1 March, 2003

Flavius Josephus, Judaea and Rome: A Question of Context

By David Steinberg


home page http://www.houseofdavid.ca/

1. Introduction

2. Josephus – Enigmatic Historian of the Second Temple Period and apologist for Judaism and the Jewish People to the Greco-Roman World

2.1 Why is Josephus Important

2.2 Josephus/Yoseph ben Mattityahu the Jew

2.3 Josephus the Jewish Aristocrat

2.4 Josephus at Jerusalem – A Second Jeremiah?

2.5 Josephus the Traitor

2.6 What Josephus Was Not

2.7 Josephus the Jewish or is it Greek Historian?

2.8 The Extant works of Josephus

2.8.1 The Jewish War 67-72 CE

2.8.2 Antiquities 94 CE

2.8.3 Life (93-100 CE) and Against Apion (93/4 CE)

3. The Roman Empire in the First Century – its Nature and Problems

3.1 Extent of the Empire

3.2 Insufficiency of Finances

3.3 Insufficiency of Administrative Capacity

3.4 Insufficiency of Military Power

3.5 Some Roman Policies of Importance to Judaea

4. Judaea – Social and Political Instability

4.1 Crisis of Legitimacy

4.1.1 Political Legitimacy in the First Temple Period

4.1.2 Trajectory of Priestly Power in Judah/Yahud/Judaea

4.1.3 Political Legitimacy under the Hasmoneans and Herodians

4.2 Social Conditions Palestine

4.3 The Situation of Wealthy Judeans

5. Roman Attitudes Toward the Jews and visa versa

5.1 What the Romans Were Not

5.2 Mutual Incomprehension

5.3 Roman Policy Toward the Jews

5.4 Palestinian Jewish Attitudes toward the Roman Empire


Annex 1 - What Did Jeremiah Say and What Did Josephus Say?

Annex 2 - Agrippa’s Speech at Jerusalem at War’s Commencement



Table 1 – Literary Works

Table 2 - Legions


Select Bibliography


1. Introduction

The purpose of this talk is to outline some of the context that is important if we are to understand the first Jewish rebellion against Rome (67-73 CE) and its causes.

That rebellion put an end to the Second Temple, Torah cum Temple, Judaism that had developed in the wake of the Deuteronomic Reform, Babylonian Exile and Return and the finalization and acceptance of the Torah as The basis for Judaism.  During the First Temple period (c 950-587 BCE) Judah had been a state with a national religion, during the latter part of the Second Temple period (c. 175 BCE-70 CE) it had been an unhappy hybrid of a splintering religion with a state to fight over.  After 70 CE the way was open for the development of Rabbinic Judaism first as an element within the Jewish spectrum and, ultimately, as normative Judaism.  Rabbinic Judaism can be described as a religion in the context of a national identity[1].

2. Josephus – Enigmatic Historian of the Second Temple Period and apologist for Judaism and the Jewish People to the Greco-Roman World

2.1 Why is Josephus Important (see also Table)

Josephus is the most important literary source for most of the Second Temple period. Indeed, it is only because of Josephus’ works, and the first two Books of Maccabees, which were all preserved by the medieval church, that we have any idea what went on in the crucial Second Temple period after the period covered by the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (say, 400 BCE-70 CE).  Even where other sources exist, they can only be understood within historical framework presented by Josephus. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, that Bilde (p. 233) writes –

“But Josephus is not merely a quarry or a treasury which anyone can draw upon as he pleases…. His writings are a unity, a universe… constituting an integral part of his person and his life history, in which he commits himself to the reality of his time.  In him we meet a Jewish aristocrat from the first century, a Jewish politician, a priestly and prophetically minded theologian, an early Pharisee, a Hellenized author and historian.  In Josephus, we encounter an articulate advocate of Judaism in the first century, although we frequently find it difficult to fit him into our inherited classifications.  In the works of Josephus, we find a living expression of the most important event and phenomenon of that time, the meeting between Judaism and Hellenism.”

Descriptions of each of the extant works of Josephus (contents, sources, bibliography etc.) are in Bilde pp. 61-122.

For Hellenization see my The Greek Influence on Judaism from the Hellenistic Period Through the Middle Ages c. 300 BCE- 1200 CE.

Biographical information on Josephus is available at http://www.josephus.yorku.ca/links-intro.htm

2.2 Josephus/Yoseph ben Mattityahu the Jew

·        He was a serious Jew who tried the 3 “philosophies” – Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees – of the Judaism of his time. He was well educated in both Jewish and Greek learning.  “One should not interpret Josephus’ pro-Roman point of view as an abandonment of Judaism.  For it was the God of the Jews who had gone over to the Romans, and the world events which Josephus  had foreseen were understood by him as fulfillment of Jewish prophecy…. Thus, he thought the Jewish revolt … (was) a result of the inability and unwillingness of the Jews to perceive and submit to the divine plan, God broke his work with the Jewish state, withdrew from the holy city and temple, and allowed ‘fortune’ to pass wholly to the Romans….”.(Rhoads pp. 11-12);

·        Josephus saw himself as a Jewish seer i.e. quasi-prophet - “Josephus saw himself as part of a complex pattern of world history in which he himself was chosen herald of some crucial historical events…. Josephus … claims to have foreseen by revelation the impending fate of the Jewish nation as well as the rise to power of the Roman sovereigns of the Flavian house in the person of Vespasian…. Josephus (in his view) did not give a new prophecy, but was apparently “inspired” to apply to his contemporary situation sayings which had been spoken long before by the canonical prophets (War 3:353)[2]. ‘The historical content of his prophecy reveals his conviction that God acts in history.  The fact that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans on the very day that the first temple was destroyed by Babylonians in the sixth century BCE served in retrospect as a sign to Josephus that he had properly discerned God’s plan in history (War 6:267-7 cf. 457).  He saw himself to be, at the right historical moment, a significant part of that plan.” (Rhoads pp. 9-10)

According to Bilde (pp. 191) “…Josephus sees himself as a continuer of the prophetic Jewish ‘writing of history’, and sees his writings as a parallel to and continuation of the sacred Jewish scriptures, divinely inspired as they are…. Josephus’ ranks himself as a priestly prophet in line with Ezekiel.  He identifies himself … with Joseph, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel and ever Esther ….  He perceives his own time as a kind of repetition of the period around the time of the destruction of the first temple in 586 BCE.  During his own time of crisis… Josephus acts as a prophetic interpreter of the scriptures and the time.  Towards Rome he uses his words as an attempt to alleviate the circumstances of his people, whereas towards his own countrymen he prophesized an interpretation of the crisis and thus a way out of it.”

2.3 Josephus the Jewish Aristocrat

·        He was from a privileged, upper class, Jerusalem priestly family and was probably well off all his life. His very strong upper class prejudices are frequently evident. Possibly because he was from a Jerusalem priestly family, Josephus considered the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple as equivalent to the destruction of Judaea.  However, we know that the devastation outside Jerusalem was limited (see Buchler).

·        Throughout the Empire, the Romans tried to co-opt privileged, upper class natives as local collaborators in government – in fact, the Roman system depended on such collaboration.  “…along with most other Jewish aristocrats, Josephus at first opposed the Revolt against Rome.  He belonged to the moderate party and … tried to avoid war.  When this was unsuccessful … Josephus and his party made the best of it and pretended to be in agreement with the rebels in order to obtain at least a certain amount of influence on what developed.  Thereby, the aristocratic party succeeded in placing Josephus and other moderate leaders in important roles in the first rebellious government.  In this capacity and from his command in Galilee, Josephus’ constantly pursued the primary aim, to avoid total war and to obtain a peaceful settlement with Rome.  After his surrender at Jotapata, and after his release as a prisoner of war two years later, Josephus’ continued to work toward this goal.  Likewise, after the disaster in the year 70, his main purpose was to save what he could, i.e. to work towards reestablishing and/or preserving the Jewish privileges and the traditional Roman policy of tolerance towards Judaism.” (Bilde pp. 175-176);


2.4 Josephus at Jerusalem – A Second Jeremiah?


·        When seeking to convince the defenders of Jerusalem to surrender to the Romans Josephus made the following points:

o       The Romans are willing to spare the temple and the city – it’s the resistance of the rebels that threatens Jerusalem and the shrine;

o       On no occasions did the ancestors succeed by force or fail for the lack of it when they committed their case to God;

o       The Romans gained control of Judaea through strife among the Jewish parties

o       The sins of present day Jews have alienated God and a just God will punish them for this

o       God has given Rome the imperium and is now fighting on the Roman side against the Jews.  It is an immutable law that mastery belonged to those supreme in arms.  That is why their ancestors, far superior to themselves in soul and body and in resources to boot, had yielded to the Romans – a thing they would not have tolerated if they had not known that God was on the Roman side

·         These points are very close to those made by Jeremiah just before the destruction of the first temple (see Annex 1 - What Did Jeremiah Say and What Did Josephus Say?)


