Pity the Women and Children: Punishment by Siege in Josephus’s Jewish War

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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This paper analyzes the neglected theme of suffering women and children in Josephus’s Jewish War. Women and children did suffer the effects of sieges in Greco-Roman antiquity, but historiographers also use the stories of their suffering to interpret warfare. Josephus participates in this tradition by using the imagery of suffering women and children to condemn the Jewish rebels, a presentation which is also influenced by Deut 28 and Lamentations. The warnings against rebellion in J.W. 2.237, 400, and 5.418 heighten the rhetorical power of this condemnation by offering the alternative of surrender for the sake of women and children.

Pity the Women and Children: Punishment by Siege in Josephus’s Jewish War

in Journal for the Study of Judaism




Jonathan J. Price“Some Aspects of Josephus’ Theological Interpretation of the Jewish War,” in “The Words of a Wise Man’s Mouth are Gracious” (Qoh 1012) (ed. Mauro Perani; SJ: Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums 32; Berlin: de Gruyter2005) 109-19esp. 116-17.


Cf. Daniel Marguerat“Jewish and Christian Understandings of the Fall of Jerusalem: Conflicting Interpretations of a Historical Event,” in Ancient and Modern Scriptural Historiography (ed. George J. Brooke and Thomas Römer; BETL 207; Leuven: University Press2007) 311-31 esp. 328-29; Fausto Parente “The Impotence of Titus or Flavius Josephus’s Bellum Judaicum as an Example of ‘Pathetic’ Historiography” in Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond (ed. Joseph Sievers and Gaia Lembi; JSJSup 104; Leiden: Brill 2005) 45-69 esp. 49-51; Price “Some Aspects” 112-13.


Jonathan J. PriceJerusalem Under Siege: The Collapse of the Jewish State 66-70 C.E. (Brill’s Series in Jewish Studies 3; Leiden: Brill1992) 180. See also Tessa Rajak Josephus: The Historian and His Society (London: Duckworth 1983) 81 91-93; Steve Mason “ ‘Should Any Wish to Enquire Further’ (Ant. 1.25): The Aim and Audience of Josephus’s Judean Antiquities/Life” in Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives (ed. Steve Mason; JSPSup 32; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic 1998) 64-103 esp. 73; Parente “The Impotence of Titus” 57.


So RajakJosephus83 86; Gottfried Mader Josephus and the Politics of Historiography: Apologetic and Impression Management in the Bellum Judaicum (Mnemosyne Supplements; Leiden: Brill 2000) 72.


Adrian GoldsworthyRoman Warfare (London: Cassell2000) 96-100; Nathan Rosenstein Rome at War: Farms Families and Death in the Middle Republic (Studies in the History of Greece and Rome; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2004) 19.


So GilliverRoman Art133.


See further Catherine M. Gilliver“The Roman Army and Morality in War,” in Battle in Antiquity (ed. Alan B. Lloyd; London: Duckworth1996) 219-38esp. 231-34.


E.g. Iain FerrisHate and War: The Column of Marcus Aurelius (Stroud: History Press2009) 61 123-26.


So AppianBell. civ. 1.10.93-94; Frontinus Str. 2.9.2-5 3.4; Livy 27.51.11; Gilliver “Roman Army” 222 and Roman Art 154; Goldsworthy Roman Warfare 146.


See further GilliverRoman Art152-3. Price Jerusalem Under Siege 80-81 notes that the refugees fleeing from Galilee added to the burden of famine in besieged Jerusalem.


So GilliverRoman Art160.


On surrender see further Gilliver“Roman Army” 222-4; Gilliver Roman Art 154-6.


Cf. Shaye J. D. Cohen“Masada: Literary Tradition, Archaeological Remains, and the Credibility of Josephus,” JJS 33 (1982): 385-405esp. 386-92.


See further William D. Barry“Roof Tiles and Urban Violence in the Ancient World,” GRBS 37.1 (1996): 55-74 esp. 66-68; Loman “No Woman” 42.


Kampen“Between Public” 231-35; I. M. Ferris Enemies of Rome: Barbarians Through Roman Eyes (Stroud: Sutton 2000) 36-38 56-58; Ferris Hate and War 115.


Beth SeveryAugustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire (New York: Routledge2003) 158-61.


Cf. Beryl Rawson“The Roman Family,” in The Family in Ancient Rome: New Perspectives (ed. Beryl Rawson; Ithaca: Cornell University Press1986) 1-57esp. 9-10.


So also David Schaps“The Women of Greece in Wartime,” CP 77.3 (1982): 193-213 esp. 196-97; Loman “No Woman” 38.


Cf. Kampen“Between Public” 235 242; Ferris Enemies 36-38 106.


Cf. Gilliver“Roman Army” 219-20. Notably the discussion of the laws of war in Kern Ancient Siege Warfare 323-34 mostly concerns stories in which the laws are broken.


Cf. Gilliver“Roman Army” 227-29.


So also NelsonDeuteronomy325.


See further Adele BerlinLamentations: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox2002) 7-9.


Cf. Patrick D. MillerDeuteronomy (Louisville: John Knox1990) 189; Nelson Deuteronomy 327; Berlin Lamentations 21-22; Paul R. House “Lamentations” in Song of Songs and Lamentations (Duane Garrett and Paul R. House; WBC; Nashville: Thomas Nelson 2004) 267-473 esp. 386.


E.g. Miriam B. Peskowitz“Family/ies in Antiquity: Evidence from Tannaitic Literature and Roman Galilean Architecture,” in The Jewish Family in Antiquity (ed. Shaye J. D. Cohen; BJS 289; Atlanta: Scholars Press1993) 9-36esp. 28-30; Meredith S. Chesson “Households Houses Neighborhoods and Corporate Villages: Modeling the Early Bronze Age as a House Society” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 16 (2003): 79-102 esp. 85.


Cf. HillersLamentations43; Renkema Lamentations 330.


See NelsonDeuteronomy327; cf. House “Lamentations” 386.


Cf. PriceJerusalem180-181; Price “Some Aspects” 109-17; Marguerat “Jewish and Christian Understandings” 328-29.


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