycarp, sect. 9.

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