Excerpts from Josephus

These excerpts are provided to give the general reader a knowledge of Josephus' writings on various subjects. I have added my own commentary to provide context. These excerpts are a work in progress and are not meant at any time to include all that Josephus has to say on a subject.

References are given in the form of Book, Chapter, and Paragraph of the Whiston edition together with the Section number of the Greek (Loeb) edition. So "Ant. 18.1.6 23" indicates Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 6 in Whiston, and in the Loeb edition, Book 18, Section 23. - G. Goldberg

Causes of the War Against the Romans
   The Jewish Revolt of 66 to 70 AD/CE had its origin in several different troubles identified by Josephus. At various points in his work he specifically names different events as "the" cause of the war, either as an immediate trigger or as a fundamental motive. These include: 
  • the involvement of governor Albinus with criminal gangs 
  • the removal of rights of Jews in Caesarea 
  • the pollution of the synagogue of Caesarea
  • the murder of High Priest Jonathan 
  • the murder of High Priest Ananias 
  • the refusal to sacrifice to the Emperor 
  • the Fourth Philosophy that held divine assistance would come to a rebellion: "the infection which spread from them among the younger sort, who became zealous for it, brought the public to destruction."
  • the criminal acts and abuse of authority on the part of  governor Gessius Florus 
  • a conspiracy on the part of Florus
  • a certain ambiguous oracle (War 6.5.4) 
From these specific incidents the chief causes of the war in Josephus' eyes can be identified. Emphasized throughout his work is the cruelty and corruption of the the Roman administrators, particularly those serving under Emperor Nero. Next in importance, judging by the amount of attention Josephus gives, was an extremist party that mixed nationalism with a religious ideal: to free the Holy Land from the powers of the world so that it would be only under the governance of Heaven. Between these two opposing forces there played themes of class and ethnic conflict which polarized the nation. The  repeated robberies, riots, and uprisings these caused were kept in check by the harsh actions of the administrators, which in turn caused resentment among the populace, forming the familiar cycle of protest/response/protesting the response,  common to the escalation of rebellions. 

   These are the specific elements Josephus stresses in his works. There is a larger context, some of which is indicated in the introduction to the War. The empire had grown weak in the last days of Nero. The corruption of the governors directly reflected the flaws in their emperor. Judea was not the only province to revolt; but its war was the longest and bloodiest. And the problems of religious nationalism and class and ethnic struggle had its roots in the long history of the Jews and the unresolved problems of  the correct form of religious observance and the place of the powerful non-Jewish nations in the divine plan. 

   Over the years commentators have scrutinized these causes and have written much on the subject. Readers who become familiar with what Josephus says in the following extracts will enjoy reading these modern works. 



"No Ruler But the Almighty:" Religious Nationalism

     Herod, The Rabbis and The Golden Eagle (4 BCE) 
     Flash Revolt At Herod's Death (4 BCE) 
    Judas the Galilean Founds the Revolutionary Fourth Philosophy (6 CE) 
              The Census of Quirinius 
               Description of the Fourth Philosophy 
     A Path in the Wilderness: Promises of Signs from Heaven 
     Prophets and Revolutionaries Work Together (54-60 CE) 
     Omens Interpreted by the Seditious 
     The Inviolability of Zion (70 CE) 
     The Reason Above All Others: A Messiah 

Class Conflict

    Class Conflict Between Sadducees and Pharisees 
    Among the Priests 

Ethnic Conflict

    Ethnic Rioting 
    Rights Annulled at Caesarea (60 CE) 
    Greek Sacrifice at Synagogue of Caesarea:  The War Begins (66 CE) 

Corruption of the Procurators

    Natural Avarice of Governors 
    Felix Arranges the Assassination of High Priest Jonathan 
    Nero Fails to Punish Felix (60 CE) 
    The Cooperation  of Albinus with Criminals and Rebels (62-64 CE) 
    Excesses of Florus (64-66 CE) 
    Florus Provokes War to Avoid Punishment 
    Florus Takes Treasure from the Temple  (66 CE) 
    Josephus Decides War was Necessary 

"And This was the True Beginning" (66 CE)



"No Ruler But the Almighty" 