2.5 Josephus the Traitor

·        It is hard to determine the validity of charges made against Josephus during his lifetime and repeated ever since i.e. Josephus has been accused of:

o       engaging in internecine strife when he should have been preparing to resist the immanent Roman invasion of the Galilee - it is hard to know whether he had much choice in this matter;

o       betraying the rebellion and his people to the Romans when he urged the rebels to surrender at the siege of Jerusalem; and,

o       of a cowardly unwillingness to follow through on the mass suicide pact made by the survivors of the siege of Jotapata.  Schalit describes it this way-

”When the city fell on Tammuz 1, 67, Josephus fled with 40 men to a cave.  There each man resolved to slay his neighbor rather than to be taken captive by the enemy.  Josephus artfully cast the lots, deceitfully managing to be one of the last two men left alive and then persuaded his companion to go out with him and surrender to the Romans.”

Of course, if he had killed himself, we would know almost nothing of the Jewish War, as indeed is the case with the later Bar Kochba Rebellion, or about the Second Temple period except for the period of the Maccabean Uprising;

·        “Despite the hostile criticism of Josephus and his works, we need not see him as a mere opportunist.  His writings reveal to us a man struggling between personal survival and a commitment to Judaism; he did not wish to relinquish either…. The resolution to that struggle came when Josephus was able to give himself up to Vespasian as God’s servant (War 3:354).  He could continue his commitment to Judaism, but he would do it from the safety of the roman side.  Undoubtedly, Josephus’ works contain much that is a rationale of self-justification for his action.  Yet to see him as a rank opportunist is too harsh.  And to depict his writings as an exercise of justification does not begin to do justice to the breadth of Josephus’ self-understanding.” (Rhoads pp. 8-9)

·        Bilde writes (p. 207-208)


“The classical Jewish conception of Josephus with its contempt for the ‘traitor’ and the ‘apostate’ has influenced the attitude not only towards the detested person, but also to his writings.  Throughout these works, those who adopt this attitude detect self-righteousness, alibis, flattery, distortions and deceit.  In so doing, the road to a rewarding use of Josephus’ vast material has been effectively blocked.  Hatred and condemnation are not true guides to knowledge.


“We find… (an) ideological use of Josephus in modern Zionism…. In official Israeli publications, such as school books and travel guides, we find an uncritical acceptance, for example, of Josephus’ rhetorical rendering of the defense of Jotapata, Gamala, Jerusalem and Massada made by the rebels, combined with … (a) condemnation of the treacherous author of the very same texts….


“…the majority of modern archaeologists and historians… neglect(s) to take all of the problems in the writings into consideration, and simply avails himself freely of them without the slightest regard to the style, content and aim of the author.  In particular, many modern archaeologists are guilty of using Josephus as a treasury which anyone can draw upon as he or she pleases.”



2.6 What Josephus Was Not

·        A 19th-20th century European or American liberal;

·        A 19th-20th century political Zionist;

·        A modern secularist.


2.7 Josephus the Jewish or is it Greek Historian?

·        Bilde writes (pp. 200-206)

 “Now it is evident that Josephus belongs both in a Jewish and a Greco-Roman tradition.  He sees himself as a priestly-prophetic continuer of the traditional Jewish writing of history in the canonical scriptures.  Nor is there any doubt that, to a large extent, he maintains a genuine Old Testament and Jewish religious understanding and interpretation of the history he renders.  But at the same time, it is all presented in Greek, and Josephus primarily addresses a non-Jewish audience in the Greco-Roman world.  Therefore … the Jewish tradition, its contents, form and language are subjected to a certain transformation[3]…. The Hellenization which Josephus makes in these areas must be determined as being somewhat superficial and should rather be interpreted as a pedagogical means of enlightening his Greco-Roman readers who must be presumed to have no knowledge of Jewish affairs….

“The writings of Josephus are, of course, ideological and moralizing, exactly as is the case with the works of Thucydides[4], Polybius, Livy and Tacitus, although the methods differ…. He is an apologist for his people, an agitator for his religion.  He is engaged both in a political struggle on behalf of the Jewish people and in a vast cultural conflict between Judaism and the Hellenistic world including parts of Greco-Roman history writing to which, at the same time, he wishes to belong…. He is to be related closer to Old Testament and Jewish tradition than to Hellenistic literature and historiography….

·        He generally was fairly accurate though he was not a particularly careful checker of facts (see).  For main trends in modern Josephus research, see the chapter of that name in Bilde pp. 123-171;

·        “Josephus possesses a genuine interest in and a sincere will to write impartially and, surprisingly, he often does so in his works. In a unique way, Josephus has managed to combine his highly engaged religious Jewish historiographical tradition with the Hellenistic literary culture and historiography in such a way that decisive elements in both traditions are retained.”


2.8 The Extant works of Josephus (see Table 1)


2.8.1 The Jewish War 67-72 CE

·        He wrote the Jewish War as a Roman imperial client and this accounts for some of the differences between it and Antiquities which he wrote later as a free Roman citizen unattached to the government


Client and Patron in Rome

“Latin Clientela, in ancient Rome, the relationship between a man of wealth andinfluence (patron) and a free client; the client acknowledged his dependence on the patron and received protection in return. This sort of relationship was recognized in law as early as the 5th century BC; by the 1st century BC it had become hereditary. Freed slaves were automatically clients of their former owners. The patron might support his client in the courts or supply him with daily food, often converted into cash (sportula). The client was expected to show deference to his patron, especially by calling upon him each morning (salutatio) and by aiding him in his private and public life. The political influence exercised by patrons over their clients was of considerable importance in the voting conducted in the public assemblies (comitia) under the republic. In the courts, no evidence could be given by patron or client against each other. Under the empire (i.e., after 27 BC) clients were often looked upon as parasites; because of their duty of salutatio they were sometimes called salutatores (“greeters”), or togati because they were required to wear the toga when it was passing out of fashion. Clientage became the most important social relationship in the Roman provinces as well as in Rome. The extension of the system to client nations was a cardinal feature of the growth and maintenance of Roman power under Julius Caesar and the emperors.”

Encyclopedia Britannica 2003


·        During the Jewish War he observed key deliberations in Jerusalem at the start of the war, was a rebel general in Galilee, a prisoner of the Romans and, finally, a collaborator with the Romans urging the rebels in Jerusalem to surrender.  He was very knowledgeable about the Jewish War and had access to his memoranda made during the war, the memoirs of Vespasian, the letters of king Agrippa and the Roman military archives (see Bilde pp. 61-63).  However:

o       he could not be everywhere and have seen everything, so some of his reports are second hand;

o       he was intimately involved in the war and had made many enemies so some of his statements are likely to be deliberate, self-serving, distortions; and,

o        as a Roman client, writing War he had to please his Roman patrons who were the two top generals fighting against the Jews – the Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. This required that Vespasian and Titus and the Roman Army come out looking good and that the book serve a key imperial purpose, namely, warning the Jews in Judaea not to rebel again and the Jews in Parthia not to encourage a Parthian invasion of the Roman Empire (see (Rhoads p. 11).


