Last Updated on March 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 902
Ben-Hur takes place at the beginning of the first century and tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem. The book, which became known as one of the most influential Christian books of the nineteenth century, is split into eight different parts.
The first part retells the birth of Jesus Christ and introduces the three Magi who sought him out.
Part Two introduces Judah Ben-Hur as his childhood friend, Messala, returns from being educated in Rome. Upon his return to Jerusalem, Messala makes fun of Judah and his religion, and the two are no longer friends. Judah then decides to go to Rome for military training. He wants to use the skills he learns to fight the Roman Empire. Before he leaves, he watches a parade from his rooftop. However, when a roof tile falls and hits the governor, Messala blames Judah, and he is accused of attempted murder. Judah’s family is imprisoned, and he becomes enslaved by the Romans. On his way to work on a Roman warship, he meets Jesus, a carpenter who offers him a drink of water and strengthens his will to survive so he can have vengeance on the Romans.
Judah is sent to Italy, where the Greeks have been looting Roman ships. The Romans are sent to the Aegean Sea to attack the Greeks, and Judah is chained on one of the warships. The commander of the ship, Quintus Arrius, discovers that Judah is a son of Hur and demands that his chains be unlocked. The ship is damaged in battle, and as it sinks, Judah saves Arrius’s life. When they return to land, Arrius adopts Judah, and Judah becomes a free Roman citizen.
Judah trains as a wrestler in Rome. He becomes the heir of Arrius and learns that the slave Simonides, who lives in the same city, was the heir of Judah's birth father’s possessions and is now very wealthy. Judah visits him and explains who he is, but Judah is unable to provide proof of his identity. Simonides sends his servant Malluch to spy on Judah, and the two become friends. They go to the stadium together, where they see Messala preparing for a tournament in chariot racing. Judah learns that Sheik Ilderim is looking for a chariot driver, and Judah offers to drive in hopes of defeating Messala in front of the Roman Empire. When Messala’s chariot almost hits one of the wise men and his daughter, Iras, Judah saves them. Messala threatens revenge on Judah while Judah becomes interested in Iras.
Judah learns that his mother and sister were imprisoned after he intercepts a letter written by Messala Judah is also chosen as the charioteer for Ilderim. Simonides offers Judah the fortune he built from Judah’s father’s possessions, but he only takes the original amount while they both agree to fight for Christ. The day of the big race arrives, and Judah scrapes the wheel of his chariot against Messala’s. Massala’s chariot falls apart, and he is run over by the other horses, making Judah the winner. Massala not only loses the race, but also loses his wealth and suffers a broken body.
Judah receives a letter from Iras requesting that he meet her. He quickly learns that he was tricked, and that Thord, an assasin, was sent by Messala to kill Judah. Judah offers him money to let him live, which he accepts. Thord returns to Messala saying that he...
(The entire section contains 902 words.)
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