 Religious Nationalism and The Redemption of Zion 

 Introductory Comment 
   Since the time of Moses the Jewish people held the ideal of conducting themselves according to the laws set by the Ruler of the universe. Their earthly rulers often had different notions. During the Roman period this conflict became formalized in an extremist revolutionary party  that asserted violence was an acceptable means of achieving the goals of Heaven, and that martyrdom would be well rewarded in the World to Come. 
   This party showed itself in early form while Judea was still under the rule of its own king.  Herod the Great was named king of the Jews by the Roman senate in 40 BC/BCE , displacing the dynasty of the Hasmoneans (the descendants of the Maccabees of the Hanukah story). While he protected himself from religion-based attacks  through his rebuilding of the Temple into one of the greatest structures in the Empire, yet his tyranny and weakening  of Jewish social institutions gained him many enemies among the populace.  He once said that he knew the Jews would celebrate his death with a festival. 
   When Herod was ill and approaching death near the age of seventy, two Rabbis  seized the opportunity  to preach a rebellious act and martyrdom for the sake of the divine Law, the Torah. 
Herod, The Rabbis and The Golden Eagle (4 BCE) 
War 1.33.2 648-655  
   To Herod's other troubles was now added an insurrection of the populace. There were in the capital two men of learning with a reputation as profound experts in the Laws of their country, who consequently enjoyed the highest esteem of the whole nation; their names were Judas, son of Sepphoraeus, and Matthias, son of Margalus. Their lectures on the Laws were attended by a large youthful audience, and day after day they drew together quite an army of men in their prime. 
   Hearing now that the king was gradually sinking under despondency and disease, these teachers threw out hints to their friends that this was the fitting moment to avenge God's honour and to pull down what had been erected in defiance of their fathers' Laws: for although it was unlawful to place in the Temple either images or busts or any representation whatsoever of a living creature, the king had nonetheless erected over the great gate a golden eagle. It was this these teachers now exhorted their disciples to cut down. They told them that if any danger should arise, it was a glorious thing to die for the Law of one's country; for the souls of those who came to such an end attained immortality and an eternal enjoyment of happiness; it was only  the ignoble, uninitiated in their philosophy,  who clung in their ignorance to life and preferred death by disease to that of a hero. 
   While they were discoursing on this, a rumour spread that the king was dying; the news caused the young men to throw themselves more boldly into the enterprise. At mid-day, accordingly, when numbers of people were perambulating the Temple, they let themselves down from the roof on stout cords and began chopping off the golden eagle with hatchets. The king's captain, to whom the matter was immediately reported, hastened to the scene with a considerable force, arrested about forty of the young men and conducted them to the king. Herod first asked them whether they had dared to cut down the golden eagle; they admitted it. 
   "Who ordered you to do so?" he continued. 
   "The Law of our fathers." 
   "And why so exultant, when you will shortly be put to death?" 
   "Because we shall enjoy greater happiness after our death." 
   This provoked the king to such fury that he overcame his disease...he ordered those that had let themselves down from the roof, together with the teachers, to be burnt alive; the remainder of those arrested he handed over to his executioners.
   Josephus presents these Rabbis and their followers as sincere people  rectifying an unlawful action of Herod. When describing  a similar  philosophy under the Roman administration, however, Josephus  attacks the motives of the leaders and excoriates their extremism. One difference is that the affair of the eagle is not seen as directed against the Romans, Josephus having failed to mention that the eagle is a symbol of, among other things, the Roman Empire. And the eagle affair was a non-violent protest, not requiring his condemnation; yet within months, at Herod's death,  the philosophy behind it would provoke an extremely bloody revolt. 
Flash Revolt At Herod's Death  
War 2.1.2 6 
[Herod has died and his son Archelaus has claimed the throne]. 
Towards evening, however, a large number of those who were bent on revolution assembled on the same spot, and, now that the public mourning for Herod was ended, began a lamentation on their own account, bewailing the fate of those who had been punished for cutting down the golden eagle from the gate of the Temple. This mourning was in no subdued tones: there were piercing shrieks, a dirge directed by a conductor, and lamentations with beating of the breast which resounded throughout the city; all this in honour of the unfortunate men who, they asserted had in defence of their country's laws and the Temple perished on the pyre. These martyrs ought, they clamoured, to be avenged by the punishment of Herod's favorites.

War 2.1.3 10 
And now the feast of unleavened bread, which the Jews call Passover, came round...The promoters of the mourning for the teachers stood in a body in the temple, procuring recruits for their faction. ...Archelaus now felt that it would be impossible to restrain the mob without bloodshed, and let loose upon them his entire army...the soldiers, falling unexpectedly among the various parties busy with their sacrifices slew about three thousand of them and dispersed the remainder among the neighboring hills. 

