Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Judean perspectives: Josephos’ Against Apion in full (late first century CE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified February 19, 2023, http://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=6641.
Ancient authors: Josephos, Against Apion (link).
Comments: Josephos’ work entitled Against Apion (ca. 90s CE), which is presented in this post in full, is extremely important for the study of ethnic relations and, of course, for an extended glimpse into a Judean (Jewish) perspective on the Judean way of life. (Josephos belonged to a priestly family of Jerusalem). The work is saturated in the discourses of Greek ethnography and the language of competition among ethnic groups. It also pulls together so many of the most important passages in which Greek authors described the Judean people and their customs. For this reason, you will find portions of the work under the names of Greek (e.g. Hekataios, Agatharchides) and Egyptian (e.g. Manetho) authors on other parts of this website.
The work is organized into three parts. In part 1 (1.1-1.218), Josephos seeks to establish the superiority of supposed “barbarians” (above Greeks) with regard to record-keeping. So the theme of “barbarian wisdom” is very important here. Josephos shows that Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Chaldeans – the best record-keepers – unanimously recognize the extreme antiquity of the Judean people and its customs. Judeans (Jews) are then presented as superior to the rest of the barbarians in their own record-keeping, just to make sure that is clear. Greek sources mentioning Judeans are also cited, even though they are not considered as old or reliable. So “barbarians” are better than Greeks, and Judeans are the best wise “barbarians.”
In part 2 (1.219-2.144), Josephos devotes the second part to directly attacking a variety of authors who (in Josephos’ view) speak negatively about Judeans. Apion is his finale, but there are many other authors (seen in bold throughout this post) that are dealt with. Josephos tends to dismiss negative characterizations of Judeans as spawned by “Egyptians,” but we need to be careful about taking that at face value. As Egyptians were often put at the bottom of an ethnic hierarchy, it was one strategy to label ones’ enemies as “Egyptians” in order to establish the superiority of one’s own ethnic group. That is what happened to Judeans as well, of course, since they were dismissed as a diseased offshoot of Egyptian society in some of the narratives that Josephos picks apart (e.g. the alternative Exodus accounts). So when Josephos turns the table and implies that Apion was a lowly Egyptian from an oasis somewhere, we need to hesitate. Apion finds his home most as a Greek within the city of Alexandria. Ethnic labelling was a complicated process.
In part 3 (2.146-2.296), Josephos moves on to the more positive aim of outlining the superior, ancient social organization and customs of the Judean people. So here we get a Judean perspective on Judean matters, a sort of ethnography from the inside. It is noteworthy that, even here, Josephos aims in part to refute charges. In particular, Apollonios Molon of Rhodes (first century BCE) accuses Judeans of being “atheists” and anti-social “humanity-haters” (misanthropes). Josephos’ sketch of Judean customs aims to show that Judeans are in fact the most pious people you can imagine and that they are by no means haters of humanity.
Many of the sources that Josephos seeks to refute place Judeans very low on an overall hegemonic ethnic hierarchy (namely below Egyptians, who were frequently considered the lowest).
To read more about Judean responses to hegemonic ethnic hiearchies, consult Harland’s article “Climbing the Ethnic Ladder: Ethnic Hierarchies and Judean Responses.”
Source of the translation: H.S.J. Thackeray and R. Marcus, Josephus, volumes 1-7; LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1926-43), public domain (Thackeray passed away in 1930, Marcus passed away in 1956, and copyright not renewed), modernized and thoroughly adapted and revised by Harland based on the Greek.
[Introduction and judicial analogy for the work]
(1-5) ln my writing called an Accounts of Ancient Matters (archaiologia; now known as Judean Antiquities), most excellent Epaphroditos, I think I have made sufficiently clear to any who may look at that work how ancient our Judean descent group (genos) is, how it has its own original nature, and how it established itself in the land which we occupy today. That inquiry covers a period of five thousand years, and was written by me in Greek on the basis of our sacred books. However, since I observe that a considerable number of persons, influenced by the malicious slanders of certain individuals, discredit the statements in my Account of Ancient Matters, and adduce as proof of the comparative modernity of our descent group (genos) the fact that it has not been thought worthy of mention by the best known Greek historians, I consider it my duty to write briefly on all these points in order to convict our abusers of enmity and deliberate falsehood, to correct the ignorance of others, and to instruct all who want to know the truth concerning our antiquity (archaiotētos). As witnesses to my statements, I propose to call the writers who, in the view of the Greeks, are the most trustworthy authorities on accounts of ancient matters as a whole. The authors of slanderous and false statements about us will be shown to be refuted by themselves. I will further focus on setting out the various reasons which explain why our people (ethnos) is mentioned by only a few of the Greek historians. At the same time I will bring those authors who have not neglected our history to the notice of any who either are, or pretend to be, ignorant of them.
[Part 1 (1.6-1.218): “Barbarian” peoples more advanced and more reliable than Greeks for preserving records]
(1.6-9) My first thought is one of intense astonishment at the current opinion that, in the study of primeval history, the Greeks alone deserve serious attention, that the truth should be learned from them, and that neither we nor any others in the world are to be trusted. In my view, the very reverse of this is the case, if, that is to say, we are not to take empty assumptions as our guide, but to extract the truth from the facts themselves. For in the Greek world everything will be found to be modern and dating from yesterday or the day before, so to speak: I refer to the foundation of their cities, the invention of technical skills, and the compilation of a code of laws. But the most recent, or nearly the most recent, of all their attainments is care in historical composition. On the contrary, as is admitted even by themselves, the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Phoenicians – for the moment I set aside adding us to the list – possess a very ancient and permanent record of the past. For all these peoples inhabit places which are least subject to the negative effects of the climate, and they have been very careful to let none of the events in their history be forgotten. They always have events preserved in official records written by their most wise men.
(1.10-14) The land of Greece, on the contrary, has experienced countless catastrophes which have obliterated the memory of the past. As one civilization succeeded another, the people of each era believed that the world began with them. Greeks were late in learning the alphabet and found the lesson difficult. For those who would assign the earliest date to its use pride themselves on having learned it from the Phoenicians and Kadmos. There is no clear record to show regarding what date that occurred, either in temples or on public monuments; it is a highly controversial and disputed question whether even those who took part in the Trojan campaign so many years later made use of letters, and the true and prevalent view is rather that they were ignorant of the current mode of writing. Throughout the whole range of Greek literature no undisputed work is found more ancient than the poetry of Homer. His date, however, is clearly later than the Trojan war, and even he, they say, did not leave his poems in writing. At first transmitted by memory, the scattered songs were not united until later; this circumstance explains the numerous inconsistencies of the work. To be sure, inquirers who first put their hand to writing, such as Kadmos of Miletos, Akousilaos of Argos and any later writers who are mentioned, did so just shortly before the Persian invasion of Greece. Furthermore, the first Greek philosophers to deal with celestial and divine subjects, such as Pherekydes of Syros, Pythagoras, and Thales, were, as the world unanimously admits, in their scanty productions the disciples of the Egyptians and Chaldeans. These are the writings which the Greeks regard as the oldest of all, and they are sceptical even about their authenticity.
(1.15-18) So, certainly it is absurd that the Greeks should be so conceited that they think they are the sole possessors of a knowledge of antiquity and the only accurate reporters of its history. Anyone can easily discover from the historians themselves that their writings have no basis in sure knowledge, but merely present the facts as conjectured by individual authors. More often than not they refute each other in their works, not hesitating to give the most contradictory accounts of the same events. It would be superfluous for me to point out to readers better informed than myself what discrepancies there are between Hellanikos and Akousilaos on the genealogies, how often Akousilaos corrects Hesiod, how the untruthfulness of Hellanikos in most of his statements is exposed by Ephoros, that of Ephoros by Timaios that of Timaios by later writers, and that of Herodotos by everybody. Even on Sicilian history Timaios did not lower himself to agree with Antiochos, Philistos, or Kallias. There is similar divergence on Attic affairs between the authors of the Atthides and on Argive affairs between the historians of Argos. However, what need is there to speak of the histories of individual cities and matters of minor importance, when contradictory accounts of the Persian invasion and the events which accompanied it have been given by writers of the first rank? On many points even Thucydides is accused of error by some critics, notwithstanding his reputation for writing the most accurate inquiry about his time.
(1.19-22) For such inconsistency many other causes might possibly be found if one cared to look for them. For my part, I put most emphasis on the two which I proceed to mention. I will begin with that which I regard as the more fundamental. The main responsibility for the errors of later historians who aspired to write on antiquity and for the licence granted to their untruthfulness rests with the original neglect of the Greeks to keep official records of current events. This neglect was not confined to the lesser Greek states. Even among the Athenians, who are reputed to be indigenous and devoted to learning, we find that nothing of the kind existed, and their most ancient public records are said to be the laws on homicide drafted for them by Drakon, a man who lived only a little before the despotic rule of Pisistratos. It is not necessary to speak about the Arkadians and their much talked about “antiquity,” since even at a still later date they had hardly learned the alphabet.
(1.23-28) It is, then, this lack of any basis of documentary evidence, which would have served both to instruct the eager learner and to refute the liar, that accounts in the main for the inconsistencies between different historians. But a second reason must be added on. Those who rushed into writing were concerned not so much to discover the truth, notwithstanding the profession which always comes readily to their pen, as to display their literary ability. Their choice of a subject was determined by the prospect which it offered them of beating their rivals. Some turned to mythology, others went after popularity by praising speeches (encomiums) about cities or monarchs. Still others set out to criticize the facts or the historians as the road to a reputation. In short, their invariable method is the very reverse of inquiry. For the proof of true inquiry is universal agreement in the description, oral or written, of the same events. On the contrary, each of these writers, in giving his divergent account of the same incidents, hoped thereby to be thought the most truthful of all. While, then, for eloquence and literary ability we must yield to the Greek authors, we have no reason to do so for veracity in the investigation of ancient things, least of all concerning particular countries.
Because the facts are universally accepted, I think I do not need to say anything about the care which Egyptians and Babylonians applied to their chronicles from the earliest times, and how the charge and exposition of these was entrusted, in the former case to the priests, in the latter to the Chaldeans. Nor do I need to say anything about how it was the Phoenicians who made the largest use of writing, both for the ordinary affairs of life and for the commemoration of public events, among those in touch with the Greeks.
[Superiority of Judean record-keeping over Egyptian and Babylonian record-keeping]
(1.29-36) I will now try to briefly demonstrate that our ancestors took no less, if not much more, care than those I have mentioned [i.e. Egyptians, Babylonians] in the keeping of their records – a task which they assigned to their chief priests and prophets – and that down to our own times records have been and – if I may venture to say so – will continue to be preserved by us with scrupulous accuracy. Not only did our ancestors in the first instance set over this activity men of the highest character, devoted to the service of God, but they took precautions to ensure that the priests’ lineage should be kept uncontaminated and pure. In order to have a family, a member of the priestly order must marry a woman of his own descent group (genos) without regard to her wealth or other distinctions. But he must investigate her pedigree, obtaining the genealogy from the archives and producing a number of witnesses. This practice of ours is not confined to the home land of Judea, but wherever there is a Judean colony, there too a strict account is kept by the priests of their marriages. I allude to the Judeans in Egypt and Babylon and other parts of the world in which any of the priestly order are living in dispersion. A statement is drawn up by them and sent to Jerusalem, showing the names of the bride and her father and more remote ancestors, together with the names of the witnesses. In the not unusual event of war, for instance, when our countryside was invaded by Antiochos Epiphanes, by Pompey the Great, by Quintilius Varus, and above all in our own times, the surviving priests compile fresh records from the archives. They also pass scrutiny upon the remaining women, and disallow marriage with any who have been taken captive, suspecting them of having had frequent intercourse with foreigners. But the most convincing proof of our accuracy in this matter is that our records contain the names of our high priests, with the succession from father to son for the last two thousand years. Whoever violates any of the above rules is forbidden to serve at the altars or to take any other part in worship.
(1.37-42) For this reason, it naturally or rather necessarily follows (seeing that with us it is not open to everybody to write the records, and that there is no discrepancy in what is written; seeing that, on the contrary, the prophets alone had this privilege, obtaining their knowledge of the most remote and ancient history through the inspiration which they owed to God, and committing to writing a clear account of the events of their own time just as they occurred) – it follows, I say, that we do not possess thousands of inconsistent books that conflict with one other. Our authoritative books are limited to twenty-two and contain the record of all time. Of these, five are the books of Moses, comprising the laws and the ancestral history from the birth of man down to the death of the lawgiver. This period falls only a little short of three thousand years. From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes [reigned 465–424 BCE], who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persia, the prophets subsequent to Moses wrote the history of the events of their own times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life. From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets. We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own writings.
(1.43-46) For, although so much time have now passed, no one has ventured either to add or to remove or to alter a syllable. It is an instinct with every Judean, from the day of his birth, to regard these writings as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. Time and again before now the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres rather than utter a single word against the laws and the allied documents. What Greek would endure as much for the same cause? Even to save the entire collection of their writings from destruction he would not face the smallest personal injury. For to the Greeks they are mere stories improvised according to the fancy of their authors. In this respect, even of the older historians they are quite justified when they see some of their own contemporaries venturing to describe events in which they bore no part, without taking the trouble to seek information from those who know the facts.
[Digression: Josephus supplies his own works as examples of accurate Judean record-keeping but veers into awkward self-defence]
(1.47-58) We have actually had so-called “histories” of our recent war published by persons who never visited the sites nor were anywhere near the actions described. Rather, after putting together a few hearsay reports, they have, with the gross impudence of drunken revellers, misnamed their productions “history.” I, on the contrary, have written a truthful account of the war [Josephos, Judean War], both comprehensive and detailed, having been present in person at all the events. I was in command of those whom we call Galileans, so long as resistance was possible. After my capture I was a prisoner in the Roman camp. Keeping me under surveillance, Vespasian and Titus required my constant attendance with them, at first in chains. Subsequently I was liberated and sent from Alexandria with Titus to the siege of Jerusalem. During that time no incident escaped my knowledge. I kept a careful record of all that went on under my eyes in the Roman camp, and was alone in a position to understand the information brought by deserters. Then, in the leisure which Rome afforded me, with all my materials in readiness, and with the aid of some assistants for the sake of the Greek, at last I committed to writing my narrative of the events. So confident was I of its veracity that I presumed to take as my witnesses, before all others, the commanders-in-chief in the war, Vespasian and Titus. They were the first to whom I presented my volumes, copies being afterwards given to many Romans who had taken part in the campaign. Others I sold to a large number of my compatriots, persons very familiar with Greek learning, among whom were Julius Archelaos, the most venerable Herod, and the most admirable King Agrippa himself. All these bore testimony to my scrupulous safeguarding of the truth, and they were not the men to conceal their sentiments or keep silence had I, through ignorance or partiality, distorted or omitted any of the facts. Nevertheless, certain despicable persons have written things in order to malign my history, taking it for a prize composition such as is set to boys at school. What an extraordinary accusation and slander! Surely they should recognize that it is the duty of one who promises to present his readers with actual facts first to obtain an exact knowledge of them himself, either through having been in close touch with the events or by inquiry from those who knew them. That duty I consider myself to have amply fulfilled in both my works. In my Account of Ancient Matters (archaiologia; now known as Judean Antiquities), as I said, I have given a translation of our sacred books. Since I am a priest with priestly ancestry, I am well versed in the philosophy of those writings. My qualification as historian of the war was that I had been an actor in many, and an eyewitness of most, of the events. In short, nothing whatever was said or done of which I was ignorant. Surely, then, one cannot but regard as audacious the attempt of these critics to challenge my veracity. Even if, as they assert, they have read the commentaries of the imperial commanders, they at any rate had no first-hand acquaintance with our position in the opposite camp. My desire to expose the irresponsibility of those who profess to write history has compelled me to digress.
[Explanation for the lack of early Greek sources on the Judeans]
(1.58-63) Now that I think I have sufficiently shown that the tradition of keeping chronicles of antiquity is found among the barbarians rather than the Greeks, I propose first of all to reply briefly to those critics who seek to prove the late origin of our societal organization from the alleged silence of the Greek historians concerning us. I will then move on to cite testimonies to our antiquity from external literature, and finally to show the utter absurdity of those who slander our descent group (genos). Moreover, our land is not by the sea, and we are not attracted to trade or the relations with the outside world that trade facilitates. Our cities are built inland, remote from the sea; and we devote ourselves to the cultivation of the fertile land with which we are blessed. Above all we pride ourselves on the education of our children, and regard as the most essential task in life the observance of our laws and of the pious practices which we have inherited based on those laws. If to these reasons one adds the peculiarity of our mode of life, there was clearly nothing in ancient times to bring us into contact with the Greeks in the ways that the Egyptians were brought by their exports and imports and the inhabitants of the sea-board of Phoenicia by their focus on trade and commerce. Furthermore, unlike others, our ancestors did not engage in sea-banditry (lēsteia) or military schemes of expansion even though our land contained tens of thousands of courageous men.
