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Josephus by Norman Bentwich

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Author of "Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria"





Josephus hardly merits a place on his own account in a series of Jewish
Worthies, since neither as man of action nor as man of letters did he
deserve particularly well of his nation. It is not his personal
worthiness, but the worth of his work, that recommends him to the
attention of the Jewish people. He was not a loyal general, and he was
not a faithful chronicler of the struggle with Rome; but he had the
merit of writing a number of books on the Jews and Judaism, which not
only met the desire for knowledge of his nation in his own day, but
which have been preserved through the ages and still remain one of the
chief authorities for Jewish history. He lived at the great crisis of
his people, when it stood at the parting of the ways. And while in his
life he was patronized by those who had destroyed the national center,
after his death he found favor with that larger religious community
which was beginning to carry part of the Jewish mission to the Gentiles.
For centuries Josephus was regarded by the Christians as the standard
historian of the Jews, and, though for long he was forgotten and
neglected by his own people, in modern times he has been carefully
studied also by them, and his merits and demerits both as patriot and as
writer have been critically examined.

It has been my especial aim in this book to consider Josephus from the
Jewish point of view. I have made no attempt to extenuate his personal
conduct or his literary faults. My judgment may appear somewhat severe,
but it is when tried by the test of faithfulness to his nation that
Josephus is found most wanting; and I hope that while extenuating
nothing I have not set down aught in malice.

Of the extensive literature bearing on the subject, the books to which I
am under the greatest obligation are Niese's text of the collected works
and Schürer's _History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus_. I
have given in an Appendix a Bibliography, which contains the names of
most of the works I have referred to. I would mention in particular
Schlatter's _Zur Topographie und Geschichte Palästinas_, which is a
remarkably stimulating and suggestive book, and which confirmed a view I
had formed independently, that in the _Wars_, as in the _Antiquities_,
Josephus is normally a compiler of other men's writings, and constantly
expresses opinions not his own.

My greatest debt of thanks, however, is due to the spoken rather than
the written word. Doctor Büchler, the Principal of Jews' College,
London, has constantly assisted me with advice, directed me to sources
of information, and let me draw plentifully from his own large stores of
knowledge about Josephus; and Doctor Friedlaender, Sabato Morais
Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, has done me the
brotherly service of reading my manuscript and making many valuable
suggestions on it. To their generous help this book owes more than I can


_Cairo, February, 1914_.





















The life and works of Flavius Josephus are bound up with the struggle of
the Jews against the Romans, and in order to appreciate them it is
necessary to summarize the relations of the two peoples that led up to
that struggle.

It is related in the Midrash that the city of Rome was founded on the
day Solomon married an Egyptian princess. The Rabbis doubtless meant by
this legend that the power of Rome was created to be a scourge for
Israel's backslidings. They identified Rome with the Edom of the Bible,
representing thus that the struggle between Esau and Jacob was carried
on by their descendants, the Romans and the Jews, and would continue
throughout history.[1] Yet the earliest relations of the two peoples
were friendly and peaceful. They arose out of the war of independence
that the Maccabean brothers waged against the Syrian Empire in the
middle of the second century B.C.E., when the loyal among the people
were roused to stand up for their faith. Antiochus Epiphanes, anxious to
strengthen his tottering empire, which had been shaken by its struggles
with Rome, sought to force violently on the Jews a pagan Hellenism that
was already making its way among them. He succeeded only in evoking the
latent force of their national consciousness. Rome was already the
greatest power in the world: she had conquered the whole of Italy; she
had destroyed her chief rival in the West, the Phoenician colony of
Carthage; she had made her will supreme in Greece and Macedonia. Her
senate was the arbiter of the destinies of kingdoms, and though for the
time it refrained from extending Roman sway over Egypt and Asia, its
word there was law. Its policy was "divide and rule," to hold supreme
sway by encouraging small nationalities to maintain their independence
against the unwieldy empires which the Hellenistic successors of
Alexander had carved out for themselves in the Orient.

[Footnote 1: Lev. R. xiii. (5), quoted in Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic
Theology, p. 100.]

At the bidding of the Roman envoy, Antiochus Epiphanes himself,
immediately before his incursion into Jerusalem, had slunk away from
Alexandria; and hence it was natural that Judas Maccabaeus, when he had
vindicated the liberty of his nation, should look to Rome for support in
maintaining that liberty. In the year 161 B.C.E. he sent Eupolemus the
son of Johanan and Jason the son of Eleazar, "to make a league of amity
and confederacy with the Romans"[1]: and the Jews were received as
friends, and enrolled in the class of Socii. His brother Jonathan
renewed the alliance in 146 B.C.E.; Simon renewed it again five years
later, and John Hyrcanus, when he succeeded to the high priesthood, made
a fresh treaty.[2] Supported by the friendship, and occasionally by the
diplomatic interference, of the Western Power, the Jews did not require
the intervention of her arms to uphold their independence against the
Seleucid monarchs, whose power was rapidly falling into ruin. At the
beginning of the first century B.C.E., however, Rome, having emerged
triumphant from a series of civil struggles in her own dominions, found
herself compelled to take an active part in the affairs of the East.
During her temporary eclipse there had been violent upheavals in Asia.
The semi-barbarous kings of Pontus and Armenia took advantage of the
opportunity to overrun the Hellenized provinces and put all the Greek
and Roman inhabitants to the sword. To avenge this outrage, Rome sent to
the East, in 73 B.C.E., her most distinguished soldier, Pompeius, or
Pompey, who, in two campaigns, laid the whole of Asia Minor and Syria at
his feet.

[Footnote 1: I Macc. viii. 7. It is interesting to note that the sons
had Greek names, while their fathers had Hebrew names.]

[Footnote 2: I Macc. xii. 3; xiv. 24.]

Unfortunately civil strife was waging in Palestine between the two
Hasmonean brothers, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, who fought for the throne
on the death of the queen Alexandra Salome. Both in turn appealed to
Pompey to come to their aid, on terms of becoming subject to the Roman
overlord. At the same time, a deputation from the Jewish nation appeared
before the general, to declare that they did not desire to be ruled by
kings: "for what was handed down to them from their fathers was that
they should obey the priests of God; but these two princes, though the
descendants of priests, sought to transfer the nation to another form of
government, that it might he enslaved."

Pompey, who had resolved to establish a strong government immediately
subject to Rome over the whole of the near Orient, finally interfered on
behalf of Hyrcanus. Aristobulus resisted, at first somewhat
half-heartedly, but afterwards, when the Roman armies laid siege to
Jerusalem, with fierce determination. The struggle was in vain. On a
Sabbath, it is recorded, when the Jews desisted from their defense, the
Roman general forced his way into the city, and, regardless of Jewish
feeling, entered the Holy of Holies. The intrigues of the Jewish royal
house had brought about the subjection of the nation. As it is said in
the apocryphal Psalms of Solomon, which were written about this time: "A
powerful smiter has God brought from the ends of the earth. He decreed
war upon the Jews and the land. The princes of the land went out with
joy to meet him, and said to him, 'Blessed be thy way; draw near and
enter in peace.'" Yet Pompey did not venture, or did not care, to
destroy or rob the Temple, according to Cicero and Josephus,[1] because
of his innate moderation, but really, one may suspect, from less noble
motives. It was the custom of the Roman conquerors to demand the
surrender, not only of the earthly possessions of the conquered, but of
their gods, and to carry the vanquished images in the triumph which they
celebrated. But Pompey may have recognized the difference between the
Jewish religion and that of other peoples, or he realized the widespread
power of the Jewish people, which would rise as a single body in defense
of its religion; for he made no attempt to interfere either with Jewish
religious liberties, or with a worship that Cicero declared to be
"incompatible with the majesty of the Empire."

[Footnote 1: Cicero, Pro Flacco, 69, and Ant. XVI. iv, 4.]

The Jews, however, were henceforth the clients, instead of the allies,
of Rome. Though Hyrcanus was recognized by Pompey as the high priest and
ethnarch of Judea, and his wily counselor, the Idumean Antipater, was
given a general power of administering the country, they were alike
subject to the governor of Syria, which was now constituted a Roman
province. Moreover, the Hellenistic cities along the coast of Palestine
and on the other side of Jordan, which had been subjugated by John
Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus, were restored to independence, and
placed under special Roman protection, and the Jewish territory itself
was shortly thereafter split by the Roman governor Gabinius into five
toparchies, or provinces, each with a separate administration.

The guiding aim of the conqueror was to weaken the Oriental power (as
the Jews were regarded) and strengthen the Hellenistic element in the
country. The Jews were soon to feel the heavy hand and suffer the
insatiate greed of Rome. National risings were put down with merciless
cruelty, the Temple treasury was spoiled in 56 B.C.E. by the avaricious
Crassus, one of the triumvirate that divided the Roman Empire, when he
passed Jerusalem on his way to fight against the Parthians; even the
annual offering contributed voluntarily by the Jews of the Diaspora to
the Temple was seized by a profligate governor of Asia. The Roman
aristocrats during the last years of the Republic were a degenerate
body; they regarded a governorship as the opportunity of unlimited
extortion, the means of recouping themselves for all the gross expenses
incurred on attaining office, and of making themselves and their friends
affluent for the rest of their lives. And Judea was a fresh quarry.

A happier era seemed to be dawning for the Jews when Julius Caesar
became dictator. At the beginning of the civil war between him and
Pompey, Hyrcanus, at the instance of Antipater, prepared to support the
man to whom he owed his position; but when Pompey was murdered,
Antipater led the Jewish forces to the help of Caesar, who was hard
pressed at Alexandria. His timely help and his influence over the
Egyptian Jews recommended him to Caesar's favor, and secured for him an
extension of his authority in Palestine, and for Hyrcanus the
confirmation of his ethnarchy. Joppa was restored to the Hasmonean
domain, Judea was granted freedom from all tribute and taxes to Rome,
and the independence of the internal administration was guaranteed.
Caesar, too, whatever may have been his motive, showed favor to the Jews
throughout his Empire. Mommsen thinks that he saw in them an effective
leaven of cosmopolitanism and national decomposition, and to that intent
gave them special privileges; but this seems a perverse reason to assign
for the grant of the right to maintain in all its thoroughness their
national life, and for their exemption from all Imperial or municipal
burdens that would conflict with it. It is more reasonable to suppose
that, taking in this as in many other things a broader view than that of
his countrymen, Caesar recognized the weakness of a world-state whose
members were so denationalized as to have no strong feeling for any
common purpose, no passion of loyalty to any community, and he favored
Judaism as a counteracting force to this peril.

His various enactments constituted, as it were, a Magna Charta of the
Jews in the Empire; Judaism was a favored cult in the provinces, a
_licita religio_ in the capital. At Alexandria Caesar confirmed and
extended the religious and political privileges of the Jews, and ordered
his decree to be inscribed on pillars of brass and set up in a public
place. At Rome, though the devotees of Bacchus were forbidden to meet,
he permitted the Jews to hold their assemblies and celebrate their
ceremonials. At his instance the Hellenistic cities of Asia passed
similar favorable decrees for the benefit of the Jewish congregations in
their midst, which invested them with a kind of local autonomy. The
proclamation of the Sardians is typical. "This decree," it runs, "was
made by the senate and people, upon the representation of the praetors:

"Whereas those Jews who are our fellow-citizens, and live with us in
this city, have ever had great benefits heaped upon them by the people,
and have come now into the senate, and desired of the people that, upon
the restitution of their law and their liberty by the senate and people
of Rome, they may assemble together according to their ancient legal
custom, and that we will not bring any suit against them about it; and
that a place may be given them where they may hold their congregations
with their wives and children, and may offer, as did their forefathers,
their prayers and sacrifices to God:--now the senate and people have
decreed to permit them to assemble together on the days formerly
appointed, and to act according to their own laws; and that such a place
be set apart for them by the praetors for the building and inhabiting
the same as they shall esteem fit for that purpose, and that those who
have control of the provisions of the city shall take care that such
sorts of food as they esteem fit for their eating may be imported into
the city."[1]

[Footnote 1: Ant. XIV. x. 24.]