  This clash, instigated by the followers of the two Rabbis, was the beginning of a series of violent confrontations over the course of weeks, with escalating force on both sides; the Roman legion at Jerusalem was caught up in the warfare until the commander was surrounded in his fortress. At last, two legions from Syria under the command of Varus were able to put down the insurrection and round up the guerillas in the hills, crucifying two thousand of them. 
  To calm the populace's fear that Archelaus would be another tyrant like his father,  Emperor Augustus divides the Jewish lands among all of Herod's children,  reducing Archelaus' portion to Judea (the area immediately around Jerusalem), Samaria, and Idumaea. The resistance is held in check by Archelaus' cruelty for nine years, until, due to the denunciations of the people, the emperor at last removes Archelaus and places Judea under direct Roman administration.   
   Now Judea would be a province, not a kingdom, and ruled by foreigners as governors, not by  king of its own; and the people would pay taxes directly to the emperor. This set the stage for the next level of resistance -- as well as  the backdrop for the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.. 

 Judas the Galilean Founds the Revolutionary Fourth Philosophy (6 CE)

The Census of Quirinius (6 CE) 
Antiquities 18.1.1  3-10 
(See also War 2.8.1)  
Now Quirinius, a Roman senator..was dispatched by Caesar to be governor of  Syria, and to take an account of their property...He came into Judea, which had now been  annexed to the province of Syria, to take an account of their property, and to liquidate Archelaus's estate. Although the Jews at the beginning  took the report of a  taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of the high priest Joazar,  son of Beethus. So they, being convinced  by Joazar's words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it. 
   The census of Quirinius appears to be the same as that described by Luke in 2:2, which caused Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born. However, if so, there is a discrepancy with the other gospel accounts that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great: the census occurred in 6 CE, while Herod died in 4 BCE. Attempts to reconcile these statements have produced a large scholarly literature, to which the reader is invited to turn. 
Taxation is Slavery
   Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite of  a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, threw himself into the cause of rebellion. They said that this taxation was nothing less than the beginning of slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty. If successful they would procure themselves security  for what they possessed, while if they failed they would earn honor and glory for their lofty goal. They also said that God would be assisting them to no lesser end than the furthering of their enterprise until they be successful; and this especially, if with high devotion in their hearts they would not shrink from executing whatever must be done. 
Revolutionary teachings received with pleasure
Since the people received  their words with pleasure,  this attempt to strike boldly proceeded to a great height, and so all sorts of misfortunes sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to a degree beyond words. 
   One violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends which used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left,) and sometimes on their enemies. 
    For Judas and Sadduc started a fourth philosophic school among us..This I will now describe, because the infection which spread from it among the younger sort, who became zealous for it, brought the public to destruction. 
Description of the Fourth Philosophy 
A. 18.1.6 23  
[The other three philosophies are the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, which Josephus has just discussed.] 
But of the fourth of the philosophies, Judas the Galilean was the author. This school agrees in all other things with the Pharisaic notions, except that  they have an unconquerable passion for liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. 
    They also think little of dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear that what I have said inadequately conveys the resolution they show when they undergo pain. 
   And it was in the time of Gessius Florus, who was  procurator, that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, after he occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority and to make them revolt from the Romans. 
   Josephus describes the philosophy of Judas and Sadduc in terms similar to the teachings of  Rabbis Judas and Matthias ten years earlier. In particular, they put the service of Heaven above that of earthly rulers, do not shrink from direct action, claim divine approval, stress the glory that would come to their followers even if they fail (this is also a commonplace of Greek literature), and value martyrdom. Both movements are associated with expert knowledge of the Law (the later one through its identification as a wing of the Pharisees), and are particularly attractive to the young. It's a reasonable guess that the Fourth Philosophy was influenced by the earlier teachings of the two Rabbis, and may have been simply a re-emergence of that party in more virulent form  after having been driven underground for a decade. However, Josephus denigrates the motives of Judas and Sadduc. 
   Scattered throughout the New Testament are hints that Jesus of Nazareth and his followers are associated in the minds of the populace with the radical Fourth Philosophy. The founder of the party is explicitly named in Acts 5:37, when Rabbi Gamaliel defends Peter and John:  
"After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered." His point  is that there is nothing to fear from the Jesus followers, for they cannot succeed unless heaven turns out to be with them. Josephus does not relate the death of Judas, although he does report (Antiquities 20.5.2 102) that Judas' sons James and Simon were executed by procurator Alexander in about 46 CE, several years after R. Gamaliel's statement . 
   Other connections can be made. The Galilean origin of both Jesus and Judas of Gamala is one circumstantial item, together with the preaching of  a "kingdom of God" that stresses a divine ruler over an earthly one. Scholars  have pointed out that two of Jesus' apostles have appellations that relate them to the extremists. Simon is called the Zealot in Luke (6:15), which is the name that the major revolutionary faction would take during the War (his title in  Mark and Matthew, "the Cananean," appears to be derived from the untranslated Hebrew word for Zealot, perhaps a deliberate obfuscation); and Judas Iscariot is thought by some to have derived his name from the Sicarii, the terrorists prior to the war. The arrest of Jesus followed a violent insurrection in the city (Mark 15:7);  Barabbas, who would be released instead of Jesus, had been  involved. 
   But the New Testament authors emphasize that confusing Jesus with these violent revolutionaries is a mistake. The most telling distinction  is made when Jesus is asked whether the Law allowed the Jews to pay taxes to the emperor: the very issue upon which Judas the Galilean founded his party. The authors have Jesus giving an apparently peaceful answer, separating the secular and the religious realms, quite different from the revolutionary rhetoric: render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. (Mark 12:17).  Whether Jesus truly said this or not is a matter of debate among secular scholars. 
   Finally, I note that Josephus reports the  teachings of Jesus the Galilean are received with pleasure by the people. A very similar phrase occurs in the reception of Jesus by the people in Josephus' famous paragraph, the Testimonium Flavianum. Compare: 
(Antiquities 18.3.4 63) 
teacher of people who with pleasure received the truth   
didaskolos anthroponton hedone talethe dechomenon 

