Gender, War, and Josephus

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

In accordance with traditional Greco-Roman constructions of gender, the Roman victory in the First Jewish Revolt left the Jews emasculated. In Jewish War, Josephus reconstructs the masculinity of the Jews through descriptions of their daring raids, courageous fighting, and the choice of death over surrender; by depicting the loyal Herodian rulers as undeniably masculine, the Jewish women as unquestionably feminine, and the rebel leaders as dishonorably effeminate; and finally, by exploiting the inherent contradictions in Roman military masculinity. According to Jewish War, the Jews as a whole can be honorably masculine despite the failure of the revolt, a conclusion supported by the further development of Jewish masculinity in Josephus’s later writings.

  • 1

    A. M. Eckstein, “Josephus and Polybius: A Reconsideration,” Classical Antiquity 9 (1990): 175-208, esp. 176-78, 199-200; Louis H. Feldman, Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 171-79; Erich S. Gruen, “Polybius and Josephus on Rome,” in Flavius Josephus: Interpretation and History (ed. Jack Pastor, Pnina Stern, and Menahem Mor; JSJSup 146; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 149-62, esp. 149-50.

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  • 8

    Homer, Il. 5.529; Thucydides 2.43.6; Polybius 15.13.3-5; Livy 7.16.4; Tacitus, Ann. 14.36; Appian, Hist. Rom. preface 9-11. See further Brooke Holmes, Gender: Antiquity and Its Legacy (Ancients and Moderns; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 111-12.

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  • 9

    Homer, Il. 6.490-493; Vergil, Aen. 8.407-413; Livy 3.68.8; Tacitus, Ann. 14.36; Appian, Bell. civ. 4.16.123.

  • 11

    Aristophanes, Lys. 519-520; Vergil, Aen. 7.444; Hall, “Asia Unmanned,” 108-12; J. E. Lendon, “The Rhetoric of Combat: Greek Military Theory and Roman Culture in Julius Caesar’s Battle Descriptions,” Classical Antiquity 18 (1999): 273-329, esp. 310-12; Lendon, “War and Society,” in Greece, the Hellenistic World and the Rise of Rome (vol. 1 of The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, ed. Philip Sabin, Hans van Wees, and Michael Whitby; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 498-516, esp. 510-11; Sheila Dillon, “Women on the Columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and the Visual Language of Roman Victory,” in Representations of War in Ancient Rome (ed. Sheila Dillon and Katherine E. Welch; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 244-71, esp. 262; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 161.

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  • 12

    Tacitus, Ann. 13.2; Richard Alston, “Arms and the Man: Soldiers, Masculinity, and Power in Republican and Imperial Rome,” in When Men Were Men: Masculinity, Power and Identity in Classical Antiquity (ed. Lin Foxhall and John Salmon; London: Routledge, 1998), 205-23, esp. 211; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 259, 385-88.

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  • 13

    Sallust, Bell. Cat. 2.7, Bell. Jug. 3.1; Livy 3.19.5; Tacitus, Ann. 2.73, Agr. 9.5, Dial. 31; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 9, 385-88; Amanda Wilcox, “Exemplary Grief: Gender and Virtue in Seneca’s Consolations to Women,” Helios 33 (2006): 73-100, esp. 76.

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  • 14

    Polybius 1.6.4; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 3.19.3; Livy 1.16.7, 26.41.12. See also Sara Elise Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 B.C.-A.D. 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army (Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 24; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 355-56; Mark Masterson, “Statius’ ‘Thebaid’ and the Realization of Roman Manhood,” Phoenix 59 (2005): 288-315, esp. 288-89; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 2-3.

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  • 15

    Livy 5.38.5, 22.60.13-14; Tacitus, Hist. 3.66; Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 316, 323.

  • 16

    E.g., Sallust, Bell. Cat. 51.42, 52.22; Caesar, Bell. civ. 2.13; Tacitus, Hist. 1.63, 83-84; 2.12, 69; 3.11, 33.

  • 17

    See Sallust, Bell. Cat. 7.4-5, 9.1-4; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 5.8.4, 7.52.4; Livy 5.6.4-5, 38.17.18; Appian, Hist. Rom. preface 11; Gall. 4.7-8; Bell. civ. 3.8.56; Phang, Marriage, 354-55, and Roman Military Service, 92-93, 95.

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  • 18

    Cf. Alston, “Arms and the Man,” 211-17; Phang, Marriage, 345-46; J. E. Lendon, Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 312.

