The War of the Jews



By Flavius Josephus


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Josephus: The War of the Jews

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7











1. 1 WHEREAS the war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been
the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a
manner, of those that ever were heard of; both of those wherein cities have
fought against cities, or nations against nations; while some men who were
not concerned in the affairs themselves have gotten together vain and
contradictory stories by hearsay, and have written them down after a
sophistical manner; and while those that were there present have given
false accounts of things, and this either out of a humor of flattery to the
Romans, or of hatred towards the Jews; and while their writings contain
sometimes accusations, and sometimes encomiums, but no where the
accurate truth of the facts; I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such
as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into
the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our
country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians; 2 Joseph, the son of Matthias,
by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the
Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done
afterwards, [am the author of this work].
2. Now at the time when this great concussion of affairs happened, the
affairs of the Romans were themselves in great disorder. Those Jews also
who were for innovations, then arose when the times were disturbed; they
were also in a flourishing condition for strength and riches, insomuch that
the affairs of the East were then exceeding tumultuous, while some hoped
for gain, and others were afraid of loss in such troubles; for the Jews
hoped that all of their nation which were beyond Euphrates would have
raised an insurrection together with them. The Gauls also, in the
neighborhood of the Romans, were in motion, and the Geltin were not
quiet; but all was in disorder after the death of Nero. And the opportunity
now offered induced many to aim at the royal power; and the soldiery
affected change, out of the hopes of getting money. I thought it therefore
an absurd thing to see the truth falsified in affairs of such great
consequence, and to take no notice of it; but to suffer those Greeks and
Romans that were not in the wars to be ignorant of these things, and to
read either flatteries or fictions, while the Parthians, and the Babylonians,
and the remotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond Euphrates,
with the Adiabeni, by my means, knew accurately both whence the war
begun, what miseries it brought upon us, and after what manner it ended.
3. It is true, these writers have the confidence to call their accounts
histories; wherein yet they seem to me to fail of their own purpose, as
well as to relate nothing that is sound. For they have a mind to
demonstrate the greatness of the Romans, while they still diminish and
lessen the actions of the Jews, as not discerning how it cannot be that
those must appear to be great who have only conquered those that were
little. Nor are they ashamed to overlook the length of the war, the
multitude of the Roman forces who so greatly suffered in it, or the might
of the commanders, whose great labors about Jerusalem will be deemed
inglorious, if what they achieved be reckoned but a small matter.
4. However, I will not go to the other extreme, out of opposition to those
men who extol the Romans nor will I determine to raise the actions of my
countrymen too high; but I will prosecute the actions of both parties with
accuracy. Yet shall I suit my language to the passions I am under, as to the
affairs I describe, and must be allowed to indulge some lamentations upon
the miseries undergone by my own country. For that it was a seditious
temper of our own that destroyed it, and that they were the tyrants among
the Jews who brought the Roman power upon us, who unwillingly
attacked us, and occasioned the burning of our holy temple, Titus Caesar,
who destroyed it, is himself a witness, who, daring the entire war, pitied
the people who were kept under by the seditious, and did often
voluntarily delay the taking of the city, and allowed time to the siege, in
order to let the authors have opportunity for repentance. But if any one
makes an unjust accusation against us, when we speak so passionately
about the tyrants, or the robbers, or sorely bewail the misfortunes of our
country, let him indulge my affections herein, though it be contrary to the
rules for writing history; because it had so come to pass, that our city
Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than any other city
under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into the sorest of
calamities again. Accordingly, it appears to me that the misfortunes of all
men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the
Jews 3 are not so considerable as they were; while the authors of them
were not foreigners neither. This makes it impossible for me to contain my
lamentations. But if any one be inflexible in his censures of me, let him
attribute the facts themselves to the historical part, and the lamentations
to the writer himself only.
5. However, I may justly blame the learned men among the Greeks, who,
when such great actions have been done in their own times, which, upon
the comparison, quite eclipse the old wars, do yet sit as judges of those
affairs, and pass bitter censures upon the labors of the best writers of
antiquity; which moderns, although they may be superior to the old
writers in eloquence, yet are they inferior to them in the execution of what
they intended to do. While these also write new histories about the
Assyrians and Medes, as if the ancient writers had not described their
affairs as they ought to have done; although these be as far inferior to them
in abilities as they are different in their notions from them. For of old
every one took upon them to write what happened in his own time; where
their immediate concern in the actions made their promises of value; and
where it must be reproachful to write lies, when they must be known by
the readers to be such. But then, an undertaking to preserve the memory
Of what hath not been before recorded, and to represent the affairs of
oneís own time to those that come afterwards, is really worthy of praise
and commendation. Now he is to be esteemed to have taken good pains in
earnest, not who does no more than change the disposition and order of
other menís works, but he who not only relates what had not been related