(Antiquities 18.1.1 6) 
for with pleasure hearing  the words responded the people 
hedone gar ten akroasin hon legoien edechonto ho anthropoi 

Does this similar phrasing indicate Josephus conflates in his mind the teachings of Jesus of Nazereth with those of Judas the Galilean? As pointed out in the article on the Testimonium found on this web site, the word "truth"  has no support as authentic, so there may well have been something less approving here, e.g., "the unusual" (as suggested by Thackeray). Or is it just that the two passages were probably composed about the same time, as only 57 sections separate them?  
A Path in the Wilderness: Promises of Signs from Heaven 
War 2.17.2 258 
There was also another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions but more wicked in their intentions, which laid waste the happy state of the city no less than did these murderers. Deceivers and impostors, under pretense of Divine inspiration, but who were for procuring revolutionary changes of the government; prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty. But Felix thought this procedure was to be the beginning of a revolt; so he sent some horsemen and footmen both armed, who destroyed a great number of them. 
   Several prophet figures are described by Josephus as appearing in Judea over the years. Some of these are directly associated with the insurrection, as in the case above (the passages in Antiquities  20.8.10 188) may refer to the same individual, with the name of the procurator corrected between the two versions). This demonstrates the close connection between the revolutionary movement and an expectation of divine revelation. 
   Students of the New Testament often associate these figures with expectations of a coming Messiah, and ponder the relation between these figures and Jesus. Strictly speaking, Josephus never describes these prophets as predicting an apocalypse or armageddon. What is at stake is not manifestly the end of the world as we know it, but simply a change in government and a demonstration of the Lord's power on earth. 
   In the above passages the strongest hint of a Messianic concept is the promise of a revelation when the people follow the prophet into the desert. This could be a reference to Isaiah 40:3-5: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God....And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed." The verse is also the one quoted by John the Baptist (Mark 1:3, Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4). 
Prophets and Revolutionaries Work Together (54-60 CE) 
War 2.13.5-6 261-5 
   But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him. But Felix anticipated his attempt, and met him with the Roman heavy infantry, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes, and there concealed themselves. 
    Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for the deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, threatening death to those that continued in obedience to the Roman government,  saying that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from their inclinations. They parted themselves into different companies up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war. 
    We read about both "deceivers" (false prophets) and "robbers" throughout the period of the procurators, but these are not always connected directly  to the revolutionaries. In the above sections, under procurator Felix, they are specifically identified as rebels, thus continuing the theme of the Fourth Philosophy: that Heaven supported their cause. The Greek for robbers is listoi, and whenever Josephus, or indeed the New Testament, uses this word we are left to wonder if political activists are referred to or simple criminals.  Since Josephus questions the motives of the rebellious, asserting that many  are indeed only after their own gain, this distinction can be difficult. 
   In the New Testament Jesus is crucified along with two listoi, usually translated as two "thieves" (Matthew 27:38, Luke 22:37). Since the same word is used as in Josephus, is is reasonable to ask if these thieves were in fact revolutionaries, which would support the idea that Jesus was lumped in with them and actually arrested as a suspected member of the seditious party. 
Omens Interpreted by the Seditious 
War 2.22.1 
There were also such omens observed as were understood to be forerunners of evils by such as loved peace, but were by those that kindled the war interpreted so as to suit their own inclinations; and the very state of the city, even before the Romans came against it, was that of a place doomed to destruction. 
The reliance on divine assistance is a continuing theme of the revolutionaries. The omens to which Josephus here refers apparently are  those he elsewhere connects to the destruction of the Temple (War 6.5.3-4), as he makes a similar observation at the end of that section.  
 The Inviolability of Zion (70 CE) 
 War 6.2.1 Sec. 98-99 
  His words were received by the people in dejection and silence; but the tyrant [John], after many invectives and imprecations upon Josephus, ended by saying that he "could never fear capture, since the city was God's."
   Josephus describes how he delivered a message from the Roman Commander Titus to the besieged of Jerusalem, to the effect that the Temple would be spared if they were to surrender. The above is the answer he received: the Lord would prevent His city from being taken. 
Josephus' reply is interesting. One wonders how this concept came about, in that the Bible relates several prior captures of the city.  As it turned out, the certainty of the rebel leader was less than warranted. 
   Josephus' response to this is interesting. The message was passed on that day the Romans  had learned that the daily sacrifices in the Temple had been suspended (due to supply shortages). Josephus states that, as the revolutionaries had defiled the Temple and failed in their holy duties, that the Lord had transferred his favor to the Romans, who were trying to RESTORE the sacrifices. Thus the city was indeed being divinely protected, but from the revolutionaries, not from the Romans. 
The Reason Above All Others: A Messiah 
War 6.5.4 312-315 

