Wars of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Preface

Preface

1. (1) Whereas the war which the Jews made with the Romans hathbeen the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times,but, in a manner, of those that ever w ere heard of; both of thosewherein cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations;while some men who were not concerned in the affairs themselves havegotten together vain and contradictory stories by hearsay, and havewritten them down after a sophistical manner; and while those thatwere there present have given false accounts of things, and thiseither out of a humor of flattery to the Romans, or of hatred towardsthe Jews; and while their writings contain sometimes accusations, andso me times encomiums, but no where the accurate truth of the facts; Ihave proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under thegovernment of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greektongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, andsent to the Upper Barbarians; (2) Joseph, the son of Matthias, bybirth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against theRomans myself, and was forced to be present at what was doneafterwards, [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. ThoseJews also who were for innovations, then arose when the times weredisturbed; they were also in a flourishing condition for strength andriches, insomuch that the affairs of the East were then exceedingtumultuous, while some hoped for gain, and others were afraid of lossin such troubles; for the Jews hoped that all of their nation whichwere beyond Euphrates would have raised a n insurrection together withthem. The Gauls also, in the neighborhood of the Romans, were inmotion, and the Geltin were not quiet; but all was in disorder afterthe death of Nero. And the opportunity now offered induced many to aimat the royal power; and the soldiery affected change, out of the hopesof getting money. I thought it therefore an absurd thing to see thetruth falsified in affairs of such great consequence, and to take nonotice 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 flatteriesor fictions, while the Parthians, and the Babylonians, and theremotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond Euphrates, with theAdiabeni, by my means, knew accurately both whence the war begun, whatmiseries it brought upon us, and after what manner it ended.

3. It is true, these writers have the confidence to call theiraccounts histories; wherein yet they seem to me to fail of their ownpurpose, as well as to relate no thing that is sound. For they have amind to demonstrate the greatness of the Romans, while they stilldiminish and lessen the actions of the Jews, as not discerning how itcannot be that those must appear to be great who have only conqueredthose that we re little. Nor are they ashamed to overlook the lengthof the war, the multitude of the Roman forces who so greatly sufferedin it, or the might of the commanders, whose great labors aboutJerusalem will be deemed inglorious, if what they achieved be reckonedbut a small matter.

4. However, I will not go to the other extreme, out of opposition tothose men who extol the Romans nor will I determine to raise theactions of my countrymen too high; but I will prosecute the actions ofboth parties with accuracy. Yet shall I suit my language to thepassions I am under, as to the affairs I describe, and must be allowedto indulge some lamentations upon the miseries undergone by my owncountry. For that it was a seditious temper of our own that destroyedit, and that they were the tyrants among the Jews who brought theRoman power upon us, who unwillingly attacked us, and occasioned theburning of our holy temple, Titus Caesar, who destroyed it, is himselfa witness, who, daring the entire war, pitied the people who were keptunder by the seditious, and did often voluntarily delay the taking ofthe city, and allowed time to the siege, in order to let the authorshave opportunity for repentance. But if any one makes an unjustaccusation against us, when we speak so passionately about thetyrants, or the robbers, or sorely bewail the misfortunes of ourcountry, let him indulge my affections herein, though it be contraryto the rules for writing history; because it had so come to pass, thatour city Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than anyother city under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into thesorest of calamities again. Accordingly, it appears to me that themisfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they becompared to these of the Jews (3) are not so considerable as theywere; while the authors of them were not foreigners neither. Thismakes it impossible for me to contain my lamentations. But if any onebe inflexible in his censures of me, let him attribute the factsthemselves to the historical part, and the lamentations to the writerhimself 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 judgesof those affairs, and pass bitter censures upon the labors of the bestwriters of antiquity; which moderns, although they may be superior tothe old writers in eloquence, yet are they inferior to them in theexecution of what they intended to do. While these also write newhistories about the Assyrians and Medes, as if the ancient writers hadnot described their affairs as they ought to have done; although thesebe as far inferior to them in abilities as they are different in theirnotions from them. For of old every one took upon them to write whathappened in his own time; where their immediate concern in the actionsmade their promises of value; and where it must be reproachful towrite lies, when they must be known by the readers to be such. Butthen, an undertaking to preserve the memory Of what hath not beenbefore recorded, and to represent the affairs of one's own time tothose that come afterwards, is really worthy of praise andcommendation. Now he is to be esteemed to have taken good pains inearnest, not who does no more than change the disposition and order ofother men's works, but he who not only relates what had not beenrelated before, but composes an entire body of history of his own:accordingly, I have been at great charges, and have taken very greatpains [about this history], though I be a foreigner; and do dedicatethis work, as a memorial of great actions, both to the Greeks and tothe Barbarians. But for some of our own principal men, their mouthsare wide o pen, and their tongues loosed presently, for gain andlaw-suits, but quite muzzled up when they are to write history, wherethey must speak truth and gather facts together with a great deal ofpains; and so they leave the writing such histories to weaker people,and to such as are not acquainted with the actions of princes. Yetshall the real truth of historical facts be preferred by us, how muchsoever 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 whatcountry they traveled over, and what countries they seized uponafterward, and how they were removed out of them, I think this not tobe a fit opportunity, and, on other accounts, also superfluous; andthis because many Jews before me have composed the histories of ourancestors very exactly; as have some of the Greeks done it also, andhave translated our histories into their own tongue, and have not muchmistaken the truth in their histories. But then, where the writers ofthese affairs and our prophets leave off, thence shall I take my rise,and begin my history. Now as to what concerns that war which happenedin my own time, I will go over it very largely, and with all thediligence I am able; but for what preceded mine own age, that I shallrun over briefly.