Caesar's decrees marked the culmination of Roman tolerance, and the Jews
enjoyed their privileges for but a short time. It is related by the
historian Suetonius that they lamented his death more bitterly than any
other class.[1] And they had good reason. The Republicans, who had
murdered him, and his ministers, who avenged him, vied with each other
for the support of the Jewish princes; but the people in Palestine
suffered from the burden that the rivals imposed on the provinces in
their efforts to raise armies. Antipater and his ambitious sons Herod
and Phasael contrived to maintain their tyranny amid the constant
shifting of power; and when the hardy mountaineers of Galilee strove
under the lead of one Hezekiah (Ezekias), the founder of the party of
the Zealots, to shake off the Roman yoke, Herod ruthlessly put down the
revolt. But when Antigonus, the son of that Aristobulus who had been
deprived of his kingdom by Hyrcanus and Pompey, roused the Parthians to
invade Syria and Palestine, the Jews eagerly rose in support of the
scion of the Maccabean house, and drove out the hated Idumeans with
their puppet Jewish king. The struggle between the people and the Romans
had begun in earnest, and though Antigonus, when placed on the throne by
the Parthians, proceeded to spoil and harry the Jews, rejoicing at the
restoration of the Hasmonean line, thought a new era of independence had

[Footnote 1: Suetonius, Caesar, lxxxiv. 7.]

The infatuation of Mark Antony for Cleopatra enabled Antigonus to hold
his kingdom for three years (40-37 B.C.E.). Then Herod, who had escaped
to Rome, returned to Syria to conquer the kingdom that Antony had
bestowed on him. He brought with him the Roman legions, and for two
years a fierce struggle was waged between the Idumeans, Romans, and
Romanizing Jews on the one hand, and the national Jews and Parthian
mercenaries of Antigonus on the other. The struggle culminated in a
siege of Jerusalem. As happened in all the contests for the city, the
power of trained force in the end prevailed over the enthusiasm of
fervent patriots. Herod stormed the walls, put to death Antigonus and
his party, and established a harsher tyranny than even the Roman
conqueror had imposed. For over thirty years he held the people down
with the aid of Rome and his body-guard of mercenary barbarians. His
constitution was an autocracy, supplemented by assassination. In the
civil war between Antony and Octavian, he was first on the losing side,
as his father had been in the struggle between Pompey and Caesar; but,
like his father, he knew when to go over to the victor. The master of
the Roman Empire, henceforth known as Augustus, was so impressed with
his carriage and resolution that he not only confirmed him in his
kingdom, but added to it the territories of Chalcis and Perea to the
north and east of the Jordan. Throughout his reign Herod contrived to
preserve the friendship of Rome as effectually as he contrived to arouse
the hatred of his Jewish subjects. "The Imperial Eagle and some
distinguished Roman or other," says George Adam Smith,[1] "were always
fixed in Herod's heaven." He ruled with a strong but merciless hand. He
insured peace, and while he turned his own home into a slaughter-house,
he glorified the Jewish dominion outwardly to a height and magnificence
it had never before attained. Yet the Jewish deputation that went to
plead before Augustus on his death declared that "Herod had put such
abuses on them as a wild beast would not have done, and no calamity they
had suffered was comparable with that which he had brought on the
nation."[2] Beneath the fine show of peace, splendor, and expansion, the
passions of the nation were being aroused to the breaking-point.

[Footnote 1: Jerusalem, ii. 504.]

[Footnote 2: Ant. XVII. xi. 2.]

Augustus himself, following the example of his uncle Julius Caesar, yet
lacking the same large tolerance, held towards Judaism an ambiguous
attitude of impartiality rather than of favor. He caused sacrifices to
be offered for himself at the Temple at Jerusalem,[1] but he praised his
nephew Gaius for having refrained from doing likewise during his Eastern
travels.[2] He was anxious that the national laws and customs of each
nation should be preserved, and he issued a decree in favor of the Jews
of Cyrene; but he initiated the worship of the Emperors, which
necessitated a conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of
Caesar, and in the end destroyed the religious liberty that Julius
Caesar had given to the Empire. His aim was at once to foster the
veneration of the Imperial power and establish an Imperial worship that
should replace the effete paganism of his subjects. He made no attempt
to force this worship on the Jews, but its existence fanned the
prejudice against the one nation that refused to participate. And the
Jews could not but look with distrust on a government that "derived its
authority from the deification of might, whereof the Emperor was the
incarnate principle."[3]

[Footnote 1: Philo, De Leg. ii. 507.]

[Footnote 2: Suetonius, Aug. 93.]

[Footnote 3: Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, p. 108.]

Marcus Agrippa, the trusted minister of Augustus, was also an intimate
friend of Herod, and served to link the two courts. But on the death of
Herod, in 4 C.E., the friendship of Rome for the Idumean royal house was
modified. Archelaus, who claimed the whole succession, was appointed
simply as ethnarch of Judea, while Herod's two other sons, Philip and
Herod Antipas, divided the rest of his dominions. The Zealots, rid of
the powerful tyrant who had held them down, sought again to throw off
the hated yoke of Idumea, which, not without reason, they identified
with the yoke of Rome. With their watchword, "No king but God," they
attempted to make Judea independent, and a fierce struggle, known as the
War of Varus, ensued. Jerusalem was stormed once again by Roman legions
before the Zealots were subdued. Archelaus was deposed by his masters
after a few years, and the province of Judea was placed under direct
Roman administration. The Roman procurator was at first less detested
than the Idumean tyrant, since he interfered less with the legal
institutions, such as the Sanhedrin and the Bet Din; but his presence
with the legionaries in the Holy City and his constant, though often
involuntary, affronts to the religious sentiments of the people roused
the hostility of the nationalist party, who looked forward to the day
when Israel should "tread on the neck of the Eagle." The Pharisees, who
were anxious for the spiritual rather than the political independence of
the Jews, counseled submission to Rome, and were willing "to render unto
Caesar the things that are Caesar's," so long as they were not compelled
to give up the Torah. But the Zealots desired political as well as
religious freedom, and they fomented rebellion. They have been compared
by Merivale to the Montagnards of the French Revolution, driven by their
own indomitable passion to assert the truths that possessed them with a
ferocity that no possession could justify. They were continually rousing
the people to expel the foreign rulers, and in the northern province of
Galilee, where they found shelter amid the wild tracts of heath and
mountain, they maintained a constant state of insurrection.[1]

[Footnote 1: It is important to notice that much of our knowledge of the
Zealots is derived from Josephus, who, as will be seen, set himself to
misrepresent them, and repeated the calumnies of hostile Roman writers
against them. The Talmud contains several references to them, describing
them as Kannaim (the Hebrew equivalent of Zealots), and it would appear
that they were in their outlook successors of the former Hasidim,
distinguished as much for their religious rigidity as their patriotic
fervor. See Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. Zealots.]

The Romans, on their side, accustomed to the ready submission of all the
peoples under their sway, could not understand or tolerate the Jews. To
them this people with its dour manners, its refusal to participate in
the religious ideas, the social life, and the pleasures of its
neighbors, its eruptions of passion and violence on account of abstract
ideas, and its rigid exclusion of the insignia of Roman majesty from the
capital, seemed the enemies of the human race. In their own religion
they had freely found a place for Greek and Egyptian deities, but the
Jewish faith, in its uncompromising opposition to all pagan worship,
seemed, in the words that Anatole France has put into the mouth of one
of the Roman procurators, to be rather an _ab_ligion than a _re_ligion,
an institution designed rather to sever the bond that united peoples,
than bind them together. Every other civilized people had accepted their
dominion; the Jews and the Parthians alone stood in the way of universal
peace. The near-Eastern question, which, then as now, continually
threatened war and violence, irritated the Romans beyond measure, and
they came to feel towards Jerusalem as their ancestors had felt two
hundred years before towards Carthage, the great Semitic power of the
West, _delenda est Hierosolyma_. As time went on they realized that this
stubborn nation was resolved to dispute with them for the mastery, and
every agitation was regarded as an outrage on the Roman power, which
must be wiped out in blood. It was the inevitable conflict, not only
between the Imperial and the national principle, but between the ideas
of the kingdom of righteousness and the ideas of the kingdom of might.

During the reign of Tiberius, however, the Roman governors were held in
check to some extent by strong central control from Rome, and their
extortion was comparatively moderate. The worst of them was Pontius
Pilate, and the _odium theologicum_ has, perhaps, had its part in
blackening his reputation. Nevertheless, the broad religious tolerance
initiated by the first Caesar was being continually impaired. The Jewish
public worship was prohibited in Rome, and the Jews were expelled from
the city in 19 C.E.; while at Alexandria an anti-Jewish persecution was
instigated by Sejanus, the upstart freedman, who became the chief
minister of Tiberius. In Palestine, though we hear of no definite
movement, it is clear from after-events that the bitterness of feeling
between the Hellenized Syrians and the Jewish population was steadily
fomented. The Romans were naturally on the side of the Greek-speaking
people, whom they understood, and whose religion they could appreciate.
The situation may best be paralleled by the condition of Ireland in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when England supported the
Protestant population of Ulster against the hated Roman Catholics, who
formed the majority of the people.

It had been the aim of Tiberius to consolidate the unwieldy mass of the
Empire by the gradual absorption of the independent kingdoms inclosed
within its limits. In pursuance of this policy, Judea, Chalcis, and
Abilene, all parts of Herod's kingdom, had been placed under Roman
governors. But when Gaius Caligula succeeded Tiberius in 32 C.E., and
brought to the Imperial throne a capricious irresponsibility, he
reverted to the older policy of encouraging client-princes, and doled
out territories to his Oriental favorites. Prominent among them was
Agrippa, a grandson of Herod, who had passed his youth in the company of
the Roman prince in Italy. He received as the reward of his loyal
extravagance not only Judea but Galilee and Perea, together with the
title of king. He was not, however, given permission to repair to his
kingdom, since his patron desired his attentions at Rome. Later he was
detained by a sterner call. Gaius, who had passed from folly to lunacy,
was not content with the customary voluntary worship paid to the
Emperors, but imagined himself the supreme deity, and demanded
veneration from all his subjects. He ordered his image to be set up in
all temples, and, irritated by the petition of the Jews to be exempted
from what would be an offense against the first principle of their
religion, he insisted upon their immediate submission. In Alexandria the
Greek population made a violent attempt to carry out the Imperial order;
a sharp conflict took place, and the Jews in their dire need sent a
deputation, with Philo at its head, to supplicate the Emperor. In the
East the governor of Syria, Petronius, was directed to march on
Jerusalem and set up the Imperial statue in the Holy of Holies, whatever
it might cost. Petronius understood, and it seems respected, the
faithfulness of the Jews to their creed, and he hesitated to carry out
the command. From East and West the Jews gathered to resist the decree;
the multitude, says Philo, covered Phoenicia like a cloud. Meantime King
Agrippa at Rome interceded with the Emperor for his people, and induced
him to relent for a little. But the infatuation again came over Gaius;
he ordered Petronius peremptorily to do his will, and, when the legate
still dallied, sent to remove him from his office. But, as Philo says,
God heard the prayer of His people: Gaius was assassinated by a Roman
whom he had wantonly insulted, and the death-struggle with Rome, which
had threatened in Judea, was postponed. The year of trial, however, had
brought home to the whole of the Jewish people that the incessant moral
conflict with Rome might at any moment be resolved into a desperate
physical struggle for the preservation of their religion. And the
warlike party gained in strength.

The date of the death of Gaius (Shebat 22) was appointed as a day of
memorial in the Jewish calendar; and for a little time the Jews had a
respite from tyranny. Agrippa, who, after the murder of Gaius, played a
large part in securing for Claudius the succession to the Imperial
throne, was confirmed in the grant of his kingdom, and, despite his
antecedents and his upbringing, proved himself a model national king.
Perhaps he had seen through the rottenness of Rome, perhaps the trial of
Gaius' mad escapades had deepened his nature, and led him to honor the
burning faith of the Jews. Whatever the reason, while remaining dutiful
to Rome, he devoted himself to the care of his people, to the
maintenance of their full religious and national life, and to the
strengthening of the Holy City against the struggle he foresaw. To the
Jews of the Diaspora, moreover, the succession of Claudius brought a
renewal of privileges. An edict of tolerance was promulgated, first to
the Alexandrians, and afterwards to the communities in all parts of the
habitable globe, by which liberty of conscience and internal autonomy
were restored, with a notable caution against Jewish missionary
enterprise. "We think it fitting," runs the decree, "to permit the Jews
everywhere under our sway to observe their ancient customs without
hindrance; and we hereby charge them to use our graciousness with
moderation and not to show contempt of the religious observances of
other people, but to keep their own laws quietly."[1] Nevertheless the
tolerant principle on which Caesar and Augustus had sought to found the
Empire was surely giving way to a more tyrannical policy, which viewed
with suspicion all bodies that fostered a corporate life separate from
that of the State, whether Jewish synagogue, Stoic school, or religious

[Footnote 1: Ant. XIX, v. 2.]

