Josephus FlaviusAs military commander of the Galilee during the Jewish revolt against Rome, Flavius Josephus (imaginatively portrayed here in oriental garb) was a failure; he was deceitful and probably cowardly. But as the historian of his times his name is honored.

Born Josephus ben Matthias, he was descended on his mother’s side from Jonathan, the Hasmonean high priest. He travelled to Rome at age 26 and upon his return to Palestine he argued with the Jewish zealots against their intention to rebel against Rome. Losing his argument, he joined the rebellion in 66 A.D. as commander of Jewish forces in the Galilee.

Josephus’ troops fled before the Roman armies led by Vespasian and his son Titus. Josephus and forty followers took refuge in the stronghold of Jotapata, choosing to die at their own hands rather than to fall to the Romans. All the defenders, save Josephus and one other, died in fulfillment of the vow. Josephus surrendered to Vespasian, whom he flattered by predicting that he would become emperor. By this prediction Josephus saved himself from execution.

Two years later, his prophecy fulfilled, Josephus was freed; he took the name Flavius, the family name of the Roman emperors.

In later years he devoted himself to writing the great works of history for which he is famous, especially the Jewish War, which told the story of the Jewish revolt against Rome including “The Fall of Gamla” and the Antiquities of the Jews.