The Jewish Traitor
Who Became Their Greatest Historian
We do not mention the name of Flavius Josephus in our Iowa Monitor. In many jurisdictions the statement is made that "according to the great historian Josephus, although more than seven years were occupied in building, (referring to King Solomon's Temple) it rained not in the day time that the workmen might not be hindered in their labors." In the third edition of Webb's monitor, the statement is made that "From Josephus we learn that although seven years were occupied in building it, yet during the whole term it rained not in the daytime that the workmen might not be obstructed in their labor." In our Iowa Monitor we learn that "from profane history we learn that although more than seven years were occupied in building, it rained not in the daytime that the workmen might be hindered in their labors."
We have a number of other references to the work of Josephus, but in no place do we mention him by name. Many other jurisdictions, though, give him proper credit as the great historian of the Jews. Our first statement, and the one which gives the most mention to Josephus is an erroneous one. The statement as to its not raining in the daytime was not made of the temple of King Solomon but of that of King Herod. On page 483 of myWhist on Translation of the "Antiquities of the Jews" by Josephus, Porter and Coates. Philadelphia, the statement appears: "It is also reported that, during the time that the temple was building, it did not rain in the daytime, but that the showers fell in the nights, so that the work was not hindered. And this our fathers have delivered to us; nor is it incredible, if any have regard to the manifestations of God, and thus was performed the work of the rebuilding of the Temple." This would make the rain not falling in the daytime a matter of eighteen months, more or less, rather than a matter of more than seven years. Also, since Josephus was born approximately forty-six years following the completion of Herod's Temple, he was close enough to the event that his testimony, at least in this regard should be fairly accurate. Josephus is the best source we have for secular history which closely parallels that of scripture. His best known books are the "Antiquities of the Jews" and "History of the Jewish Wars" and both of these are valuable and admirable research tools. The man, himself, was not so admirable as was his work. Josephus had all of the faults of our own Benedict Arnold, with none of the latter's virtues.
Josephus was born Joseph ben Matthias, and was a scion of the priestly family of the Asamoneoan dynasty. This was on his mother's side and was traceable back to Simon Hyrcanus, who was the first of the high-priests to bear that name. Josephus himself, in his "Life of Flavius Josephus" states that he was so well educated as a mere youth that:
"When I was a child, and about fourteen years of age I was commended by all for the love I had to learning; on which account, the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to me together, in order to know my opinion about the accurate points of the law; and when I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to make trial of the several sects that were among us. These sects are three; the first is that of the Pharisees, the second that of the Sadducees, and the third that of the Essenes, as we have frequently told you; for I thought by this means I might choose the best; if I were once acquainted with them all; so I contented myself with hard fare, and underwent great difficulties and went through them all. Nor did I content myself with these trials only but when I was informed that one, whose name was Banus, lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon trees, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day to preserve his chastity, I imitated him in those things and continued with him three years. So when I had accomplished my desires, I returned back to the city, being now nineteen years old and began to conduct myself according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them."
For another record of the early life of Josephus, we quote from Vol. 11 of "History of the Jews", H. Graetz, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1902. (Graetz is the most reliable and certainly the most objective Jewish historian. His work is a standard among scholars of any fact of Judaism. )
Graetz speaks of the early life of Josephus in this manner: "Josephus was the descendant of Jonathan, the Maccabean High Priest, through his daughter who married Matthias, ben Simon Psellus." Graetz does not follow Josephus' life in a chronological order, but digresses into the Jewish War and then again takes up his narrative of the life of Joseph.
"It was at this moment, when the volcano of revolutionary passion was every ready to burst forth in fresh eruptions, that Joseph ben Matthias was entrusted by the Great Sanhedrin with the command of Upper and Lower Galilee. In those provinces, the powerful city of Sepphoris alone remained faithful to the Romans, and in all of Galilee there reigned a bitter feeling of enmity against Sepphoris. For the people of Tiberias were angered that their city should have taken only a secondary place in the province in spite of Agripa II's having chosen it for this capital. It was the business of the governor to promote a spirit of concord amongst the inhabitants of Galilee and. at the same time to win the Sepphorites to the popular cause. Upon the shoulders of this man rested a heavy responsibility. For it would naturally depend greatly upon him whether the revolt which had burst into life with such extreme energy, would attain the end desired by the patriots, or would have a tragic termination. Unfortunately Joseph was not THE man who could successfully pilot so gigantic a scheme, but by his conduct, he materially contributed to the fall of the Judean nation."
