They came to Macherus at the beginning of summer. It was a month later that, looking out through the shimmering heat down the valley from under the tent awning, Philo saw the smoke in the sky that Hylas had imagined on the day before he left Philadelphia. The tribune heard him gasp and came out to stand beside him, looking above the heat haze over the distant lake to the west.
"Yes, that must be it, Jerusalem has gone at last. Nothing but a whole city could make the sky look like that . Jupiter Ammon, I'm glad I'm not there now. There's no glory in a massacre, and in that city it'll be like scything a corn field."
Philo found that tears were running down his cheeks for the city he had never seen. "what's that for?" asked Gallienus. "You aren't a Jew?" Philo gulped hard and wiped his nose. "Of course, your brother's there! Well, perhaps now it's over at last we can close our fist round this place and make an end here too."
Palestine in the first century A. D. is as unsettled and divided as it is today. The Jews have revolted against Roman occupation and as they grow more restive, Rome clamps down harder. The ten Greek cities of Palestine—the Decapolis—want only to continue their peaceful trading existence, but they find themselves caught in the middle of the uprisings.
Apollodorus, a merchant of Philadelphia, takes a risk and rescues a man whom a Roman patrol has left to die in the desert. When Apollodorus is killed by robbers, his three sons are left almost penniless. Conan, Nicanor and Philo must each find a way for themselves. Philo, the youngest, is befriended by Xenos, the man saved from the desert, the man who has lost his memory. From him the boy learns the art of the scribe, and together they try to find their identity—one from the past and the other for the future. A serious story of an important time in history.
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