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  • 21

    Suetonius, Vesp. 8.3; A. J. Boyle, “Introduction: Reading Flavian Rome,” in Boyle and Dominik, eds., Flavian Rome: Culture, Image, Text, 1-67, esp. 15-16, 24-25; Masterson, “Statius’ ‘Thebiad,’ ” 290; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 387-88; von Ehrenkrook, “Effeminacy,” 160; von Ehrenkrook, Sculpting Idolatry in Flavian Rome: (An)Iconic Rhetoric in the Writings of Flavius Josephus (sblejl 33; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 130, 178-79.

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  • 23

    E.g., Herodotus 5.49.3-8; Xenophon, Anab. 3.2.25; Polybius 3.6.12, 36.15.1; Livy 38.17.17-18; Appian, Hist. rom., preface 9, Gall. 4.7-8; Hall, “Asia Unmanned,” 110-26.

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  • 24

    Cf. Thucydides 2.61.1, 2.63.1; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 5.54.5; Tacitus, Hist. 5.25. Note also the association of “peace” with emasculation in, e.g., Livy 38.17.7, 17, and Tacitus, Agr. 11.5; the enslavement represented by accepting foreign rule is itself emasculating.

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  • 28

    Julia Wilker, “Josephus, the Herodians, and the Jewish War,” in The Jewish Revolt Against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (ed. Mladen Popović; JSJSup 154; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 271-89, esp. 286-87 (see also 282-83).

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  • 29

    Cf. Wilcox, “Exemplary Grief,” 79-80.

  • 33

    Thucydides 2.87.3, 5.9.9; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 1.40.4, 2.21.2, 7.62.2, etc.; Livy 4.33.5; Tacitus, Ann. 14.36; Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 313.

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  • 34

    Cf. 1 Macc 5:61, 67; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 7.47.3, 7.52.4; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 303-4; Phang, Roman Military Service, 99.

  • 36

    Polybius 6.37.10-13; Tacitus, Hist. 2.47-50, 3.66, 4.58; Lendon, “War and Society,” 510. Cf. Josephus, J. W. 5.483.

  • 39

    Cf. Polybius 1.31.8, 11.2.1; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 1.1.3-4, 2.27.2-5, 5.34.2; Tacitus, Germ.3.1, 13.4, 29.1, etc.; Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 310; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 161, 303.

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  • 42

    Cf. Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 306-8; Mason, “Essenes and Lurking Spartans,” 233-34.

  • 47

    Cf. Mason, “Essenes and Lurking Spartans,” 230-31.

  • 48

    Cf. Josephus, J. W. 3.2, 4.43.

  • 49

    See also Josephus, J. W. 3.13-15, 3.479, 5.285-287, etc., and McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 303-4, on a similar theme in Caesar’s Gallic War.

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  • 50

    E.g., Homer, Il. 1.29-31; Herodotus 8.32-33; Vergil, Aen. 3.320-324; Livy 5.21.11, 22.55.3, 26.13.14-15; Appian, Hann. 7.9.58.

  • 53

    Dillon, “Women on the Columns,” 262; Iain Ferris, Hate and War: The Column of Marcus Aurelius (Stroud: History Press, 2009), 123-24.

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  • 54

    See further Ilan, “Josephus and Nicolaus,” 225, 228.

  • 55

    Cf. Josephus, Ant. 3.5; Dench, “Austerity,” 121; Phang, Marriage, 355-59; Holmes, Gender, 77-79.

  • 57

    Cf. Caesar, Bell. Gall. 2.13; Livy 1.13.1-5, 2.40.1-5; Appian, Ital. 2.3-5.

  • 58

    E.g., Homer, Il. 6.482-493, 15.661-666; Polybius 6.52.7; Livy 3.47.2, 21.41.16. The manliness of women also correlates with the femininity of men: Herodotus 2.35, 8.87-88; Tacitus, Ann. 1.69, 3.33, 14.36; Appian, Pun. 8.19.131; Phang, Marriage, 368.

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  • 61

    Cf. Josephus, J. W. 1.10-11; Eckstein, “Josephus and Polybius,” 189; Jonathan J. Price, Jerusalem Under Siege: The Collapse of the Jewish State 66-70 C. E. (Brill’s Series in Jewish Studies 3; Leiden: Brill, 1992), 180-81; Gruen, “Polybius and Josephus,” 150.

