Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Book 12

Sections 1 - 153

Translated by R. Marcus (1943). The section numbers in the Greek text are shown in red; the traditional chapter numbers (as in Whiston's translation) are shown in green.

 See key to translations for an explanation of the format. Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of each section.

Josephus' account of the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek ( Septuagint ) is derived from the so-called 'Letter of Aristeas', as follows:
§ 11-84 = Aristeas 9-82
§ 85-99 = Aristeas 172-187
§ 101 = Aristeas 201
§ 102-118 = Aristeas 293-321

  {1.}   [1] Having overthrown the Persian empire and settled the affairs of Judaea in the manner described above, Alexander, the king of Macedon, died. [2] G   And his empire fell to the share of many, Antigonus becoming master of Asia, and Seleucus of Babylon and the nations thereabouts, while Lysimachus ruled the Hellespont, Cassander held Macedon, and Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, took Egypt. [3] But, as these quarrelled and fought jealously with one another, each for his own kingdom, the result was that continual and prolonged wars arose, and the cities suffered through their struggles and lost many of their inhabitants, so that all of Syria at the hands of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, who was then called Soter {Saviour}, suffered the reverse of that which was indicated by his surname. [4] G   And this king seized Jerusalem by resorting to cunning and deceit. For he entered the on the Sabbath as if to sacrifice, and, as the Jews did not oppose him - for they did not suspect any hostile act - and, because of their lack of suspicion and the nature of the day, were enjoying idleness and ease, he became master of the city without difficulty and ruled it harshly. [5] This account is attested by Agatharchides of Cnidus, the historian of the Diadochi, who reproaches us for our superstition, on account of which we lost our liberty, in these words. [6]  G   "There is a nation called Jews, who have a strong and great city called Jerusalem, which they allowed to fall into the hands of Ptolemy by refusing to take up arms and, instead, through their untimely superstition submitted to having a hard master." [7] This, then, was the opinion which Agatharchides expressed about our nation. Now Ptolemy, after taking many captives both from the hill country of Judaea and the district round Jerusalem and from Samaria and those on Garizein, brought them all to Egypt and settled them there. [8] G   And, as he recognised that the people of Jerusalem were most constant in keeping their oaths and pledges, as shown by the reply which they gave to Alexander when he sent an embassy to them after defeating Darius in battle, he assigned many of them to his garrisons, and at Alexandria gave them equal civic rights with the Macedonians and exacted oaths of them that they would keep faith with the descendants of him who had placed them in a position of trust. [9] But not a few of the other Jews as well came to Egypt of their own accord, for they were attracted by the excellence of the country and Ptolemy's liberality. [10] G   Their descendants, however, had quarrels with the Samaritans because they were determined to keep alive their fathers' way of life and customs, and so they fought with each other, those from Jerusalem saying that their temple was the holy one, and requiring that the sacrifices be sent there, while the Shechemites wanted these to go to Mount Garizein. 

{2.}   [11] Alexander reigned twelve years, and after him Ptolemy Soter forty-one ; then Philadelphus took over the royal power in Egypt and held it for thirty-nine years ; and he had the Law translated and released from slavery some hundred and twenty thousand natives of Jerusalem who were slaves in Egypt, for the following reason. [12] G   Demetrius of Phalerum, who was in charge of the king's library, was anxious to collect, if he could, all the books in the inhabited world, and, if he heard of, or saw, any book worthy of study, he would buy it ; and so he endeavoured to meet the wishes of the king, for he was very much devoted to the art of book-collecting. [13] Now, when Ptolemy once asked him how many tens of thousands of books he had already gathered together, he replied that the present number was about two hundred thousand but that within a short time he would assemble some five hundred thousand. [14] G   He added that he had been informed that among the Jews also there were many works on their law, which were worthy of study and of a place in the king's library, but, being written in the script and language of this people, they would be no small trouble to have translated into the Greek tongue. [15] For, he said, though their script seemed to be similar to the peculiar Syrian { Aramaic } writing, and their language to sound like the other, it was, as it happened, of a distinct type. There was, however, nothing, he said, to prevent them from having these books translated and having the writings of this people also in their library, for he a had abundant resources from which to meet the expense. [16] G   And so the king, deciding that Demetrius had given him excellent advice as to how to realise his ambition of obtaining a large number of books, wrote to the high priest of the Jews that this might be done.   