Joseph, the son of Matthias, better known as Flavius Josephus, was a native of Jerusalem. (born 37/38 died about 95 C.E.) of illustrious priestly descent and related, on the female side to the Hasmoneaen house. He, and his brother Matthias, received a careful education, and were taught the tenets of the law while very young, their father's house being frequented by learned rabbis. At the age of sixteen Josephus became the disciple of the hermit Vanus, following his master into the desert feeding on the wild fruits of the earth and bathing daily in cold water, according to the habit of the Essenes. But, growing weary of his life, he returned, after three years to Jerusalem where his fine intellectual tastes led him to a profound study of Greek literature. At the age of twenty-six, he had occasion to undertake a journey to Rome in order to plead for two imprisoned Pharisees, in the presence of the empress Poppea, and he succeeded in obtaining their freedom. The Empress, who entertained a friendly feeling toward the Judaeans, loaded him with gifts.
Rome itself could not fail to exercise a great influence upon the character of Josephus. The glitter of Nero's court, the busy life of the capital of the world, the immensity of all the imperial institutions, so dazzled him that he thought the Roman Empire would be an eternal one and that it was specially favored by Divine providence. He did not see, concealed beneath the purple and the gold, the terrible disease of which that great empire was sickening. Perhaps he did not see the diseases but, from the work of Graetz and of other historians, we get the impression that Josephus was one of Poppea's many lovers. If this is true it might be one of the incentives for his later turning his back on all of his earlier training and give some impetus to his treasonable impulses.
Graetz continues with the description of the effect that the Roman visit had upon the youthful Josephus and the impression that his return to Judea made on him:
"From that moment Josephus became a fervent adherent of the Roman rule. Filled with enthusiastic admiration for Rome, he must upon his return have found the proportions of Judea humble and dwarfed. How sarcastically he must have smiled at the wild gestures of the frenzied Zealots who dreamt of expelling the Romans from Judea! Such an expectation appeared to him like the dream of a madman. With all the experiences that he had gathered in his travels, he tried to shatter the Revolutionary projects of the Zealots. But it was useless: the people determined on war, seized their weapons, and rose to revolt. Josephus, alarmed for his safety took shelter with some of his adherents in the Temple, whence he emerged only upon hearing that the more moderate Zealots, under the leadership of Eleazer were placed in control of affairs. Apprehensive that his well-known Roman proclivities might make him an object of suspicion, he simulated a desire for national liberty, whilst secretly rejoicing at the prospect of the advance of the Roman general Cestius, who, it was thought, would soon put an end to this mad struggle for freedom. But the result disappointed all his hopes. The retreat of Cestius resembled a defeat. Why Josephus, the devoted adherent of Rome should have been entrusted with the governorship of the important province of Galilee is inexplicable. Probably his friend, the former high priest Joshua, son of Gamala, whose voice carried great weight in the Sanhedrin, may have urged his claims, and Josephus' dissimulation may have led those about him to look upon him as a Zealot. But, at all events, the heroic bearing of the insurgents and the victory that they had gained over the army of Cestius, cannot have failed to make upon Josephus, as upon other plain and matter of fact Judeans, a powerful impression."
It seems strange that Graetz should have thought that Josephus' command of Galilee was inexplicable. Being descended from the priestly family and being one of the ruling class, ability would have not been considered. It is not an uncommon thing, especially in countries where the "divine right of kings", or in this case the divine right of high priests, is taken into account to see men placed in positions of command, though unfitted for such command, merely by reason of some accident of birth. The histories of England are full of such incidents both in the Middle Ages and even in fairly modern times when commissions as officers of the British armed forces were purchased. Josephus, being the type he was, apparently saw the opportunity to become firmly entrenched with both sides, playing the role, as we would not call it of a "double agent". Regardless of which side won he would be promoting the interests of the one person who really mattered to him, Joseph ben Matthias.
Joseph Kastein in his "History and Destiny of the Jews" Viking. New York, 1933 states on page 127 the effect of the selection of Josephus as the commander of Galilee. "His election was a fatal mistake and may have been chiefly responsible for the various disasters that brought the war of liberation to a close. A member of the Pharisee intelligensia, he had spent some years among the Essenes and had also been to Rome. As an enthusiastic admirer of Rome's political genius, he was too dispassionate, not to weigh the chances of success coolly with the result that, from the very beginning, he was a lukewarm supporter of his country's cause." Again, we must surmise that Josephus, like many another political opportunist, was waiting for the proper time (i.e. when victory was assured for a certain side)to espouse one or the other cause." Whatever Josephus may have been, he was not naive and certainly he knew that, if Judea was to come out of the war in the ascendancy, he must appear to have been a supporter of the cause of the Zealots for the entire time.
