Alternately hailed as the grand chronicler of the Jewish war with the Romans and reviled as a traitorous propagandist for the Roman emperor, the Jewish historian Josephus (37–c. 100 C.E.) captured compellingly in his two major works—The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities—both the glory and despair of first-century Judaism. With the verve of a good storyteller, novelist and biographer Raphael (Somerset Maugham and His World) recreates Josephus’ life and chaotic times: rapid changes in imperial leadership, with corresponding changes in Rome’s treatment of the Jews in Judea. After a period of travel in Rome, Josephus became the provincial governor in Galilee. According to his own account in The Jewish War, he tried to mediate a truce with the Romans as they marched into Jerusalem to destroy it, but landing in the Masada fortress, he suggested that all Jews there commit suicide rather than die at the Romans’ hands. Fortuitously, he drew a lot that allowed him to escape this fate only to be handed over to the emperor Vespasian, whom Josephus cannily convinced of his value as a court historian. Raphael’s page-turning chronicle paints a portrait of Josephus as the first Jew to relate non-Judeocentric world history, yet a man whose Jewish identity remained central to his life even as he assimilated as a means of survival. Agent: Steve Wasserman, Kneerim and Williams.
Reviewed on: 09/03/2012 Release date: 01/15/2013 Genre: Nonfiction