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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Josephus’s Surrender to the Romans
By Josephus (37–100)
 
From the ‘Jewish Wars’: Translation of Robert Traill

WHILE Josephus was hesitating as to Nicanor’s persuasions,… his nightly dreams, wherein God had foreshown to him the approaching calamities of the Jews, and what would befall the Roman sovereigns, occurred to him. As an interpreter of dreams he had the art of collecting the meaning of things delivered ambiguously by the Deity; nor was he unacquainted with the prophecies of the Sacred Books, being himself a priest, and a descendant of priests. Being at that moment under a divine influence, and suddenly recalling the fearful images of his recent dreams, he addressed to God a secret prayer, and said: “Since it seems good to thee, who didst found the Jewish nation, now to level it with the dust, and transfer all its fortune to the Romans, and since thou hast chosen my spirit to foretell future events, I surrender willingly to the Romans, and live: appealing to thee that I go over to them not as a traitor, but as thy minister.”…  1
  But when the Jews who had there taken refuge along with him understood that he was yielding,… they … cried out:—“Deeply may our paternal laws groan! And well may God, who planted in the Jewish breast a soul that despises death, hide his face in indignation! Is life so dear to thee, Josephus, that thou canst endure to see the light in slavery? How soon hast thou forgotten thyself! How many hast thou persuaded to die for liberty! False then indeed has been thy reputation for manliness, as well as for intelligence, if thou canst hope for safety from those whom thou hast so strenuously opposed, or consent to accept deliverance at their hands, even were it certain! But though the fortune of the Romans has poured over thee some strange forgetfulness of thyself, we must take care of our country’s glory. We will provide thee with right hand and sword. If thou diest voluntarily, thou shalt die as general of the Jews.”…  2
  Josephus, fearing an outbreak,… proceeded to reason with them philosophically respecting the emergency:—  3
  “Why, my comrades, should we so thirst for our own blood? or why do we set at variance such fond companions as soul and body? Who says that I am changed? But the Romans know whether this is true. It is honorable, I admit, to die in war; but only by the law of war,—that is, by the act of the victors. Did I then shun the Roman blades, worthy indeed should I be of my own sword and my own hand. But if pity for an enemy enter their breasts, how much more justly should pity for ourselves enter ours! For it is the extreme of folly to do that to ourselves, to avoid which we quarrel with others…. But some one will urge the dread of servitude. We are now, forsooth, perfectly free! Another will say that it is noble to destroy oneself. Far from it—but most ignoble! just as I would deem that pilot most dastardly, who dreading a tempest, voluntarily sinks his ship ere the storm sets in. But further: suicide is alien to the common nature of all animals, and an impiety against God who created us. Nor indeed is there any living creature that dies premeditatedly, or by its own act; for nature’s law is strong in all—the wish to live. For this reason also, those who attempt overtly to deprive us of life we account enemies; and those who attempt it clandestinely, we punish.  4
  “Do you not think that God is indignant when man treats his gift with contempt? From him we have received our existence; and the period when we are no longer to exist, we refer to his will. Our bodies indeed are mortal to all, and composed of corruptible materials; but the soul, always immortal, and a portion of the Deity, dwells in those bodies. Now, should any one destroy or misapply what is deposited with him by man, he is esteemed wicked and faithless; and should any one cast out from his body what has been there deposited by God, do we suppose that he will elude Him whom he has wronged?…  5
  “I pray however that this may prove a faithless stratagem of the Romans; for if, after an assurance of protection, I perish by their hands, I shall die cheerfully, carrying with me their perfidy and falsehood—a consolation greater than victory.”  6
  Josephus, having thus escaped in the war with the Romans, as in that with his friends, was conducted to Vespasian by Nicanor….  7
  Josephus intimated that he wished to speak in private to him; and Vespasian having removed all except his son Titus and two of his friends, Josephus addressed him in these words:—“You think, Vespasian, that you have possessed yourself merely of a captive in Josephus; but I come to you as a messenger of greater things. Had I not received a commission from God, I knew the law of the Jews, and how it becomes a general to die. Do you send me to Nero? Wherefore? Are there any remaining to succeed Nero, previous to your own accession? You, Vespasian, are Cæsar and emperor—you, and this your son. Bind me then the more securely, and keep me for yourself. For you, Cæsar, are master not only of me, but of sea and land, and of the whole human race. And I deserve the punishment of stricter ward if I talk lightly, especially in a matter pertaining to God.”  8
 
 
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