Graetz considers that Josephus had no doubt that the Jews would not be conquered and states that:
"Entire separation the Empire of Rome appeared to him an impossible scheme: but he may have hoped that some concessions were to be extorted from the imperial court, that perhaps Judea might be handed over to the control of Agrippa and that he might be allowed to fill the post in Jerusalem. To Agrippa, himself, the revolt was not entirely unwelcome, for he hoped to reap some benefit from it, and through the agency of Josephus he was able to act in a way which he himself could not have pursued asa vassal of Rome. Josephus had, in fact, been working for Agrippa, and in so far there was nothing dishonest or traitorous in his conduct."
In one of the newer books on this period of history in "History of the Holy Land" by Michael Avi-Yonah, 1969 G.A. The Jerusalem Publishing House Let. Jerusalem, Israel, page 155, the author gives a good description of Herod Antipater who was the Tetrarch of King of Judea under the Romans. He makes the point that this Herod was "an Idumaen or as he was sometimes contemptuously called "The Edomite Slave". Idumae contained Hebron, Masada, Ascalon, and Gaza and was the original seat of the Kingdom of Israel under Saul and David before David's conquest of Jebus which he renamed Jerusalem." Probably Agrippa was endeavoring to secure for himself the position of Tetrarch, or subordinate ruler of the entire Judean nation, and used this revolt as an excuse to further infiltrate himself into the good graces of the Roman emperor.
When Josephus assumed the governorship of Galilee he began a few innovations. Being an admirer of the Roman system of warfare, he endeavored to mold the fierce, yet untrained, Jewish warriors into the image of the Roman legions. Again quoting from Michael Avi-Yonah's "History of the Holy Land", the author states:
"The first Roman War. The Command of Galilee, the area in greatest danger and outpost of the insurgent sector in the north, was entrusted to a not very experienced young man, Joseph, son of Matthias who, as Josephus Flavius, was to be the historian of the revolt. Josephus, representing the aristocratic circles dominant in Jerusalem, had to contend with the many adherents of Rome and Agrippa and the extreme Zealots under John of Gischala. He contrived to keep them all in check and made half-hearted attempts to raise and drill an army in the Roman manner as well as fortifying a chain of signal posts around the insurgent sector, but he failed to secure control of Sepphoris, main city of western Galilee, and so disastrously compromised his line of defense."
Graetz takes a different view of the military preparations of Josephus and states that he was assisted by agents of the Sanhedrin and gives the impression that he made a whole hearted defense of his province. According Graetz "Two coadjutors, Joaser and Judah, were sent by the Sanhedrin to assist Josephus. They were both learned in the Law and were described by him now as pure and clean-handed and again as open to bribery. But they were quote unimportant and soon disappeared from the scene of action. At first Josephus seems to have been anxious to promote the revolutionary ardor of the Galileans. He called a kind of Sanhedrin together consisting of seventy men of repute after the fashion of the great council in Tiberius. He appointed seven judges in each city, and officers of the law in different parts of Galilee. He raised an army of a hundred thousand men, armed and drilled them according to the Roman system, and inculcated order and discipline amongst his soldiers, qualities indispensable to a nation of warriors, but less important to a people enthusiastic for liberty. He even created a corps of cavalry and supported them from his own means. He surrounded himself with a bodyguard of five hundred mercenaries, who were disciplined to obey a sign from their master. He began to fortify a number of cities in upper and lower Galilee and stored them with provisions. Thus he seriously contemplated the defense of his province against Rome. Upon his arrival in Galilee, either inspired by the Sanhedrin or impelled by his own ardor, Josephus carried his religious zeal to the extent of ordering the destruction of the palace inhabited by his ancestor Herod during the time of Augustus, where images of animals were worshiped in direct defiance of the Law."
Since Josephus was not representing himself as a very religious Jew, it was necessary that he endeavor to obtain the favor of the religious element of the nation and the he try to further consolidate his position, keeping his lines to Rome and to Agrippa open at the same time.