  [17] Now a certain Aristaeus, who was one of the king's closest friends and was respected by him for his discreet behaviour, had even before this often made up his mind to urge the king to set free the Jewish captives throughout his kingdom, [18] G   and, judging this to be a favourable moment for his request, he first spoke of it to the commanders of the bodyguard, Sosibius of Tarentum and Andreas, and urged them to second his efforts in the matter on which he was about to petition the king. [19] And so, when he had secured the assent of the forementioned men, Aristaeus went to the king and addressed him in the following words. [20] G   " We ought not, O King, to allow ourselves to be deceived, but to show the truth as it is ; for, since we have decided not only to transcribe the laws of the Jews but also to translate them for your pleasure, by what right should we do this while so many Jews are slaves in your kingdom ; [21] in accordance, therefore, with your magnanimity and goodness set them free from their misery, since the God who gave them their laws is the same who presides over your kingdom, [22] G   as I have succeeded in learning after much study. For both they and we worship the God who created the universe, whom we call by the appropriate term Zēna { Zeus }, giving Him that name from the fact that He breathes life {zēn} into all creatures. Do you, then, for the honour of God restore (their freedom) to those who worship Him with peculiar devotion but have been deprived of their native land and the manner of life which they led there. [23] You should, however, know, O King, that it is not because I am related to them by race or am their countryman that I ask these things on their behalf, but I urge you to do this because all men are the handiwork of God, and particularly because I know that He is pleased with those who do good. 

[24] G   When Aristaeus had spoken these words, the king looked at him with a cheerful and happy expression, and asked, "How many tens of thousands to be set free do you suppose there will be ? " And when Andreas, who was standing beside him, replied that there would be a little more than a hundred and ten thousand, the king said, "It is indeed but a small gift that you are asking, Aristaeus." [25] But Sosibius and the others present said that he ought to make a thank-offering worthy of his own magnanimity to God who had bestowed the kingdom on him, and so, being gently persuaded by them, he gave orders that, when they paid the soldiers their wages, they should also pay them a hundred and twenty drachmas for every captive they had. [26] G   And, as for what they requested, he promised to publish a decree conceived in liberal terms and giving effect to the proposal of Aristaeus and, what was more, the will of God, in accordance with which he said that he would set free not only those brought by his father and his army, but also those who had previously been found in the kingdom and any who were subsequently brought in. [27] And although they said that the cost of redeeming them would be more than four hundred talents, he granted it ; and as evidence of the king's munificence they a decided to preserve a copy of the decree, [28] G   which was as follows.

"All the slaves whom those serving in our father's army took captive after invading Syria and Phoenicia and subduing Judaea, and brought to our cities and our country and sold them, and those slaves who were formerly in my kingdom and any who have recently been imported - all these their owners shall set free and receive a hundred and twenty drachmas for each slave, the soldiers to get this redemption money together with their wages, the others from the king's exchequer. [29] For I believe that it was contrary to my father's intention and to what is right that they were made captives, and that their country was ravaged through the army's lack of discipline, and also that from their removal to Egypt the soldiers have greatly benefited. [30] G   Having regard, therefore, to justice and feeling pity for those who have been unworthily oppressed, I command their owners to set free those Jews who are in their service, for whom they are to receive the forementioned sum, and no one shall act dishonestly in this matter, but they shall obey these orders. [31] And it is my will that they present their lists of slaves before those who are in charge of the matter within three days after the publication of this edict, and that they produce their slaves promptly. For I regard this as being to the interest of my government. And anyone who so wishes may inform against those who disobey, and it is my will that their property be turned over to the royal estate." [32] G   When this edict was read over to the king, it contained all the other provisions but omitted the directions concerning the Jews who had previously or subsequently been brought into the country, and so he himself magnanimously added his humane instructions concerning them as well ; and as the money for expenses was to be paid out as a lump sum, he ordered it to be apportioned between the officials of the government and the royal bankers. [33] When this was done, the decree of the king was quickly carried out in just seven days, and the redemption -money came to more than four hundred and sixty talents, for the slave-holders collected the hundred and twenty drachmas even for infants, as if the king had commanded that payment should be made for these too, when he announced that they should receive the forementioned sum for each slave.  