2.8.2 Antiquities 94 CE – In my view one of the most important books ever written about Jewish history.

·        Josephus drew very heavily, and not very critically, on existing Greek histories.  I.e. in many parts it is Josephus cutting and pasting the work of earlier Greek language writers.  It is important to remember that, except for the last few decades covered, he had not lived through the periods covered by Antiquities and that the supporting documentation for most of the periods covered by Antiquities would have been inadequate, unreliable and rather random – i.e. almost point-by-point the opposite of the case for War;

·        The objective of Antiquities and Against Apion was to defend, justify and glorify the Jewish people i.e. quite different from the objectives of War (see above);


2.8.3 Life (93-100 CE) and Against Apion (93/4 CE)

·        The objective of Life was to defend himself against the accusations of Justin of Tiberius about Josephus’s conduct during the War.  Unfortunately, we do not have Justin’s book but it is possible to reconstruct his accusations by Josephus’ responses in Life;

·        He obviously felt defensive-ambivalent-guilty about his behavior during the war.  So one must always watch out for self-justification

·        Against Apion refutes anti-Semitic slanders.


3. The Roman Empire in the First Century – its Nature and Problems


3.1 Extent of the Empire


·        The Empire included the territories of about 35 modern European, Levantine and north African countries.

·        The population is estimated to have been 50-60 million.

·        The population of Palestine (Cisjordan and Transjordan) was about 2.5 million of which more than half were Jews (see Avi-Yonah p 19 for this estimate from a slightly later period).


3.2 Insufficiency of Finances


  • Like all pre-modern societies, about 90 percent of the Roman population were farmers who grew the food for themselves plus the remaining 10 percent. The great bulk of the wealth produced was in the form of food
  • Total taxes[5] amounted to about 10 percent of the empire's gross national product. That percentage of tax may seem low by modern standards, but the imperial government provided minimal services. For provincials who could barely make a living, paying 10 percent of their income to the government was a considerable burden. As the troops demand for supplies increased the tax collector made harsh demands for funds. Farmers who were hardly surviving could no longer pay taxes and some of them left their lands and joined large landowners while others turned to robbery.
  • Roman roads are often praised.  However, it cost the Empire dear. Even though soldiers often did the work, it is estimated that the cost of road maintenance  was equal to 25% of military budget or 1/5-1/6 state revenues;
  • Vespasian became emperor in what the Romans called “the year of the 4 emperors”.  The Empire was in chaos and the treasury empty.  Through brilliant and effective action, including drastic taxation, Vespasian was able to save the Empire finances, military, territory and all.  Unfortunately, when the Jews rebelled they were faced, not only by a huge concentration of Roman force, but by, in the persons of Vespasian and his son Titus, two extraordinarily competent and down to earth generals and administrators.


3.3 Insufficiency of Administrative Capacity


  • As a result of constrained finances, the Roman state and army had to be run on a shoestring[6].  In Judaea, “the procurator (governor) was provided by the state with only a small staff to help in the administration of the country, for there was no developed civil service at this period.  His aides were chosen by him from among his friends and from his own household.  Since Judaea was a small province and not strategically vital to the eastern frontier, being protected by the Syrian province to the north, the procurator was not even allowed more than a few troops, though he could rely on military intervention from Syria if he found himself in serious difficulties. 
  • Stable government was thus possible only with the cooperation of the leaders of the local population. Roman policy was to allow powerful people to petition and lobby to get things done - laws voided, prisoners released etc.  Such delegations and interventions are frequently mentioned in Josephus’ works.  This can be seen as analogous to the Roman patron-client system.[7]



3.4 Insufficiency of Military Power (See Table 2)


  • Once Augustus had defeated Mark Antony, he began to reduce the empire's remaining military forces from 60 legions to 28 which was later reduced to 25.. In the early empire, the number of auxiliaries equaled the 125,000 - 175,000 legionaries. However, the empire's 250,000 - 350,000 soldiers were not an enormous force to secure 6,000 miles of frontier and to ensure internal security (there was no police force) for an empire of 50 million people.
  • To make the situation workable it was essential that force be used as economically as possible.  This has two implications:

o       The Roman authorities must give as few orders as possible but these must be carried out; and,

o       Any revolt must be suppressed brutally.  Potential rebels must be intimidated by example.  Slender resources meant that the Romans could not afford to be forgiving.


3.5 Some Roman Policies of Importance to Judaea

The Egyptian grain supply which feeds Rome must be protected.  This implies:

o       Judaea, between the Syrian-Parthian[8] frontier and Egypt, must not be allowed to fall into hostile hands; and,

o       Piracy must not be allowed to return to threaten the sea[9] route from Alexandria to Italy there fore, the whole shore of the Mediterranean must be under Roman control.

The implications for Judaea are that the Roman Empire would not allow any rebellion there to succeed.


4. Judaea – Social and Political Instability


4.1 Crisis of Legitimacy


4.1.1 Political Legitimacy[10] in the First Temple Period


As far as we know, the supremacy and legitimacy of leadership of the House of David went virtually unchallenged in the Kingdom of Judah during First Temple period (950-586 BCE).  This lent Judah, in sharp contrast to the northern Kingdom of Israel, great political stability.  Outside forces, notably the Mesopotamian powers and Egypt, were able to cause party strife relating to foreign policy and there were repeated conflict between religious factions as part of the process of the emerging Israelite monotheism.  However, civil war was always avoided and the unity of the state preserved.



With the exile and the return to Zion several factors come together to turn the Jews from a nation with a national religion into more of a religious community with a history as a nation.  Among these factors were:

  • The fact that most of the Jews lived in foreign lands;
  • The loss of independence, army, bureaucracy etc;
  • The tiny size of the new province of Yehud
  • The fact that Jewish monotheism was now totally distinct from the surrounding polytheisms.


4.1.2 Trajectory of Priestly Power in Judah/Yahud/Judaea


  • Jerusalem temple priests were civil servants at a royal chapel (mid-10th to late 7th centuries BCE);
  • Deuteronomic Reform left them still under the kings’ authority but being now the priests of the only “legitimate” shrine in Judah;
  • Establishment of the small Persian province of Yahud (late 6th-early 5th centuries BCE) and the rebuilding of the temple leave the hereditary Zadokite high priests as head of the Jewish Nation in Palestine under the political control of Persia. At some point the High Priest took over the secular power within the province.  This situation continued under Hellenistic rule until the persecutions that led to the Maccabean uprising (175 BCE).  Priestly power was enhanced its prestige peaked in this period;
  • Hasmoneans depose the Zadokites taking over the high priesthood in 152 BCE which they usually combined with the secular title of king. During this period lie the origins of the main Jewish sects of the late Second Temple period.  This was also the time when non-priestly scholars became prominent in interpreting the Torah;
  • Under Roman rule, including when Herod the Great was king, the High Priests were appointed by the rulers from among the priestly families, including those living in foreign lands. High priests had little power and, as political appointees, that had minimal prestige.


It would seem that the hereditary High Priests had political legitimacy during the period c. 400-175 BCE.  Of course, it is unknowable how this would have played out had Judaea made the transition to renewed independence and military expansion without the Seleucid persecution and consequent Maccabean uprising.


4.1.3 Political Legitimacy under the Hasmoneans and Herodians


The Seleucid persecution and the consequent Maccabean uprising and wars rapidly became a 4 party affair:

  • Jewish Hellenist supporters of the Seleucids who included aristocratic priests;
  • The Pietists who were willing to fight for freedom to practice the Torah but not for political independence;
  • The Hasmonean who fought successfully both to capture the high Priesthood and to reestablish independence; and probably,
  • The mass of the Jewish peasantry who just wanted to be left in peace.


The internecine civil wars among the Hasmoneans, which led to the Roman takeover and Herodian rule, showed how utterly bereft of political legitimacy the dynasty had become.


Herod and his dynasty were ruling by grace of Rome with very little support other than by political opportunists who were often rewarded with large grants of land


This situation was a major factor leading to the rebellion against Rome because the Roman system of rule absolutely required the existence of a politically legitimate local leadership with whom it could work (See Goodman).