Looking further into Graetz's view of Josephus we find that:
"In order to carry out this design, he invited the most distinguished men of Tiberias to meet him at Bethmaon, but during their discussion, Jesus Ben Sapphia set fire to the palace and divided the spoil amongst his followers. This displeased Josephus, who hastened into the town of Tiberias and gathering up what remained of the plunder, handed it over into the custody of King Agrippa's officers. Particularly repugnant to Josephus was John of Gischala; his untiring energy and intellectual superiority were enough to awaken the jealousy of the former. Although Josephus, as the representative of the Sanhedrin assumed the higher position of the two, he took pains to place obstacles in the way of the patriot. Thus John was not at first permitted to carry off and sell the large quantity of corn stored by the Romans in upper Galilee, the sale of which was to have enabled him to complete the fortifications of his own city. Joaser and Judah finally extorted from Josephus the requisite authorization. It was on this occasion that John of Gischela was made painfully aware of the duplicity of the governor, which for the future he determined to baffle."
Having fortified and garrisoned Galilee, Josephus determined to defend his governorship in an early day version of the Maginot Line. With his cities well stocked and garrisoned, he had no reason to send his troops out on sallies. In the Story of Civilization Vol. 111 "Caesar and Christ" Simon and Schuster, New York 1944, on page 544 Will Durant speaks of the Jewish revolt at this time: "Among them as a priest named Josephus, then a young man of thirty, energetic, brilliant and capable of transforming every desire into a victory. Commissioned to fortify Galilee, he defended its stronghold against Vespasian's siege until only forty Jewish soldiers remained alive, hiding with him in a cave."
Returning to the History of the Holy Land, by Michael Avi-Yonah, we find that:
"In the spring of 67 AD the Romans took energetic steps to quell the Jewish revolt, after all it was not a rising in a far-off mountain area, but struck at the very nerve centers of Roman power in the orient by snapping its overland communications between Alexandria and Antioch. The loss of any territory in the Mediterranean was, in any case, unacceptable to Rome. Nero entrusted the conduct of the war to Flavius Vespasianus, a veteran commander who had already made his mark in Britain under Claudius, and assigned three legions and a corresponding force of auxiliaries to him, about sixty thousand men in all. Recalling what had befallen Cestus Gallus, Vespasian decided to adopt a different strategy, better suited to the Roman temperament, to advance slowly, and to entrench each gain as it was made. The Jews were confident of success, relying on their numbers and resources, on help from the Diaspora (or the Jews scattered over the rest of the world) with the empire and beyond it, on the widespread detestation in which the reprobate emperor was held, and on the complications besetting Rome from Parthia. The weakness of the Jews was integral disunity and lack of trained soldiers.
The aristocrats who directed the revolt in the first years imagined themselves fir to face the legions in the field. The more tried Zealots advised open harassment and rejected the strategy of retiring into the fortresses which were bound to fall sooner or later. Vespasian's first campaign was against Galilee. He easily broke through Josephus' network of forts and occupied Sepphoris; an essay to meet him in battle ended in the utter routing of Josephus' raw recruits. Their despairing commander fled to the stronghold of Jotapota and held out for several months, but when Jotapota fell he made his submission to Rome and thenceforth was its zealous partisan."
Graetz takes a disparaging view of the military prowess of Josephus for he states that "All that had been gained during the four month's rebellion in Jerusalem was lost during the five fatal months of his governorship of Galilee (From November 66 to March 67) and this was before the enemy had threatened to appear for the Romans during that time had been inactive in Judea."
There were many incidents during the siege of Jotapota which were worthy of mention, both for the zealousness of the Jews and the dogged determination of the Romans, for Vespasian had determined that he would lay siege to the city until the inhabitants were forced, either by hunger of thirst to capitulate. Josephus used much of the scarce supply of water which he had left to wash the clothing of his soldiers, hanging it on the walls of the city. This enraged the Romans, who thought, that since they enemy were so prodigal of their water, they must have a plentiful supply, and provoked them to attack. The Jews were much more able to repulse a Roman attack than they were to withstand a Roman siege. Consequently, the Romans were causing the Jews to become more unified and more determined when they mounted an attack. During this attack, Josephus made a decision which caused Vespasian to abandon his usual merciful attitude toward those whom he conquered and to treat the remainder of the Jewish rebels with the utmost severity of the Roman law.
Quoting from "Revolt in Judea", The Road to Masada, by Alfred H. Tamarian, Four Winds Press 1968, the author uses Josephus' own words to explain the reason for the wrath of Vespasian: "The Romans formed a solid roof of shields and pushed the Jewish defenders up to the wall. I ordered boiling oil poured on those shields and broke up the formation."
Since Vespasian was a stolid, phlegmatic, old Roman type of commander, who had led the legions in many campaigns and had a special affection for his men, he of necessity had to declare some special kind of hell for those who had poured boiling oil on his beloved Romans.