(1.63-69) The Phoenicians owed their own early reputation with the Greeks due to their shipping activity. Through the Phoenicians’ agency, the Egyptians became known and all whose goods the Phoenicians transported across great oceans to the Greeks. At a later date, the Medes and Persians were brought before the world by their dominion in Asia, the latter more particularly by their invasion of the other continent. The Thracians were known as near neighbours. The Scythians were known through the navigators of the Euxine [Black Sea]. As a general rule, all peoples with a sea-board, whether on the eastern or the western sea, were better known by authors desirous of writing history, while those who lived further inland remained for the most part unknown. That this rule holds good also for Europe is clear in the instance of the city of Rome. Although that city had attained power and been so successful in war long before the times of Herodotos and Thucydides, neither of them or their contemporaries mention Rome. It was only at quite a late date that, with difficulty, a knowledge of the Romans penetrated to the Greeks. The ignorance of persons reputed to be the most exact of historians, such as Ephoros, is shown with respect to the Gauls and Iberians, since Ephoros imagined that the Iberians, who occupy so large a portion of the western world, were a single city. While others attributed to them customs with no foundation in fact or tradition. While their ignorance of the facts is explained by their never having had the earliest relations with those peoples, their false statements are due to an ambition to appear better informed than the rest of the world. Surely, then, it should no longer seem surprizing that our people, so remote from the sea and so deliberately living its own life, likewise remained largely unknown and offered no occasion to historians to mention it. Imagine that we were presuming to dispute the antiquity of the Greeks and to base our contention on the absence of any mention of them in our literature. Would they not undoubtedly laugh at us? The Greeks would, I imagine, offer the very reasons which I have just given for such silence, and produce the neighbouring peoples as witnesses to their antiquity.
[Egyptian, Phoenician, and Chaldean sources as witnesses to the antiquity of the Judean people]
(1.70-72) Well, that is just what I will focus on doing. As my principal witnesses I will cite the Egyptians and Phoenicians, whose evidence is quite unimpeachable. For all the Egyptians without exception and the Tyrians among the Phoenicians are notoriously our bitterest enemies. Regarding the Chaldeans, I could not say the same since they are the original ancestors of our descent group (genos), and this blood-relationship accounts for the mention which is made of the Judeans in their annals. After producing the evidence supplied by these peoples, I will then bring forward those Greek historians who have spoken of the Judeans, in order to deprive our jealous enemies of even this pretext for controversy.
[Egyptian sources: Manetho]
(1.73-108) I will begin with the Egyptian documents. I cannot quote from the originals. With Manetho we have one who was both a native of Egypt and also proficient in Greek learning. This is evident from the history of his descent group (genos) which he wrote in Greek, a translation from the sacred books, as he says himself. In this work, he convicts Herodotos of being misled through ignorance on many points of Egyptian history. In the second book of his Egyptian Matters this Manetho writes about us as follows. I will quote his own words, just as if I had produced the man himself in the witness-box:
“Tutimaios [some sort of textual corruption of the name here]. In his reign, I know not why, a blast of God’s displeasure broke upon us. People of ignoble origin from the east, whose coming was not predicted, had the audacity to invade the land, which they mastered by main force without difficulty or even a battle. Having overpowered the leaders, they then savagely burned the cities, razed the temples of the gods to the ground, and treated the whole native population with the utmost cruelty, massacring some and carrying off the wives and children of others into slavery. Finally they made one of their number, named Salitis, king. He resided at Memphis, exacted tribute from Upper and Lower Egypt, and left garrisons in the places most suited for defence. In particular he secured his eastern flank, as he anticipated that the Assyrians, as their power increased in future, would desire and attack his realm. Having discovered in the Sethroite district (nome) a city very favourably situated on the east of the Bubastis arm of the river, called “Auaris” after some ancient discourse about the gods, he rebuilt and strongly fortified it with walls. He also established a garrison there numbering as many as two hundred and forty thousand armed men to protect his frontier. This place he used to visit every summer, partly to serve out rations and pay to his troops, partly to give them a careful training in manoeuvres, in order to intimidate foreigners. After a reign of nineteen years he died. A second king, named Bnon, succeeded and reigned for forty-four years; his successor, Apachnas, ruled for thirty-six years and seven months; next Apophis for sixty-one, and Jannas for fifty years and one month; and finally Assis for forty-nine years and two months. The continually growing ambition of these six – their first rulers – was to get rid of the Egyptian people.”
Their people bore the generic name of Hyksos, which means ‘king-shepherds.’ For hyk in the sacred language denotes ‘king,’ and sos in the common dialect means ‘shepherd’ or ‘shepherds.’ The combined words form ‘Hyksos.’ Some say that they were Arabians.” . . . [copyist’s comment omitted].
The kings of the so-called shepherds, enumerated above, and their descendants, remained masters of Egypt, according to Manetho, for five hundred and eleven years:
“Then the kings of the Thebaid and of the rest of Egypt rose in revolt against the shepherds, and a great war broke out, which was of long duration. Under a king named Misphragmouthosis, the shepherds, he says, were defeated, driven out of all the rest of Egypt, and confined in a place called Auaris, containing ten thousand arourai. The shepherds, according to Manetho, enclosed the whole of this area with a great strong wall, in order to secure all their possessions and spoils. Thoummosis, the son of Misphragmouthosis, Manetho continues, invested the walls with an army of 480,000 men, and endeavoured to reduce them to submission by siege. Despairing of achieving his object, he concluded a treaty, under which they were all to evacuate Egypt and go whither they would unmolested. Upon these terms no fewer than two hundred and forty thousand, entire households with their possessions, left Egypt and traversed the desert to Syria. Then, terrified by the might of the Assyrians, who at that time were masters of Asia, they built a city in the land now called Judea, capable of accommodating their vast company, and gave it the name of Jerusalem.”
In another book of his Egyptian history Manetho states that this people (ethnos), the so-called shepherds, were described as captives in the sacred books of his land. In this statement he is correct. Sheep-breeding was a hereditary custom of our earliest ancestors, and from this nomadic life they came to be called shepherds. But their other name of captives in the Egyptian records was given not without reason, since our ancestor Joseph told the king of Egypt that he was a captive, and afterwards, with the king’s permission, had his brothers brought into Egypt. However, I propose to investigate these matters more fully elsewhere.
For the moment I am citing the Egyptians as witnesses to our antiquity. I will therefore resume my extracts from Manetho bearing on the chronology. The following are his words:
“After the departure of the pastoral people from Egypt to Jerusalem, Tethmosis, the king who expelled them from Egypt, reigned twenty-five years and four months, and on his death the kingdom passed to his son Chebron, who reigned thirteen years. After him Amenophis reigned twenty years and seven months; then his sister Amesses twenty-one years and nine months; her son Mephres twelve years and nine months; then from father to son Mephramouthosis twenty-five years and ten months, Thmosis nine years and eight months, Amenophis thirty years and ten months, Orus thirty-six years and five months; his daughter Akencheres twelve years and one month; her brother Rathotis nine years; then from father to son Akencheres twelve years and five months, Akencheres II twelve years and three months, Harmais four years and one month, Ramesses one year and four months, Harmesses Miamoun sixty-six years and two months, Amenophis nineteen years and six months, and then Sethosis, also called Harnesses. The last named king, who possessed an army of cavalry and a strong fleet, made his brother Harmais viceroy of Egypt and conferred upon him all the royal prerogatives, except that he enjoined upon him not to wear a diadem, not to wrong the queen, the mother of his children, and to show similar respect to the royal concubines. He then departed on a campaign against Cyprus and Phoenicia, and later against the Assyrians and Medes, and with or without a contest, through the terror inspired by his mighty army, reduced all these peoples to submission. Emboldened by these successes he, with yet greater audacity, continued his advance, subduing the cities and districts of the east. Meanwhile, some time after his departure, Harmais, whom he had left in Egypt, unscrupulously defied all his brother’s injunctions. He violated the queen, freely indulged himself with the concubines, and, at the instigation of his friends, put on a diadem and rose in revolt against his brother. The keeper of the Egyptian temples then wrote a letter which he sent to Sethosis, telling him everything, including the insurrection of his brother Harmais. Sethosis instantly returned to Pelousion and recovered his kingdom; and the land was called after him Egyptos.”
For Manetho states that Setlios was called Egyptos and his brother Harmais was called Danaos. Such is Manetho’s account. If the years which he enumerates are calculated, it is clear that the so-called shepherds, our ancestors, left Egypt and settled in our land 393 years before Danaos came to Argos. Yet the Argives regard him as one of the most ancient of men. Manetho has therefore supplied us with evidence from Egyptian literature on two most important points: first that we came into Egypt from elsewhere, and secondly, that we left it at a date so remote in the past that it preceded the Trojan War by nearly a thousand years. His additional statements, which he derived not from the Egyptian records, but, as he admits himself, from fables of unknown authorship, I will refute in detail later on and show the improbability of these lying stories.
(1.107-111) I now propose to move on to the allusions to our descent group (genos) in the Phoenician chronicles, and to produce the evidence which they afford. For very many years, the people of Tyre have kept public records, compiled and very carefully preserved, of the memorable events in their internal history and in their relations with foreign peoples. It is there recorded that the temple at Jerusalem was built by King Solomon 143 years and eight months before the foundation of Carthage by the Tyrians. There was good reason why the erection of our temple should be mentioned in their records, for Hirom, king of Tyre, was a friend of our king Solomon, a friendship which he had inherited from his father. Sharing Solomon’s enthusiasm for the splendour of the edifice, Hirom gave him 120 talents of gold and also cut down the finest timber from the mountain called Libanos [modern mount Lebanon] and sent it to him for the roof. In return Solomon, among many other gifts, made him a present of land in Galilee in the district called Chabulon. But the main bond of friendship between them was their passion for learning. They used to send each other problems to solve. In these, Solomon showed the greater proficiency, as, in general, he was the smarter of the two. Many of the letters which they exchanged are preserved at Tyre to this day.
(1.112-116) To prove that these assertions about the Tyrian archives are not of my own invention, I will call upon Dios as witness, since he is regarded as an accurate historian of Phoenicia. In his history of the Phoenicians, Dios writes as follows:
“On the death of Abibalos, his son Hirom came to the throne. He levelled up the eastern part of the city with embankments, enlarged the town, built a causeway to connect it with the temple of Olympian Zeus, which was isolated on an island, and adorned it with offerings of gold. He also went up to Libanos and had timber cut down for the construction of temples. It is said that Solomon, the sovereign of Jerusalem, sent riddles to Hirom and asked for others from him, on the understanding that the one who failed to solve them would pay a sum of money to him who succeeded. Hirom agreed, and being unable to guess the riddles, spent a large part of his wealth on the fine. Afterwards they were solved by a certain Abdemun of Tyre, who propounded others. Solomon, failing to solve these, paid back to Hirom more than he had received.”
(1.116-127) In this way, Dios has confirmed my previous statements. I will, however, cite yet a further witness, Menander of Ephesos. This author has recorded the events of each reign, in Hellenic and barbarian countries alike, and has taken the trouble to obtain his information in each case from the official records. Writing on the kings of Tyre, when he comes to Hirom he expresses himself in this way:
“On the death of Abibalos, the kingdom passed to his son Hirom, who lived fifty-three years and reigned thirty-four. He laid the embankment of the Broad Place, dedicated the golden pillar in the temple of Zeus, went and cut down cedar wood on the mount called Libanos for timber for the roofs of temples, demolished the ancient temples, and built new shrines dedicated to Herakles [Melqart, patron deity of Tyre] and Astarte. That of Herakles he erected first, in the month Peritios. He engaged in a campaign against the Itukaians [people of Utica in North Africa] who refused to pay their tribute, and did not return home till he had reduced them to submission. Under his reign lived Abdemun, a young lad, who always succeeded in mastering the problems set by Solomon, king of Jerusalem.”
The period intervening between this king and the foundation of Carthage is computed as follows: fifty-eight years and reigned nine. He was slain by his brother Phelles, who seized the throne and reigned eight months, having reached the age of fifty, when he was slain by Ithobal, priest of Astarte, who lived forty-eight years and reigned thirty-two. He was succeeded by his son Balezor, who lived forty-five years and reigned six. He, in turn, was succeeded by his son Metten, who lived thirty-two years and reigned twenty-nine; and he by Pygmalion, who lived fifty-eight years and reigned forty-seven. It was in the seventh year of his reign that his sister took flight, and built the city of Carthage in Libya. The whole period from the accession of Hirom to the foundation of Carthage amounts to 155 years and eight months. Since the temple at Jerusalem was built in the twelfth year of King Hirom’s reign, 143 years and eight months elapsed between the erection of the temple and the foundation of Carthage. What need is there to add further Phoenician evidence? The agreement of the witnesses, as will be seen, affords strong confirmation of their truthfulness. Of course our ancestors arrived in the land long before the temple was built; for it was not until they had conquered the whole land that they built the temple. The facts derived from the sacred books have been clearly stated in my Account of Ancient Matters (archaiologia; now known as Judean Antiquities).
[Chaldean sources: Berossos]
(1.128-143) I will now move on to allusions about us in the records and literature of the Chaldeans. On various points these are in close agreement with our own writings. My witness here is Berossos, a Chaldean by birth, but familiar in learned circles through his publication for Greek readers of works on Chaldean astronomy and philosophy. This author, following the most ancient records, has, like Moses, described the flood and the destruction of humankind. He tells us about the ark in which Noah, the founder of our descent group (genos), was saved when it landed on the heights of the mountains of Armenia. Then he enumerates Noah’s descendants, appending dates, and so comes down to Nabopalassar, king of Babylon and Chaldea [ca. 625-604 BCE]. In his narrative of the actions of this monarch he relates how he sent his son Nabuchodonosor [i.e. Nebuchadnezzar, ca. 604-561 BCE] with a large army to Egypt and to our land, on hearing that these people had revolted, and how he defeated them all, burned the temple at Jerusalem, dislodged and transported our entire population to Babylon, with the result that the city lay desolate for seventy years until the time of Cyrus, king of Persia. He adds that the Babylonian monarch conquered Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Arabia, his exploits surpassing those of all previous kings of Chaldea and Babylon. But I will quote Berossos’s own words, which are as follows:
“His father Nabopalassar, hearing of the defection of the satrap in charge of Egypt, Coele-Syria, and Phoenicia, and being himself unequal to the fatigues of a campaign, committed part of his army to his son Nabuchodonosor, still in the prime of life, and sent him against the rebel. Nabuchodonosor engaged and defeated the latter in a pitched battle and replaced the district under Babylonian rule. Meanwhile, as it happened, his father Nabopalassar became sick and died in the city of Babylon, after a reign of twenty-one years. Being soon informed about his father’s death, Nabuchodonosor settled the affairs of Egypt and the other countries. The prisoners – Judeans, Phoenicians, Syrians, and the peoples of Egypt – were consigned to some of his friends, with orders to conduct them to Babylonia, along with the heavy troops and the rest of the spoils. While he himself, with a small escort, pushed across the desert to Babylon. There he found the administration in the hands of the Chaldaeans and the throne reserved for him by their chief nobleman. Being now master of his father’s entire realm, he gave orders to assign to the captives, on their arrival, settlements in the most suitable districts of Babylonia. He then magnificently decorated the temple of Bel and the other temples with the spoils of war, restored the old city, and added a new one outside the walls. Also, in order to prevent the possibility in any future siege of access being gained to the city by a diversion of the course of the river, he enclosed both the inner and the outer city with three lines of ramparts, those of the inner city being of baked brick and bitumen, those of the outer city of rough brick. After fortifying the city on this grand scale and adorning the gateways in a manner worthy of their sanctity, he constructed a second palace adjoining that of his father. It would perhaps be tedious to describe the towering height and general magnificence of this building. It need only be remarked that, notwithstanding its immense and imposing proportions, it was completed in fifteen days. Within this palace he erected lofty stone terraces, in which he closely reproduced mountain scenery, completing the resemblance by planting them with all manner of trees and constructing the so-called “hanging garden,” because his wife, who was brought up in Media, had a passion for mountain surroundings.”
Such is the account given by Berossos of this king, besides much more in the third book of his History of Chaldea, where he critiques the Greek historians for their deluded belief that Babylon was founded by the Assyrian Semiramis and their erroneous statement that its marvellous buildings were her creation. On these matters the Chaldean account must surely be accepted.
(1.143-153) Moreover, statements in accordance with those of Berossos are found in the Phoenician archives, which relate how the king of Babylon subdued Syria and the whole of Phoenicia. Philostratos writes to the same effect in his Inquiries, where he mentions the siege of Tyre. Also Megasthenes writes similarly in the fourth book of his India Matters, where he attempts to prove that this king of Babylon, who according to this writer subdued the greater part of Libya and Iberia, was in courage and in the grandeur of his exploits more than a match for Herakles, The assertions which were made above concerning the temple at Jerusalem, that it was burned down by the Babylonian invaders and that its reconstruction began on the succession of Cyrus to the throne of Asia, will be clearly proved by a further quotation from Berossos. His words in his third book are as follows:
“After beginning the wall of which I have spoken, Nabuchodonosor fell sick and died, after a reign of forty-three years, and the realm passed to his son Eueilmaradochos. This prince, whose government was lawless and outrageous, fell a victim to a plot, being assassinated by his sister’s husband, Neriglisar, after a reign of two years. On his death Neriglisar, his murderer, succeeded to the throne and reigned four years. His son, Laborosoardoch, a mere boy, occupied it for nine months, when, owing to the depraved disposition which he showed, a conspiracy was formed against him, and he was beaten to death by his friends. After his murder the conspirators held a meeting, and by common consent conferred the kingdom upon Nabonnedos, a Babylonian and one of their group. In his reign the walls of Babylon abutting on the river were magnificently built with baked brick and bitumen. In the seventeenth year of his reign Cyrus advanced from Persia with a large army and, after subjugating the rest of the kingdom, marched upon Babylonia. Apprised of his coming, Nabonnedos led his army to meet him, fought and was defeated. Then he fled with a few followers and shut himself up in the town of Borsippa. Cyrus took Babylon, and after giving orders to raze the outer walls of the city, because it presented a very redoubtable and formidable appearance, proceeded to Borsippa to besiege Nabonnedos. The latter surrendering, without waiting for investment, was humanely treated by Cyrus, who dismissed him from Babylonia, but gave him Karmania for his residence. There Nabonnedos spent the remainder of his life, and there he died.”