But what more than all else incited them to the war was an ambiguous oracle also found in their sacred writings, that: 

"At about that time, one from their country would become ruler of the habitable world." 

This they took to mean one of their own people, and many of the wise men were misled in their interpretation. This oracle, however, in reality signified the government of Vespasian, who was proclaimed Emperor while in Judea.

   This  manifestly was understood as a prophecy of a Messiah, one appointed by the Lord to do His work on earth. But was it a prophecy of the Messiah, the one that would herald the passing of this world and the beginning of the World to Come?  
  All we can safely say from Josephus' evidence is that the revolutionaries expected divine assistance, and probably signs and miracles, in freeing their country and even taking command of the Roman Empire. The oracle said to them nothing less than the immanent arrival of a Jewish Empire to replace it. This is somewhat different from supposing the revolutionaries had eschatological expectations akin to the early Christians. 
  Part of the interpretation on this point hinges on the term used for "habitable world," oikoumene. This word usually  means the Graeco-Roman world, but it could also indeed signify the whole earth; the latter would be a magical happening requiring some new cosmic order. Of significance to Josephus may have been that the term is used by Cyrus in 1 Esdras 2:3 (Septuagint translation) to refer to his own kingdom, and Cyrus is the only foreign ruler to be called a messiah (christ in the Septuagint). It was a commonplace to reread passages about Cyrus as referring to the contemporary  to the Emperor of Rome, so this may have been the basis for Josephus' interpretation. 
   We do not know what oracle Josephus is citing here, although it seems to be one of the Sibylline Oracles held at Rome; it is also mentioned by the Roman historians Tacitus (The Histories) and Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars, the Vespasian section). 

Class Conflict

Introductory Comment 
   Enmity between the rich and the poor motivated some of the violence that led to the war. The alliance of the revolutionaries with robbers who looted the houses of the wealthy has already been cited above (War 2.13.6). Here are some more extracts demonstrating these hostilities. 
Class Conflict Between Sadducees and Pharisees 
Antiquities 13.10.7 
Great disputes and differences have arisen between them; but the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious, while the Pharisees have the multitude on their side. 
Among the Priests  
Antiquities 20.8.8 180-181 (56 CE) 
(See also Antiquities 20.9.2 205-207) 
There now was enkindled mutual enmity and class warfare between the high priests on the one hand, and the priests and the principal men of the multitude of Jerusalem on the other. Each of the factions got for itself a company of the boldest revolutionaries and became leaders to them; and when they clashed, they did it by casting reproachful words against one another and throwing stones. And there was nobody to rebuke them; they acted with full license, as if there were no government over the city. Such was the impudence and boldness that had seized on the high priests that they had the hardness to send servants to the  threshing-floors to receive the tithes that were due to the priests, with the result that the poorer priests starved to death. 