4.2 Social Conditions in Palestine


  • The predominantly Jewish areas were in Judaea (south centre centering on Jerusalem), Idumea (northern Negev), Perea (formerly Gilead, in Transjordan) and Galilee in the north. (See and.)
  • The coastal plain, Valley of Jezreel, and areas in Transjordan immediately south of the Sea of Galilee were either Greek-Syrian or Greek-Syrian with a significant Jewish minority. (See)
  • The population of Samaria was mainly Samaritan.
  • There was great unrest, manifested in revolts and the rise of the zealot movements, in the Jewish-populated countryside due to –
    • Over-population - The Roman peace brought an increase in population and with it, extremes of wealth and poverty that sharpened social and economic conflict within the Roman state.
    • The country is susceptible to periodic drought.  This causes both great human misery and opportunities for the rich, often those in trade or politics, to buy up the land of indigent small farmers (see Goodman pp. 56-60).  This tendency was greatly increased by the fact that the Romans wanted local leaders to be rich in land – a requirement for their own senators;
    • Herodian land grants and the purchase of peasant-farmed land by rich strangers meant that the landowners had no social bonds with the peasantry and hence could not speak for the population or maintain the Roman-required calm.


4.3 The Situation of Wealthy Judeans


The local elite was totally dependant on Roman favor.  However, this very dependence undermined their political legitimacy with the Jewish masses.


The wealthy leadership could:


·        Fight for independence and risk losing everything;

·        Fight for the Romans as did king Agrippa;

·        Abandon property and leave the country – no doubt many did this; or,

·        Go to Roman army-controlled sanctuary areas such as Lydda/Lod and Jamina/Javneh  as did Yohanan ben Zakkai.


The situation as intelligent observers, probably including Josephus, might have seen it is laid out in a magnificent speech that Josephus places in the mouth of king Agrippa.


5. Roman Attitudes Toward the Jews and visa versa


5.1 What the Romans Were Not

·        The ancient equivalent of Nazis with Jerusalem and Massada equivalent to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  Far from having an anti-Jewish policy or a desire to exterminate the Jews, Rome had a policy of benevolent recognition of Judaism. Smallwood (p. 539) writes, “Rome… made the sensible and generous choice of a policy of toleration, and pursued it with almost complete consistency during the period of the pagan empire, despite the vicissitudes of her political relations with the Jews both in Palestine and elsewhere”.  What the Romans demanded, was for the Jews to settle down, stop causing trouble and to pay their taxes;

·        Humanitarian or humane.


5.2 Mutual Incomprehension


Although the incomprehension was mutual, it was only the Roman lack of understanding of the Jews that led to trouble since the Romans had the power.  Two examples of Roman lack of understanding of Jewish sensitivities that led to trouble:

·        Bringing their standards, with images of the emperor, into Jerusalem which helped increase the tension leading to the first rebellion; and,

·        Hadrian starting to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city putting a pagan temple on the site of the Jewish temple.  This may have sparked off the second, Bar Kokhba, rebellion.



5.3 Roman Policy toward the Jews


·        The pagan Roman Empire generally had a policy of tolerance towards the Jews and their religion (See Smallwood p 359).  However, it did turn hostile at the times of, and just after, the two Jewish rebellions against Rome.

·        The Christian Roman Empire, from the mid-fourth century, was hostile and persecuting toward the Jews.


5.4 Palestinian Jewish Attitudes toward the Roman Empire


Avi-Yonah (p. 64) wrote –


“From the earliest days of their subjection to the Roman government the Jews of Palestine evolved four different attitudes towards foreign rule: one positive, one moderate, one neutral and one hostile.  Those who approved Roman Rule outright were always a small minority among the Jews.”


In closing, I would like to quote 2 passages from Pirke Avot -

“Be careful of the (Roman) authorities.  They befriend people only when it suits them abandoning them in times of difficulty.”

Avot 2:3 attributed to Rabban Gamliel (early 3rd century CE) recognized, by Romans, head of Jewish community in Palestine


“Rabbi Hananiah (middle to late 1st century CE) deputy high priest said “pray for the welfare of the (Roman) government, for if people didn’t fear it they would eat each other alive.”

Avot 3:2




Annex 1

What Did Jeremiah Say and What Did Josephus Say?


1. From the Book of Jeremiah


Chapter  27

12: To Zedeki'ah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: "Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.

13: Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the LORD has spoken concerning any nation which will not serve the king of Babylon? 


Chapter  32

3: For Zedeki'ah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, "Why do you prophesy and say, `Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 


Chapter  37

3: King Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "Pray for us to the LORD our God."


Do not deceive yourselves, saying, "The Chaldeans will surely stay away from us," for they will not stay away. …Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin … a sentry … seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "You are deserting to the Chaldeans."

14: And Jeremiah said, "It is false; I am not deserting to the Chaldeans." But Irijah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the princes.

15: And the princes were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison.

16: When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells, and remained there many days,

17: King Zedekiah sent for him, and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house, and said, "Is there any word from the LORD?" Jeremiah said, "There is." Then he said, "You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon."

18: Jeremiah also said to King Zedekiah, "What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison? …


Chapter  38

Then the princes said to the king, "Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm."

5: King Zedeki'ah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you." ……

14: King Zedeki'ah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the LORD. The king said to Jeremiah, "I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me."

15: Jeremiah said to Zedeki'ah, "If I tell you, will you not be sure to put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me."

16: Then King Zedeki'ah swore secretly to Jeremiah, "As the LORD lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life."

17: Then Jeremiah said to Zedeki'ah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.

18: But if you do not surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chalde'ans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand." …



2. From Josephus’ Jewish War (Book V Chapt. 9)


“But then Titus, knowing that the city would be either saved or destroyed for himself, did not only proceed earnestly in the siege, but did not omit to have the Jews exhorted to repentance; so he mixed good counsel with his works for the siege. And being sensible that exhortations are frequently more effectual than arms, he persuaded them to surrender the city, now in a manner already taken, and thereby to save themselves, and sent Josephus to speak to them in their own language; for he imagined they might yield to the persuasion of a countryman of their own.

So Josephus went round about the wall, and tried to find a place that was out of the reach of their darts, and yet within their hearing, and besought them, in many words, to spare themselves, to spare their country and their temple, and not to be more obdurate in these cases than foreigners themselves; for that the Romans, who had no relation to those things, had a reverence for their sacred rites and places, although they belonged to their enemies, and had till now kept their hands off from meddling with them; while such as were brought up under them, and, if they be preserved, will be the only people that will reap the benefit of them, hurry on to have them destroyed. That certainly they have seen their strongest walls demolished, and that the wall still remaining was weaker than those that were already taken. That they must know the Roman power was invincible, and that they had been used to serve them; for, that in case it be allowed a right thing to fight for liberty, that ought to have been done at first; but for them that have once fallen under the power of the Romans, and have now submitted to them for so many long years, to pretend to shake off that yoke afterward, was the work of such as had a mind to die miserably, not of such as were lovers of liberty. Besides, men may well enough grudge at the dishonor of owning ignoble masters over them, but ought not to do so to those who have all things under their command; for what part of the world is there that hath escaped the Romans, unless it be such as are of no use for violent heat, or for violent cold? And evident it is that fortune is on all hands gone over to them; and that God, when he had gone round the nations with this dominion, is now settled in Italy. That, moreover, it is a strong and fixed law, even among brute beasts, as well as among men, to yield to those that are too strong for them; and to stiffer those to have the dominion who are too hard for the rest in war; for which reason it was that their forefathers, who were far superior to them, both in their souls and bodies, and other advantages, did yet submit to the Romans, which they would not have suffered, had they not known that God was with them. As for themselves, what can they depend on in this their opposition, when the greatest part of their city is already taken? and when those that are within it are under greater miseries than if they were taken, although their walls be still standing? For that the Romans are not unacquainted with that famine which is in the city, whereby the people are already consumed, and the fighting men will in a little time be so too; for although the Romans should leave off the siege, and not fall upon the city with their swords in their hands, yet was there an insuperable war that beset them within, and was augmented every hour, unless they were able to wage war with famine, and fight against it, or could alone conquer their natural appetites. He added this further, how right a thing it was to change their conduct before their calamities were become incurable, and to have recourse to such advice as might preserve them, while opportunity was offered them for so doing; for that the Romans would not be mindful of their past actions to their disadvantage, unless they persevered in their insolent behavior to the end; because they were naturally mild in their conquests, and preferred what was profitable, before what their passions dictated to them; which profit of theirs lay not in leaving the city empty of inhabitants, nor the country a desert; on which account Caesar did now offer them his right hand for their security. Whereas, if he took the city by force, he would not save any of them, and this especially, if they rejected his offers in these their utmost distresses; for the walls that were already taken could not but assure them that the third wall would quickly be taken also. And though their fortifications should prove too strong for the Romans to break through them, yet would the famine fight for the Romans against them.”