The conflict between Rome and Jerusalem entered on a bitterer stage when
Agrippa died in 44 C.E. Influenced by his self-seeking band of
freedmen-counselors, who saw in office in Palestine a golden opportunity
for spoliation, Claudius placed the vacant kingdom again under the
direct administration of Roman procurators, and appointed to the office
a string of the basest creatures of the court, who revived the
injustices of the worst days of the Republic.

From 48-52 C.E. Palestine was under the governorship of Ventidius
Cumanus, who seemed deliberately to egg on the Jews to insurrection.
When a Roman soldier outraged the Jewish conscience by indecent conduct
in the Temple during the Passover, Cumanus refused all redress, called
on the soldiers to put down the clamoring people, and slew thousands of
them in the holy precincts.[1] A little later, when an Imperial officer
was attacked on the road and robbed, Cumanus set loose the legionaries
on the villages around, and ordered a general pillage. When a Galilean
Jew was murdered in a Samaritan village, and the Jewish Zealots, failing
to get redress, attacked Samaria, Cumanus fell on them and crucified
whomever he captured. Then, indeed, the Roman governor of Syria, not so
reckless as his subordinate, or, it may be, corrupted by the man anxious
to step into the procurator's place, summoned Cumanus before him, and
sent him to Rome to stand his trial for maladministration.

[Footnote 1: Ant. XX. v. 3.]

But this act of belated justice brought the Jews small comfort; Cumanus
was succeeded by Felix, an even worse creature. He was the brother of
the Emperor's favorite Narcissus, "by badness raised to that proud
eminence," and the husband of the Herodian princess Drusilia, who had
become a pagan in order to marry him. Tacitus, the Roman historian,
says[1] that "with all manner of cruelty he exercised royal functions in
the spirit of a slave." Under his rapacious tyranny the people were
goaded to fury. Bands of assassins, Sicarii (so called by both Romans
and Jews because of the short dagger, sica, which they used), sprang up
over the country. Now they struck down Romans and Romanizers, and now
they were employed by the governor himself to put out of the way rich
Jewish nobles whose possessions he coveted. From time to time there were
more serious risings, some purely political, others led by a
pseudo-Messiah, and all alike put down with cruelty. Roman governors
were habitually corrupt, grasping, and cruel, but Mommsen declares that
those of Judea in the reigns of Claudius and Nero, who were chosen from
the upstart equestrians, exceeded the usual measure of worthlessness and
oppressiveness. The Jews believed that they had drunk to the dregs the
cup of misery, and that God must send them a Redeemer. There were no
prophets to preach as at the time of the struggle with Babylon and
Assyria, that the oppression was God's chastisement for their sins. And
it was inconceivable to them that the power of wickedness should be
allowed to triumph to the end.

[Footnote 1: Hist. v. 9.]

Steadily the party that clamored for war gained in strength, and the
apprehensions of the Pharisees who viewed the political struggle with
misgiving, lest it should end in the loss of the national center and the
destruction of religious independence, were overborne by the fury of the
masses. The oppression by Roman governors and Romanizing high priests
did not diminish when Nero succeeded Claudius. For the rest of the
Empire the first five years of his reign (the _quinquennium Neronis_)
were a period of peace and good government, but for the Jews they
brought little or no relief. The harsh Roman policy toward the Jews may
have been specially instigated by Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, who was
Nero's counselor during his saner years, and who entertained a strong
hatred of Judaism. But we need not look for such special causes. It had
been the fixed habit of Republican Rome to crush out the national spirit
of a subject people, "to war down the proud," as her greatest poet
euphemistically expressed it; and now that spirit was adopted by the
Imperial Caesars in dealing with the one and only people resolved to
preserve inviolate its national life and its national religion. Nero
indeed recalled Felix, and Festus, who was appointed in his place, made
an attempt to mend affairs, but he died within a year, and was succeeded
by two procurators that were worthy followers of Felix. The first of
them was Albinus (62-64), of whom Josephus says that there was no sort
of wickedness in which he had not a hand. The same authority says that
compared with Gessius Florus, the governor under whom the Rebellion
burst out, he was "most just." Florus owed his appointment to Poppaea,
the profligate wife of Nero, and his conduct bears the interpretation
that he was deliberately anxious to fill the measure of persecution to
the brim and drive the nation to war.

The very forms of privilege which had been left to the Jews were turned
to their hurt. The Herodian tetrarchs of Chalcis, to whom the Romans
granted the power of appointing the high priests, true to the tradition
of their house, appointed only such as were confirmed Romanizers, and
the most unscrupulous at that. When Felix was governor, the high priest
was the notorious Ananias, of whom the Talmud says, "Woe to the House of
Ananias; woe for their cursings, woe for their serpent-like
hissings."[1] Herod Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa, who held the
principate from 50-100 C.E., and was the faithful creature of Rome
throughout the period of his people's stress, proclaiming himself on his
coins "lover of Caesar and lover of Rome," deposed and created high
priests with unparalleled frequency as a means of extorting money and
rewarding the leading informers. There were seven holders of the office
during the last twenty years of Roman rule, and "he who carried furthest
servility and national abnegation received the prize." The high priests
thus formed a kind of anti-national oligarchy; they robbed the other
priests of their dues, and reduced them to poverty, and were the willing
tools of Roman tyranny. Together with the Herodian princes, who indulged
every lust and wicked passion, they undermined the strength of the
people like some fatal canker, much as the priests and nobles had done
at the first fall of Jerusalem, or, again, in the days of the Seleucid
Emperors. Apart from governors, tax-collectors, and high priests, the
Romans had an instrument of oppression in the Greek-speaking population
of Palestine and Syria, which maintained an inveterate hostility to the
Jews. The immediate cause of the great Rebellion actually arose out of a
feud between the Jewish and the Gentile inhabitants of Caesarea. The
Hellenistic population outnumbered the Jews in the Herodian foundations
of Caesarea, Sepphoris, Tiberias, Paneas, etc., as well as in the old
Greek cities of Doris, Scythopolis, Gerasa, Gadara, and the rest of the
Decapolis. This population regarded religion only as the pretext for
public ceremonials and entertainments; it was scornful of the Jewish
abstention from these things, and was aroused to the bitterest hatred by
the social aloofness of their neighbors. Violent riots between Jew and
Gentile were constantly taking place, and whether they were the
aggressors or merely fighting in self-defense, the Jews were the
scapegoats for the breaking of the peace. Stung by constant outrage on
the part of their neighbors, the Jews turned upon them at Caesarea, and
drove them out of the town. Thereupon Florus called them to reckoning,
marched on Jerusalem, and plundered the Temple treasury. This event
happened on the tenth day of Iyar in the year 66 C.E. The war-party
determined to force the struggle to a final issue. Hitherto they had
only been able to arouse a section to venture desperate sporadic
insurrection against the might of Rome. Now they carried the people with
them to engage in a national rebellion.

[Footnote 1: Pesahim, 57a.]

Agrippa II, who was amusing himself at Alexandria when the first
outbreak occurred, hurried back to Jerusalem, and sought to quiet the
people by impressing upon them the invincible power of Rome. But he
failed, and the Romanizing priests' party failed, and the peaceful
leaders of the Pharisees failed, to shake their determination. Messianic
hopes were rife among the masses, and were invested with a materialistic
interpretation. The Zealots, it is alleged by the pagan as well as the
Jewish authorities for the period, believed that the destined time was
come when the Jews should rule the world. The people looked for the
realization of the prophecy of Isaiah (41:2), "He shall raise up the
righteous one from the East, give the nations before Israel, and make
him rule over kings."

The belief in the approach of the Messianic kingdom was undoubtedly one
of the mainsprings of the revolt. There had been a series of popular
leaders claiming to be Messiahs, but in the final struggle it was not
the claim of any individual, but the passionate faith of the whole
people, that inspired a belief in the coming of a perfect deliverance.
Some events appeared to favor the fulfilment of their hopes of temporal
sovereignty, bred though they were of despair. Rome under the corrupting
influence of Nero seemed to be passing her zenith; national movements
were stirring in the West, in Gaul and in Germany; in the East the
Parthians were again threatening the security of the Roman provinces.
The Jewish cause, on the other hand, seemed to be gaining ground
everywhere. Its converts, numerous in the West, were still more numerous
and important in the East. Among those recently brought over to the true
faith as full proselytes were Helena, the queen of Adiabene, a kingdom
situate in Mesopotamia, and her son Izates, who built themselves
splendid palaces at Jerusalem. In Babylon the Jews had made themselves
almost independent, and waged open war on the Parthian satraps. A large
section of the people cherished a somewhat simple theodicy. How could
God allow the wicked and dissolute Romans to prosper and the chosen
people to be oppressed? The Hellenistic writers of Sibylline oracles and
the Hebrew writers of Apocalypses, imitating the doom-songs of Isaiah
and Ezekiel, announced the coming overthrow of evil and the triumph of
good. Evil had reached its acme in Nero, and the time had come when God
would break the "fourth horn" of Daniel's vision (ch. 8), and exalt his
chosen people.

The fight for national independence was bound to have come, for nothing
could have prevented the Romans from their attempt to crush the spirit
of the Jews, and nothing could have held back the Jews from making a
supreme effort to obtain their freedom from the hated yoke. For one
hundred and twenty years Palestine had been ground beneath the iron heel
of Roman governors and Romanizing tyrants. The conditions of the foreign
rule had steadily grown more intolerable. At first the oppression was
mainly fiscal; then it had sought to crush all political liberty, and
finally it had come to outrage the deepest religious feeling and menace
the Temple-worship. As Graetz says, "The Jewish people was like a
captive, who, continually visited by his jailer, rattles at his fetters
with the strength of despair, till he wrenches them asunder." It was not
only the freedom of the Jew, but the safety of Judaism that was
imperiled by the misrule of a Claudius and a Nero. The war against the
Romans was then not merely a struggle for national liberty, but, equally
with the wars of the Maccabees against the Seleucids, an episode in the
more vital conflict between Hebraism and paganism, between material
force and the ardent passion for religious freedom.



Josephus was essentially an apologist, and his writings include not only
an apology for his people, but an apology for his own life. In contrast
with the greater Jewish writers, he was given to vaunting his own deeds.
We have therefore abundant, if not always reliable, information about
the chief events of his career. It must always be borne in mind that he
had to color the narrative of his own as well as his people's history to
suit the tastes and prejudices of the Roman conqueror. He was born in 37
C.E., the first year of the reign of Gaius Caesar, the lunatic Emperor,
who nearly provoked the Jews to the final struggle. Though he is known
to history as Josephus Flavius, his proper name was Joseph ben
Mattathias, Josephus being the Latinized form of the Hebrew [Hebrew:
Yosef] and his patronymic being exchanged, when he went over to the
Romans, for the family name of his patrons, Flavius. His father was a
priest of the first of the twenty-four orders, named Jehoiarib, and on
his mother's side he was connected with the royal house of the
Hasmoneans. His genealogy, which he traces back to the time of the
Maccabean princes, is a little vague, and we may suspect that he was not
above improving it. But his family was without doubt among the priestly
aristocracy of Jerusalem, and his father, he says, was "eminent not only
on account of his nobility, but even more for his virtue."[1]

[Footnote 1: Vita, 2.]

He was brought up with his brother Matthias to fit himself for the
priestly office, and he received the regular course of Jewish education
in the Torah and the tradition. He says in the _Antiquities_ that "only
those who know the laws and can interpret the practices of our
ancestors, are called educated among the Jews;" and it is likely that he
attended in his boyhood one of the numerous schools that existed in
Jerusalem at the time. According to the Talmud there were four hundred
and eighty synagogues each with a Bet Sefer for teaching the written law
and a Bet Talmud for the study of the oral law.[1] From his silence we
may infer that he did not study Greek at this period, and Aramaic was
his natural tongue. He was never able to speak Greek fluently or with
sufficient exactness, because, as he says in the _Antiquities_, "Our own
nation does not encourage those who learn the language of many peoples,
and so color their discourses with the smoothness of their periods: for
they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to
freemen, but to any slave that pleases to learn it."[2] When, in his
middle age, he set himself to write the history of his people in Greek,
he was compelled to get the help of friends to correct his composition
and syntax.