Ethnic Conflict

Introductory Comment 
   Another source of violence was the hostility between Jews and Greeks in the multi-ethnic cities of the region. The most important of these was Caesarea, the city built by Herod the Great on the Mediterranean that served as the capital of the Roman province under the procurators. This had a large population of Syrians of Greek language and culture.  The frequent clashes between these groups were firmly put down by the procurators, until, under Nero, the government became too weak and corrupt, and the nationalism of the Jews too strong, for the violence to be checked.  The failure of the government to maintain order in Caesarea provoked the seditious across the nation to make their move. 
   The following extracts summarize the situation leading up to the war. 
Ethnic Rioting  
A20.8.7 173-177  
(See also War 2.13.7) 
There arose also a quarrel between the Jewish and Syrian inhabitants of Caesarea on the subject of equal civic rights. The Jews claimed that they had precedence because the founder of Caesarea, their king Herod , was of Jewish descent. The Syrians admitted what they said about Herod; but they said that Caesarea was formerly called Strato's Tower, and that before  Herod's time there was not one Jewish inhabitant. When the magistrates of the district heard of these disorders, they arrested the authors of them on both sides, and tormented them with stripes, and by that means put a stop to the disturbance for a time...Next the Jews and Syrians took to casting stones at each other, until it came about that many on both sides were wounded and fell.
Rights Annulled at Caesarea (60 CE) 
A 20.8.9 182-184 

The leaders of the Syrians in Caesarea, by offering a large bribe, prevailed on Beryllus, who was Nero's tutor ...to apply for a letter from Nero annulling the grant of equal civic rights to the Jews. Beryllus exhorted the emperor and succeeded in getting his authorization for the letter. This letter provided the basis that led to the subsequent miseries that befell our nation. For the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea, when they learned of Nero's letter, carried their quarrel with the Syrians further and further until at last they kindled the flames of war. 

Greek Sacrifice at Synagogue of Caesarea:  
The War Begins (66 CE) 
War 2.14.4-6 284-296 
   Now at this time it happened that the Greeks of Caesarea had obtained from Nero the government of the city, and had brought back with them the text of the the decision: and now began the war, in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, and the seventeenth of the reign of Agrippa, in the month of Artemisins [Iyar, April/May.] 
   The occasion of this war was by no means proportionable to those heavy calamities which it brought upon us. For the Jews that dwelt at Caesarea had a synagogue near the place, whose owner was a certain Cesarean Greek: the Jews had endeavored frequently to have purchased the possession of the place, and had offered many times its value for its price; but as the owner overlooked their offers, so did he put up other buildings on the place, in way of affront to them, and made working-shops of them, and left but a narrow passage, and such as was very troublesome for the Jews to go along to their synagogue. Whereupon the warmer part of the Jewish youth went hastily to the workmen, and forbade them to build there… 
  Now on the next day, which was the seventh day of the week, when the Jews were crowding apace to their synagogue, a certain man of Caesarea, of a seditious temper, got an earthen vessel, and set it with the bottom upward, at the entrance of that synagogue, and sacrificed birds. This thing provoked the Jews to an incurable degree, because their laws were affronted, and the place was polluted. 
   Whereupon the sober and moderate part of the Jews thought it proper to have recourse to their governors again, while the seditious part, and such as were in the fervor of their youth, were vehemently inflamed to fight. The seditious also among the Gentiles of Caesarea stood ready for the same purpose; for they had by agreement beforehand sent the man to sacrifice; so that it soon came to blows. 
     Hereupon Jucundus, the Commander of the Cavalry, who was ordered to prevent the fight, came thither, and took away the earthen vessel, and endeavored to put a stop to the sedition; but when he was overcome by the violence of the people of Caesarea, the Jews caught up their books of the law, and retired to Narbata. 