Annex 2

Agrippa’s Speech at Jerusalem at War’s Commencement

War Book 2 chapter 16



"Had I perceived that you were all zealously disposed to go to war with the Romans, and that the purer and more sincere part of the people did not propose to live in peace, I had not come out to you, nor been so bold as to give you counsel; for all discourses that tend to persuade men to do what they ought to do are superfluous, when the hearers are agreed to do the contrary. But because some are earnest to go to war because they are young, and without experience of the miseries it brings, and because some are for it out of an unreasonable expectation of regaining their liberty, and because others hope to get by it, and are therefore earnestly bent upon it, that in the confusion of your affairs they may gain what belongs to those that are too weak to resist them, I have thought proper to get you all together, and to say to you what I think to be for your advantage; that so the former may grow wiser, and change their minds, and that the best men may come to no harm by the ill conduct of some others. And let not any one be tumultuous against me, in case what they hear me say do not please them; for as to those that admit of no cure, but are resolved upon a revolt, it will still be in their power to retain the same sentiments after my exhortation is over; but still my discourse will fall to the ground, even with a relation to those that have a mind to hear me, unless you will all keep silence. I am well aware that many make a tragical exclamation concerning the injuries that have been offered you by your procurators, and concerning the glorious advantages of liberty; but before I begin the inquiry, who you are that must go to war, and who they are against whom you must fight, I shall first separate those pretenses that are by some connected together; for if you aim at avenging yourselves on those that have done you injury, why do you pretend this to be a war for recovering your liberty? but if you think all servitude intolerable, to what purpose serve your complaint against your particular governors? for if they treated you with moderation, it would still be equally an unworthy thing to be in servitude. Consider now the several cases that may be supposed, how little occasion there is for your going to war. Your first occasion is the accusations you have to make against your procurators; now here you ought to be submissive to those in authority, and not give them any provocation; but when you reproach men greatly for small offenses, you excite those whom you reproach to be your adversaries; for this will only make them leave off hurting you privately, and with some degree of modesty, and to lay what you have waste openly. Now nothing so much damps the force of strokes as bearing them with patience; and the quietness of those who are injured diverts the injurious persons from afflicting. But let us take it for granted that the Roman ministers are injurious to you, and are incurably severe; yet are they not all the Romans who thus injure you; nor hath Caesar, against whom you are going to make war, injured you: it is not by their command that any wicked governor is sent to you; for they who are in the west cannot see those that are in the east; nor indeed is it easy for them there even to hear what is done in these parts. Now it is absurd to make war with a great many for the sake of one, to do so with such mighty people for a small cause; and this when these people are not able to know of what you complain: nay, such crimes as we complain of may soon be corrected, for the same procurator will not continue for ever; and probable it is that the successors will come with more moderate inclinations. But as for war, if it be once begun, it is not easily laid down again, nor borne without calamities coming therewith. However, as to the desire of recovering your liberty, it is unseasonable to indulge it so late; whereas you ought to have labored earnestly in old time that you might never have lost it; for the first experience of slavery was hard to be endured, and the struggle that you might never have been subject to it would have been just; but that slave who hath been once brought into subjection, and then runs away, is rather a refractory slave than a lover of liberty; for it was then the proper time for doing all that was possible, that you might never have admitted the Romans [into your city], when Pompey came first into the country. But so it was, that our ancestors and their kings, who were in much better circumstances than we are, both as to money, and strong bodies, and [valiant] souls, did not bear the onset of a small body of the Roman army. And yet you, who have now accustomed yourselves to obedience from one generation to another, and who are so much inferior to those who first submitted, in your circumstances will venture to oppose the entire empire of the Romans.


“While those Athenians, who, in order to preserve the liberty of Greece, did once set fire to their own city; who pursued Xerxes, that proud prince, when he sailed upon the land, and walked upon the sea, and could not be contained by the seas, but conducted such an army as was too broad for Europe; and made him run away like a fugitive in a single ship, and brake so great a part of Asia at the Lesser Salamis; are yet at this time servants to the Romans; and those injunctions which are sent from Italy become laws to the principal governing city of Greece.


“Those Lacedemonians also who got the great victories at Thermopylae. and Platea, and had Agesilaus [for their king], and searched every corner of Asia, are contented to admit the same lords.


“Those Macedonians also, who still fancy what great men their Philip and Alexander were, and see that the latter had promised them the empire over the world, these bear so great a change, and pay their obedience to those whom fortune hath advanced in their stead. Moreover, ten thousand ether nations there are who had greater reason than we to claim their entire liberty, and yet do submit.


“You are the only people who think it a disgrace to be servants to those to whom all the world hath submitted. What sort of an army do you rely on? What are the arms you depend on? Where is your fleet, that may seize upon the Roman seas? and where are those treasures which may be sufficient for your undertakings? Do you suppose, I pray you, that you are to make war with the Egyptians, and with the Arabians?


