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The Jewish War (Classics) [Paperback]

Josephus , G. Williamson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Sep 1981 Classics
Josephus' account of a war marked by treachery and atrocity is a superbly detailed and evocative record of the Jewish rebellion against Rome between AD 66 and 70. Originally a rebel leader, Josephus changed sides after he was captured to become a Rome-appointed negotiator, and so was uniquely placed to observe these turbulent events, from the siege of Jerusalem to the final heroic resistance and mass suicides at Masada. His account provides much of what we know about the history of the Jews under Roman rule, with vivid portraits of such key figures as the Emperor Vespasian and Herod the Great. Often self-justifying and divided in its loyalties, The Jewish War nevertheless remains one of the most immediate accounts of war, its heroism and its horrors, ever written.

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The Jewish War (Classics) + Jewish Antiquities (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) + The Annals of Imperial Rome (Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (17 Sep 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 7.8 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Josephus was born in 37 AD. He was one of the Jewish leaders at the time of the revolt of the Jews in the reign of Nero. His two most important works are The Jewish War and The Jewish Antiquities.

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THE war of the Jews against the Romans was the greatest of our time; greater too, perhaps, than any recorded struggle whether between cities or nations. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible classic 2 May 2008
By Davywavy2 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having gone through the state education system, I came out of school completely uneducated about things like history and classic literature and I've been trying to rectify this omission for many years. This has resulted in me reading a lot of the classics line, and something I've realised is what hard work many of them are. As times change, so do writing styles and ideas of what makes a narrative work, and to the modern reader many books written hundreds of years past can be a challenging read.
This is why Josephus is such a pleasure. For all that we are separated from him by almost two thousand years, his humanity shines through. His history of the Jewish war against the Romans in the late 1st century AD is very much a history of his own activities therein, and what an unashamedly self-serving document it is. Originally a regional commander in the rebellious jewish army, Josephus wrote his history after his capture by the Romans and defection to their side (he became a Roman citizen and a courtier to more than one emperor). By turns witty, outrageously immodest and deceitful, Josephus wrote a hagiography of himself and his roman patrons and a tremendously enjoyable read it is too. By humanising his narrative, he also succeeds in making it accessible.

We have so few records of the ancient world it is impossible to be absolutely certain how accurate any given historical document is. However, as well as being enjoyable, the archaelogical and historical record suggests that when Josephus talks about the facts of the war (who won and fought who, where and when) he can be trusted in the broad sweep if not in the details.
It's a fascinating and human insight into the ancient world which shows that people, wherever and whenever they lived, are just as human - and as worried about their reputations - as are we.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Josephus - the Jewish War, Penguin 15 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback
In keeping with Penguin classics generally, this is an excellent translation of Josephus 'The Jewish War' - and easily readable. This alone is a major advantage over the older translation still in print; hopefully a Penguin version of his other main work 'The antiquities of the Jews' will follow. A downside is that it does not use the Loeb referencing system, which makes cross referencing of commentaries a little difficult - but this does not detract from the translation. Scholars could usefully buy both translations - one using the Loeb system (for ease of reference)The Jewish War (Classics), and the Penguin version (much more understandable translation)
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
As a translation of classical literature, the Penguin edition serves as a useful companion to any student of Josephus, or of the period of Roman control over Israel in the first pre-Christian and post-Christian centuries. It is the cheaper alternative to the expensive Loeb translation.
However, since most scholarship tends to use the Loeb referencing system, it would be useful if the Penguin edition has better cross-refencing with this system. This would make it far easier for the student to find the approriate passage in the Penguin, given a Loeb citation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Josephus, bombarding you with information 20 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a most interesting book and I'd recommend it to everyone. The extra information and appendixes at the back add extra interesting information, complementing the narrative as written 2000 years ago.

