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«Edited by Mladen Popović LEIDEN • BOSTON © 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV CONTENTS List of Figures and Tables Preface List of Contributors The Jewish ...»

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(2.30.3) Meanwhile the Judaeans, hemmed in by the siege—since no opportunity for either peace or surrender was given them—were perishing in desperation from famine, and the streets began to be filled with corpses everywhere, for the duty of burying them had been overridden.

Why, having dared to eat everything of a disgusting kind, they did not spare even human bodies, except those in which decay had precluded their use as food. (4) So the Romans broke in on the exhausted defenders [note word-play: defessis defensoribus]. As it happened, everyone had assembled at that time, from the countryside and from the other towns of Judaea, for the day of the Pascha [Passover]: no doubt it pleased God that this impious people should be given over to destruction at the very season in which they had put the Lord on a cross. (5) For a while the Pharisees held their ground bravely before the temple until at last, with minds bent on death, they flung themselves into the flames of their own accord. The number of those killed is related to have been 1,100,000, with fully 100,000 captured and sold.

(6) After calling a consilium, Titus is said to have deliberated, first, whether he should bring down a sanctuary of such extraordinary construction [an templum tanti operis]. For it seemed to some that a consecrated shrine more famous than all human works ought not to be wiped out: preserved, it would furnish evidence of Roman restraint; demolished, an enduring relic of Roman cruelty. (7) Others by contrast, also Titus himself, reckoned that the temple above all must be brought down, with the result that the religion [religio] of the Judaeans and Christians would be eliminated more completely. [He/they said:] “In fact these religions [religiones], though opposed to each other, nevertheless proceeded from the same ancestors [or originators]. The Christians emerged from the Judaeans [Christianos ex Iudaeis exstitisse]. So, with the root eliminated, the offshoot will quickly vanish.” (8) Thus, with God’s approval and everyone’s minds being inflamed, the temple was demolished, three hundred and thirty-one years ago. This latest overthrow of the temple Cf. also B.J. 2.90; 3.363; 4.260, 388; 5.332; 6.346, 353; A.J. 1.315; 6.69; 9.58;

12.274; 14.304; 15.157.

–  –  –

and harshest captivity of the Judaeans, which sees them refugees from their ancestral land and scattered across the circle of the earth, are a daily proof to the world of their having been punished for nothing other than the impious hands they laid on Christ. Although they have often been reduced to captivity at other times because of their sins, nevertheless they have never faced a punishment of slavery for more than seventy years.

Bernays’ argument for tracing this to a contemporary source was along these lines. First, he denied that Severus used Josephus’ War, though it was widely circulating in Greek, in a fourth-century Latin translation, and in a Latin paraphrase. Bernays could not see why Josephus’ account, which attributed the temple’s fall to God, would not have been preferable for this Christian writer, or why he would make the Romans so hostile to Christians in the early fifth century, when some Christians had made the emperor Tiberius an admirer of the faith.120 Second, Bernays assumed Josephus to be a Flavian mouthpiece, helping out his patrons with a revisionist account. He imagined that the Flavians had a problem on their hands, after the first flush of uninhibited triumphalism, when they settled down to rule. Why had they destroyed an ancient sanctuary, which they could have taken by other means and garrisoned? Josephus showed that they had not planned the temple’s destruction; it happened accidentally.121 As for Severus’ source, Bernays noted that two earlier passages borrowed from surviving sections of Tacitus’ Annals, concerning Nero’s persecution of Christians after the great fire and his marriage to a man after Poppaea’s death (Chron. 2.28–29). So it seemed likely that Severus took also this version of the council from the Roman historian, who hated both Judaeans and Christians.122 Finally, Bernays proposed that Tacitus received his information from a participant in the council named by Josephus, M. Antonius Iulianus (B.J. 6.238), given that the late second-century Christian writer Minucius Felix (Oct. 33) mentions that a certain Antonius Iulianus wrote something On the Judaeans.123 As for philology, he isolated a few phrases that Tacitus could not likely have written—calling Judaism and Christianity religiones rather than supersitiones, or failing to name the individuals at the council as Josephus Bernays, Ueber die Chronik des Sulpicius Severus: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der klassischen und biblischen Studien (Berlin: Wilhelm Hertz, 1861), 48–61 on the war council (52–53 on this point).