“Will you not carefully reflect upon the Roman empire? Will you not estimate your own weakness? Hath not your army been often beaten even by your neighboring nations, while the power of the Romans is invincible in all parts of the habitable earth? nay, rather they seek for somewhat still beyond that; for all Euphrates is not a sufficient boundary for them on the east side, nor the Danube on the north; and for their southern limit, Libya hath been searched over by them, as far as countries uninhabited, as is Cadiz their limit on the west; nay, indeed, they have sought for another habitable earth beyond the ocean, and have carried their arms as far as such British islands as were never known before. What therefore do you pretend to? Are you richer than the Gauls, stronger than the Germans, wiser than the Greeks, more numerous than all men upon the habitable earth? What confidence is it that elevates you to oppose the Romans? Perhaps it will be said, It is hard to endure slavery. Yes; but how much harder is this to the Greeks, who were esteemed the noblest of all people under the sun! These, though they inhabit in a large country, are in subjection to six bundles of Roman rods. It is the same case with the Macedonians, who have juster reason to claim their liberty than you have. What is the case of five hundred cities of Asia? Do they not submit to a single governor, and to the consular bundle of rods? What need I speak of the Henlochi, and Colchi and the nation of Tauri, those that inhabit the Bosphorus, and the nations about Pontus, and Meotis, who formerly knew not so much as a lord of their own, but arc now subject to three thousand armed men, and where forty long ships keep the sea in peace, which before was not navigable, and very tempestuous? How strong a plea may Bithynia, and Cappadocia, and the people of Pamphylia, the Lycians, and Cilicians, put in for liberty! But they are made tributary without an army. What are the circumstances of the Thracians, whose country extends in breadth five days' journey, and in length seven, and is of a much more harsh constitution, and much more defensible, than yours, and by the rigor of its cold sufficient to keep off armies from attacking them? do not they submit to two thousand men of the Roman garrisons? Are not the Illyrlans, who inhabit the country adjoining, as far as Dalmatia and the Danube, governed by barely two legions? by which also they put a stop to the incursions of the Daeians. And for the Dalmatians, who have made such frequent insurrections in order to regain their liberty, and who could never before be so thoroughly subdued, but that they always gathered their forces together again, revolted, yet are they now very quiet under one Roman legion. Moreover, if eat advantages might provoke any people to revolt, the Gauls might do it best of all, as being so thoroughly walled round by nature; on the east side by the Alps, on the north by the river Rhine, on the south by the Pyrenean mountains, and on the west by the ocean. Now although these Gauls have such obstacles before them to prevent any attack upon them, and have no fewer than three hundred and five nations among them, nay have, as one may say, the fountains of domestic happiness within themselves, and send out plentiful streams of happiness over almost the whole world, these bear to be tributary to the Romans, and derive their prosperous condition from them; and they undergo this, not because they are of effeminate minds, or because they are of an ignoble stock, as having borne a war of eighty years in order to preserve their liberty; but by reason of the great regard they have to the power of the Romans, and their good fortune, which is of greater efficacy than their arms. These Gauls, therefore, are kept in servitude by twelve hundred soldiers, which are hardly so many as are their cities; nor hath the gold dug out of the mines of Spain been sufficient for the support of a war to preserve their liberty, nor could their vast distance from the Romans by land and by sea do it; nor could the martial tribes of the Lusitanians and Spaniards escape; no more could the ocean, with its tide, which yet was terrible to the ancient inhabitants. Nay, the Romans have extended their arms beyond the pillars of Hercules, and have walked among the clouds, upon the Pyrenean mountains, and have subdued these nations. And one legion is a sufficient guard for these people, although they were so hard to be conquered, and at a distance so remote from Rome. Who is there among you that hath not heard of the great number of the Germans? You have, to be sure, yourselves seen them to be strong and tall, and that frequently, since the Romans have them among their captives every where; yet these Germans, who dwell in an immense country, who have minds greater than their bodies, and a soul that despises death, and who are in rage more fierce than wild beasts, have the Rhine for the boundary of their enterprises, and are tamed by eight Roman legions. Such of them as were taken captive became their servants; and the rest of the entire nation were obliged to save themselves by flight. Do you also, who depend on the walls of Jerusalem, consider what a wall the Britons had; for the Romans sailed away to them, an subdued them while they were encompassed by the ocean, and inhabited an island that is not less than the [continent of this] habitable earth; and four legions are a sufficient guard to so large all island And why should I speak much more about this matter, while the Parthians, that most warlike body of men, and lords of so many nations, and encompassed with such mighty forces, send hostages to the Romans? whereby you may see, if you please, even in Italy, the noblest nation of the East, under the notion of peace, submitting to serve them. Now when almost all people under the sun submit to the Roman arms, will you be the only people that make war against them? and this without regarding the fate of the Carthaginians, who, in the midst of their brags of the great Hannibal, and the nobility of their Phoenician original, fell by the hand of Scipio. Nor indeed have the Cyrenians, derived from the Lacedemonians, nor the Marmaridite, a nation extended as far as the regions uninhabitable for want of water, nor have the Syrtes, a place terrible to such as barely hear it described, the Nasamons and Moors, and the immense multitude of the Numidians, been able to put a stop to the Roman valor. And as for the third part of the habitable earth, [Akica,] whose nations are so many that it is not easy to number them, and which is bounded by the Atlantic Sea and the pillars of Hercules, and feeds an innumerable multitude of Ethiopians, as far as the Red Sea, these have the Romans subdued entirely. And besides the annual fruits of the earth, which maintain the multitude of the Romans for eight months in the year, this, over and above, pays all sorts of tribute, and affords revenues suitable to the necessities of the government. Nor do they, like you, esteem such injunctions a disgrace to them, although they have but one Roman legion that abides among them. And indeed what occasion is there for showing you the power of the Romans over remote countries, when it is so easy to learn it from Egypt, in your neighborhood? This country is extended as far as the Ethiopians, and Arabia the Happy, and borders upon India; it hath seven millions five hundred thousand men, besides the inhabitants of Alexandria, as may be learned from the revenue of the poll tax; yet it is not ashamed to submit to the Roman government, although it hath Alexandria as a grand temptation to a revolt, by reason it is so full of people and of riches, and is besides exceeding large, its length being thirty furlongs, and its breadth no less than ten; and it pays more tribute to the Romans in one month than you do in a year; nay, besides what it pays in money, it sends corn to Rome that supports it for four months [in the year]: it is also walled round on all sides, either by almost impassable deserts, or seas that have no havens, or by rivers, or by lakes; yet have none of these things been found too strong for the Roman good fortune; however, two legions that lie in that city are a bridle both for the remoter parts of Egypt, and for the parts inhabited by the more noble Macedonians. Where then are those people whom you are to have for your auxiliaries? Must they come from the parts of the world that are uninhabited? for all that are in the habitable earth are [under the] Romans. Unless any of you extend his hopes as far as beyond the Euphrates, and suppose that those of your own nation that dwell in Adiabene will come to your assistance; but certainly these will not embarrass themselves with an unjustifiable war, nor, if they should follow such ill advice, will the Parthians permit them so to do; for it is their concern to maintain the truce that is between them and the Romans, and they will be supposed to break the covenants between them, if any under their government march against the Romans. What remains, therefore, is this, that you have recourse to Divine assistance; but this is already on the side of the Romans; for it is impossible that so vast an empire should be settled without God's providence. Reflect upon it, how impossible it is for your zealous observations of your religious customs to be here preserved, which are hard to be observed even when you fight with those whom you are able to conquer; and how can you then most of all hope for God's assistance, when, by being forced to transgress his law, you will make him turn his face from you? and if you do observe the custom of the sabbath days, and will not be revealed on to do any thing thereon, you will easily be taken, as were your forefathers by Pompey, who was the busiest in his siege on those days on which the besieged rested. But if in time of war you transgress the law of your country, I cannot tell on whose account you will afterward go to war; for your concern is but one, that you do nothing against any of your forefathers; and how will you call upon God to assist you, when you are voluntarily transgressing against his religion? Now all men that go to war do it either as depending on Divine or on human assistance; but since your going to war will cut off both those assistances, those that are for going to war choose evident destruction. What hinders you from slaying your children and wives with your own hands, and burning this most excellent native city of yours? for by this mad prank you will, however, escape the reproach of being beaten. But it were best, O my friends, it were best, while the vessel is still in the haven, to foresee the impending storm, and not to set sail out of the port into the middle of the hurricanes; for we justly pity those who fall into great misfortunes without fore-seeing them; but for him who rushes into manifest ruin, he gains reproaches [instead of commiseration]. But certainly no one can imagine that you can enter into a war as by agreement, or that when the Romans have got you under their power, they will use you with moderation, or will not rather, for an example to other nations, burn your holy city, and utterly destroy your whole nation; for those of you who shall survive the war will not be able to find a place whither to flee, since all men have the Romans for their lords already, or are afraid they shall have hereafter. Nay, indeed, the danger concerns not those Jews that dwell here only, but those of them which dwell in other cities also; for there is no people upon the habitable earth which have not some portion of you among them, whom your enemies will slay, in case you go to war, and on that account also; and so every city which hath Jews in it will be filled with slaughter for the sake of a few men, and they who slay them will be pardoned; but if that slaughter be not made by them, consider how wicked a thing it is to take arms against those that are so kind to you. Have pity, therefore, if not on your children and wives, yet upon this your metropolis, and its sacred walls; spare the temple, and preserve the holy house, with its holy furniture, for yourselves; for if the Romans get you under their power, they will no longer abstain from them, when their former abstinence shall have been so ungratefully requited. I call to witness your sanctuary, and the holy angels of God, and this country common to us all, that I have not kept back any thing that is for your preservation; and if you will follow that advice which you ought to do, you will have that peace which will be

common to you and to me; but if you indulge four passions, you will run those hazards which I shall be free from."