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  • 62

    Cf. Livy 3.67.11; Appian, Bell. civ. 4.16.123. Note also the connection of stasis with unmanliness in Thucydides 3.82.4.

  • 66

    Tacitus, Ann. 1.52, 16.21; Agr. 31.4, 39.3. Cf. Cassius Dio 49.23.3-4.

  • 67

    Michael L. Satlow, “ ‘They Abused Him Like a Woman’: Homoeroticism, Gender Blurring, and the Rabbis in Late Antiquity,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 5 (1994): 1-25, esp. 7-8; von Ehrenkrook, “Effeminacy,” 146, 155.

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  • 69

    Aeneas Tacticus 24.7, 40.4-5; Caesar, Bell. civ. 3.9; Frontinus, Strat. 3.2.7. Aeneas Tacticus and Frontinus approved of effective trickery (cf. Polybius 4.8.1-4), but others disparaged it as unmanly or dishonorable (Polybius 8.9.2; Livy 5.27.1-8, 7.17.3-5), a judgment claimed by Josephus in J. W. 6.20 (cf. Ant. 13.108).

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  • 74

    Polybius 1.6.4; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 3.19.3, 5.43.4; Sallus, Bell. Cat. 9.1-4; etc. Apart from the Spartans (e.g., Thucydides 2.39.1, 5.9.9), the Greeks did not exult discipline to the extent that the Romans did. See further Eckstein, “Josephus and Polybius,” 199-200; Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 306, 308-9; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 195-96; Phang, Roman Military Service, 3-5, 92-96.

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  • 75

    Caesar, Bell. Gall. 5.8.4; Livy 4.32.3, 5.6.4-5, 30.14.1-3, 40.1.4-5; Onasander, General 1.2-8; Tacitus, Ann. 3.33; Suetonius, Aug. 24.1, Vesp. 8.3; Appian, Bell. civ. 1.13.113; Hisp. 6.14.84-85; etc. The Gauls, Germans, and Britons are also praised for their physical discipline (e.g., Caesar, Bell. Gall. 1.1, 2.15, 4.1-2; Tacitus, Agr. 11.5).

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  • 77

    See also Mason, “Essenes and Lurking Spartans,” 230-32.

  • 78

    Cf. Caesar, Bell. Gall. 7.47.3, 7.52.4.

  • 81

    E.g., Polybius 3.1-6.11, 10.3.7; Caesar, Bell. Gall.3.5.2-3, 3.19.3, 6.40.5-8, 7.47.3-52.4; Livy 8.7.15-19; Lendon, “Rhetoric of Combat,” 308-9; Lendon, Soldiers and Ghosts, 235; Simon James, “Soldiers and Civilians: Identity and Interaction in Roman Britain,” in Britons and Romans: Advancing an Archaeological Agenda (ed. Simon James and Martin Millett; cba Research Report 125; York: Council for British Archaeology, 2001), 77-89, esp. 78-79; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, 303-4.

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  • 82

    Cf. Thucydides 1.122.4; Sallust, Bell. Cat. 20.2; Tacitus, Agr. 15.1-3, 31.4; Ann. 14.35; Eric Adler, “Boudica’s Speeches in Tacitus and Dio,” Classical World 101 (2008): 173-95, esp. 180-83; Gruen, “Polybius and Josephus,” 152-56; Greg Woolf, “Provincial Revolts in the Roman Empire,” in Popović, ed., The Jewish Revolt Against Rome, 27-44, esp. 35-38.

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  • 83

    Cf. Polybius 1.31.8; Tacitus, Agr. 32.1; Gruen, “Polybius and Josephus,” 157-58. Manliness at Masada may not be true manliness in Josephus’s estimation, but this ambiguity does not make the unmanliness of the Romans any less.

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  • 86

    Cf. John M. G. Barclay, Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, Volume 10: Against Apion (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 366.

  • 88

    Livy 2.13.6-11; Tacitus, Ann. 1.57, 69; Germ. 18; Appian, Hann. 7.5.29. See further Jeremy McInerney, “Plutarch’s Manly Women,” in Andreia: Studies in Manliness and Courage in Classical Antiquity (ed. Ralph M. Rosen and Ineke Sluiter; Mnemosyne Supplements 238; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 319-44, esp. 320-23; Wilcox, “Exemplary Grief,” 73-74.

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  • 90

    Cf. Adler, “Boudica’s Speeches,” 177, 180-83.

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