[Chaldean sources align with Judean sources]
(1.154-160) This statement is both correct and in accordance with our books. For in the latter it is recorded that Nabuchodonosor in the eighteenth a year of his reign devastated our temple, that for fifty years it ceased to exist, that in the second year of the reign of Cyrus the foundations were laid, and lastly that in the second year of the reign of Darius it was completed. I must not, however, neglect any of the many proofs available, and will therefore append the Phoenician record. The chronological calculation there appears as follows: Under King Ithobal, Nabuchodonosor besieged Tyre for thirteen years. The next king, Baal, reigned ten years. After him judges were appointed and held office as follows: Eknibal, son of Baslech, two months; Chelbes, son of Abdaios, ten months; Abbar the highj-priest, three months; Myttyn and Gerastratos, son of Abdelimos, six years; after them Balator was king for one year. On his death his subjects sent to Babylon and fetched from there Merbal, who reigned four years; and on his death they sent for his brother Hirom, who reigned twenty years. It was in his reign that Cyrus became monarch of Persia. The whole period in this way amounts to fifty-four years and three months. For it was in the seventh year of his reign that Nabuchodonosor began the siege of Tyre, and in the fourteenth year of Hirom’s reign that Cyrus the Persian came into power. In this respect there is complete agreement, on the subject of the temple, between our own books and those of the Chaldeans and Tyrians, and the evidence for my assertions as to the antiquity of our descent group (genos) is consistent and incontrovertible.
[Greek sources on the antiquity of the Judeans]
(1.161-171) None but the most contentious of critics, I imagine, could fail to be content with the arguments already presented. However, it seems I am under the further obligation of satisfying the requirements of people who put no faith in barbarian documents, and maintain that only Greeks are to be trusted. I must therefore produce a further array of these authors who were acquainted with our people (ethnos), and quote the occasional allusions which they make to us in their own works.
Now, Pythagoras, that ancient sage of Samos, who for wisdom and piety is ranked above all the philosophers, evidently not only knew of our institutions, but was even in those distant ages an ardent admirer of them. Of the master himself we possess no authentic work, but his history has been told by many writers. The most distinguished of these is Hermippos, always a careful historian. Now, in the first book of his work on Pythagoras, this author states that the philosopher, on the death of one of his disciples, named Kalliphon, a native of Krotona, remarked that his pupil’s soul was with him night and day, and admonished him not to pass a certain spot on which an ass had collapsed, to abstain from thirst-producing water, and to avoid all slander. Then he proceeds as follows: “In practising and repeating these precepts he was imitating and appropriating the doctrines of Judeans and Thracians.” In fact, it is actually said that that great man introduced many points of Judean law into his philosophy.
In ancient times various cities were acquainted with the existence of our people, and to some of these many of our customs have now found their way, and here and there been thought worthy of imitation. This is apparent from a passage in the work of Theophrastos On Laws, where he says that the laws of the Tyrians prohibit the use of foreign oaths. As he enumerates these, he includes among others the oath called “Korban.” Now this oath will be found among no other people except the Judeans, and, translated from the Hebrew, one may interpret it as meaning “God’s gift.”
(1.168-172) Furthermore, nor has our people been ignored even by Herodotos of Halikarnassos, who has an evident, explicit, allusion to it. Speaking of the Kolchians in his second book, he makes the following statement:
“The Kolchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians are the only peoples with whom the practice of circumcision is primitive. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine admit that they learned it from the Egyptians. The Syrians on the banks of the rivers Thermodon [Terme] and Parthenios, and their neighbours the Macronians, say that they have adopted it recently from the Kolchians. These are the only circumcised peoples in the world, and it is clear that they all imitate the Egyptians. Of the two peoples of Egypt and Ethiopia, I cannot say which learned the practice from the other.”
Herodotos therefore says that the Palestinian Syrians were circumcised; but the Judeans are the only inhabitants of Palestine who adopt this practice. He must therefore have known this, and his allusion is to them.
(1.173-174) Furthermore, Choerilos an ancient poet, mentions our people (ethnos) as taking part in the expedition of Xerxes, king of Persia, against Greece. After enumerating all the other peoples, he finally includes ours in these lines:
“Closely behind passed over a descent group (genos) of wonderful aspect; Strangely upon their lips the tongue of Phoenicia sounded; In the Solymian hills by a broad lake their habitation; Shorn in a circle, unkempt was the hair on their heads, and above them Proudly they wore their hides of horse-heads, dried in the hearth-smoke.”
It is obvious, I imagine, to everybody that he is referring to us, because the Solymian hills are in our land and inhabited by us; there too is the socalled Bituminous Lake [Dead Sea], which is broader and more extensive than all the lakes in Syria. Here then we have an allusion to us in Choerilus.
(1.175-181) Not only did the Greeks know the Judeans, but they admired any of their number whom they happened to meet. This statement applies not to the lowest class of Greeks, but to those with the highest reputation for wisdom, and can easily be proved. Klearchos, a disciple of Aristotle, and in the very first rank of peripatetic philosophers, relates, in his first book On Sleep, the following anecdote told of a certain Judean by his master. He puts the words into the mouth of Aristotle himself. I quote the text:
“‘It would take too long to repeat the whole story, but there were features in that man’s character, both strangely marvellous and philosophical, which merit description. I [Aristotle] warn you, Hyperochides,’ he said, ‘that what I am about to say will seem to you as wonderful as a dream.’ Hyperochides respectfully replied, ‘That is the very reason why we are all anxious to hear it.’ ‘Well,’ said Aristotle, ‘in accordance with the precepts of rhetoric, let us begin by describing his descent group (genos), in order to keep to the rules of our masters in the art of narration.’ ‘Tell the story as you please,’ said Hyperochides. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘the man was a Judean of Coele-Syria. These people are descended from the Indian philosophers. The philosophers, they say, are in India called Kalanians [followers of Kalanos], in Syria by the territorial name of Judeans; for the district which they inhabit is known as Judea. Their city has a remarkably odd name: they call it Hierusaleme. Now this man, who was entertained by a large circle of friends and was on his way down from the interior to the coast, not only spoke Greek, but had the soul of a Greek. During my stay in Asia, he visited the same places as I did, and came to converse with me and some other scholars, to test our learning. But as one who had been intimate with many cultivated persons, it was rather he who imparted to us something of his own.’”
These are the words of Aristotle as reported by Klearchus, and he went on to speak of the great and astonishing endurance and sobriety displayed by this Judean in his manner of life. Further information can be obtained, if wanted, from the book itself; I hesitate to quote more than is necessary. This allusion of Aristotle to us is mentioned parenthetically by Klearchos, who was dealing with another subject.
[Greek sources: Hekataios of Abdera]
(1.183-190) Of a different nature is the evidence from Hekataios of Abdera, both a philosopher and a highly accomplished man, who rose to fame under King Alexander. Afterwards he associated with Ptolemy, son of Lagos. He makes no mere passing allusion to us, but wrote an entire book On Judeans, from which I propose to touch on some passages. I will begin with fixing his date. He mentions the battle near Gaza between Ptolemy and Demetrios, which, as Castor narrates, was fought eleven years after the death of Alexander, in the 117th Olympiad [ca. 312 BCE]. For under the heading of this Olympiad he says: “In this period Ptolemy, son of Lagos, defeated Demetrios, son of Antigonos, surnamed Poliorcetes in a battle at Gaza.” And all agree that Alexander died in the 114th Olympiad [323 BCE]. It is evident, therefore, that our people (ethnos) was flourishing both under Ptolemy and under Alexander.
Hekataios goes on to say that after the battle of Gaza Ptolemy became master of Syria, and that many of the inhabitants, hearing of his kindliness and humanity, wanted to accompany him to Egypt and to associate themselves with his realm. He says:
“Among these was Ezechias, a high priest of the Judeans, a man of about sixty-six years of age, highly esteemed by his countrymen, intellectual, and moreover an able speaker and unsurpassed as a man of business.” He adds: “Yet the total number of Judean priests who receive a tithe of the revenue and administer public affairs is about fifteen hundred.” Reverting to Ezechias, he says: “This man, after obtaining this honour and having been closely in touch with us, assembled some of his friends and read to them all the advantages of emigration. For he had in writing the conditions of their settlement and political status.”
(1.190-194) In another passage Hekataios mentions our regard for our laws, and how we deliberately choose and hold it a point of honour to endure anything rather than transgress them. He says:
“And so, neither the slander of their neighbours and foreign visitors, to which as a people they are exposed, nor the frequent outrages of Persian kings and satraps can shake their determination. For these laws, naked and defenceless, they face tortures and death in its most terrible form, rather than repudiate the faith of their ancestors.”
Of this obstinacy in defence of their laws he furnishes several instances. He tells how on one occasion Alexander, when he was at Babylon and had undertaken to restore the ruined temple of Bel, gave orders to all his soldiers, without distinction, to bring materials for the earthworks. He tells how the Judeans alone refused to obey, and even submitted to severe chastisement and heavy fines, until the king pardoned them and exempted them from this task. Furthermore, when temples and altars were erected in the land by its invaders, the Judeans razed them all to the ground, paying in some cases a fine to the satraps, and in others obtaining pardon. For such conduct, he adds, they deserve admiration.
(1.195-199) Then he goes on to speak of our vast population, stating that even though many tens of thousands of our people (ethnos) had already been deported to Babylon by the Persians, yet after Alexander’s death tens of thousands more migrated to Egypt and Phoenicia because of disturbances in Syria. The same writer has referred to the extent and beauty of the land which we inhabit in the following words: “They occupy almost three million arourai of the most excellent and fertile soil, productive of every variety of fruits. Such is the extent of Judea.” Furthermore, here is his description of Jerusalem itself, the city which we have inhabited from remote ages, of its great beauty and extent, its numerous population, and the temple buildings:
“The Judeans have many fortresses and villages in different parts of the land, but only one fortified city, which has a circumference of about fifty stadium-lengths and some hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants; they call it Jerusalem. Nearly in the centre of the city stands a stone wall, enclosing an area about five plethra long and a hundred cubits broad, approached by a pair of gates. Within this enclosure is a square altar, built of heaped up stones, unfinished and unwrought; each side is twenty cubits long and the height ten cubits. Beside it stands a great edifice, containing an altar and a lampstand, both made of gold, and weighing two talents; upon these is a light which is never extinguished by night or day. There is not a single statue or votive offering, no trace of a plant, in the form of a sacred grove or the like. Here priests pass their nights and days performing certain rites of purification, and abstaining altogether from wine while in the temple.”
(200-204) The author further attests the share which the Judeans took in the campaigns both of King Alexander and of his successors. One incident on the march, in which a Judean soldier was concerned, he states that he witnessed himself. I will give the story in his own words:
“When I was on the march towards the Red Sea, among the escort of Judean cavalry which accompanied us was one named Mosollamos, a very intelligent man, strong, and, by common consent, the very best of bowmen, whether Greek or barbarian. This man, observing that a number of men were going back and forth on the route and that the whole force was being held up by a seer who was interpreting the signs, inquired why they were halting. The seer pointed out to him the bird he was observing, and told him that if it stayed in that spot it was expedient for them all to halt. If it stirred and flew forward, they should advance; if backward, then they should retire. The Judean, without saying a word, drew his bow, shot and struck the bird, and killed it. The seer and some others were indignant, and heaped curses upon him. ‘Why so mad, you poor wretches?’ he retorted. Then, taking the bird in his hands, he continued, ‘How could any sound information about our march be given by this creature, which could not provide for its own safety? Had it been gifted with divination, it would not have come to this spot, for fear of being killed by an arrow of Mosollamos the Judean.’”
[Greek sources: Agatharchides]
(1.205-212) But I have given enough evidence from Hekataios; any who care to pursue the subject can easily peruse his book. There is another writer whom I will name without hesitation, although he mentions us only to ridicule our folly, as he regards it – I mean Agatharchides. He is telling the story of Stratonike, how she deserted her husband Demetrios and came from Macedonia to Syria, and how, when Seleukos disappointed her by refusing to marry her, she created a revolution at Antioch while he was starting on a campaign from Babylon. Then he tells how, after the king’s return and the capture of Antioch, she fled to Seleukeia, and instead of taking sail immediately, as she might have done, let herself be stopped by a dream, was captured and was put to death. After telling this story and deriding the superstition of Stratonike, Agatharchides quotes in illustration a tale told about us. The following are his words:
“The people known as Judeans, who inhabit the most strongly fortified of cities, called by the natives Jerusalem, have a custom of abstaining from work every seventh day. On those occasions, they neither bear arms nor farm, nor engage in any other form of public service, but pray with outstretched hands in the temples until the evening. Consequently, because the inhabitants, instead of protecting their city, persevered in their folly, Ptolemy, son of Lagos, was allowed to enter with his army. The land was in this way given over to a cruel master, and the defect of a practice enjoined by law was exposed. That experience has taught the whole world, except that people, the lesson not to resort to dreams and traditional guesses about the law, until its difficulties are such as to baffle human reason.”
Agatharchides finds such conduct ridiculous. Dispassionate critics will consider it a grand and highly meritorious fact that there are men who consistently care more for the observance of their laws and for piety towards God than for their own lives and their land’s fate.
[Conclusion about Greek and non-Greek sources on the antiquity of Judeans]
(1.213-219) That the omission of some historians to mention our people was due, not to ignorance, but to envy or some other dishonest reason, I think I am in a position to prove. Hieronymos, who wrote the history of Alexander’s successors, was a contemporary of Hekataios. Due to his friendship with King Antigonos, became governor of Syria. Yet, whereas Hekataios devoted a whole book to us, Hieronymos, although he had lived almost within our borders, has nowhere mentioned us in his history. So widely different were the views of these two men. One thought us deserving of serious notice; the eyes of the other, through an negative disposition, were totally blind to the truth. However, our antiquity is sufficiently established by the Egyptian, Chaldean, and Phoenician records, not to mention the numerous Greek historians. In addition to those already cited, Theophilos, Theodotos, Mnaseas, Aristophanes, Hermogenes, Euhemeros, Konon, Zopyrion, and maybe many more – for my reading has not been exhaustive – have made more than a passing allusion to us. The majority of these authors have misrepresented the facts of our primitive history, because they have not read our sacred books. Yet all agree in testifying to our antiquity, and that is the point with which I am at present concerned. Demetrios Phalereus, the elder Philo, and Eupolemos are exceptional in their approximation to the truth, and their mistakes may be excused on the ground of their inability to follow quite accurately the meaning of our records.
[Part 2 (1.219-2.144): Refuting false accusations against Judeans and Judean customs]
(1.219-222) I have still to deal with one of the topics proposed at the beginning of this work, namely, to expose the fictitious nature of the accusations cast by certain persons upon our people, and to convict the authors of them with their own words. That many others have, through animosity, been treated in the same way is a fact, I imagine, that all regular readers of written inquiries are aware. Various authors have attempted to defile the reputation of peoples (ethnē) and the most illustrious cities, and to revile their forms of organization. Theopompos attacked Athens, Polykrates Lakedaimon; the author of the Tripolitikos (who was certainly not, as some imagine, Theopompos) included Thebes in his strictures. Timaios in his histories freely abused these and other states besides. These critics are most virulent in their attacks on the most renowned persons, some out of envy and spite, others in the belief that the novelty of their language will gain them popularity. In this expectation they find fools who do not disappoint them; by men of sound judgment their depravity is severely condemned.
[Supposed Egyptian origins of the slanders]
(1.223-226) The slanders against us originated with the Egyptians. To gratify the Egyptians, certain authors attempted to distort the facts. They misrepresented the circumstances of the entry of our ancestors into Egypt, and gave an equally false account of their departure. The Egyptians had many reasons for their hatred and envy. There was the original grievance of the domination of our ancestors over their land, and their renewed prosperity when they had left it and returned to their own land. Furthermore, the profound contrast between the two forms of piety created bitter animosity, since ours is as far removed from theirs as is the nature of God from that of irrational beasts. For it is their ancestral custom to regard animals as gods, and this custom is universal, although there are local differences in the honours paid to them. These frivolous and utterly senseless specimens of humanity, accustomed from the outset to mistaken ideas about the gods, were incapable of imitating the holinesss of our discourses about God. Awareness of our numerous admirers filled them with envy. Some of them carried their stupidity and narrow-mindedness so far that they did not hesitate to contradict their ancient chronicles. In the blindness of their passion, they failed to perceive that what they wrote actually contradicted their claims.
