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FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS

37CE - 100CE
Roman

"I was myself brought up with my brother, whose name was Matthias, for he was my own brother, by both father and mother; and I made mighty proficiency in the improvements of my learning, and appeared to have both a great memory and understanding. "

Josephus lived around 37 - 100 AD, and introduced himself in Greek as "Iosepos, son of Matthias, an ethnic Jew, a priest from Jerusalem".He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66 - 73 AD, as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, however, he was sent as a young man in his early twenties, to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests. He later returned to Jerusalem and was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces.

After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat fell under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands; the survivors committed suicide. According to Josephus however, in circumstances that are somewhat unclear, Josephus found himself trapped in a cave with forty of his companions. The Romans asked him to surrender once they discovered where he was, but his companions refused to allow this. He therefore suggested a method of collective suicide: they drew lots and killed each other, one by one, counting to every third person.This method, as a mathematical problem is referred to as the Josephus problem, or Roman Roulette. As the sole survivor of this process, in July 67 AD, Josephus then surrendered to the Roman forces invading Galilee in July 67 and became a prisoner. The Roman forces were led by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors.

In 69 AD, Josephus was released, and according to Josephus's own account, he appears to have played a role as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In 71 AD, he arrived in Rome in the entourage of Titus, becoming a Roman citizen and client of the ruling Flavian dynasty. In addition to Roman citizenship he was granted accommodation in conquered Judaea, and a decent, if not extravagant, pension.

It was while in Rome, and under Flavian patronage, that Josephus wrote all of his known works. Although he only ever calls himself Josephus, he appears to have taken the Roman praenomen Titus and nomen Flavius from his patrons.This was standard practice for new Roman citizens. Josephus's first wife perished, together with his parents, in Jerusalem during the siege, and Vespasian arranged for him to marry a Jewish woman who had been captured. This woman left Josephus, and around 70 AD, he married a Jewish woman from Alexandria by whom he had three male children. Only one, Flavius Hyrcanus, survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife and around 75 AD, married his fourth wife, a Jewish woman from Crete, and member of a distinguished family. This last marriage produced two sons, Flavius Justus and Flavius Simonides Agrippa.

Josephus's life is beset with ambiguity. For his critics, he never satisfactorily explained his actions during the Jewish war - why he failed to commit suicide in Galilee in 67 AD like the rest of his compatriots, and why, after his capture, he accepted patronage from the Romans.

His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75 AD) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94 AD)

TITLES BY FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS

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