Corruption of the Procurators 

Introductory Comment 
   After the removal of Herod's son Archelaus in 6 CE until the outbreak of the war, Judea was administered as a province by a series of fourteen Roman governors with the title of  Procurator. They did not hesitate to keep firm control of the country with force. Frequent outbreaks of sedition, robber gangs, and ethnic rioting were put down with beatings and killings.  
  These are usually reported neutrally or even with approval by Josephus. His main goal is to demonstrate the difficulty controlling the country, while seeming to admit that the procurator's actions are justified. And aside from occasional cases of insensitivity to the Jewish religion, particularly on the part of  Pontius Pilate, the conduct of the procurators is not presented by Josephus as being outrageous, until the moment  Nero became Emperor in 54 CE. 
   From then on it seemed there was nothing to hinder the procurators from whatever action they desired for their personal gain and power. These men -- Felix (52-60), Festus (60-62), Albinus (62-64), and Florus (64-66) -- produced twelve years of corrupt government that provoked the populace and was ill-equipped to contain revolution. 
  (For those who have difficulty remembering the order of the procurators under Nero may find useful the mnemonic "fields of festive alpine flowers.")   
Natural Avarice of Governors 
Antiquities 18.6.2 172 
(Tiberius' philosophy) 
For it was a law of nature that governors were prone to engage in extortion. 
Felix Arranges the Assassination of High Priest Jonathan 
A 20.8.5 162-4 
Felix also bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because of his frequent admonitions to improve the administration of  Jewish affairs; for Jonathan feared that he himself would have complaints made of him by the multitude, since he it was who had requested Caesar to send Felix as procurator of Judea. So Felix contrived a method whereby he might get rid of one who had become so continually troublesome to him; for such continual rebukes are annoying to those who are disposed to do wrong. For such reasons Felix persuaded one of Jonathan's most trusted friends, a citizen of Jerusalem named Doras, to bring the robbers upon Jonathan, in order to kill him; and this he did by promising to pay a great deal of money. Doras complied with the proposal, and contrived for the robbers to murder him in the following way. Certain of those robbers went up to the city as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments, and by thus mingling themselves among the multitude they slew Jonathan. 
  The account written earlier, in War 2.18.3, does not implicate Felix in the assassination.  
   Josephus states that it was Jonathan who had originally requested Felix be sent as governor, which was done by Emperor Claudius, who was friendly with the Jewish royal family. As Felix and his brother Pallas were freed slaves who rose high in Claudius' administration, Jonathan may have thought Felix would be a gentle administrator. However, after only two years  Nero succeeded Claudius, and under the new administration that the governor's corruption accelerated..  


Nero Fails to Punish Felix (60 CE) 
A 20.8.9 182 
When Portius Festus was sent by Nero as successor to Felix, the leaders of the Jewish community of Caesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix. He would undoubtedly have paid the penalty for his misdeeds against the Jews had not Nero yielded to the urgent entreaty of Felix's brother Pallas, whom at that time he held in the highest honour. 
   Nero's esteem for Pallas did not last long: the emperor had him killed in 62 CE.  


The Cooperation  of Albinus with Criminals and Rebels (62-64 CE) 
War 2.14.1  272  
(See also Antiquities  20.9.1-5 197 ff.) 

   But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as ably; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it. Accordingly, he did not only, in his political capacity, steal and plunder every one's substance, nor did he only burden the whole nation with taxes; but he permitted the relations of such as were in prison for robbery, and had been laid there either by the senate of every city or by the former procurators, to redeem them for money. And nobody remained in the prisons as a malefactor but he who gave him nothing. 
   At this time it was that the enterprises of the seditious at Jerusalem were very formidable; the principal men among them purchasing leave of Albinus to go on with their seditious practices; while that part of the people who delighted in disturbances joined themselves to those who had  fellowship with Albinus. Every one of these wicked wretches was encompassed with his own band of robbers, while Albinus himself, like an arch-robber or a tyrant, made a figure among his company, and abused his authority over those about him, in order to plunder those that lived quietly. 
   The effect of which was this, that those who lost their goods were forced to hold their peace, when they had reason to show great indignation at what they had suffered; but those who had escaped were forced to flatter him that deserved to be punished, out of the fear they were in of suffering equally with the others. 
    Upon the whole, nobody dared speak their minds, but tyranny was generally tolerated; and at this time were those seeds sown which brought the city to destruction.

