Justus of Tiberias

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JUSTUS OF TIBERIAS , historian; a contemporary of *Josephus and his rival in describing the Jewish War (66–70/73 c.e.). The main source of knowledge of Justus – the disparaging polemic directed against him by Josephus in his Life – is of doubtful value, since Josephus may have falsified facts. Nevertheless two things are clear: that Justus came from a respected Tiberian family, and that "he did not lack Greek culture," as Josephus himself admits. Justus' name and that of his father (Pistus) also attest Hellenistic influence, and he was, moreover, appointed private secretary to *Agrippa ii, a post which obviously demanded a thorough command of Greek. Apart from this it is difficult to find in Josephus anything further in Justus' favor. Josephus accuses him of personal turpitude, licentiousness, bribery, and theft. These accusations may be ignored. Of a more complex nature is the question of Justus' loyalties during the war. Josephus charges that Justus was the sworn enemy of the Romans and an associate of the *Zealots, doing everything in his power to draw Tiberias and Galilee into the revolt against Roman rule. In addition, Josephus states that Justus organized an attack on the Greek cities of the Decapolis, whose inhabitants were faithful allies of the Romans, adding that this attack is also mentioned in the memoirs of Vespasian. According to Josephus, Justus, while in Berytus (Beirut), was accused of treason against the Romans and would certainly have been sentenced to death but for Vespasian's friendliness to Agrippa. All this, however, does not necessarily prove that Justus was a Zealot. Possibly Agrippa explained the attack as a loyal Tiberian's vengeance against the Greeks for their bloody attacks on the Jews at the outbreak of the war.

Nevertheless, Justus was obviously no lover of Roman rule. In view of his friendship with Agrippa, Justus probably shared the views expressed by the latter in his speech to the rebels in Jerusalem (the account of which in Josephus undoubtedly has an historical basis). The gist of this was that Roman might was so decisive that it could not be overcome, and that there was therefore no sense fighting it. Agrippa himself, then, was not an admirer of Roman rule in Judea, but only reconciled to it. Justus, a devoted Tiberian concerned for the welfare of his native city, did everything in his power to ensure Agrippa's continued rule in Tiberias. This brought him into conflict with Josephus, who arrived in Galilee on behalf of the revolutionary government in Jerusalem and strove to extend his influence over the whole province. In an attempt to crush the opposition against him, Josephus imprisoned many of the city notables, including Justus and his father. Justus, however, succeeded in escaping from his prison in Tarichaeae to Berytus, and henceforth had no further direct contact with the events of the war. It was after his escape that he was appointed Agrippa's private secretary, which gave him good opportunity of hearing at first hand about the conduct of the war in Galilee, and especially about the questionable role played by Josephus. He embodied this information in a book about the war, which was for the most part an extensive account of events in Galilee before the arrival of Vespasian, and dealt particularly with the misdeeds of Josephus in Tiberias. Since Josephus published his own history of the war after 75 c.e. and Justus suppressed his reply for some 20 years (Vita, 360), it may be concluded that Justus' work was published only after the death of Domitian (96 c.e.) when Nerva ascended the throne. From the fact that Josephus begins his Life with a detailed description of his distinguished descent from the Hasmoneans, it may be assumed that Justus tried to derogate not only him but also his family. Justus' main purpose in writing the book was apparently to wreak belated vengeance on his rival, which he could not exact under the Flavian emperors.

It is generally believed that Justus also wrote a second book, a chronicle of the kings of Israel. Although a list which was in the possession of Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, between 858 and 868, seemed to make the description of the war merely part of the chronicle, the detailed nature of the description of the events in Galilee (as evidenced in Josephus) presupposes a separate work.


Schuerer, Gesch, index; A. Baerwald, Flavius Josephus in Galilaea (Ger., 1877); Niese, in: Historische Zeitschrift, 76 (1896), 227ff.; H. Luther, Josephus und Justus von Tiberias (1910); R. Laqueur, Der juedische Historiker Flavius Josephus (1920), 6ff.; H. Drexler, in: Klio, 19 (1925), 293ff.; A. Schalit, ibid., 26 (1933), 66–95; M. Stein, Ḥayyei Yosef (19393), introd., 5–16, and notes; A. Pelletier, Flavius Josèphe, Autobiographie (1959), xivff.

[Abraham Schalit]