2020-03-22

If Josephus Wrote About the American Rebellion . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

From Wikimedia

In the winter of 1779 large numbers of these brigands gathered together in the hill country near Philadelphia, at a spot named Valley Forge. They were led by an ex-officer named Washington, who had been impelled by ambition to repudiate his oath of allegiance and place himself at the head of the rebels. From this favorable position they carried out raids on those peaceful farmers in the vicinity who remained loyal to the government. The brigands received much encouragement from the scribblings of a dissolute mechanic named Benjamin Franklin, now almost senile, who in consequence of having printed a number of almanacs for the lower classes considered himself a man of letters. 

Imagined by: Roth, Cecil. 1959. “The Jewish Revolt Against Rome:The War of 66-70 C.E.” Commentary, no. 27 (June): 513–22.

Josephus was a traitor. He went over to Roman side so we can imagine that he needed to justify himself in his account of events. If we read a historical narrative of the American War of Independence by Benedict Arnold we might expect a work written in the vein of the above imaginary quotation.

The point: We can’t read Josephus’s account of the war naively. It is a problem for historians to tease out “the true motives and attitudes behind the actions and personalities which we know only from Josephus’s jaundiced pages.” (Roth)

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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “If Josephus Wrote About the American Rebellion . . .”

  1. Josephos a traitor? An odd morality. The Jews had three goes at the Roman war machine, resulting in huge numbers of corpses, huge numbers of maimed, & huge numbers of slaves. It would be nearly two millenia before they got the idea that being xenophobic, race chauvinist, stabby loons was a good way to win friends and influence people again. Christians in Western & Central Europe had to run through the same thing with the Reformation & Wars of Religion. Again it took buckets of blood and the death of millions for prelates on all sides to wake up to being bloody stupid. The cycle time was shorter in this instance; it would only be about three & a half centuries before Evangaloonies thought they could shoot their way to Heaven again.

  2. Hah! So, Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion. “Moldbug” Yarvin turned me on to that one (I’m just going to link that essay on my handle, here):

    What’s so neat about Peter Oliver’s little book is that, besides being a primary source of considerable historical value, it is also an artistic work of considerable literary merit. The tone, as we see, is almost postmodern. Oliver has a voice, and even here in the benighted 21st century (where we think “candid” means “honest,” rather than “naive”), we can hear it. This is a man you could have a beer with.

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