Ibid., 48–52.

Ibid., 55–56.

Ibid., 56.

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV226 steve mason

had done—but he also felt that some phrases—calling the temple consecrated rather than sacred, or using quippe (“in fact”) in indirect speech—were typical of Tacitus rather than Severus.124 Within a year Bernays was answered by Harvard’s German-educated Professor of Latin, Charles (Karl) Beck. In a scrupulous review, Beck doubted Bernays’ crucial premise and supposition that the Flavians ever felt a need to seem mild or to apologize for Jerusalem. Why and to whom? Beck made a general case for Josephus’ reliability and evenhandedness, but also the specific one that Josephus could not have dared to name powerful Romans present at the council, who were in Rome with him after the war, and attribute to them positions they all knew to be inaccurate.125 Further, given Severus’ demonstrable freedom in rewriting his biblical sources, which Bernays had admitted, Beck saw no reason to prefer the late Christian writer’s account to the fuller contemporary version by Josephus.126 On our methodological question, however, Beck agreed with Bernays: “the accounts of Josephus and Severus contradict each other;





they cannot be reconciled...; we must choose one and reject the other.”127 Bernays and Beck thus established the terms of the debate, which have remained in place until today. It is about the reliability of one account over the other. Tommaso Leoni’s excellent survey, though it omits this early exchange, demonstrates the rigid polarity. Most scholars have come to prefer Sulpicius/Tacitus, whereas Leoni sees himself standing nearly alone in 2007, with Tessa Rajak, in valuing Josephus’ testimony more highly than the “inextricable tangle of inconsistencies and distortions” in Severus.128 Not long before Leoni’s article, two essays in a 2005 volume built upon Bernays’ arguments in other consequential ways. T. D. Barnes had earlier shown emphatic support for Bernays in the context of recovering lost fragments from Tacitus: “The proof was first formulated by Jacob Bernays in 1861, and the only attempt Ibid., 57–58.

C. Beck, “Bernays’s Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus,” Christian Examiner (Cambridge: Welch, Bigelow, and Co.: January, 1862), 22–40 (27–40 for these arguments).

Ibid., 25–26.

Ibid., 38 (emphasis added); cf. 40, reprising Bernays: “Whom do you believe, readers?” T. Leoni, “ ‘Against Caesar’s Wishes’: Flavius Josephus as a Source for the Burning of the Temple,” JJS 58 (2007): 39–51. See the compact survey in L. H. Feldman, “A Selective Critical Bibliography of Josephus,” in Josephus, The Bible, and History (ed.

L. H. Feldman and G. Hata; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 330–448 (391–93)—Feldman himself favouring Severus.

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV what is history? 227

to gainsay it [he does not notice Beck] must be pronounced a hopeless failure.”129 In the 2005 piece, provocatively entitled “The Sack of the Temple in Josephus and Tacitus,” he used this basis along with other evidence to chart different moments in Flavian self-representation.130 The following essay is by James Rives, who seeks the policy behind what he accepts (via Bernays) was the Flavians’ determination to destroy the temple.131 Before proceeding with what I have argued is a more properly historical approach to Titus and the temple, I must point out that Bernays and the scholars who support his arguments appear to have overlooked some basic problems. First, it seems clear from the earlier section of the passage quoted above (Chron. 2.30.3–5) that Severus in fact knew Josephus’ War, books 5 and 6, the recognized authority for that conflict, whether directly or indirectly.132 The famine, piles of corpses, cannibalism, being trapped in Jerusalem at Pascha, jumping into the fire, and the numbers of prisoners and dead obviously come from Josephus.133 Second, rhetorical freedom meant that historians felt free to rewrite stories for their own purposes. Josephus himself does this routinely in recasting the War’s material in the Antiquities-Life.