Table 1 - Literary Works[11]


Work and Time Span Covered

Overlap with Other works and Value

Josephus’ Situation


Aim/Target Audience

Literary Quality

Jewish War Aramaic first ed. before 75 CE (this work is lost)



Imperial client

To warning the Jews in Babylonia and elsewhere not to take action against Rome


Jewish War Greek edition

75-79 CE

End of Antiquities overlaps beginning of War for 175 BCE-67 CE

- our only real record of War against Rome

- understanding nature of religious and social forces at work in Judea

- With Caesar’s memoirs our major source on how legions actually fought

Imperial client

1. To glorify Romans especially Flavians

2. To glorify the Jews showing that they were worthy foes of Romans

3. To show that War was caused by a combination of Roman misgovernment and greed and the influence of lower class hooligans and misguided religious fanatics

4. To show that Rome’s victory was willed by the God of Israel and that Jews should submit to God’s will which includes serving the Romans (echoes of Jeremiah)



very good

Antiquities 94 CE

1. First half retell Bible history in way to appeal to educated Greeks and Greek-reading Romans.  Main importance is as help to understand Greek literary culture of day and a few early midrashim.

2. For period, approx 400 BCE-67CE it is virtually only useful written source we have except for 1 and 2 Macabees which cover 187-134 BCE.

Independent wealthy Roman citizen

To demonstrate antiquity and excellence of God, Jews and Judaism



93-100 CE

Overlaps 6 months covered in War



Against Apion 93/4 CE

No overlap.  Early Jewish apologetic.




Table 2 - Legions


Normal Judaea garrison no legions and small units of auxiliaries.  Small garrison in Jerusalem and main garrison in Caesarea the seat of the (equestrian) procurator mainly responsible for law an order under supervision of (consulor) governor of Syria.  Procurator, with additional troops, in Antonia during the three pilgrim festivals.


Troops required for internal order, for population of 50 - 60 million spread over about 35 modern countries including many mountainous areas and tribal areas where unrest was chronic and, of course, for war.


The Augustan distribution of legions was.




Legionary Troops (approx)

Auxiliary Troops (approx)

Total troops





















Syria (Parthian frontier)
















Select Bibliography


Josephus Resources on the Web


·        Project on Ancient Cultural Enlightenment PACE http://PACE.cns.yorku.ca


·        Whiston translation of Josephus works http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/search?amode=start&author=Josephus%2C%20Flavius


Search in the following (usually available in university libraries) for “Josephus”

Index To Theses (http://www.theses.com/ ) - A comprehensive listing of theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland since 1716. There are just under half a million theses in this collection.

ProQuest Digital Dissertations – key online searchable source.


Alon, Gedalia, Jews, Judaism and the classical world : studies in Jewish history in the times of the second temple and Talmud,  translated from the Hebrew by Israel Abrahams, Jerusalem : Magnes Press, 1977.

Avi-Yonah, M., The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest, Blackwell 1976

Bartlett, John R, Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman cities, Routledge, 2002.

Bartlett, John R, Jews in the Hellenistic World : Josephus, Aristeas, the Sibylline oracles, Eupolemus

Bilde, Per, Flavius Josephus, between Jerusalem and Rome : his life, his works and their importance, Sheffield : JSOT Press, 1988.

Bohrmann, Monette, Janet Lloyd (Translator) Yavne: Towards a Rereading of the War of the Jews, Paperback - December 1994

Broshi, Magen, http:/www.centuryone.com/josephus.html

Buchler, Adolph, The Economic Condition of Judaea After the Destruction of the Second Temple 1912 reprinted in Understanding the Talmud ed A. Corre, Ktav 1975

Cohen, Shaye J. D, Josephus in Galilee and Rome : his vita and development as a historian, Leiden : E.J. Brill, c1979

Cornfeld, G (ed.), Josephus: the Jewish War, Zondervan 1982

Farmer, William Reuben, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus : an inquiry into Jewish nationalism in the Greco-Roman period, Columbia University press, 1956.

Feldman, Louis H. and Hata, Gohei (eds.) Josephus, the Bible, and history, Wayne State University Press, 1989.

Feldman, Louis H, Jew and Gentile in the ancient world: attitudes and interactions from Alexander to Justinian, Princeton University Press, c1993.

Feldman, Louis H., "Josephus' Attitude toward the Samaritans: A Study in Ambivalence" in   Volume 3: Jewish Sects, Religious Movements,and Political Parties in Proceedings of the Third Annual Symposium of the Philip M. & Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization  October 14-15, 1990. © 1992. ISBN 1-881871-04-5

Feldman, Louis H., Josephus's interpretation of the Bible, University of California Press, c1998

Feldman, Louis H. and Hata, Gohei (eds.), Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, Wayne State University Press, 1987.

Feldman, Louis H., Josephus and modern scholarship, 1937-1980, W. de Gruyter, 1984.

Glatzer, Nahum N. (Editor), Jerusalem and Rome: the Writings of Josephus

Goodman, Martin  (ed.), Jews in a Graeco-Roman world, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1998

Goodman, M, The Ruling Class of Judaea: the Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD 66-70, Cambridge University Press 1987

Hengel, Martin, Jews, Greeks and barbarians : aspects of the Hellenization of Judaism in the pre-Christian period,  [translated by John Bowden from the German], SCM Press

Horsley, Richard A., Galilee : history, politics, people, Valley Forge, Penn. : Trinity Press Int'l, 1995.

Josephus, Flavius, Uniform title Antiquitates Judaicae. English and Greek , Jewish Antiquities, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press., 1998-1999

Josephus, Flavius, Uniform title De bello Judaico. English and Greek, The Jewish War , Harvard University Press., 1998-1999

Levine, Lee I., Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

Mader, Gottfried, Josephus and the Politics of Historiography: Apologetic and Impression Management in the Bellum Judaicum (Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. Supplementum, No 205) 2000

Mason, Steve, Understanding Josephus :seven perspectives, Sheffield Academic Press, c1998.

McLaren, James S, Turbulent times? : Josephus and scholarship on Judaea in the first century CE, Sheffield Academic Press, c1998.

Oppenheimer, Aharon, The `am ha-aretz : a study in the social history of the Jewish people in the Hellenistic-Roman period, Leiden : E. J. Brill, 1977.

Paltiel, Eliezer, Vassals and rebels in the Roman Empire : Julio-Claudian policies in Judaea and the kingdoms of the East Latomus, 1991.

Parente, F and Sievers, J (Editors), Josephus and History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith (Studia Post Biblica, 41)

Price, Jonathan J., Jerusalem under siege : the collapse of the Jewish state, 66-70 C.E, Brill, 1992.

Rajak, Tessa, The Jewish dialogue with Greece and Rome : studies in cultural and social interaction, Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2001.

Rajak, Tessa, Josephus : the historian and his society, Duckworth, 1983

Rhoads, David M, Israel in revolution, 6-74 C.E. : a political history based on the writings of Josephus, Philadelphia  Fortress Press, c1976.

Schalit, A, article Josephus in Encyclopedia Judaica (Keter 1972) vol 10 cols. 251-263

Schürer, Emil, 1844-1910 , The History of the Jewish people in the age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), literary editor:Pamela Vermes ; organizing editor:Matthew Black, Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1973-1987.

Schwartz, Seth, Josephus and Judaean politics, Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1990.

Smallwood, E M, The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian, Leiden Brill 1976

Talmon,  Shemaryahu (ed.) Jewish civilization in the Hellenistic-Roman period, Philadelphia : Trinity Press International, c1991

Whaley, Ernest Boyd, "Josephus' Antiquities 11.297-347: Unraveling the Evidence Regarding the Founding of the Gerizim Temple and the Background of the Samaritan Religious Community" in   Volume 3: Jewish Sects, Religious Movements and Political Parties in Proceedings of the Third Annual Symposium of the Philip M. & Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization  October 14-15, 1990. © 1992. ISBN 1-881871-04-5

Whaley, Ernest Boyd, Samaria and the Samaritans in Josephus's 'Antiquities' 1-11, PhD thesis EMORY UNIVERSITY, 1989, 539 pages AAT 8924720

Villalba I Varneda, Pere, The Historical Method of Flavius Josephus, 1997

Williamson, G. A, The world of Josephus, Secker & Warburg [1964]

Wylen, Stephen M, The Jews in the time of Jesus : an introduction,  Paulist Press, c1996.