[34] G   When this had been done on a lavish scale in accordance with the king's wish, he ordered Demetrius to present a memorial of the decree concerning the copying of the Jewish books, for nothing used to be directed by the kings in a haphazard manner, but everything was done with great care. [35] Therefore a copy of the memorial and of the letters has been set down here, as well as the number of the dedicatory offerings sent ( to Jerusalem ) and the workmanship of each, so that the great skilfulness of the craftsman may be quite clear to any who sees this account a and that the artificer of each may become known for the outstanding quality of his work. Now, as for the copy of the memorial, it read as follows : [36] G   "To the great king from Demetrius. You have commanded, O King, that the writings which are still wanting to complete the library shall be collected and that those which are imperfect shall be given the necessary care, wherefore I have taken pains in this matter, and I wish to inform you that we still lack, among others, the books of the Jewish legislation. For being written in Hebrew characters and in the language of that nation they are unintelligible to us. [37] And it so happens that they have been copied with less care than they needed , because they have not yet been made an object of royal concern. But it is necessary that these too should be found among your books in an emended form, for their legislation is very wise and pure as a result of coming from God. [38] G   For this reason, Hecataeus of Abdera tells us, the poets and historians have made no mention of it or of the men whose lives have been governed by it, on the ground that it was sacred and not to be revealed by profane mouths. [39] If, then, O King, it be your pleasure, write to the high priest of the Jews to send six elders from each tribe who are most versed in their laws, in order that when we have learned from them the clear and consistent meaning of these and obtained an accurate translation, we may have a collection of these books which shall be worthy of their contents and of your design."   

[40] G   Such, then, was the memorial, and, when it was submitted, the king ordered a letter to be written about these matters to Eleazar, the high priest of the Jews, informing him, at the same time, of the release of the Jewish slaves in their country ; and for the making of mixing-bowls, shallow bowls and libation bowls he sent fifty talents' weight of gold and an incalculable number of precious stones. [41] He also ordered the keepers of the chests in which the stones lay to leave to the craftsmen themselves the choice of whatever kind they wished. He also directed that money to the amount of one hundred talents be given to the priest for sacrifices and other necessities. [42] G   Now I shall describe the objects and the form of their workmanship after I have reproduced a copy of the letter written to the high priest Eleazar, who obtained this office in the following way. [43] On the death of the high priest Onias, he was succeeded by his son Simon, who was surnamed the Just because of both his piety toward God and his benevolence to his countrymen. [44] G   But as he, when he died, left an infant son named Onias, his brother Eleazar, of whom we are now writing, took over the high priesthood, and it was to him that Ptolemy wrote in the following manner.

[45] "King Ptolemy to Eleazar the high priest, greeting. There are many Jews settled in my kingdom who were made captives by the Persians when they were in power and whom my father honoured, enrolling some of them in his army with high pay. and entrusting to others, who came to Egypt with him, the guarding of the fortresses in order that they might inspire the Egyptians with fear : [46] G   and, when I took over the royal power, I showed kindness to all men, especially to your fellow-citizens, of whom I have set free over one hundred thousand captive slaves, paying their owners the redemption-money out of my own purse. [47] Those who were in the prime of life I enrolled in the army list, and on others, who might be of service to ns and occupy positions of trust at court, I have conferred this honour in the belief that I should thus be making a welcome and also very considerable offering to God in return for His providential care of me. [48] G   Being also desirous to confer a favour both on these Jews and on all those throughout the habitable world, I have decided to have your Law translated and, when it has been rendered from the Hebrew into a Greek text, to have it deposited in my library. [49] You will, therefore, do well to select from each tribe six good men of advanced age who by reason of their age are well versed in the laws and will be able to make an accurate translation of it. For I believe that from this achievement the greatest glory will accrue to us. [50] G   And I have sent Andreas, the commander of the bodyguard, and Aristaeus - men whom I hold in the greatest honour - to discuss these matters with you, and by their hands I have also sent dedicatory offerings as first-fruits for the temple, and one hundred talents of silver for sacrifices and other purposes. And so, if you write to us what your pleasure is, you will confer a favour on us."   

[51] Accordingly, when the letter of the king had been delivered to Eleazar, he wrote back in reply to it as obligingly as possible. "Eleazar the high priest to King Ptolemy greeting. If yon and Queen Arsinoe and your children are in good health, all is well with us. [52] G   On receiving your letter we were greatly pleased with your proposal, and gathering together the people, we read it to them and made plain to them the piety which you show toward God. [53] We also showed them the twenty shallow bowls of cold, the thirty of silver and the five mixing-bowls and the table for offerings and the hundred talents for sacrifices and for the other things which the temple may need, which gifts were brought by Andreas and Aristaeus, your most honoured friends, who are good men, eminent in learning and worthy of your own excellent qualities. [54] G   Be assured that we shall submit to anything that is of benefit to you, even though it exceed our nature, for we ought to make a return for the kindness which you have shown our fellow-citizens in various ways. [55] We therefore promptly offered sacrifices on behalf of you and your sister and children and friends, and the people offered up prayers that your plans may be realised and that your kingdom may be preserved in peace and that the translation of the Law may be of benefit to you and reach the end which you desire. [56] G   We have also chosen six elders from each tribe and have sent them along with the Law. And it will be the part of your piety and uprightness to send back the Law when it has been translated, together with those who are bringing it, in safety. May you keep well."   

