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