[Manetho on the departure of Judeans from Egypt]
(1.227-231) The first writer, on whom I propose to dwell at some length, is one whose evidence has already served me a little way back to prove our antiquity: I mean Manetho. This author, having promised to translate Egyptian Matters from the sacred books, begins by stating that our ancestors entered Egypt in the tens of thousands and subdued the inhabitants, and goes on to admit that they were afterwards driven out of the land, occupied what is now Judea, founded Jerusalem, and built the temple. Up to this point, he followed the chronicles. But then, under the pretext of recording fables and current reports about the Judeans, he took the liberty of introducing some incredible tales, wishing to represent us as mixed up with a crowd of Egyptian lepers and others who were condemned for various ailments, as he asserts, to banishment from the land. Inventing a king named Amenophis, an imaginary person, the date of whose reign he consequently did not venture to fix (although he adds the exact years of the other kings whom he mentions), he attaches to him certain legends. Manetho presumably forgot that he has already clarified that the departure of the shepherds for Jerusalem took place 518 years previously. For it was in the reign of Tethmosis that they left and, according to Manetho, the succeeding reigns covered a period of 393 years down to the two brothers, Sethos and Hermaios the former of whom, he says, took the name of Egyptos and the latter that of Danaos. Sethos, after expelling Hermaios, reigned fifty-nine years, and his eldest son Rampses, who succeeded him, sixty-six. In this way, after admitting that all those years had elapsed since our ancestors left Egypt, he now interpolates this fictitious Amenophis.
(1.232-236) This king, he states, wishing to be granted, like Or, one of his predecessors on the throne, a vision of the gods, communicated his desire to his namesake, Amenophis, son of Paapis, whose wisdom and knowledge of the future were regarded as marks of divinity. This namesake replied that he would be able to see the gods if he purged the entire land of lepers and other polluted persons. Delighted at hearing this, the king collected all the maimed people in Egypt, numbering 80,000, and sent them to work in the stone-quarries on the east of the Nile, segregated from the rest of the Egyptians. They included, he adds, some of the learned priests, who were afflicted with leprosy. Then this wise seer Amenophis was seized with a fear that he would bring down the anger of the gods on himself and the king if the violence done to these men were detected. He also added a prediction that the polluted people would find certain allies who would become masters of Egypt for thirteen years. He did not venture to tell this himself to the king, but left a complete statement in writing, and then put an end to himself. The king was greatly disheartened. Then Manetho proceeds (I quote his actual words):
(1.237-251) “When the men in the stone-quarries had continued long in misery, the king acceded to their request to assign them for habitation and protection the abandoned city of the ‘shepherds,’ called Auaris, and, according to an ancient account concerning the gods, dedicated to Typhon. They went there and now having a place to serve as a base for revolt, they appointed as their leader one of the priests of Heliopolis called Osarsiph, and swore to obey all his orders. By his first law he ordained that they should not worship the gods nor abstain from the flesh of any of the animals held in special reverence in Egypt, but should kill and consume them all, and that they should have no relations with anyone except members of their own confederacy. After laying down these and a multitude of other laws, absolutely opposed to Egyptian custom, he ordered all hands to repair the city walls and make ready for war with King Amenophis. Then, together with other priests and polluted persons like himself, he sent an embassy to the shepherds, who had been expelled by Tethmosis in the city called Jerusalem, setting out the position of himself and his outraged companions and inviting the shepherds to join in a united expedition against Egypt. He set out to escort them first to their ancestral home at Auaris, to provide abundant supplies for their multitudes, to fight for them when the moment came, and without difficulty to reduce the land to submission. The shepherds, delighted with the idea, all eagerly set off in a body numbering 200,000 men, and soon reached Auaris.”
“The news of their invasion angered Amenophis, king of Egypt, who recalled the prediction of Amenophis, son of Paapis. He began by assembling the Egyptians. After deliberation with their leaders, he sent for the sacred animals which were held in most reverence in the temples, and instructed the priests in each district to conceal the images of the gods as securely as possible. His five-year-old son Sethos, also called Ramesses after his grandfather Rampses, he entrusted to the care of a friend. He then crossed the Nile, with 300,000 of the most efficient warriors of Egypt and met the enemy. But instead of engaging them, he turned back and returned to Memphis under the belief that he was about to fight against the gods. There he picked up Apis and the other sacred animals which he had ordered to be brought there. With all his army and the Egyptian population, he went towards Ethiopia, whose king was under obligation to him and at his service. The latter welcomed him and maintained the whole multitude with all the products of the land suitable for human consumption. He assigned them cities and villages sufficient for the destined period of thirteen years’ banishment from the realm, and moreover stationed an Ethiopian army on the Egyptian frontier to protect King Amenophis and his subjects.”
“Such was the condition of affairs in Ethiopia. Meanwhile the Solymites came down with the polluted Egyptians, and treated the inhabitants in so sacrilegious a manner that the regime of the shepherds seemed like a golden age to those who now witnessed the impieties of their present enemies. Not only did they set cities and villages on fire, not only did they pillage the temples and mutilate the images of the gods, but, not content with that, they habitually used the very sanctuaries as kitchens for roasting the venerated sacred animals and forced the priests and prophets to slaughter the sacred animals and cut their throats. Then they threw the priests and prophets out naked. It is said that the priest who gave them a societal organization and code of laws was a native of Heliopolis, named Osarsiph after the Heliopolitan god Osiris, and that when he went over to this people he changed his name and was called Moses.”
This, and much more which I omit for the sake of brevity, is the Egyptian gossip about the Judeans. Manetho adds that Amenophis subsequently advanced from Ethiopia with a large army, his son Rampses at the head of another, and that the two attacked and defeated the shepherds and their polluted allies, killing many of them and pursuing the remainder to the frontiers of Syria. That, with more of a similar kind, is Manetho’s account.
[Josephos’ analysis of Manetho]
(1.252-267) Before proceeding to show the manifest absurdity and untruthfulness of his statements, I will make one preliminary observation, which bears on the replies to be made later on to other authors. Manetho has granted us one fact. He has admitted that our descent group (genos) was not Egyptian, but came into Egypt from elsewhere, conquered it, and afterwards left it. The further facts that we were not, in the sequel, mixed up with Egyptian cripples and that Moses, the leader of our people, far from being one of them, lived many generations earlier, I will now focus on proving from Manetho’s own statements. At the outset, the very hypothesis of his fictitious story is ridiculous. King Amenophis, he says, wanted to see the gods. What gods? If those established by their law are intended – bull, goat, crocodiles, and dog-faced baboons – he saw them already. Or the celestial gods: how could he have seen them? And why had he this passionate desire? Because another king before him had seen them. He had therefore learned from his predecessor what they were like and how he saw them. Consequently, no new method of procedure was required. Furthermore, the seer, by whose help the king hoped to achieve his end, was a sage. How was it then that he failed to predict the impossibility of attaining it? For it was not realized. And what ground was there for attributing the invisibility of the gods to the presence of mutilated persons or lepers? Impiety excites their wrath, not physical deformities. Then, how could 80,000 lepers and invalids be collected in practically a single day? And why did the king neglect the seer’s advice? The latter had ordered that he banish the cripples from Egypt, whereas the king put them into the quarries, like one in need of labourers, rather than one who was determined to purge his land. Manetho further states that the seer killed himself, because he anticipated the anger of the gods and the fate in store for Egypt, leaving to the king his prediction in writing. Then how was it that the seer did not divine his own death from the first? Why did he not immediately oppose the king’s desire to see the gods? Was it reasonable to fear misfortunes that were not to happen in his lifetime? Or what worse fate could have befallen him than the suicide he was in such a hurry to commit?
But let us consider the most ludicrous item in the whole story. Notwithstanding the warning he had received and his dread of the future, the king even then did not expel the cripples from the land (who he had been told to purge from Egypt) but instead gave them at their request a city called Auaris, once (according to Manetho) the residence of the shepherds. Here, he continues, they assembled, and chose for their leader one who had formerly been a priest of Heliopolis. They were instructed by him not to worship the gods nor to abstain from the flesh of the animals reverenced in Egypt, but to kill and devour them all and to have no relations with anyone except members of their own confederacy. Then, after binding his followers by oath faithfully to abide by these laws, he fortified Auaris and declared war on the king. He also, adds Manetho, sent an invitation to the inhabitants of Jerusalem to make an alliance with him, promising them the city of Auaris as the ancestral home of any recruits from Jerusalem, and as a base from which to become masters of the whole of Egypt.
He continues that they then brought up an army of 200,000 men, and Amenophis, king of Egypt, thinking it wrong to fight against the gods, fled immediately to Ethiopia, after entrusting Apis and some of the other sacred animals to the custody of the priests. The Jerusalemites then overran the land, destroyed the cities, burned down the temples, massacred the priests, and in short indulged in every kind of crime and brutality. The priest who gave them a societal organization and a code was, according to Manetho, a native of Heliopolis, named Osarsiph after the Heliopolitan god Osiris, but changed his name to Moses. Thirteen years later – that being the destined period of his exile – Amenophis, says our author, advanced from Ethiopia with a large army, attacked and defeated the shepherds and their polluted allies, and pursued them with great slaughter to the Syrian frontier.
(1.267-278) Here again the author is unconscious of the improbability of his fictitious tale. However indignant the lepers and their horde may formerly have been with the king and the others who had, under the seer’s directions, so ill-treated them, yet surely on emerging from the stone-quarries and being presented by him with a city and land, their feelings towards him would have been mollified. Even supposing their hatred of him still persisted, they would have conspired against him alone, and not have declared war on the whole people, which must obviously have included very many relations of their numerous body. Granted that they decided on war with the Egyptians, they would never have ventured to make war on their gods, nor would they have framed laws directly opposed to the ancestral code under which they had been brought up. However, we must be grateful to Manetho for stating that this violation of the laws originated, not with the immigrants from Jerusalem, but with the Egyptians themselves, and that it was their priests in particular who conceived the idea and administered the oath to the people. Furthermore, how absurd to imagine that, while none of their own relations and friends joined in the revolt and shared the perils of war, these pariahs sent to Jerusalem and obtained recruits from that quarter! What alliance, what connection existed previously between them? On the contrary, these people were enemies, and their customs utterly opposed to their own. Yet, says Manetho, they lent a ready ear to the promise that they should occupy Egypt, as if they were not intimately acquainted with the land from which they had been forcibly expelled! Had they been in straitened circumstances or unfortunate, they might, conceivably, have undertaken the risk; but inhabiting, as they did, an opulent city and enjoying the fruits of an extensive land, superior to Egypt, what inducement could there be to hazard their lives in support of their former foes, those maimed cripples, whom not one even of their own people would tolerate? For of course they did not foresee that the king would take flight. On the contrary, the author himself has told us that the son of Amenophis marched to Pelousion to meet them at the head of 300,000 men. Of his approach the advancing enemy would undoubtedly be aware; how could they possibly conjecture that he would change his mind and flee?
After conquering Egypt, our author proceeds, the Jerusalem invaders committed many horrible crimes; and for these he reproaches them, as though he had not brought them on to the scene as enemies, or as if actions when performed by imported foreigners deserved condemnation, which before their arrival were being performed by the native Egyptians, who had sworn to continue the practice. In the sequel, however, Amenophis returned to the charge, won a battle, and drove the enemy back, with slaughter, to Syria. So easy a prey, it appears, is Egypt to invaders from whatever quarter! And yet its former conquerors, though aware that Amenophis was alive, neither fortified the passes between it and Ethiopia, notwithstanding their ample resources for the purpose, nor had the rest of their army in readiness! Amenophis, says our author, pursued them to Syria, killing them all the way, across the sandy desert. But the difficulty of marching an army across the desert, even without a battle, is notorious.
We have, therefore, Manetho’s authority for Manetho’s saying both that our descent group (genos) was not of Egyptian origin and that there was no mixture in our population. For, presumably many of the lepers and other sick folk died during that long period of hardship in the quarries, many more in the subsequent battles, and most of all in the final engagement and the retreat.
[Josephos’ response to Manetho about Moses]
(1.279-289) It remains for me to say a word to Manetho about Moses. The Egyptians, who regard that man as remarkable, indeed divine, wish to claim him as one of their own, while making the incredible and slanderous assertion that he was one of the priests expelled from Heliopolis for leprosy. The chronicles, however, prove that he lived 518 years earlier and conducted our ancestors out of Egypt into the land which we inhabit today. Furthermore, that he suffered from no physical affliction of this nature is clear from his own statements. In fact, he forbids lepers either to stay in a town or to reside in a village; they must be solitary vagrants, with their clothes rent. Anyone who touches or lives under the same roof with them he considers unclean. Moreover, even if the disease is cured and the victim returns to his normal condition, Moses prescribes certain rites of purification – to cleanse himself in a bath of spring-water and to cut off all his hair – and requires him to offer a numerous variety of sacrifices before entering the holy city. On the contrary, one would have expected a victim of this calamity to have shown some consideration and fellow-feeling for others equally unfortunate. His legislation on these lines was not confined to lepers. The very slightest mutilation of the person was a disqualification for the priesthood, and a priest who in the course of his service met with such an accident was deprived of his office. Is it likely that he was so foolish as to make laws enacted against themselves or that he brought persons together by such misfortunes to approve such laws with the consequence being their own disgrace and injury?
One more remark: Manetho’s transformation of the name is extremely unconvincing. He was called, he says, Osarsiph. This name bears no relation to that which it replaces. The true name signifies “one saved out of the water.” For water is called by the Egyptians “mou.” The conclusion, I think, is sufficiently obvious. So long as Manetho followed the ancient records, he did not go far wrong. But when he had recourse to unauthenticated legends, he either concocted from them a most improbable story, or else trusted the statements of prejudiced opponents.
[Chairemon on the departure of Judeans from Egypt]
(1.289-292) The next witness I will cross-examine is Chairemon. This writer likewise professes to write on Egyptian Matters, and agrees with Manetho in giving the names of Amenophis and Ramesses to the king and his son. He then proceeds to state that Isis appeared to Amenophis in his sleep, and reproached him for the destruction of her temple in war-time. The sacred scribe Phritobautes told him that, if he purged Egypt of its contaminated population, he might cease to be alarmed. The king then collected 250,000 afflicted persons and banished them from the land. Their leaders were scribes, Moses and another sacred scribe: Joseph! “Their Egyptian names were Tisithen (for Moses) and Peteseph (Joseph). The exiles on reaching Pelousion fell in with a body of 380,000 persons, left there by Amenophis, who had refused them permission to cross the Egyptian frontier. With these the exiles concluded an alliance and marched upon Egypt. Amenophis, without waiting for their attack, fled to Ethiopia, leaving his wife pregnant. Concealing herself in some caverns she gave birth to a son named Ramesses. On reaching manhood, Ramesses drove the Judeans, numbering about 200,000, into Syria, and brought home his father Amenophis from Ethiopia. Such is Chairemon’s account.
[Discrepancies between the accounts of Manetho and Chairemon]
(1.293-303) From these statements, the untruthfulness of both writers is, I think, self-evident. Had they any foundation in fact, such a wide discrepancy would be impossible. But consistency with others is not the concern of authors of fiction. They invent according to their fancy. So, according to Manetho, the expulsion of the contaminated people originated in the king’s desire to see the gods: Chairemon invents his own story of the appearance of Isis in a dream. Manetho says that this mode of purification was suggested to the king by Amenophis: Chairemon mentions Phritobautes. Observe too how nearly their figures coincide in their estimate of the crowd: one speaks of 80,000, the other of 250,000! Furthermore, Manetho begins by throwing the polluted wretches into the quarries, then makes them a present of Auaris for their abode and incites them to war against the rest of the Egyptians, and not until then does he represent them as appealing for aid to Jerusalem. According to Chairemon’s account, they found, on their departure from Egypt, in the neighbourhood of Pelousion, 380,000 persons left there by Amenophis, with whom they retraced their steps and made a raid upon Egypt, resulting in the flight of Amenophis to Ethiopia. But the gem of his narrative is his failure to state who these tens of thousands of soldiers were or where they came from, whether they were native Egyptians or foreign immigrants. He does not even explain why the king would not admit them into Egypt, though his Isis dream about the lepers showed no lack of imagination. Chairemon has associated Moses with Joseph, as a contemporary and companion in exile, who died four generations, that is to say about 170 years before Moses. Furthermore, according to Manetho, Ramesses son of Amenophis fought as a young man in his father’s army, and shared his flight and banishment to Ethiopia. According to Chairemon’s version, he was born in a cave after his father’s death, and subsequently defeated the Judeans and drove them out, to the number of about 200,000, into Syria. What reckless hilarity! First he failed to state who the 380,000 were; then he tells us nothing of the fate of the 430,000, whether they fell in battle or went over to Ramesses. But, most astounding of all, it is impossible to discover from Chairemon whom he means by the Judeans or to which of the two groups he applies this designation, the 250,000 lepers or the 380,000 at Pelousion. However, I think it would be foolish to spend more time in refuting authors who refute each other. To have left refutation to others would have shown more decency.
[Lysimachos on the departure of Judeans from Egypt]
(1.304-320) I will next introduce Lysimachos. He brings up the same theme as the writers just mentioned, the false story of the lepers and cripples, but surpasses both in the incredibility of his fictions, obviously composed with bitter hatred. His account is this:
“In the reign of Bocchoris, king of Egypt, the Judean people, who were afflicted with leprosy, scabies, and other diseases, took refuge in the temples to beg for food. The victims of disease being very numerous, a famine took place throughout Egypt. King Bocchoris then sent to consult the oracle of Ammon about the failure of the crops. The god told him to purge the temples of impure and impious persons, to drive them out of these sanctuaries into the wilderness, to drown those afflicted with leprosy and scabies, as the sun was indignant that such persons should live, and to purify the temples. Then the land would yield crops again. On receiving these oracular instructions, Bocchoris summoned the priests and those serving at the altars, and ordered them to draw up a list of the unclean persons; to deliver them into military charge to be conducted into the wilderness; and, to pack the lepers into sheets of lead and sink them in the ocean. The lepers and victims of scabies having been drowned, the others were collected and exposed in the desert to perish. There they assembled and deliberated on their situation. At nightfall they lit up a bonfire and torches, and mounted guard. On the following night kept a fast and implored the gods to save them. On the next day a certain Moses advised them to take their courage in their hands and make a straight track until they reached inhabited land, instructing them to show goodwill to no man, to offer not the best but the worst advice, and to destroy any temples and altars of the gods which they found. The rest assenting, they proceeded to put these decisions into practice. They traversed the desert and, after great hardships, reached inhabited land: there they maltreated the population and plundered and set fire to the temples, until they came to the land now called Judea, where they built a city in which they settled. This town was called Hierosyla because of their alleged sacrilegious tendencies. At a later date, when they had risen to power, they altered the name to avoid the disgraceful imputation, and called the city Hierosolyma and themselves Hierosolymites.”