[Footnote 1: Yer. Meg. iii. 1.]

[Footnote 2: Ant. XX. xi. 2.]

As to his Hebrew accomplishments, he tells us, with his native
immodesty, that he acquired marvelous proficiency in learning, and was
famous for his great memory and understanding. When he was fourteen
years of age, he continues, such was his fame that the high priests and
principal men of the city frequently came to consult him about difficult
points of the law. His mature works do not show any profound knowledge
either of the Halakah or of the Haggadah, so that the statement is not
to be taken strictly. It is probably nothing more than a grandiloquent
way of saying that he was a precocious child, who impressed his elders.
Paul, too, claimed that he was "a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and zealous
beyond those of his own age in the Jews' religion," and yet he can
hardly be regarded as an authority on the tradition. The autobiography
of Josephus, it is pertinent to remember, was designed to impress the
Romans with the greatness of the writer, and its readers were not
equipped with the means of criticising his Jewish accomplishments. With
the same object of impressing the Romans, Josephus recounts that, when
about the age of sixteen, he had a mind to imbue himself with the tenets
of the three Jewish parties, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the

Elsewhere he describes the teaching of these sects for the benefit of
his Roman readers according to a technical classification borrowed from
his environment, i.e. he represents them as three philosophical schools
of the Greek type, each holding different views about fate and
Providence and the nature of the soul and its immortality. But just as
this is demonstrably a misleading coloring of the difference between the
sections of the Jewish people, so is his attempt to represent that he
attended, as a cultured Greek or Roman of the time would have done,
three philosophical colleges. He was compelled by the needs of his
audience to present Jewish life in the form of Greco-Roman institutions,
however ill it fits the mould, and his remarks about sects and schools
must always be taken with caution. It is as though a modern writer
should describe Judaism as a Church, and express its ideas and
observances in the language of Christian theology.

There is, however, no reason to doubt that Josephus made himself
acquainted with the tenets of the chief teachers of the time, and he may
conceivably have sat at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel, then the chief sage
at Jerusalem. But, anxious to exhibit his catholicity, after professing
himself a Pharisee, he says that, not content with these studies, he
became for three years a faithful disciple of one Banus, who lived in
the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon trees, ate no
other food than that which grew wild, and bathed frequently in cold
water both night and day.[1] The extreme hermit form of the religious
life was more fashionable in the first century of the Christian era
among Gentiles than among Jews, and it is not unlikely that Josephus is
embroidering his idea of life in an Essene community, rather than
setting down his actual experience. An Essene he never became, but he
remained throughout his life very partial to certain forms of the Essene
belief, more especially those which coincided with the Greco-Roman
superstitions of the time, such as the literal prediction of future
events, the meaning of dreams, the significance of omens.[2] These
ideas, handed down from primitive Israel, had lived on among the masses
of the people, though discarded by the learned teachers, and Josephus,
finding them in vogue among his masters, readily professed acceptance of

[Footnote 1: Vita, 2.]

[Footnote 2: Comp. B.J. II. viii. 12; III. viii. 3; VI. v. 4.]

Abandoning apparently the idea of being a hermit, Josephus at the age of
nineteen returned to Jerusalem, and began to conduct himself according
to the rules of the Pharisee sect, which is akin, he says, to the school
of the Stoics. The comparison of the Pharisees with the Stoics is again
misleading, and based on nothing more than the formal likeness of their
doctrines about Providence. The Pharisees were essentially the party
that upheld the whole tradition and the separateness of Israel. They
numbered in their ranks the most popular teachers, and politically,
though opposed to Rome and all its ways, they counseled submission so
long as religious liberty was not infringed. It may be that Josephus
only professed his attachment to them after his surrender, because, as
pacifists and believers in moral as against physical force, they were
favorably regarded by the Romans; but even if as a young and ambitious
priest he attached himself to their body early in life in order to gain
influence among the people, he was not a representative Pharisee. He
obtained a certain acquaintance with the teaching of the Pharisees, and
partly shared their political views, though not from the same motives as
their true leaders. Yet the very next step in his life that he
chronicles marks his outlook as fundamentally different.

At the age of twenty-six, after seven years in Jerusalem, during which
he exercised his priestly functions, he journeyed to Rome. The cause of
his voyage, on which he was picturesquely wrecked and had to swim for
his life through the night, was the deliverance from prison of certain
priests closely related to him, who had been sent there as prisoners by
Felix, the tyrannical Roman governor. At Rome, through his acquaintance
with Aliturius, an actor of plays, a favorite of Nero, and by birth a
Jew, he came into touch with the profligate court. To the genuine
Pharisee a Jewish play-actor would have been an abomination. Josephus
used his acquaintance to obtain an introduction to Poppaea Sabina, the
Emperor's wife for the time. Though a by-word for shamelessness of life,
she was herself one of "the fearers of the Lord" ([Greek: sebomenoi]),
who professed adherence to the Jewish creed without accepting the Jewish
law. Josephus won her favor, and through it procured the liberation of
the priests. The Imperial city was then at the height of its material
magnificence, and must have made an immense impression of power upon the
young Jewish aristocrat. Having acquired a lasting admiration for Rome
and a desire to enter her society and a conviction of her invincibility,
he returned to Palestine in triumph--and with the spirit of an
opportunist. This at least is the picture he draws of himself, but a
more kindly interpretation might see in the moment of his return the
indication of a genuine patriotic feeling.

When he arrived in Jerusalem, in the year 65 C.E., he found his country
seething with rebellion. The crisis soon came to a head. Gessius Florus,
who owed his governorship, as Josephus owed the success of his errand,
to the favor of the "God-fearing" Poppaea, roused the people to fury by
his pillage of the Temple, and the moderates could no longer hold the
masses in check. The Zealots seized the fortress of Antonia, which
overlooked the Temple, and, having become masters of the city, murdered
the high priest Ananias. Eleazar, whom Josephus, perhaps confusedly,
describes as his son, an intense nationalist among the priests, became
the leader in counsel, and sealed the rebellion by persuading the people
to discontinue the daily sacrifice offered in the name of the Roman

At the same time the extermination of the Jews in the Hellenistic
cities, Caesarea, Scythopolis, and Damascus, by the infuriated Syrians,
who organized a kind of Palestinian Vespers, convinced the people that
they were engaged in a war to the death. The Herodian party, as the
royal house and its supporters were called, endeavored to preserve
peace, by dwelling on the overpowering might of Rome and the inevitable
end of the insurrection, but in vain. In fear the priests withdrew to
their duties in the Temple, and did not venture out till the Zealots
were for a time dislodged. The Roman legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus,
after the defeat of the Romanizing party by the Zealots, himself marched
on Jerusalem in the autumn of 68 C.E. with two legions. But he failed
ignominiously to quell the revolt. The Roman garrison in the city was
put to the sword, and the legate, while beating a hasty retreat, was
routed in the defiles of Beth-Horon, where two centuries before the
Syrian hosts had been decimated by Judas the Maccabee. The two legions
were cut to pieces. The fierce valor of the untrained national levies
had broken the serried cohorts of the Roman veterans, and in the
unexpectedness of this deliverance the party of rebellion for a time was
triumphant among all sections of the Jewish people.

Even those who had been the most determined Romanizers, such as the
high-priestly circle, were induced, either by a belief in the chances of
success or from a desire to protect themselves by a seeming adherence to
the national cause, to throw in their lot with the war party. It might
have been better for their people, had they, like Agrippa, joined the
Romans. Half-hearted at best in their support of the struggle, yet by
their wealth and position able at first to obtain a commanding part in
the conduct of the war, they used it to temporize with the foe and to
dull the edge of the popular feeling. Josephus unfortunately does not
enlighten us as to the inner movements in Judea at this crisis. He
merely relates that the Sanhedrin became a council of war, and Palestine
was divided into seven military districts, over most of which commanders
of the Herodian faction were placed. Joseph the son of Gorion and
Ananias the high priest, both members of the moderate party, were chosen
as governors of Jerusalem, with a particular charge to repair the walls,
and the Zealot leader Eleazar the son of Simon was passed over.

Josephus himself, though he possessed no military experience, and had
apparently taken no part in the opening campaign, was made governor of
Lower and Upper Galilee, the most important military post of all; for
Galilee was the bulwark of Judea, and if the Romans could be
successfully resisted there, the rebellion might hope for victory. It
lay in a strategic position between the Roman outposts, Ptolemais (the
modern Acre) on the coast and Agrippa's kingdom in the east. It was a
country made for defense, a country of rugged mountains and natural
fastnesses, and inhabited by a hardy and warlike population, which, for
half a century, had been in constant insurrection. Thence had come the
founders of the Zealots and the still more violent band of the Sicarii,
and each town in the region had its popular leader. Josephus was
expected to hold it with its own resources, for little help could be
spared from the center of Palestine. Guerrilla fighting was the natural
resource of an insurgent people, which had to win its freedom against
well-trained and veteran armies. It had been the method of Judas
Maccabaeus against Antiochus amid the hills of Judea. Josephus, however,
made no attempt to practise it, and showed no vestige of appreciation of
the needs of the case.

It is difficult to gather the reason of his appointment, unless it be
that in his writings he deliberately kept back from the Romans the more
enthusiastic part he had played at the outset of the struggle. So far as
his own account goes, neither devotion to the national cause, nor
experience, nor prestige, nor power of leadership, nor knowledge of the
country recommended him. His distinguished birth and his friendship for
Rome were hardly sufficient qualifications for the post. The influence
of his friend, the ex-high priest Joshua ben Gamala, may have prevailed,
and one is fain to surmise that those who sent him, as well as he
himself, were anxious to pretend resistance to Rome, but really to work
for resistance to the rebellion.

At all events, at the end of the autumn of 67, Josephus repaired to his
command, taking with him two priests, Joazar and Judas, as
representatives of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. In the record which he
gives of his exploits in the _Wars_, he says that his first care was to
gain the good-will of the people, drill his troops, and prepare the
country to meet the threatened invasion. In the _Life_, which he wrote
some twenty years later, when he had perforce to cultivate a more
complete servility of mind, and was anxious to convince the Romans that
he was a double-dealing traitor to his country, he represents that he
set himself from the beginning to betray the province. The record of his
actions points to the conclusion that he fell between the stools of
covert treachery and half-hearted loyalty, that he was neither as
villainous in design nor as heroic in action as he makes himself out to
be. He made some show of preparation at the beginning, but from the
moment the Roman army arrived under Vespasian, and he realized that Rome
was in earnest, he abandoned all hope of success, and set himself to
make his own position secure with the conqueror.

The chief cities of Galilee were Sepphoris, situated on the lower spurs
of the hills near the plain of Esdraelon, which divides the country from
Samaria and Judea; Tiberias, a city founded by Herod Antipas on the
western borders of the Lake of Gennesareth, and Tarichea, also an
Herodian foundation, situate probably at the southeast corner of the
lake. All these Josephus fortified; and he strengthened with walls other
smaller towns and natural fortresses, such as Jotapata, Salamis, and
Gamala.[1] He says also that he appointed a Sanhedrin of seventy members
for the province, and in each town established a court of seven judges,
as though he were come to exercise a civil government. He did, however,
get together an army of more than a hundred thousand young men, and
armed them with the old weapons which he had collected. Though he
despaired of their standing up against the Romans, he ordered them in
the Roman style, appointing a large number of subordinate officers and
teaching them the use of signals and a few elementary military
movements. His army ultimately consisted of 60,000 footmen, 4,500
mercenaries, in whom he put greatest trust, and 600 picked men as his
body-guard. He had little cavalry, but as Galilee was a country of
hills, this deficiency need not have proved fatal, had he been a
strategist or even a loyalist. During the eight months' respite that he
enjoyed before the appearance of the Roman army, he spent most of his
time in civil feud, and succeeded in dividing the population into two
hostile parties. He boasts that, though he took up his command at an age
when, if a man has happily escaped sin, he can scarcely guard himself
against slander, he was perfectly honest, and refrained from stealing
and peculation[2]; but he is at pains to prove that he threw every
obstacle in the way of the patriotic party, and did all that an open
enemy of the Jews could have done to undermine the defense of the

[Footnote 1: B.J. II. xx. 6. His account of his actions in Galilee is,
however, from beginning to end, open to question; and the contemporary
account of Justus has unfortunately disappeared entirely. It is likely
that his rival's narrative would have shown him in a better light than
his own.]

