Saturday, November 24, 2018

Did You Read "Quo Vadis"?

Quo Vadis is the historical novel of Henryk Sienkiewicz published in 1896 and the basis for the 1951 film.

Due to it being mentioned by Jabotinsky in an article I am editing, "Exchange of Compliments", I looked through it for a reference Jabotinsky made regarding two Rabbis.

As one scholar has noted,

there is not a single friendly reference to the Jews anywhere in the novel. What is worse, nearly every mention of them is tied to some ugly rumor or malicious deed. But it must be recalled that Sienkiewicz merely followed the received opinions of his day. 

And these are the sections I found relating to Jews:

Vinicius ceased talking and rode on.

“O lord,” said Chilo, after a while, “thou wouldst not have found the maiden but for me, and if we find her now, thou wilt not forget the needy sage?”

“Thou wilt receive a house with a vineyard at Ameriola.”

“Thanks to thee, O Hercules! With a vineyard? Thanks to thee! Oh, yes, with a vineyard!”

They were passing the Vatican Hill now, which was ruddy from the fire; but beyond the Naumachia they turned to the right, so that when they had passed the Vatican Field they would reach the river, and, crossing it, go to the Flaminian Gate. Suddenly Chilo reined in his mule, and said,--

“A good thought has come to my head, lord!”

“Speak!” answered Vinicius.

“Between the Janiculum and the Vatican Hill, beyond the gardens of Agrippina, are excavations from which stones and sand were taken to build the Circus of Nero. Hear me, lord. Recently the Jews, of whom, as thou knowest, there is a multitude in Trans-Tiber, have begun to persecute Christians cruelly. Thou hast in mind that in the time of the divine Claudius there were such disturbances that Cæsar was forced to expel them from Rome. Now, when they have returned, and when, thanks
to the protection of the Augusta, they feel safe, they annoy Christians more insolently. I know this; I have seen it. No edict against Christians has been issued; but the Jews complain to the prefect of the city that Christians murder infants, worship an ass, and preach a religion not recognized by the Senate; they beat them, and attack their houses of prayer so fiercely that the Christians are forced to hide.”

“What dost thou wish to say?” inquired Vinicius.

“This, lord, that synagogues exist openly in the Trans-Tiber; but that Christians, in their wish to avoid persecution, are forced to pray in secret and assemble in ruined sheds outside the city or in sand-pits.
Those who dwell in the Trans-Tiber have chosen just that place which was excavated for the building of the Circus and various houses along the Tiber. Now, when the city is perishing, the adherents of Christ are praying. Beyond doubt we shall find a countless number of them in the excavation; so my advice is to go in there along the road.”

[Vinicius]commanded the slaves to hasten; and along the road he thought without order, now of Lygia, now of revenge. He had heard that Egyptian priests of the goddess Pasht could bring disease on whomever they wished, and he determined to learn the means of doing this. In the Orient they had told him, too, that Jews have certain invocations by which they cover their enemies’ bodies with ulcers. He had a number of Jews among his domestic slaves; hence he promised himself to torture them on his return till they divulged the secret.

Petronius meditated a while and added,--“Poppæa, it is said, follows the religion of the Jews, and believes in evil spirits. Cæsar is superstitious. If we spread the report that evil spirits carried off
Lygia, the news will find belief, especially as neither Cæsar nor Aulus Plautius intercepted her; her escape was really mysterious. The Lygian could not have effected it alone; he must have had help. And where could a slave find so many people in the course of one day?”

“Vatinius described to us a remarkable fight of gladiators, which is to take place in Beneventum. See to what cobblers rise in our time, in spite of the saying, ‘Ne sutor ultra crepidam!’ Vitelius is the
descendant of a cobbler; but Vatinius is the son of one! Perhaps he drew thread himself! The actor Aliturus represented Oedipus yesterday wonderfully. I asked him, by the way, as a Jew, if Christians and Jews were the same. He answered that the Jews have an eternal religion, but that Christians are a new sect risen recently in Judea; that in the time of Tiberius the Jews crucified a certain man, whose adherents increase daily, and that the Christians consider him as God. They refuse, it seems, to recognize other gods, ours especially. I cannot understand what harm it would do them to recognize these gods.

Vinicius promised him once more the desired sum, forbidding him to mention Glaucus again; but asked what other news he brought, where he had been all the time, what he had seen, and what he had discovered. But Chilo was not able to tell much. He had been in two more houses of prayer,--had observed each person carefully, especially the women,--but had seen no one who resembled Lygia: the Christians, however, looked on him as one of their own sect, and, since he redeemed the son of
Euricius, they honored him as a man following in the steps of “Christ.”  He had learned from them, also, that a great lawgiver of theirs, a certain Paul of Tarsus, was in Rome, imprisoned because of charges preferred by the Jews, and with this man he had resolved to become acquainted.

“Peace be with thee, faithful servant of the Lamb! True, it is permitted to forgive wrongs done ourselves; but who has the right to forgive a wrong done to God? But as a serpent engenders a serpent, as malice breeds malice, and treason breeds treason, so from the poison of Judas another traitor has come; and as that one delivered to Jews and Roman soldiers the Saviour, so this man who lives among us intends to give Christ’s sheep to the wolves; and if no one will anticipate the treason,
if no one will crush the head of the serpent in time, destruction is waiting for us all, and with us will perish the honor of the Lamb.”

The Christians, however, hide themselves from Jews, and from the populace, who, as is known to
thee, accuse them of crimes and hate them.”

when Nazarius went out to get water for the birds, he said,--“Lygia, canst thou endure that he should give thee gifts? Dost thou not know that the Greeks call people of his nation Jewish dogs?”

“I do not know what the Greeks call them; but I know that Nazarius is a Christian and my brother.”

Petronius went home. Nero and Tigellinus went to Poppæa’s atrium, where they were expected by people with whom the prefect had spoken already. There were two Trans-Tiber rabbis in long solemn robes and mitred, a young copyist, their assistant, together with Chilo. At sight of Cæsar the priests grew pale from emotion, and, raising their hands an arm’s length, bent their heads to his hands.
“Be greeted, O ruler of the earth, guardian of the chosen people, and Cæsar, lion among men, whose reign is like sunlight, like the cedar of Lebanon, like a spring, like a palm, like the balsam of Jericho.”

“Do ye refuse to call me god?” inquired Nero.

The priests grew still paler. The chief one spoke again,--

“Thy words, O lord, are as sweet as a cluster of grapes, as a ripe fig,--for Jehovah filled thy heart with goodness! Thy father’s predecessor, Cæsar Caius, was stern; still our envoys did not call him god, preferring death itself to violation of the law.”

“And did not Caligula give command to throw them to the lions?”

“No, lord; Cæsar Caius feared Jehovah’s anger.”

And they raised their heads, for the name of the powerful Jehovah gave them courage; confident in his might, they looked into Nero’s eyes with  more boldness.

“Do ye accuse the Christians of burning Rome?” inquired Cæsar. “We, lord, accuse them of this alone,--that they are enemies of the law, of the human race, of Rome, and of thee; that long since they have threatened the city and the world with fire! The rest will be told thee by this man, whose lips are unstained by a lie, for in his mother’s veins flowed the blood of the chosen people.”

So, what do you think?

Did he have to portray Jews that way?


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