7. [For example, I shall relate] how Antiochus, who was namedEpiphanes, took Jerusalem by force, and held it three years and threemonths, 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 Herodalso, the son of Antipater, dissolved their government, and broughtSosins upon them; as also how our people made a sedition upon Herod'sdeath, while Augustus was the Roman emperor, and Quintilius Varus wasin that country; and how the war broke out in the twelfth year ofNero, with what happened to Cestius; and what places the Jewsassaulted in a hostile manner in the first sallies of the war.

8. As also [I shall relate] how they built walls about theneighboring cities; and how Nero, upon Cestius's defeat, was in fearof the entire event of the war, and thereupon made Vespasian generalin 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 ofthe Roman army that he made use of; and how many of his auxiliarieswere cut off in all Galilee; and how he took some of its citiesentirely, and by force, and others of them by treaty, and onterms. Now, when I am come so far, I shall describe the good order ofthe Romans in war, and the discipline of their legions; the amplitudeof both the Galilees, with its nature, and the limits of Judea. And,besides this, I shall particularly go over what is peculiar to thecountry, the lakes and fountains that are in them, and what miserieshappened 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 concealany of the calamities I myself endured, since I shall relate them tosuch as know the truth of them.

9. After this, [I shall relate] how, When the Jews' affairs werebecome very bad, Nero died, and Vespasian, when he was going to attackJerusalem, was called back to take the government upon him; what signshappened to him relating to his gaining that government, and whatmutations of government then happened at Rome, and how he wasunwillingly made emperor by his soldiers; and how, upon his departureto Egypt, to take upon him the government of the empire, the affairsof the Jews became very tumultuous; as also how the tyrants rose upagainst them, and fell into dissensions among themselves.

10. Moreover, [I shall relate] how Titus marched out of Egypt intoJudea the second time; as also how, and where, and how many forces hegot together; and in what state the city was, by the means of theseditious, at his coming; what attacks he made, and how many rampartshe cast up; of the three walls that encompassed the city, and of theirmeasures; of the strength of the city, and the structure of the templeand holy house; and besides, the measures of those edifices, and ofthe altar, and all accurately determined. A description also ofcertain of their festivals, and seven purifications of purity, (5) andthe sacred ministrations of the priests, with the garments of thepriests, and of the high priests; and of the nature of the most holyplace of the temple; without concealing any thing, or adding any thingto the known truth of things.

11. After this, I shall relate the barbarity of the tyrants towardsthe people of their own nation, as well as the indulgence of theRomans in sparing foreigners; and how often Titus, out of his desireto preserve the city and the temple, invited the seditious to come toterms of accommodation. I shall also distinguish the sufferings of thepeople, and their calamities; how far they were afflicted by thesedition, and how far by the famine, and at length were taken. Norshall I omit to mention the misfortunes of the deserters, nor thepunishments inflicted on the captives; as also how the temple wasburnt, against the consent o f Caesar; and how many sacred things thathad been laid up in the temple were snatched out of the fire; thedestruction also of the entire city, with the signs and wonders thatwent before it; and the taking the tyrants captives, and the multitudeof those that were made slaves, and into what different misfortunesthey were every one distributed. Moreover, what the Romans did to theremains of the wall; and how they demolished the strong holds thatwere in the country; and how Titus went over the whole country, andsettled its affairs; together with his return into Italy, and histriumph.

12. I have comprehended all these things in seven books, and have leftno occasion for complaint or accusation to such as have beenacquainted with this war; and I have written it down for the sake ofthose that love truth, but not for those that please themselves [withfictitious relations]. And I will begin my account of these things with what I call my First Chapter.


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