Page:Ben-Hur a tale of the Christ.djvu/178

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BOOK FOURTH.


"Alva. Should the monarch prove unjust—
And, at this time—

Queen. Then I must wait for justice
Until it come; and they are happiest far
Whose consciences may calmly wait their right."
Schiller, Don Carlos (act iv., sc. xv.).


CHAPTER I.

The month to which we now come is July, the year that of our Lord 29, and the place Antioch, then Queen of the East, and next to Rome the strongest, if not the most populous, city in the world.

There is an opinion that the extravagance and dissoluteness of the age had their origin in Rome, and spread thence throughout the empire; that the great cities but reflected the manners of their mistress on the Tiber. This may be doubted. The reaction of the conquest would seem to have been upon the morals of the conqueror. In Greece she found a spring of corruption; so also in Egypt; and the student, having exhausted the subject, will close the books assured that the flow of the demoralizing river was from the East westwardly, and that this very city of Antioch, one of the oldest seats of Assyrian power and splendor, was a principal source of the deadly stream.

A transport galley entered the mouth of the river Qrontes from the blue waters of the sea. It was in the fore noon. The heat was great, yet all on board who could avail themselves of the privilege were on deck—Ben-Hur among others.

The five years had brought the young Jew to perfect