Although Josephus is most articulate he has a habit of bombarding the reader with information sometimes. It goes so fast that it's hard to follow fully sometimes, also because there are so many names it's hard to keep up. Nevertheless an enjoyable read.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
88 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Classic in an accessible yet scholarly edition 5 Nov 1998
By James J. Bloom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The "real" Josephus is a very hot topic among Christian theologians looking for the actuality behind the gospels and students of Judaica trying to go beyond Josephus' usual superficial "traitor" image. If you can't read the original Greek, the next best thing is to read the Loeb (Harvard U. Press) Classics edition with facing English and Greek text. However, even that format might be heavy going for the more casual, but curious, reader. The Penguin edition is far from a watered down popularized version of the Loeb. It is a condensed rendering without sacrificing essential detail. The liberties taken by Williamson largely consist of rearranging J's clumsy seven parts into 23 easily digested chapters. The most valuable part of this edition, however, is not Willliamson's lucid translation but E. Mary Smallwood's outstanding notes and appendices. Her historical asides provide a crash course in the then-current scholarship on the Josephus Problem.
The narrator is a self-serving,wiley ex-Priest of the Jerusalem Temple who was a "general" on the crucial Galilee front, until he was taken captive under mysterious circumstances. He cleverly prophesized" that his captor, Vespasian, would be the next emperor. Meanwhile, J served his former enemy as an intelligence analyst and intermediary. Eventually, after the fall of Judaea, he became a protege Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus, soon to be successor. Using his own notes and memory (quite selective and filtered) and the official field reports as well as the war diaries of Vespasian and Titus, Jewish expatriate Josephus wrote what amounts to the official Roman military history of the war against the Jews. Yet he did not totally sell out. He managed to portray his countrymen as mounting a valiant, though nherently futile, effort.
This is no dry dusty "classic" -- it is an exciting, dramatic illustration of how Roman military power deals with an intractable and fanatic province. Apart from Julius Caesar's accounts of his military exploits, there are few such detailed expositions of imperial Rome at war.
If you have any interest in the crisis of Judaism, the birth of Christianity, the Roman War Machine, or simply a cracking good adventure yarn...this book is for you. Josephus' story behind the history would make an excellent topic for a screenplay.
Jim Bloom
62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Traitor's Tale 29 Jun 2001
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A Traitor's Tale
Imagine if the only account of the American Revolution was written by Benedict Arnold and you get a good idea of what Josephus' history is like. The Jewish War is a contemporary account of the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation in 66-73 AD. In terms of ancient history, The Jewish War is unusually detailed since the author was an active participant in events. Josephus was born in 37 AD, seven years after the crucifixion of Christ, and he was educated as a scholar and priest. Shortly after Judaea erupted in rebellion in May 66 AD, Josephus joined the insurgents and was tasked with organizing the military defense of Galilee. Although the initial Roman effort to suppress the rebellion in late 66 AD failed, the Roman Empire quickly responded to the Jewish revolt. A 50,000 man Roman army under the general Vespasian was assembled in Syria and invaded Galilee in Spring 67 AD. Although Josephus put up a stout defense of the province, Vespasian overran one town after another until Josephus' own stronghold of Jotapata fell in July 67 AD. While most of the Jewish defenders were killed in the final assault or committed mass suicide, Josephus decided to remain alive and collaborate with the all-conquering Romans. Initially Josephus was treated as a prisoner but after demonstrating himself as a willing collaborator, he was treated as a guest. For the remainder of the war, Josephus remained close to the Roman command headquarters and was able to gather insights that he would commit to his history of the war. However it is important to remember that Josephus was a traitor (after the war he settled in Italy), and his desire to flatter his former enemies and to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation are important bias factors that shape the account.
The first six chapters (130 pages) deals mostly with the reign of Herod the Great and the internal power struggles in Judaea in the 1st Century BC. Although this third of the book is only intended to provide the background history of Judaea, it does hammer home the reality of constant struggles for dominance by various factions. Jew on Jew violence was endemic. The seventh chapter covers the period 6 - 58 AD when Judaea came under direct Roman rule due to anarchy in the province after Herod's death. Pontius Pilate, the famous Roman governor of 26-36 AD, is only mentioned in three paragraphs. Jesus Christ is not mentioned at all in this Penguin translation, but the Loeb translation does offer a short section on Christ and John the Baptist. Certainly these chapters are disappointing in the relative lack of detail provided on recent events prior to the revolt, as opposed to the highly-detailed accounts of events that occurred 100-200 years prior.
Josephus' account of the outbreak of the war is a bit confusing. Whether they were revolting for political or religious reasons is unclear. The relative impact of Roman heavy-handedness versus nationalist aspirations is ambiguous. Josephus covers the period May 66 to July 67 AD in great detail, primarily because he was an active commander in Galilee in this period. Most of this account is probably factual, except to where it relates to the author's prowess or the incident in which he was captured.