[1] In Jews and Arabs: Their Contact Through the Ages by S D Goitein, Schoken 1955, 1964 p. 35 appears “Islam has been characterized as a Judaism with universalistic tendencies.”


[2] Cf. Qumran peshers.

[3] An interesting example is converting Abraham into a Hellenistic  scientist “He communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt, and from thence to the Greeks also” Antiquities Book 1 chapt. 8


[4] “(Herodotus) … swallows many superstitions, records many miracles, quotes oracles piously, and darkens his pages with omens and auguries; he gives the dates of Semele, Dionysus, and Heracles; and presents all history, like a Greek Bossuet, as the drama of a Divine Providence rewarding the virtues and punishing the sins, crimes, and insolent prosperity of men. But he has his rationalistic moments....

Nevertheless the difference between the mind of Herodotus and that of Thucydides is almost the difference between adolescence and maturity.

Thucydides is one of the phenomena of the Greek Enlightenment, a descendant of the Sophists …. He received all the education available in Athens, and grew up in the odor of skepticism. When the Peloponnesian War broke out he kept a record of it from day to day. In 430 he suffered from the plague. In 424, aged thirty-six (or forty), he was chosen one of two generals to command a naval expedition to Thrace.

Because he failed to lead his forces to Amphipolis in time to relieve it from siege, he was exiled by the Athenians. He spent the next twenty years of his life in travel, especially in the Peloponnesus; to this direct acquaintance with the enemy we owe something of the impressive impartiality the Peloponnesians and the Athenians from the moment that it broke out, believing that it would be an important war, and more

worthy of relation than any that had preceded it…. Herodotus wrote partly with an eye to entertain the educated reader; Thucydides writes to furnish information for future historians, and the guidanceof precedent for future statesmanship.... Herodotus ranged from place

to place and from age to age; Thucydides forces his story into a rigid chronological frame of seasons and years, sacrificing the continuity of his narrative. Herodotus wrote in terms of personalities rather than processes, feeling that processes operate through personalities; Thucydides, though he recognizes the role of exceptional individuals in history … leans rather to impersonal recording and the consideration of causes, developments, and results. Herodotus wrote of far-off events reported to him in most cases at second or third hand; Thucydides speaks often as an eyewitness, or as one who has spoken with eyewitnesses, or has seen the original documents; in several instances he gives the documents concerned. He has a keen conscience for accuracy; even his geography has been verified in detail. He seldom passes moralistic judgments upon men or events … he keeps himself aloof from his story, gives the facts with fairness to both sides, and recounts the story of

Thucydides' brief military career as if he had never known, much less been, the man. He is the father of scientific method in history, and is proud of the care and industry with which he has worked. "On the whole," he says, with a glance at Herodotus, the conclusions I have drawn from the proofs quoted may, I believe, be safely relied on. Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft, or by

the compositions of the chroniclers that are attractive at truth's expense-the subjects they treat being out of the reach of evidence, and time having robbed most of them of historical value by enthroning them in the region of legend. Turning from these, we can rest satisfied with having proceeded upon the clearest data, and having arrived at conclusions as exact as can be expected in matters of such antiquity. . . . The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future-which, in the course of human affairs, must resemble, if it does not reflect, the past-I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work not as an

essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.'"

Nevertheless, he yields accuracy to interest in one particular: he has a passion for putting elegant speeches into the mouths of his characters. He frankly admits that these orations are mostly imaginary, but they help him to explain and vivify personalities, ideas, and events. He claims that each speech represents the substance of an address actually given at the time; if this is true, all Greek statesmen and generals must have studied rhetoric with Gorgias, philosophy with the Sophists, and ethics with Thrasymachus. The speeches have all the same style, the same subtlety, the same realism of view; they make the laconic Laconian as windy as any Sophist bred Athenian. They put the most undiplomatic arguments into the mouths of diplomats, and the most compromising honesty into the words of generals. The "Funeral Oration" of Pericles is an excellent essay on the virtues of Athens, and comes with fine grace from the pen of an exile; but Pericles was famous for simplicity of speech rather than for rhetoric; and Plutarch spoils the romance by saying that Pericles left nothing written, and that of his sayings hardly anything was preserved,'"

Thucydides has defects corresponding to his virtues… there is no humor in his book…. he has an eye only for political and military events. He fills his pages with martial details, but makes no mention of any artist, or any work of art. He seeks causes sedulously, but seldom sinks beneath political to economic factors in the determination of events. Though writing for future generations, he tells us nothing of the constitutions of the Greek states, nothing of the life of the cities, nothing of the institutions of society. He is as exclusive towards women as towards the gods; he will not have them in his story; and he makes the gallant Pericles, who risked his career for a courtesan advocate

of feminine freedom, say that "a woman's best fame is to be as seldom as possiblementioned by men, either for censure or for praise.""… Here at least is an historical method, a reverence for truth, an acuteness of observation, an impartiality of judgment, a passing splendor of language and fascination of style, a mind both sharp and profound, whose ruthless realism is a tonic to our naturally romantic souls. Here are no legends, no myths, and no miracles. He accepts the heroic tales, but tries to explain them in naturalistic terms. As for the gods, he is devastatingly silent; they have no place in his history. He is sarcastic about oracles and their safe ambiguity, and scornfully exposes the stupidity of Nicias in relying upon oracles rather than knowledge. He recognizes no guiding Providence, no divine plan, not even "progress"; he sees life and history as a tragedy at once sordid and noble, redeemed now and then by great men, but always relapsing into superstition and war. In him the conflict between religion and philosophy is decided; and philosophy wins.” THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION: PART II NT THE LIFE OF GREECE: Being a history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, and of civilization in the Near East from the death of Alexander, to the Roman conquest By Will Durant, SIMON AND SCHUSTER, NEW YORK, Pp. 433-435

[5] The Roman Empire taxed the people under its control, and the taxes fell most heavily on conquered peoples in the empire. Roman citizens did not have to pay the individual or head tax required of each subject of the empire, and the empire exempted Italian land from tribute. However Roman citizens did have to pay the 5 percent inheritance tax, a 1 percent sales tax, a customs or import duty, and a tax on freed slaves. Local magistrates, imperial officials, and professional tax collectors were all employed to gather taxes, and the imperial census became an important tool to identify potential taxpayers.


[6] Late Roman writers complained about being overrun by a hoard of about 40,000 officials for the whole empire.  Cf Rome 40,000 ps in late empire overrun cf Ratio of Total Population to Public Administration Employees in Canada (1999)


[7] The patron-client system was a unique feature of Roman society in which citizens formed relationships that acted as an important link in the political and social systems. Patrons, usually patrician, would take ‘clients’, young patricians or plebeians, under their influence and provide them with advice, money, business opportunities, or representation in court. In turn, clients would help to enhance their patron’s status by providing certain services, such as working on his patron’s political campaigns, appearing with his patron in public as part of a group of faithful retainers, or using their specialized skills or training to enhance their patron’s status. Clients ranged from freedmen and businessmen to artists and writers. It was a common practice in Republican Rome for a patron-politician to either ally himself with prominent writers or patronize them publicly. For the writer, this alliance provided financial support and a market for his work; for the politician it would promote his own personal celebrity. The writer and the public figure would form, in the form of a patron- client relationship, an alliance or a relationship of convenience in which both had much to gain. (Shelton, 1998)


[8] Parthia (Iran) was Rome's only powerful organized enemy in the first century CE.


[9] The costs of land transport at that time were 55 times that of sea shipping and 6 times the cost of shipping by river.  That is why the biggest Roman cities were near the sea.


[10] I am defining Political Legitimacy as “the perception of the citizenry that the nation’s political institutions and leaders are generally acting in accordance with their interests and needs and that they have a right to lead and should be supported.”


[11] Good brief descriptions of Josephus’ works are given in Schalit and in Bartlett (pp. 76-92)