[Footnote 2: Vita, 15.]

Before his arrival in the north, the leader of the national party was
John the son of Levi, a man of Gischala, which was one of the mountain
fastnesses in Northern Galilee, now known as Jish, near the town of
Safed.[1] Josephus heaps every variety of violent abuse upon him in
order, no doubt, to please his patrons. When he introduces him on the
scene, he describes him as "a very knavish and cunning rogue, outdoing
all other rogues, and without his fellow for wicked practices. He was a
ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit for his fictions. He
thought it a point of virtue to deceive, and would delude even those
nearest to him. He had an aptitude for thieving," and so forth. Whenever
the historian mentions the name of his rival, he rattles his box of
abusive epithets until the reader is wearied by the image of the monster
conjured up before him. But, unfortunately for his credit, Josephus also
records John's deeds, and these reveal him as one who, if at times cruel
and intriguing, yet lived and died for his country, while his enemy was
thinking of saving himself.

[Footnote 1: The Hebrew name of the fortress was [Hebrew: Nosh Halav],
meaning "clot of cream"; the place was so called because of the
fertility of the soil on which it stands.]

It is not surprising then that John, having eyes only for the defense of
the land, was not blind to the double-dealing of the priestly governor,
who had been sent by the Romanizing party to organize resistance. The
first event that brought about a collision between them was the
suspicious conduct of Josephus in the matter of some spoil seized from
the steward of King Agrippa and brought to Tarichea. Agrippa had
entirely turned his back on the national rising, and was the faithful
ally of the Romans. He was therefore an open enemy, and Tiberias, which
had been under his dominion, had revolted from him. Josephus upbraided
the captors for the violence they had offered to the king, and declared
his intention to return the spoil to the owner. A little later he
prevented John from destroying the corn in the province stored by the
Romans for themselves. The people were naturally indignant at this
conduct, and led by John and another Zealot, Jesus the son of Sapphias,
the governor of Tiberias, and by Justus of the same city, who was
afterwards to be a rival historian, they rose against Josephus. With
stratagems worthy of a better cause he evaded this onslaught.

More briefly in the _Wars_, and in the _Life_ at wearisome length,
Josephus tells a tale of intrigue and counter-intrigue, mutual attempts
at assassination, wiles and stratagems to undermine the power of each
other, which took place between him and John. The city of Tarichea was
his stronghold, Tiberias the hot-bed of the movement against him. The
part he professes to have played is so extraordinary in its meanness
that we are fain to believe that it is largely fiction, composed to show
that he was only driven in the end by danger of his life to fight
against the sacred power of Rome. However that may be, John reported his
doings to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, and that body, which was now, it
seems, in the control of the Pharisees and Zealots, sent a deputation to
recall him. Simon, the celebrated head of the Sanhedrin and leader of
the national party, had pressed for the dismissal of Josephus.[1]
Ananias, the ex-high priest and Sadducee, had at first been his
champion, but he had been overborne. The deputation consisted of two
Pharisees, Jonathan and Ananias, and two priests, Joazar and Simon.
Warned by his friends in Jerusalem of their coming, Josephus had all the
passes watched, seized the embassy, and recaptured the four cities that
had revolted from him: Sepphoris, Gamala, Gischala, and Tiberias.
According to the account in the _Wars_, the cities revolted again, and
were recaptured by similar stratagems; and when the disturbances in
Galilee were quieted in this way, the people, ceasing to prosecute their
civil dissensions, betook themselves to make preparations for the war
against the Romans. The invasion had begun in earnest, and Josephus,
fortified, as he said, by a dream, which told him not to be afraid,
because he was to fight with the Romans, and would live happily
thereafter, decided for the time not to abandon his post.

[Footnote 1: It is notable that this is the only reference in the work
of Josephus to the great Rabbi; the name of his successor in the
headship of the Sanhedrin, Johanan ben Zakkai, does not occur even

Josephus had displayed his administrative talents in these eight months
of peaceful government by losing all that had been gained in the four
months of the successful rebellion at Jerusalem. He now had an
opportunity of displaying his military abilities. In the spring of 67
C.E., Flavius Vespasian, the veteran commander of the legions in Germany
and Britain, who, on the defeat of Cestius Gallus, had been chosen by
Nero to conduct the Jewish campaign, brought his army of four legions
from Antioch to Ptolemais. He was met there by King Agrippa, who brought
a large force of auxiliaries, and by a deputation of citizens from
Sepphoris, the chief city of Galilee, who tendered their submission and
invited him to send a garrison. Josephus, though he knew of the city's
Romanizing leanings, had negligently or deliberately failed to occupy
it, so that the place was lost without a blow. He made a feeble effort
to recapture it, for appearance sake it would seem, and then, though he
had an unlimited choice of favorable positions, and the Roman forces
were not very large at the time, he abandoned the attempt of meeting the
enemy in the field. Titus arrived from Alexandria, with two more
legions, the fifth and the tenth, and then the Roman army, numbering
with auxiliaries 60,000 men, set out from Ptolemais, and proceeded to
occupy Galilee.

The Jewish forces were encamped on the hills above Sepphoris. Josephus
describes the wonderful array and order of the Roman army on the march.
The sight seems to have led a large part of his army to run away. He
himself, when he saw that he had not an army sufficient to engage the
enemy, despaired of the success of the war, and determined to place
himself as far as he could out of danger. In this inspiring mood he
abandoned the rest of the country, sent a dispatch to Jerusalem
demanding help, and threw himself into the fortress of Jotapata,
situated on the crest of a mountain in Northern Galilee, which he chose
as the most fit for his security. Vespasian, hearing of this step, and,
as Josephus modestly suggests, "supposing that, could he only get
Josephus into his power, he would have conquered all Judea," straightway
laid siege to the town (Iyar 16). For forty-two days the place was
besieged, and during that period every resource that heroic resistance
could suggest, according to the narrative of its commandant, was
exhausted. The height of the wall was raised to meet the Roman
embankments, provisions were brought in by soldiers disguised in
sheep-skins, the Roman works were destroyed by fire, boiling oil was
poured on the assailants, and finally the city was not stormed till the
garrison was worn out with famine and fatigue. But, as has been pointed
out, the details recorded are "the commonplaces of poliorcetics," and
may have been borrowed by Josephus from some military text-book and
neatly applied. Jotapata fell on the first day of Tammuz, and whatever
the heroism of his army, the general did not shine in the last days of
his command or in the manner of his surrender. Suspected by his men and
threatened by them with death, he was unable to give himself up openly.
He took refuge with some of his comrades in a deep pit, where they were
discovered by an old woman, who informed the Romans. Vespasian, who, we
are again told, believed that, if he captured Josephus, the greater part
of the war would be over, sent one Nicanor, well known to the Jewish
commandant, to take him. Josephus, professing prophetical powers,
offered to surrender, and quieted his conscience by a secret prayer to
God, which is a sad compound of cant and cowardice:

"Since it pleaseth Thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, now to
bring them low, and since their good fortune is gone over to the Romans,
and since Thou hast chosen my soul to foretell what is to come to pass
hereafter, I willingly surrender, and am content to live. I solemnly
protest that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter, but as Thy

It may be that Josephus really believed he had prophetic powers, and
thought he was imitating the great prophets of Israel and Judah who had
proclaimed the uselessness of resistance to Assyria and Babylon. But
they, while denouncing the wickedness of the people, had shared their
lot with them. And Josephus, who weakly sought a refuge for himself
after defeat, resembles rather the prophets whom Jeremiah denounced:
"They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the
Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye
shall have peace; and they say unto everyone that walketh after the
imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you."[1] His
comrades however prevented him from giving himself up, and called on him
to play a braver part and die with them, each by his own hand. He put
them off by talking philosophically, as he has it, about the sin of
suicide, a euphemism for a collection of commonplaces on the duty of
preserving their lives. But when this enraged them, he bethought him of
another device, and proposed that they should cast lots to kill each
other. They assented, and by Divine Providence he was left to the last
with one other, whom he persuaded to break his oath and live
likewise.[2] Having thus escaped, he was led by Nicanor to Vespasian,
the whole Roman army gathering around to gaze on the hero. Continuing
his prophetical function, when he found that he was like to be sent to
Nero, he announced to Vespasian, "Thou art Caesar and Emperor, thou, and
this thy son.... thou art not only lord over me, but over the land and
the sea and all mankind." The Roman general was incredulous, till,
hearing that his prisoner had foretold the length of the siege of
Jotapata--a prophecy which, of course, he had the ability to fulfil--and
further, on the report of the death of Nero, having conceived the
possibility of becoming Emperor, he had regard to the Jewish prophet,
and, without setting him at liberty, bestowed favors on him, and made
him easy about his future. Such was the end of the military career of

[Footnote 1: Jer. 23: 16-17.]

[Footnote 2: A charitable explanation of this self-debasing account of
Josephus is that he was driven to invent some story to extenuate his
resistance to the Romans, and had to blacken his reputation as a patriot
to save his skin. The fact that he was kept prisoner some time by
Vespasian suggests that he was not so big a traitor as he pretends.]

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, the head of the
Pharisees, was carried in a coffin outside the walls of Jerusalem by his
disciples, and was brought to the Roman camp, where he hailed Vespasian
as Emperor and Caesar, and thereby gained his favor. If not apocryphal,
the event must have happened in 69 C.E., when the Roman commander was
generally expected to aim at the Imperial throne, then the object of
strife between rival commanders. The rabbi belonged to the peace party,
and from the beginning had opposed the war. And though his action was
disapproved by the later generations, it was justified by his subsequent
conduct; for it was he who, by founding the famous college at Jabneh,
kept alive the Jewish spirit after the fall of the nation. For him
surrender was a valid means to the preservation of the nation. The
action of Josephus hardly bears the same justification. His desire for
self-preservation was natural enough, but his manner of effecting it was
not honorable. He was a general who, having taken a lead in the struggle
for independence, had seen all his men fall, and had at the end invited
the last of his comrades to kill each other, and he saved his life by
sacrificing his honor. His mind was from the beginning of the struggle
subjugated to Rome, but unhappily he accepted the most responsible post
in the national defense and betrayed it. His address to Vespasian was
mere flattery, designed to impose on a superstitious man's credulity;
for the ear of Vespasian, says Merivale, "was always open to pretenders
to supernatural knowledge." Lastly Josephus used his safety, not for the
purpose of preserving the Jewish heritage, but for personal ends. He
became a flunkey of the Flavian house, and straightway started on the
transformation from a Jewish priest and soldier into a Roman courtier
and literary hireling. Hard circumstances compelled him to choose
between a noble and an ignoble part, between heroic action and weak
submission. He was a mediocre man, and chose the way that was not heroic
and glorious. Posterity gained something by his choice; his own
reputation was fatally marred by it.



Josephus was little more than thirty years old at the time of his
surrender. At an age when men usually begin to realize their ambition
and ideal, his whole life's course was changed: he had to abandon all
his old associations, and accommodate himself to a different and indeed
a hostile society. Henceforth he was a liege of the Roman conqueror, and
had to submit to be Romanized not only in name but in spirit. His
condition was indeed a thinly-disguised servitude. The Romans were an
imperious as well as an Imperial people, and though in some
circumstances they were ready to spare the lives of those who yielded,
they required of them a surrender of opinion and an abasement of soul.
For the rest of his years, which comprehended the whole of his literary
activity, Josephus was not therefore a free man. He acted, spoke, and
wrote to order, compelled, whenever called upon, to do the will of his
masters. His legal condition was first that of a _libertus_ (a freedman)
of Vespasian, and as such he owed by law certain definite obligations to
his patron's family. But the moral subservience of the favored prisoner
of a subjugated people must have been a far profounder thing than the
legal obligation arising from his status; and this enforced moral and
mental subservience is a cardinal point to be remembered in forming a
judgment upon Josephus. His expressed opinions are often not the
revelation of his own mind, but the galling tribute which he was
compelled to pay for his life. And apart from the involuntary and
undeliberate adoption of Roman standards, which, living isolated from
Jewish life in Rome, he could not escape, he had in writing, and no
doubt in conversation, deliberately and consciously to assume the
deepest-seated of the Roman prejudices towards his own people. Liberty
has been defined as the power of a man to call his soul his own. And in
that sense Josephus emphatically did not possess liberty. We must be on
our guard, therefore, against regarding him as an independent historian,
much less as writing from an independent Jewish point of view. From the
time of his surrender till his death he lived and wrote as the client of
the Flavian house, and all his works had to pass the Imperial

His domestic life is characteristic of his subservience. At the bidding
of Vespasian, when in the Roman camp at Caesarea, he divorced his first
wife, who was locked up in Jerusalem during the siege. Though by Jewish
law it was forbidden to a priest to marry a captive woman, he took as
his second wife a Jewess that had been brought into the Roman camp.
Having no children by her, he divorced her after a year, and married
again at Alexandria. By his third wife he had three sons, but with a
Roman's carelessness of the marriage bond he divorced her late in life,
and married finally a noble Jewess of Crete, by whom he had two more
sons, Justus and Simon Agrippa. His last two wives, be it noted, came
from Hellenistic-Jewish communities, and were doubtless able to assist
him in acquiring Greek.