[57] This, then, was the high priest's reply. But I have not thought it necessary to report the names of the seventy elders who were sent by Eleazar and gifts brought the Law, their names being set down at the end of the letter. [58] G   However, as for the magnificence and workmanship of the dedicatory offerings which the king sent to the temple of God, 1 have thought it not inappropriate to describe them, in order that the king's eagerness to honour God may be apparent to all. For the king gave unlimited sums to be spent for these gifts and was constantly with the craftsmen, and looking over their work, did not allow any of the objects to be carelessly or indifferently made. [59] How magnificent each of these was I shall describe, although perhaps my History does not call for such an account, because I believe that in this way I shall bring home to my readers the king's love of art and his magnanimity.   

[60] G   First of all I shall give a description of the table. Now the king had in mind to make this object of unusually large dimensions, and he gave orders to learn the size of the table which was set up (in the temple) at Jerusalem, to see how large it was and whether it was possible for a larger one than this to be constructed. [61] And when he learned what the size of the existing table was and that there was nothing to prevent a larger one being made, he said that he would like to construct one as much as five times as large as the one there, but was afraid that it might be of no use in the temple ministrations because of its excessive size, for it was his wish to make dedicatory offerings not merely for show but also to be of use in the temple ministrations ; [62] G   it was for that reason, he reflected, that the former table had been constructed of moderate proportions, and not through lack of gold ; and so he decided not to go beyond the existing table in size, but to construct one more remarkable for the variety and beauty of its materials. [63] And, as he was clever in understanding the nature of all sorts of things and devising new and wonderful objects, he himself, where there were no written directions, furnished a design of his own invention and, after explaining it to the craftsmen, ordered them to make these objects, and. where there were written directions, he ordered the men to follow these exactly and complete their work similarly.   

[64] G   Having, therefore, undertaken to make a table after this model, they constructed one two and a half cubits in length, one in width and one and a half in height, and made the whole foundation of the work out of gold. Moreover they wrought a rim of a hand-breadth and twisted wave-mouldings carved in low relief of a rope-design, of which the modelling was a marvellously faithful imitation, on all three surfaces. [65] For these (rims) were triangular, and each angle had the same pattern worked in it, so that, when they were turned, the same form without any difference appeared on every surface. Now, on the rim, the side sloping down toward the table had lovely modelling, but the side turned outwards was adorned with even greater beauty of workmanship, since it came under the eye of the spectator. [66] G   For that reason the upper edge, where the two surfaces met, was an acute angle, and no one angle, of which there were three, as we have said before, appeared less than the others when the table was carried round. And in the coils of the relief-work were set precious stones, one beside another, and they were secured with gold pins by which they were pierced. [67] The side of the rim which slanted upward to meet the eye was ornamented with an egg-pattern made of most beautiful stone resembling in its carving the continuous flutings which ran all round the table. [68] G   And below the egg-modelling the craftsmen set round a wreath on which were carved in relief the likenesses of all kinds of fruit, so that clusters of grapes hung down and ears of grain stood up and pomegranates were inclosed. And they fashioned stones for every species of the above-mentioned fruits, so that each was represented in its own colour, and they fastened them to the gold round the whole table. [69] Similarly, below the wreath another egg-pattern was made, and flutings were carved in low relief, the table being constructed with the same appearance of variety of workmanship and elegance on both ends, so that, even when the table was turned the other way there was no difference in the two wave-mouldings and rims, but the same form of decoration extended right down to the feet. [70] G   For they made a plate of gold four fingers wide along the whole width of the table, into which they set the feet and then fastened them to the table near the rim by pins and clamps, in order that, on whichever side the table was placed, they might present the same appearance of original workmanship and costliness. 

[71] On the table itself they carved a meander, in the midst of which they set valuable stones of various forms like. stars, such as the ruby and emerald, each of which sparkled most delightfully to the eye, and other kinds of stones which are most sought after and desired for their precious quality. [72] G   Next to the meander was carried round a network of rope-design, with a central panel shaped like a lozenge, into which were pressed stones of crystal and amber, and these by their appearance of regular alternation a afforded a wonderfully attractive sight to behold. [73] As for the feet, they had capitals made to imitate unfolding lilies, with their petals bent back under the table, while within they held their stamens erect to be seen. [74] G   And they had a base made of ruby a hand-breadth high, which presented the appearance of a pedestal ; it was eight fingers wide, and on it the whole shaft of the foot rested. [75] They also carved each of the feet in relief with most delicate and painstaking modelling, creating ivy and vine-branches and clusters of grapes, so that one would suppose they were not other than real. For, as they moved in the wind because of their lightness and fine-edged tenuousness, they gave the appearance of natural things rather than of artificial imitations. [76] G   The workmen also showed originality in constructing the whole table in the form of a triptych, the parts being so smoothly held together that the places where they were joined could not be seen or even suspected. And the thickness of the table was no less than half a cubit. [77] And so this dedicatory-offering was finished, such being the preciousness of its material and the variety of ornament and the imitative skill of the craftsmen in modelling, in accordance with the great munificence of the king, for he was eager to produce a table which, if it was not to be greater in size than the one already dedicated to God, should at least in artistry and originality and splendour of construction be far superior and generally admired.   