Lysimachos actually differs from the previous writers in mentioning a king which he discovered himself. He has invented a fresh name and, neglecting the dream and the Egyptian prophet, has gone to Ammon for an oracle concerning the victims of scabies and leprosy. When he speaks of a multitude of Judeans congregating in the temples, does he under this name refer to the lepers, or were the Judeans the only persons afflicted with these diseases? He says, “the people (laos) of the Judeans.” What sort of people? Foreigners or natives? If they were Egyptians, why call them Judeans? If foreigners, why do you not say where they came from? After the king had drowned many of them in the sea and banished the rest into the wilderness, how did such a large number survive? How did they travel across the desert, conquer the land which we inhabit today, found a city, and build a temple of world-wide renown?
Lysimachos should not have been content with mentioning the lawgiver’s name; he should have told us of his descent and parentage. What could have induced the lawgiver to draw up such laws for them about the gods and about the injuries they were to inflict on humankind during their march? If they were Egyptians, they would not so lightly have abandoned their ancestral customs for others. If they came from elsewhere, they certainly had some laws, cherished by the habits of a lifetime. For an oath of eternal enmity against those who had expelled them there was reasonable ground. But that men who, in the straits in which he represents them to have been, needed assistance from every quarter, would declare all out war on all humankind indicates extraordinary stupidity, not on their part, but on the part of the lying historian. Lysimachos has, further, ventured to assert that they gave their city a name derived from their temple robberies and afterwards modified it. Obviously the name brought shame and hatred on their descendants, but the actual founders of the city thought they were honouring themselves by naming it this way! The worthy man, in his mixed abuse, has not observed that we Judeans do not use the same word as the Greeks to express robbery of temples. What else needs to be said about such an impudent liar? Since this book has already run to a suitable length, I propose at this point to begin a second, in which I will focus on supplying the remaining portion of my subject.
(2.1) In the first volume of this work, my most esteemed Epaphroditos, I demonstrated our antiquity, corroborating my statements with the writings of Phoenicians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, as well as citing as witnesses numerous Greek authors. I also challenged the statements of Manetho, Chairemon, and some others. I will now move on to refute the rest of the authors who have attacked us.
(2.2-10) Actually, I am doubtful whether the remarks of Apion the grammarian deserve serious refutation. Some of these resemble the allegations made by others and some are very indifferent additions of his own. Most of them are exceedingly cold-hearted and, to tell the truth, display the complete ignorance of their author, a man of low character and a charlatan to the end of his days. Yet, since most people are so foolish as to find greater attraction in such compositions than in works of a serious nature, to be charmed by abuse and impatient of praise, I think it is important not to pass over examining even this author, who has written an indictment of us formal enough for a court of law. For I observe, on the other hand, that people in general also have a habit of being intensely delighted when one who has been the first to malign another has his own vices brought home to him.
Apion’s argument is difficult to summarize and his meaning is hard to grasp. But as much as the extreme disorder and confusion of his lying statements admit analysis, one may say that some fall into the same category as those already investigated, relating to the departure of our ancestors from Egypt. Some lying statements form an indictment of the Judean residents in Alexandria. While a third group of lying statetments, mixed up with the rest, consists of accusations against our temple rites and our ordinances in general.
[Apion on the departure of Judeans from Egypt]
That our ancestors neither were Egyptians by descent group (genos) nor were expelled from that land in consequence of contagious diseases or any similar affliction, I think I have already given not merely sufficient but even excessive proof. However, I propose briefly to mention the details added by Apion. In the third book of his Egyptian Matters Apion makes the following statement:
(2.10-14) “Moses, as I have heard from old people in Egypt, was a native of Heliopolis. Being pledged to the customs of his land, Moses erected prayer-houses, open to the air, in the various precincts of the city, all facing eastwards (following the orientation of Heliopolis). In place of obelisks he set up pillars, beneath which was a model of a boat. The shadow cast on this basin by the statue described a circle corresponding to the course of the sun in the heavens.”
Such is the grammarian’s amazing statement. Its false character needs no comment. It is exposed by the facts. When Moses built the first tabernacle for God, he neither placed in it himself, nor instructed his successors to make any imagery of this kind. When Solomon, later on, built the temple at Jerusalem, he too refrained from any curiosities of art such as Apion has conceived. Apion tells us that he heard from “old people” that Moses was a Heliopolitan. Obviously, as a junior, he believed what he was told by men old enough to have known and associated with him! Literary critic as he was, he could not positively have stated what was the birthplace of the poet Homer or even of Pythagoras, who lived, one may say, just the other day. But when asked about Moses, who preceded them by such a vast number of years, he, on the strength of the old men’s report, answers with an assurance which proclaims him a liar.
(2.15-19) On the question of the date which he assigns to the departure of the lepers, the blind and the lame under Moses’ leadership, we will find, I imagine, this accurate grammarian in perfect agreement with previous writers. Well, Manetho states that the departure of the Judeans from Egypt occurred in the reign of Tethmosis, 393 years before the flight of Danaos to Argos; Lysimachos says, under King Bocchoris, that is to say, 1700 years ago; and, Molon and others fix a date to suit themselves. Apion, however, the surest authority of all, precisely dates the departure in the seventh Olympiad [ca. 752-749 BCE], and in the first year of that Olympiad, the year in which, according to him, the Phoenicians founded Carthage. This mention of Carthage he has doubtless inserted under the belief that it would afford a striking proof of his veracity. He has failed to see that he has accidentally brought upon himself his own refutation. For, if the Phoenician chronicles may be trusted, it is there recorded that King Hirom lived more than 150 years before the foundation of Carthage. Evidence from those chronicles to this effect has been given earlier in this work, where I showed that Hirom was a friend of Solomon, who built the Temple at Jerusalem, and that he contributed largely towards its construction. But Solomon himself built the Temple 612 years after the departure of the Judeans from Egypt.
(2.20-25) After stating that the fugitives numbered 110,000, in which imaginary figure he agrees with Lysimachos, he gives an astonishing and plausible explanation of the etymology of the word “sabbath”! “After a six days’ march,” he says, “they developed tumours in the groin, and that was why, after safely reaching the land now called Judea, they rested on the seventh day, and called that day “sabbaton,” preserving the Egyptian terminology. For disease of the groin in Egypt is called “sabbo.” One is not sure whether to laugh at this nonsense or rather to be indignant at the impudence of such language. Clearly all these 110,000 persons were attacked by tumours. But if they were blind and lame and suffering from all kinds of disease, as represented by Apion, they could not have accomplished a single day’s march. If, on the contrary, they were capable not only of traversing a vast desert, but of defeating their adversaries in battles in which they all took part, they would not have succumbed in a body to the tumours after six days. For persons on a forced march are not naturally subject to a disease of this kind. Tends of thousands of men in armies maintain a regular pace for many days in succession. Nor can one attribute such an accident to chance; that would be the height of absurdity.
(2.25-29) This astonishing Apion, after stating that they reached Judea in six days, tells us elsewhere that Moses went up into the mountain called Sinai, which lies between Egypt and Arabia, remained in concealment there for forty days, and then descended and gave the Judeans their laws. However, could the same body of men stay forty days in a desert and waterless region, and yet cover the whole distance to their destination in six days? The grammarian’s distortion of the word “sabbath” betrays either gross impudence or shocking ignorance: there is a wide difference between sabbo and sabbaton. Sabbaton in the Judeans’ language denotes cessation from all work, while sabbo among the Egyptians signifies, as he states, disease of the groin. Such are some of the novel features which the the Egyptian Apion, improving upon other authors, has introduced into the story of Moses and the departure of the Judeans from Egypt.
[Apion’s alleged Egyptian ethnicity]
(2.30-32) That he should lie about our ancestors and assert that they were Egyptians by descent group (genos) is by no means surprising. He told a lie which was the reverse of this one about himself. Born in the Egyptian oasis, more Egyptian than them all, as one might say, he disowned his true land and falsely claimed to be an Alexandrian, thereby admitting the wickedness of his descent group. It is therefore natural that he should call persons whom he detests and wishes to abuse “Egyptians.” Had he not had the lowest opinion of natives of Egypt, he would never have turned his back on his own people. Patriots are proud to bear their land’s name, and denounce those who lay unjust claim to the title of citizens. In their relation to us, Egyptians are swayed by one of two feelings: either they pretend to be our kinsmen in order to gain prestige, or else they drag us into their ranks to share their bad reputation. The noble Apion’s slander against us is apparently designed as a sort of return to the Alexandrians for the rights of citizenship which they bestowed upon him. Knowing their hatred of their Judean neighbours in Alexandria, he has made it his aim to vilify the latter, and has included all the rest of the Judeans in his condemnation. In both these attacks he shows himself an impudent liar.
[Apion’s charges against Judeans in Alexandria]
(2.33-40) Let us investigate the grave and shocking charges which he has brought against the Judean residents in Alexandria. He says: “They came from Syria and settled by a sea without a harbour, close beside the spot where the waves break on the beach.” Well, if fault is to be found with the locality, he is stigmatizing not his native place, but what he claims to be his native place, Alexandria. For the sea-board forms part of the city, and is, by universal consent, its finest residential quarter. If the Judeans owed their occupation and subsequent undisturbed occupation of this quarter to force of arms, that is a proof of their courage. In fact, however, it was presented to them as their residence by Alexander, and they obtained privileges on a par with those of the Macedonians. (I do not know what Apion would have said if the Judeans had been quartered in the neighbourhood not of the palace, but of the necropolis!) Down to the present time the Judeans’ local tribe bore the name of “Macedonians.” If Apion had read the letters of King Alexander and of Ptolemy son of Lagos, if he had set eyes on the papers of their successors on the throne of Egypt, or the slab which stands in Alexandria which records the rights granted to the Judeans by Caesar the Great; if, I say, he knew these documents and yet had the face to contradict them in what he wrote, he was a dishonest person; if he had no knowledge of them, he was an ignorant fool. His astonishment at the idea of Judeans being called “Alexandrians” betrays similar stupidity. All persons invited to join a colony, however different their backgrounds, take the name of the founders. It is needless to go outside our descent group (genos) for instances. Our Judean residents in Antioch are called “Antiochenes,” having been granted rights of citizenship by its founder, Seleukos. Similarly, those at Ephesos and throughout the rest of Ionia bear the same name as the indigenous citizens, a right which they received from Alexander’s successors.
(2.40-48) Don’t the Romans, in their generosity, grant their name to just about all humankind, not to individuals only but to great peoples as a whole? So those who were once Iberians, Tyrrhenians, and Sabinians are now called Romans. If Apion disallows this type of citizenship, let him cease to call himself an Alexandrian. Born, as I have already mentioned, in the depths of Egypt, how can he be an Alexandrian, if, as he claims in our case, honorary rights of citizenship are to be ruled out? Indeed, Egyptians are the only people to whom the Romans, now lords of the universe, have refused admission to any citizen rights whatever. Yet Apion displays such noble generosity as to claim for himself privileges from which he was debarred, while he undertakes to slander those who have fairly obtained them. For it was not lack of inhabitants to people the city, whose foundation he had so much at heart, that led Alexander to assemble in it a colony of our people. This privilege he conferred on our people, after successive careful and thorough scrutiny, as a reward of courage and fidelity. The honour in which he held our people may be illustrated by the statement of Hekataios that, in recognition of the consideration and loyalty shown to him by the Judeans, he added to their territory the district of Samaria free of tribute. Alexander’s opinion of the Judeans of Alexandria was shared by Ptolemy son of Lagos. He entrusted the fortresses of Egypt to their keeping, confident of their loyalty and bravery as guards. When he was anxious to strengthen his hold upon Cyrene and the other cities of Libya, he sent out a party of Judeans to settle there.
His successor, Ptolemy surnamed Philadelphos, not only surrendered all prisoners of ours within his realm, but was liberal in his presents of money. The highest compliment, however, which he paid us was in his desire to know our laws and to read the books of our sacred writings. It is, at any rate, the fact that he sent and requisitioned the services of Judean deputies to interpret the law to him. To ensure accuracy in transcription, Ptolemy entrusted the task to no ordinary persons. Demetrios of Phaleron, with Andreas and Aristeas, the first the most learned man of his time, the others his own bodyguards, were his appointed commissioners. Surely he would not have shown such keen interest in our laws and the creed of our ancestors, had he despised, instead of holding in the highest admiration, those to whom they are the rule of their lives.
(2.48-55) Apion has further ignored the extreme kindness shown to us successively by nearly all the kings of his Macedonian ancestors. So Ptolemy III surnamed Euergetes [247-222 BCE], after his conquest of the whole of Syria, instead of sacrificing to the gods of Egypt in thanksgiving for his success, came to Jerusalem. Once there, he offered numerous sacrifices to God following our procedure, and dedicated votive gifts appropriate to such a victory. Furthermore, Ptolemy Philometor and his consort Kleopatra entrusted the whole of their realm to Judeans, and placed their entire army under the command of Judean generals, Onias and Dositheus. Apion ridicules their names, when he ought rather to admire their achievements and, instead of abusing them, thank them for saving Alexandria, of which he claims to be a citizen. For, when the Alexandrians were at war with Queen Kleopatra and in imminent danger of annihilation, it was they who negotiated terms and rid them of the horrors of civil war. Apion says: “But Onias subsequently advanced at the head of a large army against the city, when Thermos, the Roman ambassador, was actually on the spot.” He was right and perfectly justified in so acting, I suggest. For, on the death of his brother Ptolemy Philometor, Ptolemy surnamed Physeon left Cyrene with the intention of dethroning Kleopatra and the deceased king’s sons, and iniquitously usurping the crown himself. That was why, on Kleopatra’s behalf, Onias took up arms against him, refusing to abandon at a crisis his allegiance to the throne. Moreover, the justice of his action was signally attested by God. For Ptolemy Physkon, though not daring to face the army of Onias, had arrested all the Judeans in the city with their wives and children, and exposed them, naked and in chains, to be trampled to death by elephants, the beasts being actually made drunk for the purpose. However, the outcome was the reverse of his intentions. The elephants, without touching the Judeans at their feet, rushed at Physkon’s friends, and killed a large number of them. Afterwards Ptolemy saw a terrible apparition, which forbade him to injure these people. His favourite concubine (some call her Ithaka, others Irene) adding her entreaty to him not to perpetrate such a crime, he gave way and repented of his past actions and further designs. That is the origin of the well-known feast which the Judeans of Alexandria keep, with good reason, on this day, because of the deliverance so manifestly vouchsafed to them by God.
(2.56-62) Apion, however, whose slander nothing escapes, proposes to find another charge against the Judeans in their war on Physkon, for which they deserve his commendation. He further alludes to Kleopatra, the last queen of Alexandria, apparently reproaching us for her ungracious treatment of us. He ought, instead, to have set himself to rebuke that woman, who committed every kind of iniquity and crime against her relatives, her devoted husbands, the Romans in general, and their emperors, her benefactors. She slew her innocent sister Arsinoe in the temple, treacherously assassinated her brother, plundered her land’s gods and her ancestors’ graves. She, owing her throne to the first Caesar, dared to revolt against his son and successor and, corrupting Antony with her sexuality, made him an enemy to his land and faithless to his friends, robbing some of their royal rank, discharging others, and driving them into crime. But what more need be said, when she deserted even him – her husband and the father of their children – in the naval battle and compelled him to surrender his army and imperial title to follow her? In the end, when Alexandria was captured by Caesar she was reduced to such extremities as to see no hope for herself but in suicide, after the cruelty and treachery which she had practised towards all. If, as Apion asserts, this woman in time of famine refused to give the Judeans any rations of corn, is not that, pray, fact of which we should be proud? She, however, met with the punishment which she deserved.
(2.62-64) We, on our side, have the great Caesar to witness to the loyal support which we gave him against the Egyptians. We have also the senate and its decrees, and the letters of Caesar Augustus which attest to our services. Apion ought to have consulted these letters and examined, under their respective heads, the testimonials given under Alexander and under all the Ptolemies, with those emanating from the senate and the most distinguished Roman emperors. If Germanicus was unable to distribute corn to all the inhabitants of Alexandria, that merely proves a barren year and a dearth of corn, and cannot be made an accusation against the Judeans. For the opinion which all the emperors have held of the Judean residents in Alexandria is notorious. The administration of the corn supplies has, indeed, been withdrawn from them, as from the rest of the Alexandrians. But the most signal mark of the confidence in them by the former kings, I mean the charge of the river and of the entire province, has been preserved to them by the emperors, who regarded them as not unworthy of such a trust.
