Tower of AntoniaIn the Life, Josephus gives some details of his biography and the perspective from which he wrote. His picture is self-glorifying and at times even tendentious, yet when critically evaluated it provides an important perspective on his historical works. The Life probably was written in Rome toward the very end of the first century C.E.

(1) The family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one….

(2) I am not only descended from a priestly family, but from the first of the twenty-four courses…, 114 and I am of the chief family of that first course also. Further, by my mother I am of royal blood, for the children of Hasmoneus 115 from whom that family was derived, had both the office of the high priesthood and the dignity of a king for a long

(9) When I was a child of about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had of learning. For this reason the high priests and leading men of the city came frequently to me in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law.

(10) When I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to gain personal experience of the several sects that were among us. These sects are three- the first is that of the Pharisees, the second that of the Sadducees, and the third that of the Essenes, as we have frequently told you. For I thought that by this means I might choose the best, once I was acquainted with them all.

(11) So I submitted myself to hard training and underwent great difficulties, and went through them all. Nor did I submit myself to these trials only. But when I was informed that one whose name was Banus lived in the desert, and that he used no other clothing other than what grew on trees, and had no other food other than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day, in order to preserve his chastity, I imitated him in those things

(12) and stayed with him for three years. So when I had accomplished my purposes, I returned to the city, being now nineteen years old, and began to conduct myself according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees, which resembles the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them.

(13) Soon after I was twenty-six years old, I took a voyage to Rome on the occasion which I shall now describe- When Felix was procurator of Judea, 116 there were certain priests of my acquaintance, very excellent persons, whom on a small and trifling occasion he had put into bonds, and whom he had sent to Rome to plead their cause before Caesar. 117

(14) I was desirous to procure deliverance for them, especially because I was informed that they were not unmindful of piety towards God, even under their afflictions, but supported themselves with figs and nuts. 118 Accordingly I came to Rome by sea after a great number of hazards. (15) For our ship sank in the Adriatic Sea, and we who were in it, about six hundred in number, swam for our lives all night. Then upon the first appearance of the day, we sighted a ship of Cyrene, and I and some others, eighty in all, by God’s providence, were taken up into the other ship. (16) And when I had thus escaped and had come to Dicearchia, which the Italians call Puteoli, I became acquainted with Aliturius, an actor of plays and much beloved by Nero, but a Jew by birth. Through his interest I became known to Poppea, Caesar’s wife, and took care, as soon as possible, to entreat her to arrange that the priests might be set free. When, besides this favor, I had obtained many presents from Poppea, I returned home again.

(17) And now I perceived that revolutionary movements had already begun and that there were a great many people very much elated in hopes of a revolt against the Romans. I therefore endeavored to put a stop to these tumultuous persons and to persuade them to change their minds. I laid before their eyes against whom it was that they were going to fight, and told them that they were inferior to the Romans not only in martial skill but also in good fortune. (18) I warned them against rashly and in the most foolish manner bringing on the dangers of the most terrible perils upon their country, their families, and themselves. (19) This I said with vehement exhortation because I foresaw that the end of such a war would be most unfortunate for us. But I could not persuade them for the madness of desperate men was far too strong for me. 119

(20) I was then afraid, lest by repeating these things so often, I should incur their hatred and their suspicions, as if I were of our enemies’ party, and should run into the danger of being seized by them and killed since they already possessed the Antonia which was the citadel. So I retired into the inner court of the temple. (21) Yet I did go out of the temple again after Menahem and the chief of the band of robbers were put to death, 120 when I stayed among the high priests and the chiefs of the Pharisees. (22) But no small fear took hold of us when we saw the people in arms, while we ourselves knew not what we should do and were not able to restrain the rebels. However, as the danger was directly upon us, we pretended that we were of the same opinion as they but only advised them to be quiet for the present and to let the enemy go away,

(23) still hoping that Cestius 121 would not be long in coming with great forces and so put an end to these rebellious proceedings.

(24) But upon his coming and fighting, he was beaten, and a great many of those that were with him fell; and this disgrace which Cestius received became the calamity of our whole nation….

(80) I was now about thirty years old when it is a hard thing for anyone to escape the calumnies of the envious even if he restrains himself from fulfilling any unlawful desires, especially if a person is in great authority. Yet I did preserve every woman’s honor, and as to the presents offered me, I rejected them as I did not need them; nor, indeed, would I take those tithes which were due to me as a priest, from those who brought them.

(81) Yet I do confess that I took part of the spoils of those Syrians who inhabited the cities that adjoined us when I had conquered them, and that I sent them to my relatives in Jerusalem.

(82) However, when I twice took Sepphoris by force, Tiberias four times, and Gadara once, and when I had subdued and taken John [of Gischala] 122 who often laid treacherous snares for me, I did not punish [with death] either him or any of the aforementioned communities, as the continuation of this discourse will show.

(83) And on this account, I suppose, it was that God, Who is never unacquainted with those who do as they ought, delivered me still out of the hands of my enemies and afterwards preserved me when I fell into those many dangers which I shall relate.

114. The priests were divided into twenty-four “courses” which served in the temple alternately for one-week periods.

115. The father of the Hasmoneans. Josephus’ mother was of the Hasmonean family.

116. Antoninus Felix was procurator from 52 to 60 C.E. These events occurred at end of his term.

117. Nero, 37-68 C.E., became the Roman emperor in 54.

118. Observing the Jewish prohibitions on forbidden foods even in captivity.

119. Despite Josephus’ unsuccessful service as one of the rebel commanders in Galilee, he writes here and throughout his works as if he had always opposed the revolt.

120. Cf. War 11, 433-48. Menahem, head of the anti-Roman party, was murdered by a rival faction.

121. Gaius Cestius Gallus, legate of Syria from 63-67 C.E. In 66 he marched into Palestine to restore calm, but he was defeated at Bet Horon and died in 67 C.E.

122. One of the revolutionary leaders with whom Josephus was in conflict.