After Josephus capture, the account then focuses primarily on the rival Jewish factions which attempted to seize power in Jerusalem and the Roman siege of that city. Josephus covers the four-month siege of the capital (summer 70 AD) in great, bloody detail. While the author's claims that over one million Jews died in the siege are greatly exaggerated since the population was only 600,000, there is little doubt that the final capture of the city was a scene of great carnage. Josephus spends great effort to paint the Jewish defenders in the blackest light as impious gangsters, bent only on looting their own city and eliminating all rivals. On the other hand, the Romans are painted in a very favorable light. Both these portrayals are colored by Josephus' circumstances as a traitor (during the siege he repeatedly went to the walls and called on the defenders to surrender).
The siege of Masada is covered in only the last fifteen pages, with little discussion of the Roman assault ramp. This overly-succinct section, which covers the dramatic ending of the war, is disappointing. As military history, The Jewish War does provide interesting lessons. The initial Roman punitive expedition to crush the rebellion failed due to poor planning and hasty execution. Vespasian's campaign was methodical and successful, particularly in eliminating all insurgent towns around Jerusalem before beginning a major siege. The Roman Army fought best in open, set-piece battle but was several times defeated in confused street fighting inside Jerusalem and other towns. Untrained but fanatical enemies can inflict losses on even well prepared regular troops, particularly when the fanatics are cornered and their situation is desperate.
Despite omissions that were included in the Loeb translation, the Penguin editors are to be applauded for the excellent footnotes and appendices covering topics such as money, provincial administration and Jewish bandit factions. The map of Judaea is decent, but the map of Jerusalem does not show surrounding areas where the Romans camped. All in all, The Jewish War is valuable in covering a little-known war at a crucial time, but the author's veracity is often suspect.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1st Century clash between Romans and Jews 27 Aug 2001
By Paul M. Dubuc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this book to read before a trip to Israel in 1999. It's a very readable English translation. This gives Josephus' account of the war between the Romans and the Jews in the 1st century. Most fascinating (and horrible) are the accounts of the destruction of Gamla and Jerusalem and the final siege of Masada. Scholars are critical of Josephus because he puts too much of himself into the story and because it is probably biased in favor of his Roman benefactors. (Josephus began fighting against the Romans, but then came over to their side when he was captured and convinced of the hopelessness of the rebellion. He tried to convince the Jews not to fight, but to accept Roman rule. He wrote this history for the Romans' benefit after the war.) Nevertheless, there are very few good historical accounts of this place and time. Reading it gives you a taste of what life would have been like in that ancient land during this terrible period. It's well worth the time spent reading it, especially if you plan to visit the places described.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Josephus's works are treaures in the Jewish history 13 May 1999
By Joecities - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Jewish War is a very valuable source in studying the Jewsih history under the Roman domination. The book covers the facts happened from the occupation of the Greek in Jews, to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In other words, it is crossing from the Old Testament to the New Testament. However, most of the events it recorded are not covered in the Scripture. Such events as the domination of the Greek and the Macabee reovlt, a period between the two Testaments, are always missed by the Christian since it is not recorded in the Bible. Also, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, famous to most of the Christian, but only know little. So, this book supplies a lot of information for the background of the Old and New testaments. Herod, Flenix, King Agrippas, they were the names that are familiar with. Therefore, to better understand the New Testament, this book is a must. In imitating Herotodus's style in writing history, Josephus left a lot of other information when depicting the Jewish-Roman war. This book is thus a good source-book for the solidery system of the Roman. How the Roman soldiers matched, how they fought, how they used their battling machinery etc. , and also the geographic information of Palestine and Israel. I highly recommend this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Modern Translation of Josephus' Chronicle 14 Aug 2001
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Part history, part memoir, Josephus' account of the events leading up to and during the Jewish revolt against Rome from A. D. 66 to A. D. 73 is still regarded by many historians as the primary account of the war. Admittedly, it is a heavily biased account, a mea culpea written to restore Josephus' tarnished reputation among his fellow Jews and to heap praise on his benefactors, the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus. I commend Penguin Classics for issuing a very readable translation that was written in 20th Century English. Anyone interested in getting a glimpse into what Rome or ancient Judea was like during the first century before or after the birth of Christ will find this essential reading.
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