If he himself had given another account of the war council, we would expect it to be as different from the War’s version as the Life’s version of his Galilean command is from the War parallel. The fourth-century text we know as Pseudo-Hegesippus, while following Josephus’ narrative closely, changes the war-council story so that Titus, facing a solid wall of opposition from his commanders over his new inclination to spare the temple, simply delays any decision on the matter (Excid.

5.42). Josephus’ text was authoritative but not sacred: it was there to be manipulated by later authors. Third, contra Bernays, both the general persecution of the righteous by worldly powers and specifically Roman T. D. Barnes, “The Fragments of Tacitus’ ‘Histories,’ ” CP 72 (1977): 224–31 (228).

T. D. Barnes, “The Sack of the Temple in Josephus and Tacitus,” in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (ed. Edmondson, Mason, and Rives), 129–44.

J. Rives, “Flavian Religious Policy and the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple,” in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (ed. Edmondson, Mason, and Rives), 145–66.

See most obviously Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 1.5.3,6.9; 3.9.1–3, 10–11, 10.8.

E.g., B.J. 6.197–219, 259, 280, 420, 431.

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV228 steve mason

cruelty (crudelitas) toward the Christians, are prominent themes in Severus, announced in his prologue and programmatically pursued.134 Fourth and crucially, it was Severus’ own view that Jews and Christians were barely distinguishable to Roman rulers until the time of Hadrian, and that Romans acted against Jews to harm Christians. He thus distinguishes Hadrian’s later war against the Judaeans (i.e., the Bar-Kokhba war), which he mentions as an understandable police action (2.31.3), from the same emperor’s building of Aelia Capitolina.

Of the latter event he writes:

At this time Hadrian [Adrian], supposing that he would eliminate the Christian faith by means of an outrage in that place, set up likenesses of demons both in the temple and in the place of the Lord’s suffering.

And because Christians were thought to come mostly from the Judaeans [Christiani ex Iudaeis potissimum putabantur]—for the church at Jerusalem had no priest except from the circumcision—he ordered a cohort of soldiers to maintain a constant guard so as to prevent all Judaeans from approaching Jerusalem.

Just as in the story of Titus and the temple, for Severus it is all about the Christians all the time. Titus’ determination to wipe out the Christians by excising their Judaean root is fully at home in his narrative, and there is nothing to suggest that it is evidence contemporary with the events of 70.

So much for the merits of Josephus, Pseudo-Hegesippus, and Severus. But my argument is that we ought not to be asking which account is reliable. None of them can be reliable for us. We begin a historical inquiry, as with Cestius’ campaign, by asking our own problems. For example, we might simply ask: “How did the temple come to be destroyed? What is the range of real-life possibilities that would explain the surviving evidence?” In broaching that question we shall want to consider the broadly known context, the nature of the existing sources, and standard strategic issues.

To bring all of these into focus, and help break our habit of leaning on authoritative accounts, we might consider the much better-attested destruction of another sanctuary in wartime as a tonic for our historiChron. 1.1 (excidium Hierosolymae vexationesques populi Christiani et mox pacis tempora); 2.28–29, 31, 32, 33.1; on rulers’ cruelty and bloodthirstiness, 1.13.3, 35.2, 5, 37.2, 54.3; 2.16.8, 23.5, 27.4, 28.2, 29.2, 30.6, 50.7.

–  –  –

cal imagination: the Allied campaign for Monte Cassino in 1944.135 A detour into that episode will require some detail, precisely to illustrate the complexity of real-life decision-making in wartime.

On the morning of February 15, 1944, Allied forces trying to oust German divisions from the heavily fortified Gustav Line, destroyed the ancient Benedictine monastery on Monte Cassino in a massive aerial bombardment. They dropped 576 tons of bombs, such force being required to demolish the roof and upper walls of this fortresslike structure, with its 3 m thick walls, though such destruction still left the lower structures intact. In fortifying their line, since their arrival in the autumn of 1943 to replace Italian troops after their capitulation, the Germans had determined not to use the monastery, even though it occupied an enviable position overlooking the valleys through which the Allies had to pass. They were dug in, however, on the slopes all around it, and so controlled the valleys below by observation and interlocking fields of fire.



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