The public as well as the domestic life of Josephus was controlled by
the Roman commander. Till the end of the Jewish struggle it followed the
progress of the Roman arms. He continued to play an active part in the
war, not, however, as a leader of the Jews, but as the adviser of their
enemies. He was attached to the staff of Titus, and after witnessing the
fall of the two fortresses of Galilee, Gamala and Gischala, which held
out bravely under John after the capture of Jotapata, he accompanied the
Roman at the end of the year 68 to Alexandria. There he spent a year,
till a change of fortune came to him.

During the year 68, Vespasian captured the two chief cities which the
Jewish national party held to the east side of the Jordan, Gadara and
Gerasa. He then prepared to lay siege to Jerusalem. But hearing of the
death of Nero and of the chaos at Rome that followed it, he stayed
operations to await events in Italy. In the following year, largely by
the aid of the Jewish apostate Tiberius Alexander, he secured the
allegiance of all the Eastern legions, and was proclaimed Emperor. Three
other generals laid claim to the same dignity, under the same title of
armed force, but in the end Vespasian's friends in Italy made themselves
masters of Rome, and he repaired himself to the capital and donned the
purple. Josephus was rewarded with his complete freedom, and assumed
henceforth the family name of his Imperial patrons. When, at the end of
the year 69, Titus was appointed by his father to finish the war, he
accompanied him back to Palestine. In the eighteen months' respite that
had been vouchsafed to them, the Jews had spent their energy and
undermined their powers of resistance by internecine strife. According
to the account in the _Wars_, which unfortunately is the only full
record we have of events, John of Gischala, fleeing to Jerusalem after
the fall of the Galilean fortresses, roused the Zealots against the high
priest Ananias, who was directing the Jewish policy towards submission
to Rome. Ananias, who was of the same party as Josephus, seems to have
come to the conclusion that resistance was hopeless, and he was anxious
to make terms. John called in to his aid the half-savage Idumeans, who
had joined the Jewish rebellion against Rome. They entered the city,
and, possessing themselves of the Temple mount, spread havoc. The Temple
itself ran with blood, and 8500 dead bodies, among them that of the high
priest, defiled its precincts.[1] Josephus, who, to suit the Roman
taste, identifies religion and ritual, declares that the fall of the
city and the ruin of the nation are to be dated from that day, and upon
Ananias he passes a eulogy that is likewise written with an eye to Roman

"He was a prodigious lover of liberty and of democracy; he ever
preferred the public welfare before his own advantage, and he was
thoroughly sensible that the Romans were invincible. And I cannot but
think that it was because God had doomed the city to destruction on
account of its pollution, and was resolved to purge His sanctuary with
fire, that He cut off thus its great protector."

[Footnote 1: B.J. IV. vi. 1.]

For the better part of a year, according to our historian, the Zealots
maintained a reign of terror, and the various parties fought against one
another in the Holy City as fiercely as the Girondists and Jacobins of
the French Revolution. But on the approach of Titus they abandoned their
strife and united to resist the foe. The Roman general brought with him
four legions, the fifth, tenth, twelfth, and fifteenth, besides a large
following of auxiliaries, and his whole force amounted to 80,000 men. As
head of his staff came Tiberius Alexander, the renegade nephew of Philo
and formerly procurator of Judea. Josephus also was on the besieger's
staff--possibly he was an officer of the body-guard (_praefectus
praetorio_)--and was employed to bring his countrymen to reason. Himself
convinced, almost from the moment when he took up arms, of the certainty
of Rome's ultimate victory, and doubly convinced now, partly from
superstitious fatalism, partly from a need for extenuating his own
submission, he wasted his eloquence in efforts to make them surrender.
He knew that within the besieged city there was a considerable
Romanizing faction (including his own father), and either he believed,
or he had to pretend to believe, that he could bring over the mass to
their way of thinking. On various occasions during the siege he was sent
to the walls to summon the defenders to lay down their arms. He enlarged
each time on the invincible power of Rome, on the hopelessness of
resistance, on the clemency of Titus if they would yield, and on the
terrible fate which would befall them and the Temple if they fought to
the bitter end. What must have specially aroused the fury of the Zealots
was his insistence that the Divine Providence was now on the side of the
Romans, and that in resisting they were sinning against God. It is
little wonder that on one occasion when making these harangues he was
struck by a dart, and that his father was placed in prison by the
Zealots. Indeed it says much for the tolerance of those whom he
constantly reviles as the most abandoned scoundrels and the most cruel
tyrants that they did not do him and his family greater hurt.

Titus, after beating back desperate attacks by the Jews, fixed his camp
on Mount Scopas, by the side of the Mount of Olives, to the north of the
city, and, abandoning the idea of taking the city fortress by storm,
prepared to beleaguer it in regular form. The Jews were not prepared for
a siege. Josephus and the Rabbis[1] agree that the supplies of corn had
been burnt by the Zealots during the civil disturbances; and as the
arrival of Titus coincided with the Passover, myriads of people, who had
come up from all parts of the country and the Diaspora to celebrate the
festival, were crowded within its walls. It is estimated that their
number exceeded two and a half million. The capital was a hard place to
capture. Josephus, following probably a Roman authority, gives an
account of the fortifications of Jerusalem from the point of view of the
besieger, which is confirmed in large part by modern research.[2] On the
southeast and west the city was unapproachable by reason of the sheer
ravines of Kedron and Hinnom, overlooked by almost perpendicular
precipices, which surrounded it. It was vulnerable therefore only on the
north, where the two heights on which it was built were connected with
the main ridge of the Judean hills; and here it was fortified with three
walls. The outermost, which was built by Agrippa I, encompassed the new
quarter of Bezetha, which lay outside the Temple mount to the northeast.
The second wall encompassed the part of the city on the Temple Mount and
reached as far as the Tower of Antonia, which overlooked and protected
the Temple. The third or innermost wall was the oldest, and encompassed
the whole of the ancient city where it was open, including the hill Acra
or Zion on the southeast, which was divided from Mount Moriah by the
cleft known as the Tyropoeon, or cheese-market. Beyond this hill there
was another eminence sloping gradually to the north, till it dropped
into the valley of Jehoshaphat with an escarpment of two hundred feet.

[Footnote 1: Comp. Abot de Rabbi Nathan, vi., ed. Schechter, p. 32.]

[Footnote 2: B.J. V. iv. 1.]

Thus the rampart surrounded the two hills with a continuous line of
defense, and the three quarters of the city were separated from each
other by distinct walls, so that each could hold out when the other had
fallen. The walls were strengthened with several towers, of which the
most important were Psephinus, on the third wall at the northwest
corner, Hippicus, on the old wall, which was opposite Phasaelus, and
Mariamne. But the strongest, largest, and most beautiful fortress in
Jerusalem was the Temple itself. It was not merely the visible center of
Judaism, it was the citadel of Judea. As each successive court rose
higher than the last, the "Mountain of the House" itself stood on the
highest point of the inclosure. The Temple was guarded by the tower of
Antonia, situated at the corner of the two cloisters, upon a rock fifty
cubits high, overlooking a precipice. Like the other towers, Antonia was
built by Herod, and manifested his love of largeness and strength.
Within these fortifications there were eleven thousand men under Simon,
and not more than thirty thousand trained soldiers under John, to pit
against eighty thousand Roman veterans; but of the two and a half
million people who, it is calculated, were shut up in the city,
thousands were ready at any moment to sally upon the besiegers and lay
down their lives for their beloved sanctuary.

Within the city, however, there were also a number of persons wavering
in their desire for resistance and anxious to find a favorable
opportunity of going over to the Romans. The leaders of the
high-priestly party had been killed by the Zealots, but their followers
remained to hamper the defense of the city. If Josephus is to be
believed, during the respite of the Passover festival at the beginning
of the siege, while the Romans were preparing their approaches and siege
works, the party strife again broke out. Eleazar opened the gates of the
Temple to admit the people for the festival, but John, taking
treacherous advantage of the opportunity, led his men in with arms
concealed beneath their garments, put his opponents to the sword, and
seized the sanctuary. Josephus further represents that throughout the
siege Simon and John, while resisting the Romans and defending different
parts of the walls, were still engaged in their internecine strife, "and
did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do."[1]

[Footnote 1: B.J. V. vi.]

The story has not the stamp of probability, and it is more likely that
Josephus is distorting the jealousies of the two commanders into the
dimensions of civil strife. Anyhow, the resistance which the Jews
offered to the Romans showed the stubbornness of despair, or what the
historian calls "their natural endurance in misfortune." At every step
the legionaries were checked; in pitching their camp, in making their
earthworks, in bringing up their machines; and frequently desperate
sallies were made by the defenders upon the Roman entrenchments.
Nevertheless, after fifteen days the first wall was captured, and in
five days more the second was taken. By a desperate sally the besieged
recovered it for a little, but were again driven back by superior
numbers and force. Josephus is fond of contrasting the different tempers
of the two armies: on the one side power and skill, on the other
boldness and the courage born of despair; here the habit of conquering,
there intense national ardor.

After the capture of the second wall, he was sent to parley with the
besieged, and urged, as he had done before, the invincible power of his
masters.[1] "And evident it is," he added with his renegade's theology,
"that fortune is on all hands gone over to them, and that God, who has
shifted dominion from nation to nation, is now settled in Italy."[2]
When his address was received with scorn, he proceeded, according to his
account, to lecture the people from their ancient history, in order to
prove that they had never been successful in aggressive warfare. "Arms
were never given to our nation, but we are always given up to be fought
against and taken." The Zealots' desecration of the Temple deprived them
of Divine help, and it was madness to suppose that God would be
well-disposed to the wicked. Had He not shown favor to Titus and
performed miracles in his aid? Did not the springs of Siloam run more
plentifully for the Roman general? All his appeals had no effect, and
though some faint-hearted persons deserted, the multitude held firm, and
the siege was pressed on more vigorously than ever. A wall of
circumvallation was built round the city, and the horrors of starvation
increased daily. Between the months of Nisan and Tammuz one hundred and
fifty thousand corpses were carried out of the town.[3] Josephus
expatiates on the terrible suffering, and again and again he denounces
the iniquity of the Zealots, who continued the resistance. "No age had a
generation more fruitful in wickedness; they confessed that they were
the slaves, the scum, the spurious and abortive offspring of our
nation." John committed the heinous sacrilege of using the oil preserved
in the Temple vessels for the starving soldiers. "I suppose," says the
ex-priest writing in the Roman palace, "that had the Romans made any
longer delay in attacking these abandoned men, the city would either
have been swallowed up by the ground opening on them, or been swept away
by a deluge, or destroyed as Sodom was destroyed, since it had brought
forth a generation even more godless than those that suffered such

[Footnote 1: B.J. V. ix. 3.]

[Footnote 2: We are reminded of the saying of Rabbi Akiba some
half-century later. When asked where God was to be sought now that the
Temple was destroyed, he replied, "In the great city of Rome" (Yer.
Taanit, 69a). But the Rabbinical utterance had a very different meaning
from the plea of Josephus.]

[Footnote 3: B.J. V. xiii. 7.]

[Footnote 4: B.J. V. x. and xiii.]

