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Flavius Josephus and the Flavian Regime

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The speaker contests the view that Josephus was a paid-up mouthpiece of the Flavian regime.

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Although most specialists have come to jettison or seriously qualify it, the assumption that Josephus was a paid-up mouthpiece of the Flavian regime remains a fixed point in adjacent fields of ancient history as in the public imagination. The labels ’turncoat’, ’traitor’, and ‘propagandist’ seem almost part of his name at times. In this lecture I invite the audience to take a clear-eyed look at Josephus’ portraits of Vespasian and Titus in his master-work, The Judaean War, with attention to both Josephus’ context in Flavian Rome and what he actually says. It emerges that Josephus viewed himself as a proud Judaean statesman who set out to counter regime propaganda. In doing so, he quietly but confidently pulled the rug from under the Flavian portrait of their victory in Judaea.

Steve Mason is Emeritus Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions and Cultures in the University of Groningen (Netherlands). Formerly Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction at Toronto’s York University, he specialises in the Eastern Mediterranean under Roman rule, Roman-Judaean relations, and the historical writings of Flavius Josephus. Editor of Brill’s Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary project, he has published books and articles on Josephus, Roman Judaea, the Judaean War (66–74), historical method, Christian origins, and Jewish-Christian relations.

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