(2.65-73) Apion persists: “But if they are citizens, why do they not worship the same gods as the Alexandrians?” To which I reply: “Why do you, on your side, though Egyptians, wage with one another bitter and implacable war on the subject of obligations to the gods?” Indeed, is not the reason why we refuse to call you all Egyptians, or even collectively men, because you worship and breed with so much care animals that are hostile to humanity? We, on the other hand, obviously form a single and united descent group (genus). However, as wide as these differences of opinion are among your natives of Egypt, why should you be surprised at the allegiance to their original laws of a people who came to Alexandria from another land?
He further accuses us of instigating sedition. But, if it is granted that he is justified in bringing this accusation against the Judeans of Alexandria, why then does he make a grievance against the Judeans at large regarding our notorious unity? Moreover, the real promoters of sedition, as anyone can discover, have been citizens of Alexandria of the type of Apion. The Greeks and Macedonians, so long as the citizenship was confined to them, never rose against us, but left us free to enjoy our ancient worship. But when, owing to the prevailing disorders, their numbers were swelled by a host of Egyptians, sedition became chronic. Our descent group (genus), on the contrary, remained unadulterated. It is they, then, who originated these disturbances, because the populace, possessing neither the Macedonian’s strength of character nor the Greek’s sagacity, universally adopted the evil habits of the Egyptians and indulged their long-standing hatred of us. The reproach which they dare to cast at us is applicable, on the contrary, to them. The majority of them hold their position as citizens of Alexandria under no regular title; yet they call those who notoriously obtained this privilege from the proper authorities “aliens”! Not a single king, it appears, not a single emperor in our times, ever conferred citizen rights upon Egyptians. We, on the contrary, owe our position in the city to Alexander, our privileges were extended by the kings, and those privileges the Romans have been pleased to safeguard for all time.
[Apion on Judean disloyalty towards the empire]
(2.73-78) Apion has consequently attempted to denounce us on the ground that we do not erect statues of the emperors. As if they were ignorant of the fact or needed Apion to defend them! He should rather have admired the magnanimity and moderation of the Romans in not requiring their subjects to violate their ancestral laws, and being content to accept such honours as the pious and legal obligations of the donors permit them to pay. They are not grateful for honours granted under compulsion and constraint. The Greeks, with some other peoples, think it right to make statues: they delight in depicting the portraits of parents, wives, and children; some even obtain likenesses of persons totally unconnected with them, others do the same for favourite slaves. What wonder, then, to find them rendering this honour to their emperors and masters as well? On the other hand, our legislator, not in order to put, as it were, a prophetic veto upon honours paid to the Roman authority, but out of contempt for a practice profitable to neither God nor man, forbade the making of images, alike of any living creature, and much more of God, who, as is shown later on, is not a creature. He did not, however, forbid the payment of honour of another sort, secondary to that paid to God, to worthy men. We do grant such honours to the emperors and the people of Rome. For them we offer perpetual sacrifices. Not only do we perform these ceremonies daily, at the expense of the whole Judean community, but, while we offer no other victims in our corporate capacity, even for the imperial family, we jointly accord to the emperors alone this signal honour which we pay to no other individual. I have now given, I think, a comprehensive and sufficient reply to Apion’s remarks on the subject of Alexandria.
[Poseidonios and Apollonios Molon as sources for Apion]
(2.79-92) I am no less amazed at the proceedings of the authors who supplied Apion with his materials. I mean Poseidonios and Apollonios Molon. On the one hand they charge us with not worshipping the same gods as other people. On the other, they tell lies and invent absurd slanders about our temple, without showing any consciousness of impiety. Yet to high-minded people nothing is more disgraceful than a lie of any kind, but above all a lie about a temple of world-wide fame and commanding sanctity.
[Charge of worshipping a donkey]
Within this sanctuary Apion has the audacity to assert that the Judeans kept an ass’s head, worshipping that animal and considering it worthy of the deepest reverence. The fact was disclosed, he maintains, on the occasion of the plundering of the temple by Antiochos Epiphanes [170 BCE] when the head, made of gold and worth a high price, was discovered. On this I will first remark that, even if we did possess any such object, an Egyptian should be the last person to reproach us. For an ass is no worse than the cats, he-goats, and other creatures which in his land rank as gods.
Next, how did it escape him that the facts convict him of telling an incredible lie? Throughout our history we have kept the same laws, to which we are eternally faithful. Yet, notwithstanding the various calamities which our city, like others, has undergone, when the temple was occupied by successive conquerors, Antiochos the Pious [ca. 135 BCE], Pompey the Great [63 BCE], Licinius Crassus [54-53 BCE], and most recently Titus Caesar [70 CE], they found there nothing of the kind, but the purest type of piety, the secrets of which we may not reveal to foreigners. Many sober historians attest to the fact that Antiochos [Epiphanes]’ plundering of the temple was unjust, that a lack of funds is what drove him to invade it, that he attacked us – his allies and friends – when he was not a proclaimed enemy, and that he found there nothing to deserve ridicule. Polybios of Megalopolis, Strabo the Cappadocian, Nikolaos of Damaskoss, Timagenes, Kastor the chronicler, and Apollodoros all assert that it was the need of funds which induced Antiochos, in violation of his treaties with the Judeans, to plunder the temple with its stores of gold and silver. There is the evidence which Apion should have considered, had he not himself been gifted with the mind of an ass and the impudence of the dog, which his people desire to worship. An outsider can make no sense of his lies.
(2.86-88) We Judeans attribute no honour or virtue to asses, such as is ascribed to crocodiles and asps by Egyptians. They regard persons bitten by a viper or mauled by a crocodile as blessed souls found worthy of god. With us, as with other sensible people, asses are beasts that carry loads on their backs, and if they invade our threshing-floors and eat the corn or stop short on the road, they are soundly beaten as humble servants for labour and agriculture. Either Apion was the stupidest writer of fiction, or, to say the least, he could draw no just conclusion from such facts as he had to start from. For every one of his slanders against us is a failure.
[Charge of human sacrifice]
(2.89-97) He adds a second story of Greek origin which is a malicious slander upon us from beginning to end. On this it will suffice to remark that persons who explore pious topics should be aware that there is less profanity in violating the precincts of a temple than in slandering its priests. But these authors are more concerned to uphold a sacrilegious king than to give a fair and truthful description of our rites and temple. In their anxiety to defend Antiochos and to cover up the deceitfulness and sacrilege practised upon our people under pressure of empty financial accounts, they have further invented the fictitious story which follows in order to discredit us. Apion, who is here the spokesman of others, asserts that:
“Antiochos found in the temple a couch with a man reclining on it and a table before him filled with a banquet of fish of the sea, beasts of the earth, and birds of the air, at which the poor fellow was gazing in a stupor. The king’s entry was instantly hailed by him with adoration, as about to procure him profound relief. Falling at the king’s knees, he stretched out his right hand and implored him to set him free. The king reassured him and asked him tell him who he was, why he was living there, and what was the meaning of his abundant banquet. Then, with sighs and tears, the man, in a pitiful tone, told the tale of his distress. He said that he was a Greek and that, while travelling about the province for his occupation, he was suddenly kidnapped by foreign men and transported to the temple. There he was locked up and seen by nobody, but was fattened on feasts of the most lavish description. At first this unrequested attention deceived him and caused him pleasure. Suspicion followed, then consternation. Finally, on consulting the attendants who waited upon him, he heard of the unutterable law of the Judeans, for the sake of which he was being fed. The practice was repeated annually at a fixed season. They would kidnap a Greek foreigner, fatten him up for a year, and then convey him to a wood, where they slew him, sacrificed his body with their customary ritual, partook of his flesh, and, while immolating the Greek, swore an oath of hostility to the Greeks. The remains of their victim were then thrown into a pit. The man (Apion continues) stated that he had now but a few days left to live, and implored the king, out of respect for the gods of Greece, to defeat this Judean plot upon his life-blood and to deliver him from his miserable predicament.”
(2.97-102) A tale of this kind is not merely packed with all the horrors of a tragedy. It is also replete with the cruelty of total disrespect. It does not, for all that, acquit Antiochos of sacrilege, as its servile authors imagined. Antiochos suspected nothing of the sort when he invaded the temple; the discovery admittedly surprised him. His iniquity, impiety, and godlessness were, therefore, nonetheless excessive, however many lies may be told about him. These reveal their character on their face.
Greeks, as is well known, are not the only people with whom our laws come into conflict; those principally so affected are Egyptians and many others. Is there one of these peoples whose citizens have not happened at some time or other to visit our land? Why should Greeks be the only objects of our periodically repeated conspiracy and bloodthirsty assault? Furthermore, how is it conceivable that all Judeans should assemble to partake of these victims, and that the flesh of one should suffice for so many thousand participants, as Apion asserts? Why in the world after discovering this man, whoever he was (his name is not given in the story), did not the king bring him in triumph to his land, when he might have gained a reputation for piety and rare devotion to the Greeks by doing so, and encountered Judean hatred with the powerful support of public opinion? But I refrain to pursue these inquiries. Fools must be refuted, not by argument, but by facts.
[Sanctity and customs of the Judean temple]
(2.103-109) All who ever saw our temple are aware of the general design of the building, and the inviolable barriers which preserved its sanctity. It had four surrounding courts, each with its special statutory restrictions. The outer court was open to all, foreigners included; women during their impurity were alone refused admission. To the second court all Judeans were admitted and, when uncontaminated by any defilement, their wives. To the third court male Judeans were admitted, if clean and purified. To the fourth the priests robed in their priestly vestments entered. The inner sanctuary was entered only by the high-priests, clad in the raiment peculiar to themselves. So careful is the provision for all the details of the service, that the priests’ entry is timed to certain hours. Their duty was to enter in the morning, when the temple was opened, and to offer the customary sacrifices, and again at mid-day, until the temple was closed. One further point: no vessel whatever might be carried into the temple. The only objects were an altar, a table, a censer, and a lampstand, all mentioned in the law. There was nothing more. No unmentionable mysteries took place, no meal was served within the building. The statements above are attested by the whole community, and conclusively proved by the order of procedure. For, although there are four priestly tribes, each comprising upwards of five thousand members, these officiate by rotation for a fixed period of days. When the term of one group ends, others come to offer the sacrifices in their place and, assembling at mid-day in the temple, take over from the outgoing servers the keys of the building and all its vessels, duly numbered. Nothing of the nature of food or drink is brought within the temple; objects of this kind may not even be offered on the altar, except those which are prepared for the sacrifices.
(2.109-111) Are we then left to conclude that Apion put out this incredible story without any investigation of these facts? But that is disgraceful. As a educated man, did he not profess to present an accurate historical picture? No! He knew the pious rites of our temple, but passed them over when he concocted this story of a kidnapped Greek, an unmentionable banquet of the richest and most sumptuous meal, and slaves entering precincts to which even the highest Judean nobles are not admitted, unless they are priests. Here, then, we have rank impiety at its worst, and a excessive lie, designed to mislead persons who do not trouble to investigate the facts. For the one aim of the inventors of the unspeakable horrors to which I have alluded is to insult us.
[Mnaseas’ story about Zabidos the Idumean]
(2.112-124) This model of piety, Apion, derides us again in a story which he attributes to Mnaseas. The latter, according to Apion, relates that:
“In the course of a long war between the Judeans and the Idumeans, an inhabitant of an Idumean city, called Dorii, who worshipped Apollo and bore (so we are told) the name of Zabidos, came out to the Judeans and promised to deliver into their hands Apollo, the god of his city, who would visit our temple if they all took their departure. The Judeans all believed him. Then Zabidos constructed an apparatus of wood, inserted in it three rows of lamps, and put it over his person. Arrayed in this way, he walked around, presenting the appearance to distant onlookers of stars perambulating the earth. Astounded at this amazing spectacle, the Judeans kept their distance, in perfect silence. Meanwhile, Zabidos stealthily passed into the sanctuary, snatched up the golden head of the pack-ass (as he facetiously calls it), and took off quickly to Dora.”
May we not, on our side, suggest that Apion is overloading the pack-ass, that is to say himself, with a crushing pack of nonsense and lies? He writes of places which do not exist, and shifts the position on the map of cities of which he knows nothing. Idumea, in the latitude of Gaza, is conterminous with our territory. It has no city called Dora. There is a town of that name in Phoenicia, near Mount Carmel, but that has nothing in common with Apion’s ridiculous story, being at a distance of four days’ march from Idumea. Furthermore, how can he continue to accuse us of not having the same gods as the rest of the world, if our ancestors were so easily induced to believe that Apollo would visit them, and imagined that they saw him walking with a train of stars upon the earth? Obviously they had never before seen a lamp, these people whose festivals are such a blaze of illumination! Not one of all those tens of thousands encountered him as he paraded the land! He found the walls unguarded in wartime! I refrain from further comment, merely remarking that the gates of the sanctuary were sixty cubits high and twenty broad,“all gilded and almost entirely covered with plates of wrought gold. It took no fewer than 200 men to close them every day, and it was forbidden to leave them open. Our lampcarrier, I presume, had no difficulty in opening them by himself and making off with the pack-ass’s head. But did he return it to us, or was it Apion who recovered and reinstated it in the temple for Antiochos to find, in order to provide him with a second good story?
Then he attributes to us an imaginary oath, and would have it appear that we swear by the God who made heaven and earth and sea to show no goodwill to a single alien, above all to Greeks. Having once started false accusations, he should have said, “show no goodwill to a single alien, above all to Egyptians.” For then this reference to the oath would have been in keeping with his original fiction, if, as we are given to understand, the cause of the expulsion of our ancestors by their Egyptian “kinsmen” was not their malice, but their misfortunes. From the Greeks we are severed more by our geographical position than by our institutions, with the result that we neither hate nor envy them. On the contrary, many of them have agreed to adopt our laws; of whom some have remained faithful, while others, lacking the necessary endurance, have again seceded. Of these not one has ever said that he had heard the oath in question pronounced by any of us. Apion is apparently the only man who has heard it, for the good reason that he invented it.
(2.125-129) In the argument to which I now turn, Apion’s extraordinary wisdom is most astonishing. According to him, a clear proof that our laws are unjust and our ceremonies erroneous is that we are not masters of an empire, but rather the slaves of one people and then of another, and that disaster has more than once struck our city. As if they [Egyptians] from time immemorial had been the masters of a sovereign state, and had never known what it was to serve the Romans! On Roman lips such a lofty claim might be tolerated. For the rest of the world, there is not a man who would not admit that this argument of Apion closely touches himself. It has been the lot of few, by waiting on opportunity, to gain an empire, and even they have, through the vicissitudes of fortune, been reduced once more to servitude beneath a foreign yoke. Most tribes (phylai) have frequently had to submit to others. The Egyptians alone, so it seems, because the gods, according to their account, took refuge in their land and saved themselves by assuming the forms of wild animals, gained the exceptional privilege of never being the slaves of any of the conquerors of Asia or Europe: the Egyptians, who have never, since the world began, had a day of liberty, even from their domestic masters! For the rough handling, which they received from the Persians who not once but on many occasions sacked their cities, razed their temples, and slaughtered the creatures they took for gods, I will not reproach them.
(2.129-134) I must not imitate the ignorance of Apion, who never thought of the misfortunes of the Athenians or the Lakedaimonians, the latter, by common consent, the bravest, the former the most pious, of the Greeks. I pass over the calamities in the lives of monarchs (like Kroisos [also Latinized Croesus]) renowned for piety. I pass over the burning of the acropolis of Athens, the temple of Ephesos, that of Delphiand myriads more. No one ever reproached the victims, rather than the perpetrators, for these atrocities. It was left for Apion to bring this novel type of accusation against us, quite forgetting the disasters of his own Egypt. Its mythical king Sesostris has doubtless blinded him.
(2.133-138) For our part, might we not quote our kings, David and Solomon, who subjugated many peoples? But let us pass them over and merely refer to a notorious fact, ignored by Apion: that is, that the Egyptians were the slaves and veritable menials, first of the Persians, and then of the Macedonians, the next rulers of Asia; while we were not merely independent, but had dominion over the surrounding communities for about 120 years up to the time of Pompey the Great. And when war had been declared by the Romans on all the monarchs in the world, our kings alone, by reason of their fidelity, remained their allies and friends.
Apion urges: “But they have not produced any geniuses, for example, inventors in arts and crafts or eminent sages.” He enumerates Socrates, Zeno, Kleanthes, and others of that calibre. And genius, then – most astounding master-stroke – adds his own name to the list, and congratulates Alexandria on possessing such a citizen! Indeed he needed this testimonial from himself. For the rest of the world took him for a low-life fraud, whose life was as dissolute as his language, insomuch that Alexandria might fairly be pitied if she prided herself upon him. Our own famous men, who are entitled to rank with the highest, are familiar to readers of my Account of Ancient Matters (archaiologia; now known as Judean Antiquities). The remaining counts in his indictment had better perhaps have remained unanswered, so that Apion might be left to act as accuser against himself and the other Egyptians. Apion denounces us for sacrificing domestic animals and for not eating pork, and he derides the practice of circumcision. Well, we share the custom of slaughtering domestic animals with the rest of humankind. Apion, by criticizing those who practise it, betrays his Egyptian birth. No Greek or Macedonian would have been moved to indignation. Their peoples, indeed, vow sacrifices of hecatombs to the gods, and make a feast off the victims. Yet this has not had the result, apprehended by Apion, of leaving the world without cattle. If, on the other hand, humankind had adopted Egyptian customs, the world would have been left without human beings, and been overrun with those wildest of beasts, which they diligently raise in the belief that they are gods.
