Stenaxeian

Josephus

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Καὶ τῶν Ἰουδαίων οἱ συγκαταφυγόντες ὡς τὸν Ἰώσηπον συνίεσαν εἴκοντα τοῖς παρακαλοῦσιν, ἀθρόοι περιστάντες, “ἦ μεγάλα γ’ ἂν στενάξειαν,” ἐβόων, “οἱ πάτριοι νόμοι, καὶ κατηφήσαι θεὸς Ἰουδαίοις ὁ κτίσας ψυχὰς θανάτου καταφρονούσας. φιλοζωεῖς, Ἰώσηπε, καὶ φῶς ὑπομένεις ὁρᾶν δοῦλον; ὡς ταχέως ἐπελάθου σαυτοῦ. πόσους ὑπὲρ ἐλευθερίας ἀποθνήσκειν ἔπεισας. ψευδῆ μὲν ἄρα δόξαν ἀνδρείας, ψευδῆ δὲ καὶ συνέσεως εἶχες, εἴ γε σωτηρίαν μὲν ἔχειν ἐλπίζεις παρ’ οἷς οὕτως ἐπολέμησας, σώζεσθαι δὲ ὑπ’ ἐκείνων, κἂν ᾖ βέβαιον, θέλεις. ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ σοὶ λήθην σεαυτοῦ κατέχεεν ἡ Ῥωμαίων τύχη, προνοητέον ἡμῖν τοῦ πατρίου κλέους. χρήσομέν σοι δεξιὰν καὶ ξίφος· σὺ δ’ ἂν μὲν ἑκὼν θνήσκῃς, Ἰουδαίων στρατηγός, ἂν δ’ ἄκων, προδότης τεθνήξῃ.” ταῦθ’ ἅμα λέγοντες ἐπανετείναντο τὰ ξίφη καὶ διηπείλουν ἀναιρήσειν αὐτόν, εἰ τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις ἐνδιδοίη. δείσας δὲ τὴν ἔφοδον ὁ Ἰώσηπος καὶ προδοσίαν ἡγούμενος εἶναι τῶν τοῦ θεοῦ προσταγμάτων, εἰ προαποθάνοι τῆς διαγγελίας, ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτοὺς φιλοσοφεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς ἀνάγκης· “τί γὰρ τοσοῦτον, ἔφη, σφῶν αὐτῶν, ἑταῖροι, φονῶμεν; ἢ τί τὰ φίλτατα διαστασιάζομεν, σῶμα καὶ ψυχήν; ἠλλάχθαι τις ἐμέ φησιν. ἀλλ’ οἴδασιν Ῥωμαῖοι τοῦτό γε. καλὸν ἐν πολέμῳ θνήσκειν, ἀλλὰ πολέμου νόμῳ, τουτέστιν ὑπὸ τῶν κρατούντων. εἰ μὲν οὖν τὸν Ῥωμαίων ἀποστρέφομαι σίδηρον, ἄξιος ἀληθῶς εἰμι τοὐμοῦ ξίφους καὶ χειρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς· εἰ δ’ ἐκείνους εἰσέρχεται φειδὼ πολεμίου, πόσῳ δικαιότερον ἂν ἡμᾶς ἡμῶν αὐτῶν εἰσέλθοι; καὶ γὰρ ἠλίθιον ταῦτα δρᾶν σφᾶς αὐτούς, περὶ ὧν πρὸς ἐκείνους διιστάμεθα. καλὸν γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἀποθνήσκειν· φημὶ κἀγώ, μαχομένους μέντοι, καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀφαιρουμένων αὐτήν. νῦν δ’ οὔτ’ εἰς μάχην ἀντιάζουσιν ἡμῖν οὔτ’ ἀναιροῦσιν ἡμᾶς· δειλὸς δὲ ὁμοίως ὅ τε μὴ βουλόμενος θνήσκειν ὅταν δέῃ καὶ ὁ βουλόμενος, ὅταν μὴ δέῃ.”
(Josephus, Bell. Iud. 3.355-365)

But when the Jews who shared his retreat understood that Josephus was yielding to entreaty, they came round him in a body, crying out, “Ah! well might the laws of our fathers groan aloud and God Himself hide His face for grief—God who implanted in Jewish breasts souls that scorn death! Is life so dear to you, Josephus, that you can endure to see the light in slavery? How soon have you forgotten yourself! How many have you persuaded to die for liberty! False, then, was that reputation for bravery, false that fame for sagacity, if you can hope for pardon from those whom you have fought so bitterly, or, supposing that they grant it, can deign to accept your life at their hands. Nay, if the fortune of the Romans has cast over you some strange forgetfulness of yourself, the care of our country’s honour devolves on us. We will lend you a right hand and a sword. If you meet death willingly, you will have died as general of the Jews; if unwillingly, as a traitor.” With these words they pointed their swords at him and threatened to kill him if he surrendered to the Romans. Josephus, fearing an assault, and holding that it would be a betrayal of God’s commands, should he die before delivering his message, proceeded, in this emergency, to reason philosophically with them. “Why, comrades,” said he, “this thirst for our own blood? Why set asunder such fond companions as soul and body? One says that I am changed: well, the Romans know the truth about that. Another says, ‘It is honourable to die in war’: yes, but according to the law of war, that is to say by the hand of the conqueror. Were I now flinching from the sword of the Romans, I should assuredly deserve to perish by my own sword and my own hand; but if they are moved to spare an enemy, how much stronger reason have we to spare ourselves? It would surely be folly to inflict on ourselves treatment which we seek to avoid by our quarrel with them. ‘It is honourable to die for liberty,’ says another: I concur, but on condition that one dies fighting, by the hands of those who would rob us of it. But now they are neither coming to fight us nor to take our lives. It is equally cowardly not to wish to die when one ought to do so, and to wish to die when one ought not. (tr.  Henry St. John Thackeray)

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