Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 1.1: Josephus on History in honor of Yom Kippur

“I don’t think that men who set out to write histories have a single reason for their desire, but rather many and with many differences. Some men set out to show off the cleverness of their words; while others rush toward this type of learning in pursuit of fame. Still others, in aiming to ingratiate themselves with those about whom they happen to write, take up a task that is beyond their power. There are also men who are compelled by the force of the deeds in which they happened to share to make sense of them with a clarifying treatise. The magnitude of important affairs that remain in ignorance has turned many men to bring out useful inquiries for common good. The final two of these described motives apply to me. Because I have learned by experience about our war against the Romans both in regards to its events and outcome, I am compelled to explain it completely because others have obscured the truth in writing about it. I have set this current work before myself because I believe that its worth will be clear to the whole Greek world—since it will describe the entirety of our ancient history and the disposition of our constitution translated from the Hebrew writings.”

 

 

Τοῖς τὰς ἱστορίας συγγράφειν βουλομένοις οὐ μίαν οὐδὲ τὴν αὐτὴν ὁρῶ τῆς σπουδῆς γινομένην αἰτίαν, ἀλλὰ πολλὰς καὶ πλεῖστον ἀλλήλων διαφερούσας. τινὲς μὲν γὰρ ἐπιδεικνύμενοι λόγων δεινότητα καὶ τὴν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς θηρευόμενοι δόξαν ἐπὶ τοῦτο τῆς παιδείας τὸ μέρος ὁρμῶσιν, ἄλλοι δὲ χάριν ἐκείνοις φέροντες, περὶ ὧν τὴν ἀναγραφὴν εἶναι συμβέβηκε, τὸν εἰς αὐτὴν πόνον καὶ παρὰ δύναμιν ὑπέστησαν· εἰσὶ δ’ οἵτινες ἐβιάσθησαν ὑπ’ αὐτῆς τῆς τῶν πραγμάτων ἀνάγκης οἷς πραττομένοις παρέτυχον ταῦτα γραφῇ δηλούσῃ περιλαβεῖν· πολλοὺς δὲ χρησίμων μέγεθος πραγμάτων ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ κειμένων προύτρεψε τὴν περὶ αὐτῶν ἱστορίαν εἰς κοινὴν ὠφέλειαν ἐξενεγκεῖν. τούτων δὴ τῶν προειρημένων αἰτιῶν αἱ τελευταῖαι δύο κἀμοὶ συμβεβήκασι· τὸν μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς ῾Ρωμαίους πόλεμον ἡμῖν τοῖς ᾿Ιουδαίοις γενόμενον καὶ τὰς ἐν αὐτῷ πράξεις καὶ τὸ τέλος οἷον ἀπέβη πείρᾳ μαθὼν ἐβιάσθην ἐκδιηγήσασθαι διὰ τοὺς ἐν τῷ γράφειν λυμαινομένους τὴν ἀλήθειαν, αύτην δὲ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἐγκεχείρισμαι πραγματείαν νομίζων ἅπασι φανεῖσθαι τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν ἀξίαν σπουδῆς· μέλλει γὰρ περιέξειν ἅπασαν τὴν παρ’ ἡμῖν ἀρχαιολογίαν καὶ διάταξιν τοῦ πολιτεύματος ἐκ τῶν ῾Εβραϊκῶν μεθηρμηνευμένην γραμμάτων.