[78] G   Of the mixing-bowls two were of gold, having scales in relief from the base to the middle, with various stones fastened in the coils. [79] Then above this was a meander, a cubit in height, formed by the combination of stones of all kinds, and next to it was some carved fluting, and above this a pattern of interlacing lozenges, resembling a net, extended to the brim. [80] G   The spaces between were filled with bosses of stones four fingers in depth, which added beauty. And the brim of the mixing-bowl was wreathed with the stalks and blossoms of lilies and clusters of grapes, which were carried round in a circle. [81] Now this was the way in which they had made the mixing-bowls, each of which contained two amphoreis. As for the silver ones, they shone much more brilliantly than mirrors, so that the images of any who approached could be seen in them more clearly. [82] G   The king also had them make, in addition to these, thirty shallow bowls of which the parts that were of gold but not studded with precious stones were overlaid with tendrils of ivy and vine-leaves, artistically carved in relief. [83] These excellent effects were achieved partly through the skilfulness of the workers, who were admirable in their craft, but much more through the zeal and munificence of the king, [84] G   for not only did he furnish the craftsmen with a lavish and generous abundance of material, but he also gave up attending to public affairs and himself came to see the artisans and supervised the whole work. This was the reason for the craftsmen's diligence, for, taking an example from the king and the zeal shown by him, they applied themselves to their tasks with greater will to labour.  

[85] These, then, were the dedicatory-offerings sent to Jerusalem by Ptolemy. Now Eleazar, the high priest, after dedicating them to God and honouring the bearers, gave them gifts to take to the king, and sent them back to the king. [86] G   And when they came to Alexandria, and Ptolemy heard of their arrival and of the coming of the seventy elders, he at once sent for Andreas and Aristaeus, his envoys. Accordingly, when they came, they delivered to him the letters which they had brought him from the high priest, and reported to him all that the high priest had suggested that they should convey by word of mouth. [87] Thereupon, being eager to meet the elders who had come from Jerusalem to translate the laws, he gave orders to dismiss any others who might be present on official business, thereby doing something very unusual and contrary to custom. [88] G   For those who were brought by such reasons used to come before him on the fifth day. while envoys were admitted after a month. On this occasion, however, he dismissed these people and awaited those who had been sent by Eleazar. [89] Now when the elders came with the gifts which the high priest had given them to take to the king and with the leather skins on which the laws were written in letters of gold, he questioned them about these books. [90] G   So they unrolled the wrappings and showed them to him, whereupon the king marvelled at the fineness of the membranes and the impossibility of telling where they were joined, so well were they fitted together ; and, having done so for a long while, he said that he was thankful to them for coming, and more so to him who had sent them, but most of all to God, whose laws these were. [91] Then both the elders and the others present cried out with one voice to wish the king happiness, at which he burst into tears through excess of pleasure, since it is natural for great joy to be expressed by the same signs as grief. [92] G   He then ordered the books to be given to those in charge of the records, and only then did he greet the men, saying that it was right for him first to speak of the things for which he had summoned them and then to address them. He promised, moreover, that he would make a special occasion of the day on which they had come to him and would celebrate it every year so long as he lived, [93] for, he said, the day of their coming happened to be the same as that of the victory which he had gained over Antigonus in a naval battle : a and so he invited them to dine with him, and directed that they should be given the best lodgings near the citadel.   

