Born into a distinguished Jewish family of priests, Flavius Josephus (FLAY-vee-uhs joh-SEE-fuhs) was educated by outstanding scholars of the day. Although opposed to the Jewish uprising against Roman rule, he nevertheless served as commander of Jewish forces at Galilee. When the Romans captured the fortress of Jotapata, he infuriated Jewish Zealots when he surrendered rather than commit suicide. As prisoner in Rome, he won the favor of Emperor Vespasian and took his family name, Flavius. In 70 c.e., he returned to Palestine with Roman troops in a futile attempt to stop the rebellion. He then lived in Rome under imperial patronage, where he devoted the rest of his life to historical and literary writings.
In his first work, Bellum Judaium (75-79 c.e.; History of the Jewish War, 1773), Josephus tried to convince Jews of the Diaspora that continued resistance to Rome was doomed to failure. His second work, Antiquitates Judaicae (93 c.e.; The Antiquities of the Jews, 1773), traces the history of the Hebrew people from their earliest legends until the great revolt against the Romans. The work included his Vita (Life), which was an autobiographical defense of his conduct in Galilee. Finally, Contra Apionem (n.d.; Against Apion, 1821) praised Jewish culture and answered anti-Semitic accusations.
Josephus provides the best account of the Jewish war against Rome, and his works include important information about Jewish history and...
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