(2.139-42) Furthermore, had Apion been asked who, in his opinion, were the wisest and most god-fearing of all the Egyptians, he would undoubtedly have made the admission: “the priests.” For, it is said, they originally received two commissions from royalty: divine worship and the charge of learning. But all those priests are circumcised, and all abstain from swine’s flesh. Even among the rest of the Egyptians there is not a man who sacrifices a pig to the gods. Was, then, Apion’s mind blinded when, in the interest of the Egyptians, he attempted to revile us and actually condemned them? For not only do they practise the customs which he abuses but, as Herodotos has informed us, they have taught others to adopt circumcision.
(2.143-144) I cannot, therefore, but regard the penalty which Apion paid for slandering his own ancestral laws as just and appropriate. An ulcer on his crotch rendered circumcision essential. The operation brought no relief, gangrene set in, and he died in terrible tortures. A wise man’s duty is to be scrupulously faithful to the laws of his land with respect to piety, and to refrain from abusing those of others. Apion was a defaulter to his land’s laws and told lies about ours. Such was his end, and here let me bring my remarks about him to a close.
[Part 3 (2.145-2.296): Superiority of Judean ancestral customs and societal organization]
(2.145-147) Partly from ignorance and mainly from ill-will, Apollonios Molon, Lysimachos, and others have made reflections which are neither just nor true upon our law-giver Moses and his code. They slander the law-giver as a fake and impostor and assert that from our law we receive lessons in vice and none in excellence. For this reason and to the best of my ability, I want to give a brief account of how we organize our society (politeuma) as a whole and in detail. From this, I think, it will be apparent that we possess a code excellently designed to promote piety, friendly relations with each other, and kindness to humanity at large, alongside justice, hard work, and contempt of death. And I beg any who happen on these pages to read them without bias. My object is not to compose a speech of praise for our people. Yet I consider that, in reply to the numerous false accusations which are brought against us, the fairest defence which we can offer is to be found in the laws which govern our daily life.
[Apollonios Molon’s accusations of atheism and hatred of humanity]
(2.148-150) I adopt this line the more readily because Apollonios, unlike Apion, has not grouped his accusations together, but scattered them here and there all over his work. In one place he reviles us as atheists and haters of humanity (misanthropoi), and in another place he reproaches us as cowards. On the other hand, elsewhere he contrarily accuses us of being timid and recklessly mad. He adds that we are the stupidest of all barbarians, and are consequently the only people who have contributed no useful invention to civilization. All this tirade will, I think, be clearly refuted, if it is shown that the precepts of our laws, carefully practised in our lives, are in direct conflict with the above description. If I am forced to mention other peoples’ laws of a contrary kind, the blame must rest with those who claim that our laws are, by comparison, inferior to their own. These critics will, I think, have no excuse in future for denying either that we possess these laws, the most salient of which I propose to cite, or that we are the most law-abiding of all the peoples.
(2.151-153) Resuming, then, after this slight digression, I would begin with the remark that persons who have supported the cause of order and law – one law for all – and been the first to introduce them, may fairly be accepted as more civilized and virtuously disposed than those who lead lawless and disorderly lives. In fact, each people endeavours to trace its own institutions back to the earliest date, in order to create the impression that, far from imitating others, it has been the one to set its neighbours an example of orderly life under law. That being so, the virtue of a legislator is to have insight to see what is best and to win over to the laws which he introduces those who are to live under them. The virtue of the masses is loyally to abide by the laws adopted and, in prosperity or in adversity, to make no change in them.
(2.154-158) Now, I maintain that our legislator is the most ancient of all legislators in the records of the whole world. Compared with him, your Lykourgoses and Solons, and Zaleukos, who gave the Lokrians their laws, and all who are held in such high esteem by the Greeks appear to have been born but yesterday. Why, the very word “law” was unknown in ancient Greece. Take Homer, who nowhere employs it in his poems. In fact, there was no such thing in his day. The masses were governed by maxims not clearly defined and by the orders of royalty. They continued long afterwards the use of unwritten customs, many of which were from time to time altered to suit particular circumstances. On the other hand, our legislator, who lived in the earliest past (that, I presume, is admitted even by our most unscrupulous abusers), proved himself the people’s best guide and counsellor. After framing a code to embrace the whole conduct of their life, he led them to accept it and he secured its observance for all time on the firmest footing.
(2.157-159) Let us consider his first magnificent achievement. When our ancestors decided to leave Egypt and return to their native land, it was he who took command of all those tens of thousands and brought them safely through a lot of formidable difficulties. For they had to traverse a vast, waterless and sandy desert, to defeat their enemies, and to protect their wives, their children and their property while engaged in battle. Throughout all this he proved the best of generals, the wisest of counsellors, and the most conscientious of guardians. He succeeded in making the whole people dependent upon himself, and, having secured their obedience in all things, he did not use his influence for any personal benefit. No. At the very moment when leading men assume absolute and despotic power and accustom their subjects to a life of extreme lawlessness, he, on the contrary, having reached that commanding position, felt responsible to live piously and to provide for his people an abundance of good laws, in the belief that this was the best means of displaying his own excellence and of ensuring the lasting welfare of those who had made him their leader. With such noble aspirations and such a record of successful achievements, he had good reason for thinking that he had God for his guide and counsellor.
(2.160-163) After he persuaded himself that God’s will governed all his actions and all his thoughts, he regarded it as his primary duty to impress that idea upon the community. For all sin is intolerable for those who believe that their lives are under the eye of God. Such was our legislator. He was not a charlatan or impostor, as slanderers wrongly call him, but a legislator like the Greeks boast of having had in Minos and later legislators. For among these some attributed their laws to Zeus, others traced them to Apollo and his oracle at Delphi, either believing this to be the fact, or hoping in this way to facilitate their acceptance.
(2.164-167) But the question, who was the most successful legislator, and who attained to the truest conception of God, may be answered by contrasting the laws themselves with those of others, and to these I must now turn. There is endless variety in the details of the customs and laws which prevail in the world. To give but a summary enumeration: some peoples have entrusted the supreme political power to monarchies, others to oligarchies, yet others to the masses. Our lawgiver, however, was attracted by none of these forms, but gave to his organization of society the form of what – if a forced expression be permitted – may be termed a “theocracy,” placing all sovereignty and authority in the hands of God. He persuaded everyone to look to God as the author of all blessings, both those which are common to all humankind and those which they had won for themselves by prayer during crises. He convinced them that no single action, no secret thought, could be hidden from God. He represented God as One, uncreated and immutable to all eternity, in beauty surpassing all mortal thought, made known to us by His power, although the nature of His real being passes knowledge. I am now concerned to argue that the wisest of the Greeks learned to adopt these conceptions of God from principles supplied by Moses. But they have borne abundant witness to the excellence of these doctrines, and to their consonance with the nature and majesty of God.
(2.168-171) In fact, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Plato, the Stoics who succeeded him, and, indeed, nearly all the philosophers appear to have held similar views concerning the nature of God. These, however, addressed their philosophy to the few, and did not venture to divulge their true beliefs to the masses who had their own preconceived opinions. Whereas our lawgiver, by making practice match with precept, not only convinced his own contemporaries, but so firmly implanted this belief concerning God in their descendants to all future generations that it cannot be moved. The cause of his success was that the very nature of his legislation made it far more useful than any other. For he did not make piety a department of virtue, but the various virtues – I mean, justice, temperance, fortitude, and mutual harmony in all things between the members of the community – departments of piety. Piety governs all our actions and occupations and speech. Our lawgiver did not leave any of these unexamined or undefined. All schemes of education and moral training fall into two categories: instruction is imparted in the one case by precept, in the other by practical exercising of the character.
(2.172-174) All other legislators, differing in their opinions, selected the particular method which each preferred and neglected the other. So the Lakedaimonians and Cretans employed practical, not verbal, training. Whereas the Athenians and nearly all the rest of the Greeks made laws enjoining what actions might or might not be performed, but neglected to familiarize the people with them by putting them into practice. Our legislator, on the other hand, took great care to combine both systems. He did not leave practical training in morals unarticulated. Nor did he permit the letter of the law to remain inoperative. Starting from the very beginning with the food of which we partake from infancy and the private life of the home, he left nothing, however insignificant, to the discretion and unpredictability of the individual. What meats a man should abstain from, and what he may enjoy; with what persons he should associate; what period should be devoted respectively to strenuous labour and to rest—for all this our leader made the Law the standard and rule, that we might live under it as under a father and master, and be guilty of no sin through wilfulness or ignorance.
(2.175) For he left no excuse for ignorance. He appointed the Law to be the most excellent and necessary form of instruction. He established it in a way that, rather than being heard once, twice, or on several occasions, it would be heard every week with men deserting their other occupations and assembling to listen to the Law and to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of it. This is a practice which all other legislators seem to have neglected.
(2.176-181) Indeed, most men, so far from living in accordance with their own laws, hardly know what they are. Only when they have done wrong do they learn from others that they have transgressed the law. Even those of them who hold the highest and most important offices admit their ignorance. For they employ professional legal experts as assessors and leave them in charge of the administration of affairs. But, should anyone of our people be questioned about the laws, he would repeat them all more readily than his own name. The result, then, of our thorough grounding in the laws from the first dawn of intelligence is that we have them, as it were, written on our souls. A transgressor is a rarity. Evasion of punishment by excuses is an impossibility. To this cause above all we owe our admirable harmony. Unity and identity of religious belief perfect uniformity in habits and customs, produce a very beautiful concord in human character. Among us alone will be heard no contradictory statements about God, such as are common among other peoples, not only on the lips of ordinary individuals under the impulse of some passing mood, but even boldly propounded by philosophers. Some philosophers put forward crushing arguments against the very existence of God, others deprive him of his providential care for humankind. Among us alone will be seen no difference in the conduct of our lives. With us, everyone behaves alike, everyone professess the same doctrine about God, one which is in harmony with our Law and affirms that all things are under God’s eye. Even our women and dependants would tell you that piety must be the motive of all our occupations in life.
(2.182-183) This, in fact, is the origin of the reproach brought against us by some critics of our having produced no inventors in crafts or literature. In the eyes of the world at large there is something fine in breaking away from all inherited customs. Those who have the audacity to defy them are credited with the possession of consummate ability. To us, on the other hand, the only wisdom, the only virtue, consists in refraining absolutely from every action, from every thought that is contrary to the laws originally laid down. This may fairly be claimed as a proof of how excellently the laws have been drawn up. Codes which are not of this character are proved by experience to need amendment.
(2.184-186) For us, with our conviction that the original institution of the Law was in accordance with the will of God, it would be complete impiety not to observe it. What could one alter in it? What more beautiful one could have been discovered? What improvement imported from elsewhere? Would you change the entire character of its makeup? Could there be a finer or more equitable way of organizing society than one which sets God at the head of the universe, which assigns the administration of its highest affairs to the whole body of priests and grants to the supreme high-priest the direction of the other priests? These men, moreover, owed their original promotion by the legislator to their high office, not to any superiority in wealth or other accidental advantages. No. Of all his companions, the men to whom Moses entrusted the ordering of divine worship as their first charge were those who were pre-eminently gifted with persuasive eloquence and discretion.
(2.187-189) But this charge further embraced a strict superintendence of the Law and of the pursuits of everyday life. For the appointed duties of the priests included general supervision, the trial of cases of litigation, and the punishment of condemned persons. Could there be a more saintly government than that? Could God be more worthily honoured than by such a scheme, under which piety is the end and aim of the training of the entire community, the priests are entrusted with the special charge of it, and the whole administration of the community resembles some sacred ceremony? We maintain with delight and unflinching determination all our lives the sort of practices which, under the name of mysteries and rites of initiation, other peoples are unable to observe except for a few days.
(2.190-192) What, then, are the precepts and prohibitions of our Law? They are simple and familiar. At their head stands one of which God is the theme. The universe is in God’s hands. Perfect and blessed, self-sufficing and sufficing for all, God is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things. By his works and bounties he is plainly seen, indeed more manifest than everything else. But his form and magnitude surpass our powers of description. No materials, however costly, are fit to make an image of God. No art has skill to conceive and represent God. The likeness of him we have never seen, we do not imagine, and it is impious to conjecture. We behold God’s works: the light, the heaven, the earth, the sun, the waters, the reproductive creatures, and the sprouting crops. These God created, not with hands, not with toil, not with assistants of whom he had no need. He willed it so and they were immediately made in all their beauty. We must worship him by practicing excellence. For that is the most holy manner of worshipping God.
(2.193-197) We have but one temple for the one God (for like always loves like), common to all as God is common to all. The priests arc continually engaged in worship under the leadership of him who for the time is head of the line. With his colleagues he will sacrifice to God, safeguard the laws, adjudicate in cases of dispute, punish those convicted of crime. Any who disobey him will pay the penalty as for impiety towards God himself. Our sacrifices are not occasions for drunken self-indulgence, since such practices are abhorrent to God, but for sobriety. At these sacrifices prayers for the welfare of the community must take precedence over those for ourselves. For we are born for fellowship, and he who sets its claims above his private interests is specially acceptable to God.
(2.197-199) We should ask God not to give us blessings, for he has given them spontaneously and put them at the disposal of all who have the capacity to receive and, having received, keep them. In view of the sacrifices the Law has prescribed purifications for various occasions: after a funeral, after child-birth, after conjugal union, and many others. What are our marriage laws? The Law recognizes no sexual relations except the natural union of man and wife, and that only for the procreation of children. The law hates men having sexual intercourse with men, and punishes any guilty of such assault with death. It commands us, in taking a wife, not to be influenced by dowry, not to carry off a woman by force, nor yet to win her by guile and deceit, but to request from him who is authorized to give her away the hand of one who is not ineligible on account of nearness of kin.
(2.200-203) The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the man. Let her accordingly be submissive, not for her humiliation, but that she may be directed. For the authority has been given by God to the man. The husband must have union with his wife alone. It is impious to assault the wife of another. For any guilty of this crime the penalty of death is unavoidable, whether he violates a virgin engaged to another or seduces a married woman. The Law orders all the offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause an abortion or to make away with the foetus. A woman convicted of this is regarded guilty of infanticide, because she destroys a soul and diminishes the descent group (genos). For the same reason none who has intercourse with a woman who is with child can be considered pure. Even after the legitimate relations of husband and wife, ablutions are required. For the Law regards this act as involving a partition of the soul, part of it going into another place. For it suffers both when being implanted in bodies and again when severed from them by death. That is why the Law has enjoined purifications in all such cases.
(2.204) Again the Law does not allow the birth of our children to be made occasions for festivity and an excuse for drinking to excess. It enjoins sobriety in their upbringing from the very first. It orders that they will be taught to read and will learn both the laws and the deeds of their ancestors in order that they may imitate the latter, and, being grounded in the former, may neither transgress nor have any excuse for being ignorant of them.
(2.205) The pious rites which it provides for the dead do not consist of costly funerary customs or setting up conspicuous monuments. The funeral ceremony is to be undertaken by the nearest relatives, and all who pass while a burial is proceeding must join the procession and share the mourning of the family. After the funeral the house and its inhabitants must be purified.
(2.206-208) With the law, honouring parents ranks second only to honouring God. If a son does not respond to the benefits he received from his parents – for the slightest failure in his duty towards them – it hands him over to be stoned. It requires respect to be paid by the young to all their elders, because God is the eldest of all. It allows us to conceal nothing from our friends, for there is no friendship without absolute confidence. In the event of subsequent estrangement, it forbids the disclosure of secrets. Any judge who accepts bribes suffers capital punishment. Anyone who refuses to help someone requesting aid when he has power to give is accountable to justice. None may appropriate goods which he did not place on deposit, lay hands on any of his neighbour’s property, or receive interest. These and many similar regulations are the ties which bind us together.
(2.209-210) The consideration given by our legislator to the equitable treatment of foreigners also merits attention. It will be seen that he took the best of all possible measures to secure our own customs from corruption, and to throw them open without hesitation to any who choose to share them. To all who want to come and live under the same laws with us, he gives a gracious welcome, holding that it is not family ties alone which constitute relationship, but agreement in the principles of conduct. On the other hand, it was not his intention that casual visitors should be admitted to the intimacies of our daily life.
(2.211-214) The duty of sharing with others was inculcated by our legislator in other matters. We must furnish fire, water, and food to all who ask for them, point out the road, not leave a corpse unburied, show consideration even to declared enemies. He does not allow us to burn up enemy land or to cut down the enemies’ fruit trees and forbids even the plundering of fallen enemies. He has taken measures to prevent mistreatment of prisoners of war, especially women. So thorough a lesson has he given us in gentleness and humanity that he does not overlook even the animals, authorizing their use only in accordance with the Law and forbidding all other employment of them. We are forbidden to kill creatures which take refuge in our houses. He would not allow us to take the parent birds with their young, and bade us even in an enemy’s land to spare and not to kill the beasts employed in labour. So in every particular, he had an eye to mercy, using the laws I have mentioned to enforce the lesson, and drawing up for transgressors other penal laws that allowed no excuse.
(2.215-217) The penalty for most offences against the law is death: for adultery, for violating an unmarried woman, for sex with a man, and for allowing one so tempted to such abuse. The Law is no less inexorable for slaves. Even fraud in such matters as weights or measures, or injustice and deceit in trade, or stealing another man’s property, or laying hands on what one did not deposit. All such crimes have punishments attached to them which are not on the same scale as with other peoples, but more severe. For example, the mere intention of doing wrong to one’s parents or of impiety against God is followed by instant death.