[94] G   Accordingly Nicanor, who was the officer in charge of the reception of guests, called Dorotheus, who took care of these matters, and told him to prepare whatever food was required by each. Now these matters were arranged by the king in the following way : [95] for each city that had its own habits of diet there was a person who looked after these and prepared all food for visitors in accordance with their customs, in order that they might have their usual kind of fare at the banquet-table, and so have the more pleasure and not take offence at anything to which they might be unaccustomed. And this is just what was done in their case, Dorotheus being put in charge of these matters because of his exactness in the details of living. [96] G   He therefore spread out of all the materials at his disposal for such receptions, and had the couches divided into two rows, the king having so commanded ; for he had ordered that half the guests should recline beside him and the others behind his own couch, thus neglecting nothing in which he might show them honour. [97] And when they had been seated in this manner, he told Dorotheus to serve them after the fashion to which all those who had come to him from Judaea were accustomed. He therefore dispensed with the sacred heralds and sacrificers and the others who used to offer prayers, but instead, the king called upon one of the visitors, named Elissaeus, who was a priest, to offer prayer. [98] G   And so he stood in their midst and prayed for the happiness of the king and his subjects. Thereupon applause and cries of joy arose from all sides, and, when they had done, they turned to feasting and enjoying the good things that had been prepared. [99] But the king, after waiting for what seemed a sufficiently long time, began to philosophise and asked each one of them about problems of nature, and when, after considering the questions, they gave precise explanations concerning every single problem suggested to them for discussion, he was delighted with them and made the banquet last for twelve days, [100] G   so that anyone who wishes to find out the details of the questions discussed at the banquet can learn them by reading the book which Aristaeus composed on this account.   

[101] Now it was not only the king who admired them, but also the philosopher Menedemus, who said that all things were governed by providence, it is natural that through it power and beauty of speech are discovered ; after this they left off inquiring into these problems. [102] G   Then the king said that he had already experienced the greatest of blessings through their being there, for he had profited by learning from them how he ought to reign, and he ordered that each of them should be given three talents and have attendants to take them back to their lodgings. [103] After an interval of three days Demetrius took them with him and, after walking seven stades along the sea-embankment to the island and crossing over by the bridge, proceeded to the north side and called a meeting in a house which had been built near the shore and was excellently fitted for the consideration of serious matters because it was so quiet there. [104] G   And so he brought them there and requested them, since they had everything they might need for the translation of the law, to carry out their task without interruption. Thereupon they set to work as ambitiously and painstakingly as possible to make the translation accurate, continuing at their work until the ninth hour, [105] when they took a recess to attend to their bodily wants, for food was liberally supplied them and Dorotheus, moreover, furnished them with many of the dishes prepared for the king - this by his command. [106] G   And early each day they would go to the court, pay their respects to Ptolemy and then go back to the same place and, after washing their hands in the sea and purifying themselves, would betake themselves in this state to the translation of the laws. [107] Now, when the Law had been transcribed and the work of translation brought to an end in seventy-two days, Demetrius assembled all the Jews at the same place where the laws had been rendered, and in the presence of the translators read them aloud. [108] G   Thereupon the people expressed their approval of the elders who had interpreted the Law, and also praised Demetrius for conceiving the idea through which he had become the originator of great benefits to them, and they urged him as well to give their leaders the Law to read : and all of them, including the priest and the eldest of the translators and the chief officers of the community, requested that, since the translation had been so successfully completed, it should remain as it was and not be altered. [109] Accordingly, when all had approved this idea, they ordered that, if anyone saw any further addition made to the text of the Law or anything omitted from it, he should examine it and make it known and correct it ; in this they acted wisely, that what had once been judged good might remain for ever.   

[110] G   And so the king rejoiced at this act as well, seeing his design result in a useful accomplishment, but especially did he rejoice when the laws were read to him, and he was amazed at the depth of mind and wisdom of the lawgiver ; and he began to discuss with Demetrius how it was that though this legislation was so admirable none of the historians or poets had made mention of it. [111] Thereupon Demetrius explained that no one had ventured to undertake a description of these laws because of their divine and awful nature, and that some who had already attempted this had been afflicted by God ; [112] G   and he told how, when Theopompus wished to relate something about them, he had become disturbed in mind for more than thirty days and during lucid intervals had tried to appease God, suspecting that it was from this source that his madness came ; not only that, but he learned from a dream that this misfortune had befallen him because he had been too curious about divine things and wished to disclose them to common men, and so he gave up his plan and recovered his reason. [113] Demetrius also informed him that it was reported of Theodectes, the tragic poet, that, when he wished to mention in one of his dramas the matters written in the sacred book, his eyes were afflicted with cataracts, and, when he recognised the cause, he rid himself of this disease by propitiating God.   