Excesses of Florus (64-66 CE) 
War 2.14.2 277 
(see also A20.11.1 252-257)  

And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus, who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been upon comparison a most excellent person. For the former did the greatest part of his rogueries in private, and with a sort of dissimulation; but Gessius did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a pompous manner; and as though he had been sent as an executioner to punish condemned malefactors, he omitted no sort of rapine, or of vexation. Where the case was really pitiable, he was most barbarous; and in things of the greatest turpitude, he was most impudent; nor could any one outdo him in disguising the truth; nor could any one contrive more subtle ways of deceit than he did. He indeed thought it but a petty offence to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils. 
    Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation; and a great many of the people left their own country, and flew into foreign provinces. 

Florus Provokes War to Avoid Punishment 
W 2.14.3 282-283 
He had at that very time the purpose of showing his anger at the nation, and procuring a war upon them, by which means alone it was that he supposed he might conceal his enormities; for he expected that, if the peace continued, he should have the Jews for his accusers before Caesar; but that if he could procure them to make a revolt, he should divert their laying lesser crimes to his charge, by a misery that was so much greater; he therefore did every day augment their calamities, in order to induce them to a rebellion. 
   The superior of Florus was the president of Syria, Cestius Gallus. When Gallus visited Jerusalem to attend the Passover celebration of 65 CE, "not fewer than three million" of the Jews met him to cry out against Florus. Promising to change his ways, Florus calmed Gallus temporarily, then proceeded to provoke war as described above to avoid further inquiry. 
Florus Takes Treasure from the Temple  (66 CE) 
W 2.14.6  
Moreover, as to the citizens of Jerusalem, although they took this matter [the dealings in Caesarea] very ill, yet did they restrain their passion; but Florus acted herein as if he had been hired, and blew up the war into a flame, and sent some to take seventeen talents out of the sacred treasure, and pretended that Caesar wanted them. At this the people were in confusion immediately, and ran together to the Temple, with prodigious clamours, and called upon Caesar by name, and besought him to free them from the tyranny of Florus. 
  Some also of the seditious cried out upon Florus, and cast the greatest reproaches upon him, and carried a basket about, and begged some spells of money for him, as for one that was destitute of possessions, and in a miserable condition. 
  Yet was not he made ashamed hereby of his love of money, but was more enraged and provoked to get still more; and instead of  coming to Caesarea, as he ought to have done, and quenched the flame of war, which was beginning thence...he marched hastily with an army of horsemen and footmen against Jerusalem, that he might gain his will by the arms of the Romans, and might, by his terror and by his threatenings, bring the city into subjection. 
Orders soldiers to Plunder Upper Market Place  
War 2.14.9 
 Florus ... called out aloud to the soldiers to plunder that which was called the Upper Market-place, and to slay such as they met with. ...they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children, (for they did not spare even the infants themselves,) was about three thousand and six hundred. And what made this calamity the heavier was this new method of Roman barbarity; for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped and nailed to the cross before his tribunal; who, although they were by birth Jews, yet were they of Roman dignity notwithstanding. 
   Florus' failure to control the riots in Caesarea are here attributed to a deliberate diversion in order to extort money. The revolutionaries in turn take this as an opportunity to openly mock the government, and the subsequent violence forces the populace to war. 
Josephus Decides War was Necessary 
A 20.11.1 257 

What more need be said? It was Florus who constrained us to take up war with the Romans, for we preferred to perish together rather than by degrees. The war in fact began in the second year of the procuratorship of Florus and in the twelfth of Nero's reign. 

   Usually presenting himself as a loyal subject of Rome who adamantly opposed the war, here Josephus admits agreement with the revolutionaries. Whatever the nationalist motives of the populace, ultimately, he says, war was absolutely necessary after two years of Florus' corruption and twelve of Nero's. 

"And This was the True Beginning"

   W 2.17.2  408-410 
   And now some of the most ardent promoters of hostilities banded together and made an assault on the fortress called Masada, and having gained possession of it by stratagem, they slew the Roman guards and put a garrison of their own in their place. 
   At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the Temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the chief priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. 
   The recognition of authority of the Emperor is annulled in this symbolic act, which also implies a refusal to pay tribute. The Fourth Philosophy begun by Judas the Galilean 60 years before has reached its peak. 
  And the family of Judas the Galilean still propels the revolt. Menahem, Judas' son,  breaks into the armoury at Masada and with these weapons becomes leader of the revolution and lays siege to the Roman garrison at Jerusalem. 
   The war would not completely end until another descendant of Judas, Eleazar, son of Jairus, leads the mass suicide at Masada in 74 CE, surrendering the last fortress of resistance to the Romans. 
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