Famine and weariness were breaking down the strength of the Jews, and,
after fierce resistance, the tower of Antonia was captured and razed to
the ground. Josephus adds another chapter to detail the horrors of the
famine, in which he recounts the story of the mother eating her child,
which occurs also in the Midrash.[1] The Romans, he tells us, were
filled with a religious loathing of their foes on account of their sins
in violating the Temple and eating forbidden food, and Titus excused
himself for the sufferings he caused, on the ground that, as he had
given the Jews the chance of securing peace and liberty, they had
brought the evil on themselves. Slowly but surely the Romans gained a
footing within the Temple precinct; inch by inch John was driven back,
and on the Ninth of Ab the sanctuary was stormed. A torch, hurled
probably by the hand of Titus (see below, p. 128), set the cloisters
alight, and the fire spread till the whole house was involved. The
crowning catastrophe, the burning of the Holy of Holies, happened on the
following day.

[Footnote 1: Ekah R. 65a.]

Josephus remained in the Roman camp throughout the siege, advising Titus
at each step how he might proceed. After the fall of the Temple he
witnessed the last desperate struggle, when a half-starved remnant of
the defenders "looked straight into death without flinching." A great
modern writer sees in this unquenchable passion of the Zealots for
liberty a sublime type of steadfastness[1]; but Josephus, who after the
fall of the Temple had made another unavailing effort to persuade them
to lay down their arms, again pours forth his abuse upon those who
fought against the sacred might of Rome. Over a million had perished in
the siege, and less than one hundred thousand were captured, of whom
only forty thousand were preserved. His favor with Titus enabled him to
redeem from captivity his brother and a large number of his friends and
acquaintances and one hundred and ninety women and children.[2] His own
estates near Jerusalem having been taken for a military colony, he
received liberal compensation in another part of Judea. From the victor
he also obtained a scroll of the law.

[Footnote 1: George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such.]

[Footnote 2: Vita, 75.]

It is not certain whether he accompanied "the gentle Titus" through
Syria after the fall of the city and the razing of its walls. The
victor's progress was marked at each stopping-place by the celebration
of games, where thousands of young Jewish captives were made to kill
each other, "butchered to make a Roman holiday" and feast the eyes of
the conqueror and the Herodian ally and his spouse. But he certainly
witnessed at Rome the triumph of the Flavii, father and son, and gazed
on the shame of his country, when its most holy monuments were carried
by the noblest of the captives through the streets amid the applause and
ribald jeers of a Roman crowd. Josephus enlarges with apparent apathy on
the procession, which is commemorated and made vivid down to our own day
by the arch in the Roman Forum, through which no Jew in the Middle Ages
would pass. He records, too, that Vespasian built a Temple of Peace, in
which he stored the golden vessels taken from the Jewish sanctuary, and
put up the whole of Judea for sale as his private property.[1] Josephus
himself was housed in the royal palace, and it does not appear that he
ever returned to Palestine. The tenth legion had been left on the site
of Jerusalem as a permanent Roman garrison, and a fortified camp was
built for it on the northern hill. "The legions swallowed her up and
idolaters possessed her." _A chacun selon ses oeuvres_ is the comment of
Salvador, the Franco-Jewish historian (fl. 1850), comparing the gilded
servitude of Josephus with the fate of the patriots of Jerusalem; and
another recent historian, Graetz, has contrasted the picture of Jeremiah
uttering his touching laments over the ruins at the fall of the first
Temple with the position of Josephus pouring out his fulsome adulation
of the destroyer at the fall of the second.

[Footnote 1: B.J. VII. vi. 6.]

Henceforth Josephus lived, an exile from his country and his countrymen,
in the retinue of the Caesars, and entered on his career as his people's
historian. But he was never allowed to forget his dependence. His first
work was an account of the Roman war, in which he vilified the patriots
to extenuate his own surrender and his master's cruelty. It is true that
he afterwards composed an elaborate apology for his people in the form
of a history in twenty volumes, which may be considered as a kind of
palliation for the evil he had done them in action. It was more possible
to refute the Roman prejudices based on utter ignorance of Jewish
history, than the prejudices based on their narrowness of mind. But even
here the writer has often to accommodate himself to a pagan standpoint,
which could not appreciate Hebrew sublimity. When he wrote the
_Antiquities_, his mind was already molded in Greco-Roman form, and
where he seeks to glorify, he not seldom contrives to degrade. His works
are a striking example of inward slavery in outward freedom, for by dint
of breathing the foreign atmosphere and imbibing foreign notions he had
become incapable of presenting his people's history in its true light.
He had been granted full Roman citizenship, and received a literary
pension. Still he was not loved by other courtiers as worthy as himself,
and he had frequently to defend himself against the charges of his
enemies. In the reign of Vespasian, after the Zealot rising in Cyrene
had been put down, the leader, Jonathan, who was brought as a prisoner
to Rome, charged Josephus before the Emperor with having sent him both
weapons and money. The story was not believed, and the informer was put
to death. After that, Josephus relates, "when they that envied my good
fortune did frequently bring censure against me, by God's Providence I
escaped them all."

He remained in favor under Titus and Domitian, who in turn succeeded
their father in the purple. Domitian indeed, though he persecuted the
Jews, and laid new fiscal burdens upon them, punished the accusers of
Josephus, and made his estate in Judea tax-free, and the Emperor's wife,
Domitia, also showed him kindness. But perhaps the amazing and pathetic
servility of the _Life_ is to be explained by fear of the vainglorious
despot, whose hand was heavy on all intellectual work. Historical
writers suffered most under his oppression, and it may have been
necessary to Josephus to make out that he had been a traitor. It may
appear more to his credit as a courtier than as a Jew that the enemy of
his people was friendly towards him. But his position must have been
perilous during the black reign of the tyrant, who rivaled Nero for
maniac cruelty. His chief patron was one Epaphroditus, by his name a
Greek, perhaps to be identified with a celebrated librarian and scholar,
to whom he dedicated his _Antiquities_ and the books _Against Apion_. He
lived on probably[1] till the beginning of the second century, through
the short but tranquil rule of Nerva, when there was a brief interlude
of tolerance and intellectual freedom, into the reign of Trajan, who was
to deal his people injuries as deep as those Titus had inflicted. It is
uncertain whether he survived to witness the horrors of the desperate
rising of the Jews, which sealed their national doom throughout the
Diaspora. At least he did not survive to describe it. His last work that
has come down to us is the _Life_, which is an apologetic pamphlet,
perversely self-vilifying, in which he sought to refute the accusation
of his rival Justus of Tiberias, that he had taken a commanding part in
the war against the Romans in Galilee, and had been the guiding spirit
of the Rebellion.

[Footnote 1: It has, however, been suggested that the date of Agrippa's
death, which is recorded in the _Life_, was really 95 C.E., instead of
103 C.E., as is usually accepted; if that is so, Josephus may not have
outlived the black reign of Domitian, which lasted till 97 C.E. See J.H.
Hart, s.v. Josephus, in Encycl. Brit. 11th ed.]

The _Life_ is the least creditable of Josephus' works; but, as we have
seen, it was wrung from him under duress, and cannot be taken as a
genuine revelation of his mind. It is not a full autobiography; save for
a short Prologue and a short Epilogue, it deals exclusively with the
author's conduct in Galilee prior to the campaign of Vespasian, and it
differs materially in political color as well as in the narrative of
facts from the account of the same period in the _Wars_. In the earlier
work his object had been to excuse his countrymen for their revolt, and
at the same time to show the ability with which he had served their true
interests, as the representative of the party that sought to preserve
the nation at the sacrifice of its independence. But in the later work
he is writing not a partisan but a personal apology, composed when his
life was in danger, and when he no longer was anxious to save
appearances with his countrymen. And he devoted his ingenuity to showing
that throughout the events in Galilee he was the friend of Rome, seeking
under the guise of resistance to smooth the way for the invaders and
deliver the gates of Palestine into their hands. That he had so to
demean himself is the most pathetic commentary on the bitter position
which he was called on to endure after twenty years of servile life. The
work was published or reissued after the death of King Agrippa, which
took place in 103 C.E., and is recorded in it.[1] Agrippa was the last
of the Herodians to rule, and with his death the last part of Palestine
that had the outward show of independence was absorbed into the Roman
Empire. But though the whole of the Jewish temporal sovereignty was
shattered before his last days, Josephus may have consoled himself with
the progressive march of Judaism in the capital city of the conqueror.

[Footnote 1: See note above, p. 73.]

It may be put down to the credit of Josephus that amid the court society
at Rome he to the end professed loyalty to his religion, and that he did
not complete his political desertion by religious apostasy. His loyalty
indeed is less meritorious than might seem at first sight. The Romans
generally were tolerant of creeds and cults, and the ceremonial of
Judaism, especially its Sabbath, appealed to many of them. Within the
_pomoerium_ (limits), of the ancient city none but the city gods might
be worshiped, but in Greater Rome there were numerous synagogues. In the
time of Pompey, an important Jewish community existed in the
cosmopolitan capital of the Empire, and later we have records of a
number of congregations. Philo expressly mentions the religious
privileges his brethren enjoyed at the heart of the Empire,[1] and save
for an occasional expulsion the Jews appear to have been unmolested. The
Flavian Emperors, satisfied with the destruction of the sanctuary and
the razing of Jerusalem, did not attempt to persecute the communities of
the Diaspora. For the old offering by all Jews to the Temple, they
substituted a tax of two drachmas (the equivalent of the shekel
voluntarily given hitherto to Jerusalem), which went towards the
maintenance of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Later the fiscus
Judaicus, to which every Jew and proselyte had to pay, became an
instrument of oppression, but in the reigns of Vespasian and Titus it
was not harshly administered. Domitian indeed vented his indignation on
the people which he had not had the honor of conquering, and instituted
a kind of inquisition, to ferret out the early Maranos, who dissembled
their Judaism and sought to evade the tax. But his gentle successor
Nerva (96-98) restored the habit of tolerance, and struck special coins,
with the legend calumnia Judaica sublata (on the abolition of
information against the Jews), in order to mark his clemency. Save,
therefore, for the short persecution under Domitian, Judaism remained a
_licita religio_ (legalized denomination) at Rome. More than that, it
became a powerful missionary faith among the lower classes, and in small
doses almost fashionable at the court. A near relative of the Emperor,
Flavius Clemens, outraged Roman opinion by adopting its tenets.[2] It
has been suggested, and it is likely, that the chief historical work of
Josephus was written primarily for a group of fashionable proselytes to
Judaism, to whom he ministered. He mentions members of the royal house
that commended his work.[3] Some scholars have sought to associate him
with the philosopher at Rome that was visited by the four rabbis of the
Sanhedrin, the Patriarch Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi Joshua, Rabbi Eleazar
ben Arach, and Rabbi Akiba, when they came to Rome in the reign of
Domitian.[4] But apart from the fact that he would hardly be described
as a philosopher--a term usually reserved in the Talmud for a pagan
scholar--it is as unlikely that the leaders of the Pharisaic national
party would have had interviews with the renegade, as that the renegade
would have befriended them. At Jotapata he deserted his people, and he
passed thenceforth out of their life. It is significant that, while the
history of the war was originally written in Aramaic for the benefit of
the Eastern Jews, none of his later works was either written in his
native language or translated into it, nor were they designed to be read
by Jews.

[Footnote 1: De Leg, 82.]

[Footnote 2: It is interesting that the wife of the first Roman governor
of Britain was accused, in 57 C.E., of "foreign superstition," and is
said to have lived a melancholy life (Tac. Ann. xiii. 32), which may
mean that she had adopted Jewish practices.]

[Footnote 3: C. Ap. i. 5.]

[Footnote 4: Sukkah, 22, quoted in Vogelstein and Rieger, Geschichte der
Juden in Rom, pp. 28 and 29.]

In the palace of the Caesars Josephus became a reputable Greco-Roman
chronicler, deliberately accommodating himself to the tastes of the
conquerors of his people, and deliberately seeking, as Renan said, "to
Hellenize his compatriots," i.e. to describe them from a Hellenized
point of view. He achieved his ambition, if such it was, to be the
classical authority upon the early history of the Jews. His record of
his people survived through the ages, and his works were included in the
public libraries of Rome, while among the Christians they had for
centuries a place next the Bible.