  [114] G   The king, then, having received these books from the hands of Demetrius, did obeisance to them and ordered that great care should be taken of the books in order that they might remain intact : he also invited the translators to come to him frequently from Judaea, [115] for this would be profitable for them both on account of the honour to be received from him and the gifts a they would gain. At this time, he said, it was only right to send them home, but, if they came to him of their own will, they would obtain all that their wisdom deserved to obtain and his own generosity was able to provide. [116] G   For the time being, therefore, he sent them home, giving each of them three very fine garments, two talents of gold, a small wine-cup worth a talent, and the covering for a banquet-table. Now these gifts he gave them to keep for themselves, [117] but to the high priest Eleazar he sent by them ten couches with feet of silver and the furnishings belonging to them and a small wine-cup worth thirty talents and, in addition to these, ten garments, a purple robe, a very handsome crown and a hundred pieces of fine-linen weave, as well as shallow bowls and cups and libation-bowls and two golden mixing-bowls to be dedicated to God. [118] G   He also requested of him by letter that, if any of these men wished to come to him, he should permit them to do so, for he highly valued the society of those possessed of learning, and took pleasure in using his wealth for the benefit of such persons. These, then, were the things done by Ptolemy Philadelphus in appreciation and honour of the Jews.   

  {3.}   [119] They also received honour from the kings of Asia when they served with them in war. For example, Seleucus Nicator granted them citizenship in the cities which he founded in Asia and Lower Syria and in his capital, Antioch, itself, and declared them to have equal privileges with the Macedonians and Greeks who were settled in these cities, so that this citizenship of theirs remains to this very day ; [120] G   and the proof of this is the fact that he gave orders that those Jews who were unwilling to use foreign oil should receive a fixed sum of money from the gymnasiarchs to pay for their own kind of oil ; and, when the people of Antioch proposed to revoke this privilege, Mucianus, who was then governor of Syria, maintained it; [121] and afterwards, when Vespasian and his son Titus became masters of the habitable world, and the Alexandrians and Antiochians asked that the Jews should no longer continue to have the rights of citizenship, they did not obtain their request. [122] G   From this one may get some notion of the fairness and generosity of the Romans, especially of Vespasian and Titus, for in spite of having suffered great hardships in the war with the Jews and feeling bitter toward them because they had not laid down their arms and persisted in fighting to the very last, [123] they still did not deprive them of their existing rights of citizenship, mentioned above ; indeed they overcame their former anger as well as the demands of the Alexandrians and Antiochians, who were powerful communities, [124] G   so that neither out of favour to these nor out of detestation of the people they had fought did they yield in any respect to the temptation of revoking any of the ancient acts of kindness to the Jews, but said that those who had taken up arms against them and engaged in battle with them had paid the penalty, and they would not allow those who had done no wrong to be deprived a of their existing rights.   

  [125] And we know that Marcus Agrippa had a similar view concerning the Jews, for when the Ionians agitated against them and petitioned Agrippa that they alone might enjoy the citizenship which Antiochus, the grandson of Seleucus, called Theos by the Greeks, had given them, and claimed that, if the Jews were to be their fellows, [126] G   they should worship the Ionians' gods, the matter was brought to trial and the Jews won the right to use their own customs, their advocate being Nicolas of Damascus ; for Agrippa gave his opinion that it was not lawful for him to make a new rule. [127] But if anyone wishes to learn the details, let him read the hundred and twenty-third and hundred and twenty-fourth books of Nicolas' History. Now concerning the decision of Agrippa there is perhaps no reason to be surprised, for at that time our nation was not at war with the Romans ; [128] G   but one may properly be amazed at the generosity of Vespasian and Titus who acted with moderation after the wars and great struggles which they had with us. But I shall return to the account from which I digressed into these remarks.   

  [129] When Antiochus the Great reigned over Asia it was the lot of the Jews to undergo great hardships through the devastation of their land, as did also the inhabitants of Coele-Syria. [130] G   For while he was at war with Ptolemy Philopator and with his son Ptolemy, surnamed Epiphanes, they had to suffer, and whether he was victorious or defeated, to experience the same fate ; so that they were in no way different from a storm-tossed ship which is beset on either side by heavy seas, finding themselves crushed between the successes of Antiochus and the adverse turn of his fortunes. [131] When, however, Antiochus had defeated Ptolemy, he annexed Judaea. And on the death of Philopator his son sent out a great force with Scopas as general against the people of Coele-Syria, and he took many of their cities and also our nation, which went over to him after being attacked. [132] G   But not long afterwards Antiochus defeated Scopas in a battle near the sources of the Jordan, and destroyed a great part of his army. [133] And later, when Antiochus took possession of the cities in Coele-Syria which Scopas had held, and Samaria, the Jews of their own will went over to him and admitted him to their city and made abundant provision for his entire army and his elephants ; and they readily joined his forces in besieging the garrison which had been left by Scopas in the citadel of Jerusalem. [134] G   Accordingly Antiochus, considering it just to requite the zeal and exertions of the Jews on his behalf, wrote to his governors and Friends, bearing witness to the Jews concerning the good treatment which he had received at their hands, and announcing the rewards which he had decided to give them on that account. [135] I shall, therefore, cite the letters written to his governors concerning them, first explaining that Polybius of Megalopolis attests these statements of mine : for in the sixteenth book of his History he says the following. "Scopas, the general of Ptolemy, set out for the upper country and during the winter subdued the Jewish nation." [136] G   And in the same book he says that, after Scopas was defeated by Antiochus, "Antiochus took Batanaea, Samaria, Abila and Gadara, and after a short time there also came over to him those Jews who live near the temple of Jerusalem, as it is called, concerning which we have more to say, especially concerning the renown of the temple, but we shall defer the account to another occasion." [137] Now this is what Polybius relates. But we shall return to the main subject of our narrative, after first citing the letters of King Antiochus.   