Therefore Vespasian determined that he would lay the entire province of Galilee waste, sell the able as slaves, and slay the infirm and elderly, allowing none of the rebels to escape his wrath.
Josephus was, at the best, an indifferent leader. From the "Outlines of Jewish History", by Lady Katie Magnus, with additional chapters by Solomon Grayzel, PhD, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1929 the description of the siege of Jotapota states: "Josephus, The province of Galilee was put in command of a man named Josephus, a descendent of the Asomoneans, (my note: the priestly line.) who lived to earn for himself a better reputation as a chronicler of his country than as a soldier in its service. At this time (66 C.E.) (my note: BCE and CE signify Before the Common Era and Common Era and are a method used for archeological dating, not being dependent on any religious connotation.) Josephus was about thirty years old, extremely clever and capable, and well inclined to play the part of his famous ancestor and lead his followers to victory, if victory was to be won, It all lay in the word "if", for Josephus was a very different sort of man from Judas Maccabeus. If Judas had been defeated by the Syrians he would have died fighting, he would never have surrendered. Judas Maccabeus fought in the uncompromising spirit that Shadrach, Mechah, and Abed-Nego have made historical. "We are not careful, O King, to answer thee in this manner, said those model Jews, if our God whom we serve will deliver us from the fiery furnace, he will deliver us, but if not, be known to thee O King, we will not serve the gods." We must digress here, from the work of Lady Magnus to state that there is no historical evidence to prove the existence of these three men, other than that given in the book of Daniel, which many scholars think was written during the time of the second and third temples, as a moral lesson rather than as a historical treatise. Lady Magnus' assessment of the character of Josephus is correct but she used an unfortunate comparison. Retuning to the work of Lady Magnus we find that: "Josephus had no thought of cutting off all possibility of retreat in that fashion. His service was more after the sort of the half-hearted Naaman. He would fight for Judea, but Rome was his Rimmon in background, and in his most enthusiastic moments, Josephus was never unmindful of his own interests. He organized his troops and defended in person a fine fortress built on a rock at Jotapota. This citadel was held for forty-seven days against Titus and his soldiers supported him gallantly." Again, we must take issue with the work of Lady Magnus. Although she gives 47 days as the time that it took the Romans to reduce Jotapota. Josephus, in his own "Wars of the Jews" give the impression that, although the Romans forced an entry after forty-seven days, the actual conquest of the city took them forty-nine days. Again quoting from Lady Magnus' work: "The Romans were more than once repulsed and presently Titus setup a strict blockade intending to starve the garrison into surrender. The Jews liked fighting better than starving, and surrender was out of the question. They had no food, and hardly any water left, but they soaked their clothes in those last few precious bucketsful and hung the dripping garments in the sun. The Romans could not believe in such willful, defiant waste, and believing the garrison must be better supplied than they imagined, they raised the blockade and began the attack again. The famine-stricken garrison fought like heroes, again and again, the Romans were driven back. At last the "battle was to the strong" and Jotapota fell. The Romans entered the fortress, and found none to receive them save the dead and the dying. Josephus and a few like him made good their escape to a neighboring cavern and to this safe little retreat a Roman envoy from headquarters was presently dispatched. Vespasian was most anxious to transform Josephus from an enemy into an ally, and Josephus was equally anxious to give his strength to the stronger side. But it had to be managed. His followers were not so ready as he to act like the rats in the proverb. The envoy was desired to wait. "We must submit to the will of God" Josephus piously began and pressed by his companions for clearer counsel, he proceeded to urge that the death of martyrs during the siege having been denied to them, it were vain to seek that distinction now. The faces around looked but half-convinced and then, more boldly, the tempter hinted "We may live to serve God and our country in other ways". The eager listeners frowned. They had faltered enough to flee, but not to altogether fail. Such counsels sounded to them like pious, unpatriotic, platitudes. The crafty commander was quick to note the dark looks of his companions and changed his tactics. He professed to agree with them. "You are right" he exclaimed, "it is better to die than to surrender. Let our own swords be the preservers of our honor." This was more welcome advice to men in an exalted mood and they all agreed to die by each others hands, and the last left it was arranged, should kill himself. They cast lots to settle in what order they should die. Josephus was determined that he was not going to be one of those to die The heroic defenders of Masada and of Jerusalem could be martyrs if they wished, but when it came to fighting to the last man, Josephus was intending to be that last man. In his own words he tells us "He was, with another left to the last, whether we must say it happened by chance, or whether by the providence of God; and he was desirous neither to be condemned by the lot, nor, if he had been left to the last, to imbrue his right hand in the blood of his countryman, he persuaded him to trust his fidelity to him, and to live as well as himself." The obvious answer is not, that chance, nor God decided that Josephus would be the one to live until the last but that Josephus stacked the deck when it came to drawing the fatal lots. Graetz agrees with this view as he states: "It would be difficult for us to believe the numerous instances recorded of craft and duplicity on the part of Josephus had he not dwelt upon them himself with unexampled shamelessness." Finally in being taken to the commander, Vespasian, he secured his life and liberty by a masterful stroke. To Vespasian he stated; '"Thou. O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou has taken Josephus himself captive, but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case, and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero's successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou and this, thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, art not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I am now in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm anything of God."
