Josephus Flavius (37/38-c. 100 CE)
Born to a Hasmonean family on his motherís side and of a priestly family of the Yehoyariv course
on his fatherís side (Josef son of Matatias), he was distinguished as a boy for his fine memory and his ease in learning. Fluent as he was in Greek, he was sent in 64 CE to Rome to negotiate the release of captives. This journey promoted his admiration of the great Roman empire.
In 66 CE, when the Great (first) Jewish Revolt broke out, Josephus was entrusted with the defence of the Galilee by the Sanhedrin
(the Jewish legal authority). He organized the administration of the province, maintained discipline among his troops, and fortified and provisioned a considerable number of towns. But, due to his lack of military experience and his seemingly undetermined stance he was rejected by the zealous patriots, who accused him of treachery.
In the spring of 67 CE, the Roman troops under Vespasian and Titus conquered most of the Galilee. Josephus entrenched his people in the well-fortified town of Jotapata, which was taken after a siege of forty-seven days. Josephus surrendered to the Romans, and won the heart of Vespasian by prophesying that he would become emperor. Indeed, once Vespasian became emperor, Josephus was released from captivity. Josephus later returned to Jerusalem. During the siege of Jerusalem Josephus attempted, at the risk of his life, to persuade the rebellious Jews to surrender. After the fall of Jerusalem, he returned to Rome with Titus, where he received high honors from Vespasian, including Roman citizenship and a yearly pension.
Josephus dedicated the rest of his life to historical recording, and his works are the most important source for the study of the Jewish history during the Second Temple period. His book, The Jewish War
, originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, is lost, and the only surviving copy is the authorís Greek translation. This book describes in length the history of the Jewish people, from the Hasmonean period until the end of the Great (first) Jewish Revolt. His book Jewish Antiquities
, written originally in Greek, tells the story of the Jewish people from its very beginning until the destruction of the Second temple. Its first part renders the Biblical stories and various legends, and the second part describes the period in which Josephus lived. In these books, as well as in his book Autobiography
, he tries to dismiss both the Jewsí and the Romansí criticism of him. In his book Against Apion
, Josephus sets out to protect the Jews and the Jewish faith from the gentiles.