  [138] G   "King Antiochus to Ptolemaeus, greeting. Inasmuch as the Jews, from the very moment when we entered their country, showed their eagerness to serve us and, when we came to their city, gave us a splendid reception and met us with their senate and furnished an abundance of provisions to our soldiers and elephants, and also helped us to expel the Egyptian garrison in the citadel, [139] we have seen fit on our part to requite them for these acts and to restore their city which has been destroyed by the hazards of war, and to repeople it by bringing back to it those who have been dispersed abroad. [140] G   In the first place we have decided, on account of their piety, to furnish them for their sacrifices an allowance of sacrificial animals, wine, oil and frankincense to the value of twenty thousand pieces of silver, and sacred artabae of fine flour in accordance with their native law, and one thousand four hundred and sixty medimni of wheat and three hundred and seventy-five medimni of salt. [141] And it is my will that these things be made over to them as I have ordered, and that the work on the temple be completed, including the porticoes and any other part that it may be necessary to build. The timber, moreover, shall be brought from Judaea itself and from other nations and Lebanon without the imposition of a toll-charge. The like shall be done with the other materials needed for making the restoration of the temple more splendid. [142] G   And all the members of the nation shall have a form of government in accordance with the laws of their country, and the senate, the priests, the scribes of the temple and the temple-singers shall be relieved from the poll-tax and the crown-tax and the salt-tax which they pay. [143] And, in order that the city may the more quickly be inhabited, I grant both to the present inhabitants and to those who may return before the month of Hyperberetaeus exemption from taxes for three years. [144] G   We shall also relieve them in future from the third part of their tribute, so that their losses may be made good. And as for those who were carried off from the city and are slaves, we herewith set them free, both them and the children born to them, and order their property to be restored to them."   

  [145] Now these were the contents of the letter. And out of reverence for the temple he also published a proclamation throughout the entire kingdom, of which the contents were as follows. "It is unlawful for any foreigner to enter the enclosure of the temple which is forbidden to the Jews, except to those of them who are accustomed to enter after purifying themselves in accordance with the law of the country. [146] G   Nor shall anyone bring into the city the flesh of horses or of mules or of wild or tame asses, or of leopards, foxes or hares or, in general, of any animals forbidden to the Jews. Nor is it lawful to bring in their skins or even to breed any of these animals in the city. But only the sacrificial animals known to their ancestors and necessary for the propitiation of God shall they be permitted to use. And the person who violates any of these statutes shall pay to the priests a fine of three thousand drachmas of silver."   

  [147] He also testified in writing to our piety and loyalty when, on the occasion of his being in the upper satrapies, he learned of revolts in Phrygia and Lydia, and ordered Zeuxis, his governor, and one of his close friends, to send some of our people from Babylonia to Phrygia. He then wrote as follows. [148] G   "King Antiochus to Zeuxis, his father, greeting. If you are in good health, it is well. I also am in sound health. [149] Learning that the people in Lydia and Phrygia are revolting, I have come to consider this as requiring very serious attention on my part, and, on taking counsel with my friends as to what should be done, I determined to transport two thousand Jewish families with their effects from Mesopotamia and Babylonia to the fortresses and most important places. [150] G   For I am convinced that they will be loyal guardians of our interests because of their piety to God, a and I know that they have had the testimony of my forefathers to their good faith and eagerness to do as they are asked. It is my will, therefore - though it may be a troublesome matter - that they should be transported and, since I have promised it, use their own laws. [151] And when you have brought them to the places mentioned, you shall give each of them a place to build a house and land to cultivate and plant with vines, and shall exempt them from payment of taxes on the produce of the soil for ten years. [152] G   And also, until they get produce from the soil, let them have grain measured out to them for feeding their servants, and let there be given also to those engaged in public service sufficient for their needs in order that through receiving kind treatment from us they may show themselves the more eager in our cause. [153] And take as much thought for their nation as possible, that it may not be molested by anyone." Concerning, then, the friendship of Antiochus the Great for the Jews let the testimony here given suffice.   

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