before, but composes an entire body of history of his own: accordingly, I
have been at great charges, and have taken very great pains [about this
history], though I be a foreigner; and do dedicate this work, as a memorial
of great actions, both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians. But for some of
our own principal men, their mouths are wide open, and their tongues
loosed presently, for gain and law-suits, but quite muzzled up when they
are to write history, where they must speak truth and gather facts together
with a great deal of pains; and so they leave the writing such histories to
weaker people, and to such as are not acquainted with the actions of
princes. Yet shall the real truth of historical facts be preferred by us, how
much soever it be neglected among the Greek historians.
6. To write concerning the Antiquities of the Jews, who they were
[originally], and how they revolted from the Egyptians, and what country
they traveled over, and what countries they seized upon afterward, and
how they were removed out of them, I think this not to be a fit
opportunity, and, on other accounts, also superfluous; and this because
many Jews before me have composed the histories of our ancestors very
exactly; as have some of the Greeks done it also, and have translated our
histories into their own tongue, and have not much mistaken the truth in
their histories. But then, where the writers of these affairs and our
prophets leave off, thence shall I take my rise, and begin my history. Now
as to what concerns that war which happened in my own time, I will go
over it very largely, and with all the diligence I am able; but for what
preceded mine own age, that I shall run over briefly.
7. [For example, I shall relate] how Antiochus, who was named
Epiphanes, took Jerusalem by force, and held it three years and three
months, and was then ejected out of the country by the sons of
Asamoneus: after that, how their posterity quarreled about the
government, and brought upon their settlement the Romans and Pompey;
how Herod also, the son of Antipater, dissolved their government, and
brought Sosins upon them; as also how our people made a sedition upon
Herodís death, while Augustus was the Roman emperor, and Quintilius
Varus was in that country; and how the war broke out in the twelfth year
of Nero, with what happened to Cestius; and what places the Jews
assaulted in a hostile manner in the first sallies of the war.
8. As also [I shall relate] how they built walls about the neighboring cities;
and how Nero, upon Cestiusís defeat, was in fear of the entire event of the
war, and thereupon made Vespasian general in this war; and how this
Vespasian, with the elder of his sons 4 made an expedition into the country
of Judea; what was the number of the Roman army that he made use of;
and how many of his auxiliaries were cut off in all Galilee; and how he
took some of its cities entirely, and by force, and others of them by treaty,
and on terms. Now, when I am come so far, I shall describe the good order
of the Romans in war, and the discipline of their legions; the amplitude of
both the Galilees, with its nature, and the limits of Judea. And, besides
this, I shall particularly go over what is peculiar to the country, the lakes
and fountains that are in them, and what miseries happened to every city
as they were taken; and all this with accuracy, as I saw the things done, or
suffered in them. For I shall not conceal any of the calamities I myself
endured, since I shall relate them to such as know the truth of them.
9. After this, [I shall relate] how, When the Jewsí affairs were become
very bad, Nero died, and Vespasian, when he was going to attack
Jerusalem, was called back to take the government upon him; what signs
happened to him relating to his gaining that government, and what
mutations of government then happened at Rome, and how he was
unwillingly made emperor by his soldiers; and how, upon his departure to
Egypt, to take upon him the government of the empire, the affairs of the
Jews became very tumultuous; as also how the tyrants rose up against
them, and fell into dissensions among themselves.
10. Moreover, [I shall relate] how Titus marched out of Egypt into Judea
the second time; as also how, and where, and how many forces he got
together; and in what state the city was, by the means of the seditious, at
his coming; what attacks he made, and how many ramparts he cast up; of
the three walls that encompassed the city, and of their measures; of the
strength of the city, and the structure of the temple and holy house; and
besides, the measures of those edifices, and of the altar, and all accurately
determined. A description also of certain of their festivals, and seven
purifications of purity, 5 and the sacred ministrations of the priests, with
the garments of the priests, and of the high priests; and of the nature of the
most holy place of the temple; without concealing any thing, or adding any
thing to the known truth of things.
11. After this, I shall relate the barbarity of the tyrants towards the people
of their own nation, as well as the indulgence of the Romans in sparing
foreigners; and how often Titus, out of his desire to preserve the city and
the temple, invited the seditious to come to terms of accommodation. I
shall also distinguish the sufferings of the people, and their calamities; how
far they were afflicted by the sedition, and how far by the famine, and at
length were taken. Nor shall I omit to mention the misfortunes of the
deserters, nor the punishments inflicted on the captives; as also how the
temple was burnt, against the consent of Caesar; and how many sacred
things that had been laid up in the temple were snatched out of the fire; the
destruction also of the entire city, with the signs and wonders that went
before it; and the taking the tyrants captives, and the multitude of those
that were made slaves, and into what different misfortunes they were
every one distributed. Moreover, what the Romans did to the remains of
the wall; and how they demolished the strong holds that were in the
country; and how Titus went over the whole country, and settled its
affairs; together with his return into Italy, and his triumph.
12. I have comprehended all these things in seven books, and have left no
occasion for complaint or accusation to such as have been acquainted with
this war; and I have written it down for the sake of those that love truth,
but not for those that please themselves [with fictitious relations]. And I
will begin my account of these things with what I call my First Chapter.