Vespasian, though not convinced of the truth of the words of Josephus, nevertheless kept him closely confined, first as a prisoner, then asa servant, and finally, when much that Josephus had said was proved true as an honored guest. Josephus then became the chronicler of the Army of the Romans and it is to his inspired writing that we are in possession of the history of that turbulent time in Judea.
The essential duplicity of the man must be seen in the tact that he accompanied the Roman army through the rest of their conquest of Judea and served as an interpreter for Titus, even to the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the world famous Temple. He was cordially hated both by the Jews as a traitor and by the Romans who suspected him of being a double traitor, but through the good offices of Cespasian and Titus he maintained his position. During the destruction of Jerusalem he served as an envoy of Titus to endeavor to induce the garrison both of the city and that stationed in the Temple to surrender. When nothing could be done he treats of the way in which Tutus treated the few deserters from that city. Trying to starve out the city and Temple. Titus issued orders that all who tried to escape from the besieged town should he crucified in sight of the walls and Josephus makes great profit from the statement that he saved a few of them. In his "Life of Flavius Josephus" he states that: "I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintances. I was very sorry at this in my mind and went with tears in my eyes to Titus and told of them; so he immediately commanded them to be take n down and to have the greatest care taken of them in order to their recovery: yet two of them died under the physician's hands, while the third recovered."
Josephus endeavors here to take credit for saving three captives with whom he was acquainted, yet, at this time in Jerusalem, there were over 1,000 persons crucified without the walls at one time. Crucifixion was probably the most barbaric form of execution ever devised by the mind of man. Far from being a nailing of a man to a cross and leaving him to die of thirst and exhaustion, the greatest care was taken to keep the man alive and to prolong his suffering. The victim was bound to the cross, seldom nailed, as the nails would cause infection and weaken him too soon. There was a step on which his feet rested and sometimes a seat. The principle was strangulation. When the victim's arms became too tired to support his body he slumped, which cut off the supply of air to his lungs. When he was nearly to suffocate from lack of air, he would make a superhuman effort and raise his body in order to breathe. This went on until eventually he was too weak from his exertions to raise his body and died from suffocation. By giving the victim draughts of water at times and even, on occasions, drugs, men were kept alive on the crosses for 6 or 7 days at a time. When it was desired to insure death, the legs of the victim were broken with hammers, in order that the weakened legs would not support him and death would come almost immediately. This was the fate which Josephus callously stood by and saw inflicted on his countrymen, many of whom were in rebellion due to his work and to his writing.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus returned with the conquering army to Rome where he accepted the patronage of the emperor, going so far as to adopt the family name of the emperor, thenceforth being known as Flavius Josephus. He even was present at the triumph which Vespasian and Titus were given, and saw his former comrades and countrymen marched in the procession and sold as slaves or executed. Following this he was given Roman citizenship by the emperor, given land grants, both in Rome and Judea and except for a few minor incidents lived the life of an influential Roman citizen. While in Rome he wrote "Antiquities of the Jews" circa 93 C.E., his autobiography, and "Josephus against Apion", in which he defends the Jewish religion. The book of the "Wars of the Jews" was written at an earlier period, probably during the latter part of Vespasian's reign.
There is nothing which can be said in defense of the man Josephus. He was a political opportunist, a traitor to his country, and a self-seeker. Nothing was too base, too vile, too bad for him to do so long as it furthered his own ends. His work, though, is quite a different matter. Were it not for the historical writings of Flavius Josephus, we would have no record of the wars of Rome against the Jews, and very little to establish a secular history of the Jewish peoples. His writings are priceless and are accepted as true even by most of the Jewish historians. We are therefore indebted for most of our knowledge of the final years of the Judean kingdom to the Jewish traitor who became their greatest historian.