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Antiochus Strategos: The Sack of Jerusalem (614)
Byzantine law granted toleration to Jews [Theodosian Code 16.8.21], although there were occasional attempts at forced conversion [Leo VI, Novels], but there was a general prejudice against Jews. The following account of the fall of Jerusalem to the Persians in 614, by the monk Antiochus Stategos, who live din the monastary (lavra) of St. Sabas inJerusalem, shows this attitude. It provides a Byzantine version of the later blood libel.

It also, of course, may reflect Jewish resistance to Byzantine restrictions an oppression.

Finally, it might be noted that, despite Antiochus’ account, the Persians of this period seem to have been significantly more tolerant of religious diversity than almost any contemporary government. They began the system, long continued and later known (under the Turks) as the Millet system by which each religious group governed itself in religious and family matters.

The beginning of the struggle of the Persians with the Christians of Jerusalem was on the 15th April, in the second indiction, in the fourth year of the Emperor Heraclius. They spent twenty days in the struggle. And they shot from their ballistas with such violence, that on the twenty-first day they broke down the city wall. Thereupon the evil; foemen entered the city in great fury, like infuriated wild beasts and irritated serpents. The men however, who defended the city wall fled, and hid themselves in caverns, fosses and cisterns in order to save themselves; and the people in crowds fled into churches and altars; and there they destroyed them.

For the enemy entered in a mighty wrath, gnashing their teeth in violent fury; like evil beasts they roared, bellowed like lions, hissed like ferocious serpents, and slew all whom they found. Lile mad dogs they tore with their teeth the flesh of the faithful, and respected non at all, neither male nor female, neither young nor old, neither child nor baby, neither priest no monk, neither virgin nor widow….

Meanwhile the evil Persians, who had no pity in their hearts, raced to every place in the city and with one accord extirpated all the people. Anyone who ran away in terror they caught hold of; and if any cried out from fear, they roared at them with gashing teeth, and by breaking their teeth on the ground forced them to close their mouths.

Antiochus Strategos part 27

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Willibald and Mother Church, like a hen that cherishes her offspring beneath her wings, won over many adoptive sons to the Lord, protecting them continually with the shield of his kindliness. These he trained...

Antiochus Strategos part 26

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Soon after he came there, the archbishop St. Boniface, Burchard and Wizo consecrated him and invested him with the sacred authority of the episcopate. He remained there for a week after he was consecrated...

Antiochus Strategos part 25

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The Supreme Pontiff, in whom is vested the highest authority, at once replied that his command was sufficient permission, and he ordered him to set out obediently without any qualm of conscience, saying: “If...

Antiochus Strategos part 24

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After this, a priest who came from Spain to St. Benedict’s and stayed there asked permission of Abbot Petronax to go to Rome. When the permission was asked Petronax without hesitation begged Willibald to...

Antiochus Strategos part 23

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Embarking once more, they came to a city called Naples and remained there several days. It is the seat of an archbishop whose dignity is great there. Not far away is the small town...

Antiochus Strategos part 22

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They were there for a long time waiting for a ship to get ready. Afterwards they sailed during the whole of the winter, from the feast of St. Andrew until a week before...

Antiochus Strategos part 21

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Then they travelled across a wide plain covered with Olive trees, and with them travelled an Ethiopian and his two camels, who led a woman on a mule through the woods. And as they...

Antiochus Strategos part 20

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The remains of the church of St. George, who was said to have been born there, are still to be seen: they have been restored as a Greek Church. Arculf gives the first account...

Antiochus Strategos part 19

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After praying there, they departed and care to a large town called Thecua: this is the place where the Holy Innocents were slaughtered by Herod. A church stands there now. In it rests the...

Antiochus Strategos part 18

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In the valley there is a church of our Lady andl the church is her tomb (not that her body lies at rest there, but as a memorial to her). After praying there, he...

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