(2.218-219) For those, on the other hand, who live in accordance with our laws, the prize is not silver or gold, no crown of wild olive or of parsley with any such public mark of distinction. No. Each individual relies on the witness of his own conscience and the lawgiver’s prophecy and is confirmed by the sure testimony of God. Each individual is firmly persuaded that, for those who observe the laws and, if they need to die for them, willingly meet death, God has granted a renewed existence and in the revolution of the ages the gift of a better life. I should have hesitated to write in this way, had not the facts made all men aware that many of our countrymen have on many occasions before now preferred to brave all manner of suffering rather than to utter a single word against the Law.
(2.220-224) Now imagine that our people had not happened to be known to all the world and our voluntary obedience to our laws were not a well-known fact. Furthermore, imagine that someone had delivered a lecture to the Greeks which he admitted to be his own composition, asserting that somewhere outside the known world he had met with people who held such sublime ideas about God and had for ages continued steadily faithful to such laws as ours. The words of this speech would, I imagine, astonish all his hearers, in view of the constant changes in circumstances in their own past. In fact, those who have attempted to draft a way of organizing society and a code on any such lines are accused of inventing something miraculous, based, according to their critics, on impossible premises. I pass over other philosophers who have handled such topics in their writings. I need name only Plato. Plato is currently admired by the Greeks for his outstanding dignity of character, and as one who in oratorical power and persuasive eloquence outmatched all other philosophers. Yet he is continually being, I may almost say, scoffed at and held up to ridicule by those who claim to be expert civic leaders. And yet, on examination, his laws will be found to be frequently easier than ours, and more closely approximating to the practice of the masses. Plato himself admits that it is hazardous to divulge the truth about God to the ignorant masses.
(2.225-231) There are, however, men who regard Plato’s dialogues as futile, brilliant but very fanciful compositions, and the legislator for whom they have highest admiration is Lykourgos. The praises of Sparta are sung by all the world, because Sparta remained for so long faithful to Lykourgos’ laws. Let us concede that obedience to law is a proof of excellence. But let the admirers of the Lakedaimonians set the duration of that city over against the period of upwards of two thousand years of our societal organization. Let them further reflect that the Lakedaimonians thought good strictly to observe their laws only so long as they retained their liberty and independence, but when they met with reverses of fortune forgot just about all of their laws. We, on the contrary (notwithstanding numerous disasters caused by changes of rulers in Asia), never even in the worst situation proved traitors to our laws. We respect them not from any motive of laziness or luxury. A little consideration will show that they impose on us ordeals and labours far more severe than the endurance commonly believed to have been required of the Lakedaimonians. Those men neither tilled the ground nor toiled at crafts. Exempt from all business, they passed their life in the city, smooth and cultivating beauty by physical training. For all the necessities of life they had others to wait on them, by whom their food was prepared and served to them. They were prepared to do and face everything for the sole aim of the noble and humane object of defeating anyone they fought against. Even in this, I may remark in passing, they were unsuccessful.
(2.231-236) It is a matter of fact that not only isolated individuals but even large numbers have frequently surrendered en masse with their arms to the enemy in defiance of the injunctions of their own laws. Has anyone ever heard of a case of our people, not, I mean, in such large numbers, but merely two or three, proving traitors to their laws or afraid of death? I do not refer to that easiest of deaths, on the battlefield, but death accompanied by physical torture, which is thought to be the hardest of all. To such a death we are, in my belief, exposed by some of our conquerors, not from hatred of those at their mercy, but from a curiosity to witness the astonishing spectacle of men who believe that the only evil which can befall them is to be compelled to do any act or utter any word contrary to their laws. There should be nothing astonishing in our facing death on behalf of our laws with a courage which no other people can equal. For even those practices of ours which seem the easiest others find difficult to tolerate: I mean personal service, simple diet, discipline which leaves no room for extreme or individual irresponsibility in matters of meat and drink, or in the sexual relations, or in extravagance, or again the abstention from work at rigidly fixed periods. No. The men who march out to meet the sword and to charge and force the enemy to retreat could not face regulations about everyday life. On the other hand, our willing obedience to the law in these matters results in the heroism which we display in the face of death.
(2.236-238) For all that, the Lysimachoses and Molons and other writers of that type, immoral sophists and deceivers of youth, rail at us as the very vilest of humankind. Gladly would I have avoided an investigation of the institutions of other peoples. For it is our ancestral custom to observe our own laws and to refrain from criticism of those of aliens. Our legislator has expressly forbidden us to deride or blaspheme the gods recognized by others, out of respect for the very word “God.” But since our accusers expect to refute us by comparison, it is impossible to remain silent. I speak confidently because the statement which I am about to make is no invention of my own for the occasion, but has been made by many writers of the highest reputation.
[Critique of Greek notions of the gods]
(2.239-249) Who, in fact, is there among the admired sages of Greece who has not censured their most famous poets and their most trusted legislators for sowing in the minds of the masses the first seeds of such notions about the gods? They represent them to be as numerous as they choose, born of one another and engendered in all manner of ways. They assign them different localities and habits, like animal species, some living under ground, others in the sea, the oldest of all being chained in Tartaros. Those to whom they have allotted heaven have set over them one who is nominally Father, but in reality a tyrant and despot. The result is that his wife, brother and daughter, whom he begot from his own head, conspire against him in order to arrest and imprison him, just as he himself had treated his own father. Justly do these tales merit the severe criticism which they receive from their intellectual leaders. Moreover, they ridicule the belief that some gods are beardless striplings, others old and bearded; that some are appointed to trades, this one being a smith and that goddess a weaver, a third a warrior who fights along with men, others lute-players or devoted to archery; and, that they are divided into factions and quarrel about men, not only coming to blows with each other but actually lamenting over and suffering from wounds inflicted by mortals. But – and here outrageousness reaches its high point – is it not monstrous to attribute those licentious unions and amours to just about every one of the deities of both sexes? Furthermore, the noblest and leader of them all, the Father himself, after seducing women and rendering them pregnant, leaves them to be imprisoned or drowned in the sea. That Father of the gods is so completely at the mercy of Destiny that he cannot either rescue his own offspring or restrain his tears at their death. These are quite the activities, as well as others that follow, such as adultery in heaven with the gods as such shameless onlookers that some of them confessed that they envied the united pair. And well they might, when even the eldest of gods, the king, could not restrain his passion for his consort long enough to permit of withdrawal to his chamber. Then there are the gods in bondage to men, hired now as builders, now as shepherds, and other gods chained, like criminals, in a prison of brass. What man in his senses would not be stirred to reprimand the inventors of such fables and to condemn the extreme stupidity of those who believed them? They have even deified Terror and Fear, no, Frenzy and Deceit – which of the worst passions have they not transfigured into the nature and form of a god? They have induced cities to offer sacrifices to the more respectable members of this pantheon. So they have been absolutely compelled to regard some of the gods as givers of blessings and to call others gods to be averted. They then rid themselves of the latter, as they would of the worst scoundrels of humanity, by means of favours and presents, expecting to be visited by some serious mischief if they fail to pay them their price.
(2.250-255) Now, what is the cause of such unusual and erroneous conceptions of the deity? For my part, I trace it to their ignorance of the true nature of God with which their legislators entered on their task, and to their failure to formulate even such correct knowledge of it as they were able to attain and to make the rest of their societal organization conform to it. Instead, as if this were the most trifling of details, they allowed the poets to introduce what gods they chose, subject to all the passions. And they allowed the orators to pass decrees for entering the name of any suitable foreign god on the roll. Painters also and sculptors were given great licence in this matter by the Greeks, each designing a figure of his own imagination, one moulding it of clay, another using paints. The artists who are the most admired of all use ivory and gold as the material for the novelties which they are constantly producing. Now the gods who once flourished with honours are grown old, that is the kinder way of putting it. Other newly introduced gods are the objects of worship. Some temples are left to desolation, others are reconstructed, according to individual unpredicatability. On the contrary, they should have preserved unchanged their belief in God and the honour which they rendered to him. Apollonios Molon is but one of the crazy fools. The genuine exponents of Greek philosophy were well aware of all that I have said. Nor were the true philosophers ignorant of the worthless shifts to which the allegorists have resorted. That was why they rightly despised them and agreed with us in forming a true and befitting conception of God.
(2.256-257) From this standpoint Plato declares that no poet ought to be admitted to the republic, and dismisses even Homer in laudatory terms, after crowning and anointing him with ointments, in order to prevent him from obscuring by his fables the correct doctrine about God. In two points, in particular, Plato followed the example of our legislator. He prescribed as the primary duty of the citizens a study of their laws, which they must all learn word for word by heart. Furthermore, he took precautions to prevent foreigners from mixing with them at random, and to keep the state pure and confined to law-abiding citizens.
[On the charge of being anti-social haters of humanity]
(2.258-266) Of these facts Apollonios Molon took no account when he condemned us for refusing admission to persons with other preconceived ideas about God, and for declining to associate with those who have chosen to adopt a different mode of life. Yet even this habit is not peculiar to us; it is common to all, and shared not only by Greeks, but by Greeks of the highest reputation. The Lakedaimonians made a practice of expelling foreigners and would not allow their own citizens to travel abroad, in both cases apprehensive about their laws being corrupted. They might perhaps be justly criticized for discourtesy, because they accorded to no one the rights either of citizenship or of residence among them. We, on the contrary, while we do not want to emulate the customs of others, yet gladly welcome any who wish to share our own. That, I think, may be taken as a proof both of humanity and magnanimity. Of the Lakedaimonians I will say no more.
But the Athenians, who considered their city open to all comers—what was their attitude in this matter? Apollonios was ignorant of this, and of the extreme penalty which they inflicted on any who uttered a single word about the gods contrary to their laws. On what other ground was Socrates put to death? He never aimed to betray his city to the enemy, and he robbed no temple. No. He was condemned to drink poison hemlock because he used to swear strange oaths and give out (in jest, surely, as some say) that he received communications from a spirit. His accuser brought a charge against him of corrupting young men, because he stimulated them to hold the societal organization and laws of their land in contempt. Such was the punishment of Socrates, a citizen of Athens.
Anaxagoras was a native of Klazomenai, but because he maintained that the sun, which the Athenians held to be a god, was an incandescent mass, he escaped by a few votes only from being condemned by them to death. They offered a talent for the head of Diagoras of Melos, because he was reported to have joked about their mysteries. Protagoras, had he not promptly fled, would have been arrested and put to death, because of a statement about the gods in his writings which appeared to conflict with Athenian tenets.
(2.267-272) Can one wonder at their attitude towards men of such authority when they did not spare even women? They put Ninos the priestess to death, because some one accused her of initiating people into the mysteries of foreign gods. This was forbidden by their law, and the penalty decreed for any who introduced a foreign god was death. Those who had such a law evidently did not believe that the gods of other peoples were gods. Otherwise they would not have denied themselves the advantage of increasing the number of their own. That’s what can be said to the credit of the Athenians.
But even Scythians, who delight in murdering people and are little better than wild beasts, still think it’s their duty to uphold their ancestral customs. Anacharsis, whose wisdom won the admiration of the Greeks, was on his return put to death by his compatriots, because he appeared to have come back infected with Greek habits. In Persia, also, numerous instances will be found of persons being executed for the same reason. Apollonios, however, had an affection for the laws of the Persians and a high opinion of the people; evidently because Greece had a taste of their courage and the benefit of their agreement with herself in pious beliefs! The latter she experienced when she saw her temples burned to the ground, their courage in her bare escape from subjection to their yoke. Apollonios actually imitated all the Persian practices, outraging his neighbours’ wives and castrating their children. With us such maltreatment even of a brute beast is made a capital crime.
(2.272-275) From these laws of ours nothing has had power to deflect us, neither fear of our masters, nor envy of the institutions preferred by other peoples. We have trained our courage, not for the purpose of waging war in order to expand, but in order to preserve our laws. To defeat in any other form we patiently submit, but when pressure is put upon us to alter our statutes, then we deliberately fight, even against tremendous odds, and hold out under reverses to the very end. Why should we envy other peoples their laws when we see that even their authors do not observe them? The Lakedaimonians were, of course, bound in the end to condemn their unsociable societal organization and their contempt for marriage, and the people of Elis and Thebes the unnatural vice so rampant among them. At any rate, if they have not in fact altogether abandoned them, they no longer openly avow practices which once they considered very excellent and expedient. But they go further than this, and repudiate their laws on the subject of these unions. These are laws which at one time carried such weight with the Greeks that they actually attributed to the gods the practice of sex between men and, on the same principle, the marriage of brother and sister, in this way inventing an excuse for the monstrous and unnatural pleasures in which they themselves indulged.
(2.276-278) In the present work I pass over the various penalties and all the modes of compounding for them which the majority of legislators provided in their codes at the outset for offenders – accepting fines in case of adultery, marriage in that of immorality – and, in matters of impiety, all the subterfuges which they left open for denying the facts, if anyone took the trouble to open an inquiry. These days violation of the laws has with most peoples become a fine art. Not so with us. Robbed though we are of wealth, of cities, of all good things, our law at least remains immortal. There is not a Judean who is distant from his land and much in awe about a cruel despot that has more fear of the despot than of the law. If, then, our attachment to our laws is due to their excellence, let it be granted that they are excellent. If, on the contrary, it is thought that the laws to which we are so loyal are bad, what punishment could be too great for persons who transgress those which are better?
[Imitation of Judean customs by other peoples]
(2.279-287) Now, since Time is always considered the most certain test of worth, I would call Time to witness to the excellence of our lawgiver and of the revelation concerning God which he has transmitted to us. An infinity of time has passed since Moses, if one compares the age in which he lived with those of other legislators. Yet it will be found that throughout the whole of that period not merely have our laws stood the test of our own use, but they have to an ever increasing extent excited the emulation of the world at large. Our earliest imitators were the Greek philosophers, who, though ostensibly observing the laws of their own countries, yet in their conduct and philosophy were Moses’ disciples, holding similar views about God, and advocating the simple life and friendly communion between people. But that is not all. The masses have long shown enthusiasm in adopting our piety. There is not one city, Greek or barbarian, nor a single people, to which our custom of abstaining from work on the seventh day has not spread, and where the fasts and the lighting of lamps and many of our prohibitions in the matter of food are not observed. Moreover, they attempt to imitate our unanimity, our liberal charities, our devoted labour in the crafts, and our endurance under persecution on behalf of our laws. The greatest miracle of all is that our law holds out no seductive bait of sensual pleasure, but has exercised this influence through its own inherent merits. As God permeates the universe, so the law has found its way among all humankind. Let each man reflect for himself on his own land and his own household, and he will not disbelieve what I say. It follows, then, that our accusers must either condemn the whole world for bad intentions in being so eager to adopt the bad laws of a foreign land in preference to the good laws of their own, or else they need to give up their grudge against us. In honouring our own legislator and putting our trust in his prophetical utterances concerning God, we do not make any arrogant claim justifying such hatred. Indeed, were we not ourselves aware of the excellence of our laws, assuredly we should have been impelled to pride ourselves upon them by the multitude of their admirers.
(2.287-296) I have given an exact account of our laws and societal organization in my previous work Account of Ancient Matters (archaiologia; now known as Judean Antiquities). Here I have alluded to them only so far as was necessary for my purpose, which was neither to find fault with the institutions of other peoples nor to extol our own, but to prove that the authors who have maligned us have made a barefaced attack on truth itself. I have, I think, in the present work adequately fulfilled the promise made at the outset. I have shown that our descent group (genos) goes back to remote antiquity, whereas our accusers assert that it is quite modern. I have produced numerous ancient witnesses, who mention us in their works, whereas they confidently affirm that there is none. They further maintained that our ancestors were Egyptians; it has been shown that they migrated to Egypt from elsewhere. They falsely asserted that the Judeans were expelled from that land as physical defects; it has been made clear that they returned to their native land of deliberate choice, and thanks to their exceptional physical strength. They reviled our legislator as an insignificant personage; his exceptional merits have found a witness of old in God, and, after God, in Time.
It was not necessary to speak at length about the laws. A glance at them showed that they do not teach impiety, but the most genuine piety. The laws invite men not to hate their fellows, but to share their possessions; they are the enemies of injustice and are scrupulous for justice; they banish laziness and extravagance; they teach men to be self-dependent and to work with a will; they deter men from war for the sake of conquest, but render them valiant defenders of the laws themselves. The laws are thorough in punishment, unsophisticated in terminology, and always supported by actions. For actions are our invariable testimonials, clearer than any documents.
I would therefore boldly maintain that we have introduced to the rest of the world a very large number of very beautiful ideas. What greater beauty than inviolable piety? What higher justice than obedience to the laws? What more beneficial than to be in harmony with one another, to avoid both disunion in adversity and arrogance and faction in prosperity; to despise death in war and to devote oneself to crafts or agriculture in peace; and, to be convinced that everything in the whole universe is under the eye and direction of God? Had these precepts been either committed to writing or more consistently observed by others before us, we would have owed them a debt of gratitude as their disciples.
If, however, it is seen that no one observes them better than ourselves, and if we have shown that we were the first to discover them, then the Apions and Molons and all who delight in lies and abuse may be left to their own confusion. To you, Epaphroditos, who are a devoted lover of truth, and for your sake to any who, like you, may wish to know the facts about our descent group (genos), I dedicate this and the preceding book.