As a writer, Josephus has, by the side of some glaring defects,
considerable merits: immense industry, power of vivid narrative, an
ability for using authorities, and at times a certain eloquence. But as
a man he has few qualities to attract and nothing of the heroic. He was
mediocre in character and mind, and for such there is no admiration. It
may be admitted that he lived in hard times, when it required great
strength of character for a Jew born, as he was, in the aristocratic
Romanizing section of the nation, to stand true to the Jewish people and
devote his energies to their desperate cause. He may have honestly
believed that submission to Rome was the truest wisdom; but he placed
himself in a false position by associating himself with the
insurrection. And while his national feeling led him later to attempt to
defend his people against calumny and ignorance, the conditions under
which he labored made against the production of a true and spirited
history. Yet if he does not appear worthy of admiration, we must beware
of judging him harshly; and there is deep pathos in the fact that he was
compelled in writing to be his own worst detractor. The combination,
which the autobiographical account reveals, of egoism and self-seeking,
of cowardice and vanity, of pious profession and cringing
obsequiousness, of vaunted magnanimity and spiteful malice to his foes,
of religious scruples and selfish cunning, points to a meanness of
conduct which he was forced to assume by circumstances, but which, it is
suggested, was not an expression of his true character. The document of
shame was wrung from him by his past. He might have been a reliable
historian had he not been called on to play a part in action. But the
part he played was ignoble in itself, and it blasted the whole of his
future life and his literary credit. It made his work take the form of
apology, and part of it bear the stamp of deliberate falsehood. His
besetting weakness of egoism led him as a general to betray his
countrymen; as historian of their struggle with Rome, to misrepresent
their patriotism and give a false picture of their ideals. Yet, though
to the Jews of his own day he was a traitor in life and a traducer in
letters, to the Jews of later generations he appears rather as a tragic
figure, struggling to repair his fault of perfidy, and a victim to the
forces of a hostile civilization, which in every age assail his people
intellectually, and which in his day assailed them with crushing might
physically as well as intellectually.



The Jews, though they are the most historical of peoples, and though
they have always regarded history as the surest revelation of God's
work, have produced remarkably few historians. It is true that a large
part of their sacred literature consists of the national annals, from
the earliest time to the restoration of the nation after its first
destruction, i.e. a period of more than two thousand years. The Book of
Chronicles, as its name suggests, is a systematic summary of the whole
of that period and proves the existence of the historical spirit. But
their very engrossment with the story of their ancestors checked in
later generations the impulse to write about their own times. They saw
contemporary affairs always in the light of the past, and they were more
concerned with revealing the hand of God in events than in depicting the
events themselves. Thus, during the whole Persian period, which extended
over two hundred years, we have but one historical document, the Book of
Esther, to acquaint us with the conditions of the main body of the
Jewish people. The fortunate find, a few years back, of a hoard of
Aramaic papyri at Elephantine has given us an unexpected acquaintance
with the conditions of the Jewish colony in Upper Egypt during the fifth
and fourth centuries, and furnished a new chapter in the history of the
Diaspora. But this is an archeological substitute for literary history.

The conquest of the East by Alexander the Great and the consequent
interchange of Hellenic and Oriental culture gave a great impulse to
historical writing among all peoples. Moved by a cosmopolitan
enthusiasm, each nation was anxious to make its past known to the
others, to assert its antiquity, and to prove that, if its present was
not very glorious, it had at one time played a brilliant part in
civilization. The Greek people, too, with their intense love of
knowledge, were eager to learn the ideas and experiences of the various
nations and races who had now come into their ken.

Hence, on the one hand, there appeared works on universal history by
Greek polymaths, such as Hecataeus of Abdera, Theophrastus, the pupil of
Aristotle, and Ptolemy, the comrade of Alexander; and, on the other
hand, a number of national histories were written, also in Greek, but by
Hellenized natives, such as the Chaldaica of Berosus, the Aegyptiaca of
Manetho, and the Phoenician chronicles of Dius and Menander. The people
of Israel figured incidentally in several of these works, and Manetho
went out of his way to include in the history of his country a lying
account of the Exodus, which was designed to hold up the ancestors of
the Jews to opprobrium. From the Hellenic and philosophical writers they
received more justice. Their remarkable loyalty to their religion and
their exalted conception of the Deity moved partly the admiration,
partly the amazement of these early encyclopedists, who regarded them as
a philosophical people devoted to a higher life. The Hellenistic Jews
were led later by the sympathetic attitude of Hecataeus to add to his
history spurious chapters, in which he was made to deal more
eulogistically with their beliefs and history, and they circulated
oracles and poems in the names of fabled seers of prehistoric
times--Orpheus and the Sibyl--which conveyed some of the religious and
moral teachings of Judaism. Nor were they slow to adapt their own
chronicles for the Greek world or to take their part in the literary
movement of the time. In Palestine, indeed, the Jews remained devoted to
religious thought, and never made history a serious interest. But in
Alexandria, after translating the Scriptures into Greek in the middle of
the third century, they began, in imitation of their neighbors, to
embellish their antiquities in the Greek style, and present them more
thoroughly according to Greek standards of history.

A collection of extracts from the works of the Hellenistic Jews was made
by a Gentile compiler of the first century B.C.E., Alexander, surnamed
Polyhistor. Though his book has perished, portions of it with fragments
of these extracts have been preserved in the chronicles of the
ecclesiastical historian Eusebius, who wrote in the fourth century C.E.
They prove the existence of a very considerable array of historical
writers, who would seem to have been poor scholars of Greek, but
ingenious chronologists and apologists. The earliest of the adapters, of
whose work fragments have been thus preserved to us, is one Demetrius,
who, in the reign of Ptolemy II, at the end of the third century B.C.E.,
wrote a book on the Jewish kings. It was rather a chronology than a
connected narrative, and Demetrius amended the dates given in the Bible
according to a system of his own. This does not appear to have been very
exact, but such as it was it appealed to Josephus, who in places follows
it without question. Chronology was a matter of deep import in that
epoch, because it was one of the most galling and frequent charges
against the Jews that their boasted antiquity was fictitious. To rebut
this attack, the Jewish chroniclers elaborated the chronological
indications of their long history, and brought them into relation with
the annals of their neighbors.

Demetrius is followed by Eupolemus and Artapanus, who treated the Bible
in a different fashion. They freely handled the Scripture narrative, and
methodically embellished it with fictitious additions, for the greater
glory, as they intended, of their people. They imitated the ways of
their opponents, and as these sought to decry their ancestors by
malicious invention, so they contrived to invest them with fictitious
greatness. Eupolemus represents Abraham as the discoverer of Chaldean
astrology, and identifies Enoch with the Greek hero Atlas, to whom the
angel of God revealed the celestial lore. Elsewhere he inserts into the
paraphrase of the Book of Kings a correspondence between Solomon and
Hiram (king of Tyre), in order to show the Jewish hegemony over the
Phoenicians. Artapanus, professing to be a pagan writer, shows how the
Egyptians were indebted to the founders of Israel for their scientific
knowledge and their most prized institutions: Abraham instructed King
Pharethothis in astrology; Joseph taught the Egyptian priests
hieroglyphics, and built the Pyramids; Moses (who is identified with the
Greek seer Musaeus) not only conquered the Ethiopians, and invented
ship-building and philosophy, but taught the Egyptian priests their
deeper wisdom, and was called by them Hermes, because of his skill in
interpreting ([Greek: Hermaeneia]) the holy documents. Fiction fostered
fiction, and the inventions of pagan foes stimulated the exaggerations
of Jewish apologists. The fictitious was mixed with the true, and the
legendary material which Artapanus added to his history passed into the
common stock of Jewish apologetics.

The great national revival that followed on the Maccabean victories
induced both within and without Palestine the composition of works of
contemporary national history. For a period the Jews were as proud of
their present as of their past. It was not only that their princes, like
the kings of other countries, desired to have their great deeds
celebrated, but the whole people was conscious of another God-sent
deliverance and of a clear manifestation of the Divine Power in their
affairs, which must be recorded for the benefit of posterity. The First
Book of the Maccabees, which was originally written in Hebrew, and the
Chronicles of King John Hyrcanus[1] bear witness to this outburst of
patriotic self-consciousness in Palestine; and the Talmud[2] contains a
few fragments of history about the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, which
may have formed part of a larger chronicle. The story of the Maccabean
wars was recorded also at great length by a Hellenistic Jew, Jason of
Cyrene, and it is generally assumed that an abridgment of it has come
down to us in the Second Book of the Maccabees.

[Footnote 1: They are referred to at the end of the book. Comp. I Macc.
xvi. 23f.]

[Footnote 2: Kiddushin, 66a.]

In Palestine, however, the historical spirit did not flourish for long.
The interest in the universal lesson prevailed over that in the
particular fact, and the tradition that was treasured was not of
political events but of ethical and legal teachings. Moral rather than
objective truth was the study of the schools, and when contemporary
events are described, it is in a poetical, rhapsodical form, such as we
find in the Psalms of Solomon, which recount Pompey's invasion of
Jerusalem.[1] The only historical records that appear to have been
regularly kept are the lists of the priests and their genealogy, and a
calendar of fasts and of days on which fasting was prohibited because of
some happy event to be commemorated.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 14.]

In the Diaspora, on the other hand, and especially at Alexandria, which
was the center of Hellenistic Jewry, history was made to serve a
practical purpose. It was a weapon in the struggle the Jews were
continually waging against their detractors, as well as in their
missionary efforts to spread their religion. It became consciously and
essentially apologetic, the end being persuasion rather than truth. Fact
and fiction were inextricably combined, and the difference between them

The story of the translation of the Septuagint by the Jewish sages sent
to Alexandria at the invitation of King Ptolemy, which is recounted in
the Letter of Aristeas, is an excellent example of this kind of history.
It is decked out with digressions about the topography of Jerusalem and
the architecture of the Temple, and an imaginative display of Jewish wit
and wisdom at a royal symposium. The Third Book of the Maccabees, which
professes to describe a persecution of the Jews in Egypt under one of
the Ptolemies, is another early example of didactic fiction that has
been preserved to us. The one sober historical work produced by a Jewish
writer between the composition of the two Books of the Maccabees and of
the _Wars_ of Josephus was the account given by Philo of Alexandria of
the Jewish persecutions that took place in the reigns of Tiberius and
Gaius. It was originally contained in five books, of which only the
second and third have been preserved. They deal respectively with the
riots at Alexandria that took place when Flaccus was governor, and with
the Jewish embassy to Gaius when that Emperor issued his order that his
image should be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem and in the great
synagogue of Alexandria. Philo wrote a full account of the events in
which he himself had been called upon to play a part. He is always at
pains to point the moral and enforce the lesson, but his work has a
definite historical value, and contains many valuable details about
Jewish life in the Diaspora.

But if the Jews were somewhat careless of the exact record of their
history, many of the Greek and Roman historians paid attention to it,
some specifically for the purpose of attacking them, others incidentally
in the course of their comprehensive works. The fashion of universal
history continued for some centuries, and works of fifty volumes and
over were more the rule than the exception. These "elephantine books"
were rendered possible because it was the fashion for each succeeding
historian to compile the results of his predecessor's labors, and adopt
it as part of his own monumental work. Distinguished among this school
of writers were Apollodorus of Athens, who in 150 B.C.E. wrote
Chronicles containing the most important events of general history down
to his own time, and Polybius, who was brought as a prisoner from Greece
to Rome in 145 B.C.E., and in his exile wrote a history of the rise of
the Roman Republic, in the course of which he dealt with the early
Jewish relations with Rome. Then, in the first century, there flourished
Posidonius of Apamea (90-50 B.C.E.), a Stoic and a bitter enemy of the
Jews, who continued the work of Polybius down to the year 90, and,
besides, wrote a separate diatribe against Judaism, which he regarded as
a misanthropic atheism. The succession was carried on by Timagenes of
Alexandria, who wrote a very full history of the second and the first
part of the first century.

Among Roman writers of the period that dealt with general affairs were
Asinius Pollio, the friend of Herod, and Titus Livius, who, under the
name of Livy, has become the standard Latin historian for schoolboys.
Josephus refers to both of them as well as to Timagenes, Posidonius, and
Polybius; but as there is no reason to think that he ever tried to
master the earlier authorities, it is probable that he knew them only so
far as they were reproduced in his immediate sources and his immediate
predecessors. The two writers whom he quotes repeatedly and must have

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