Friday, August 20, 2010

Which 'Josephus' is Closer to the Original? Pseudo-Hegesippus Book 4 Chapter 2 or Bellum Judaicum Book 4 Chapter 1?

We continue with our systematic comparative analysis of the two surviving Josephan narratives. The next section in Hegesippus reads:

Vespasian however when he noticed the army to be sorrowful because of the loss of so many men and especially because of the shame of having deserted their leader, because they had left him alone in the city of the enemy, with greatest kindness he consoled them saying: "if the occurrence of my peril is a matter of shame for you, I did not proceed to war in order to shun dangers but to grasp them; but truly so many of ours killed is not at all to be astonished at; for when is there any victory without blood? battles have their consequences. If proved valor is accustomed to excel in war, it is however usual that something be allowed to chance. But it is the part of a prudent man in adverse times to correct a fault, in prosperous times to exercise moderation; on the contrary however (persons) of a certain unskilled and ignorant temperament anticipate a successful outcome always as if the contest were not against men, the superstitious however at any setback despair of the main goal, when at some brief moments all the things that are being carried out in a war suddenly go awry. And so he is the most outstanding who in adverse circumstances sensibly deals with events and supplants (his) superior and to recover and correct himself seeks out his own failings. And truly he who is too reckless often falls (a victim) to his impulses and while he rushes in heedless diffuse in his attack he falls prostrate. But if this frequently happens when (there is) valor alone, how much more frequently in war when engaged armies of a different type are fighting, and there is neither one plan nor a common purpose, an unfavorable ground of difficult roughness, uneven in difficult condition for fighting, many against few, when even the multitude is a hindrance to itself, and few in the many are not frustrated. But these often burst forth in a moment, which come not from merit but happen from chance. Whence there is nothing which ought to trouble you, (my) fellow-soldiers, because the adverse circumstances (arose) not through any weakness of your hand and not through the bravery of the Jews, but the difficulty of the places was an impediment for us to victory, for them an opportunity for delay. Nor is there anything which it is possible to blame, unless the unadvised and confused attack. For when you followed them to the upper parts of the city and rushed blindly into their homes, you involved yourselves in dangers. Whose hospitality you come into, you take upon yourselves (their) dangers. You were holding the city, who forced you to go inside it? The enemy had to descend to you, you had not to fight unrestrainedly for victory unmindful of life and safety. Therefore ease your minds and about your worth take not only comfort, but what is more important take justification. You will have me certainly leading the way to battle. Be prepared in mind, Dangers make you more brave not more cowardly. It is easy to make good a mistake, if worth recollects itself." [Pseudo-Hegesippus 4.2]

The parallel section in Jewish War reads:

And now Vespasian comforted his army, which was much dejected by reflecting on their ill success, and because they had never before fallen into such a calamity, and besides this, because they were greatly ashamed that they had left their general alone in great dangers. As to what concerned himself, he avoided to say any thing, that he might by no means seem to complain of it; but he said that "we ought to bear manfully what usually falls out in war, and this, by considering what the nature of war is, and how it can never be that we must conquer without bloodshed on our own side; for there stands about us that fortune which is of its own nature mutable; that while they had killed so many ten thousands of the Jews, they had now paid their small share of the reckoning to fate; and as it is the part of weak people to be too much puffed up with good success, so is it the part of cowards to be too much aftrighted at that which is ill; for the change from the one to the other is sudden on both sides; and he is the best warrior who is of a sober mind under misfortunes, that he may continue in that temper, and cheerfully recover what had been lost formerly; and as for what had now happened, it was neither owing to their own effeminacy, nor to the valor of the Jews, but the difficulty of the place was the occasion of their advantage, and of our disappointment. Upon reflecting on which matter one might blame your zeal as perfectly ungovernable; for when the enemy had retired to their highest fastnesses, you ought to have restrained yourselves, and not, by presenting yourselves at the top of the city, to be exposed to dangers; but upon your having obtained the lower parts of the city, you ought to have provoked those that had retired thither to a safe and settled battle; whereas, in rushing so hastily upon victory, you took no care of your safety. But this incautiousness in war, and this madness of zeal, is not a Roman maxim. While we perform all that we attempt by skill and good order, that procedure is the part of barbarians, and is what the Jews chiefly support themselves by. We ought therefore to return to our own virtue, and to be rather angry than any longer dejected at this unlucky misfortune, and let every one seek for his own consolation from his own hand; for by this means he will avenge those that have been destroyed, and punish those that have killed them. For myself, I will endeavor, as I have now done, to go first before you against your enemies in every engagement, and to be the last that retires from it." [Jewish War 4.1.6]

The characterization of the Jews as filled with mad, irrational frenzy continues here as well as the exemplification of the Romans as the epitome of virtue (and thus demonstrating that 'Josephus' had went over to the better side later in life) "this incautiousness in war, and this madness of zeal, is not a Roman maxim. While we perform all that we attempt by skill and good order, that procedure is the part of barbarians, and is what the Jews chiefly support themselves by. We ought therefore to return to our own virtue."

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.