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The Masada Myth

    Scholar presents evidence that the heroes of the Jewish Great Revolt were not heroes at all.

Notes

(1) This paper is based on my 1995 book: The Masada Myth. Collective Memory And Mythmaking In Israel. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. 

(2) When a reference to Josephus Flavius is made, the text used is The Complete Works Of Josephus, by Josephus Flavius, Translated into English by Wm. Whiston. I used the 1981 edition published by Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, Michigan). I deliberately used this edition for several reasons. The small group of professional scholars who specialize in Josephus use a reference system of book and paragraph numbers, which I decided not to employ for two main reasons.

    First, most naive readers are unaware of this system (which is confined to the above scholars) and its use in a publication intended for a more general audience will surely confuse the reader. I thus preferred to use a text that is easily available and a citation mode that is accessible to all.

    Second, uncovering the myth of Masada requires that we attempt to know what the myth makers at the time knew. Hence which version of Josephus was used is a crucial issue. The edition used above was clearly used by myth makers, as well as Simchoni's translation. The fact is that without Josephus we know very little. Virtually all our knowledge of the period and the relevant events is based on Josephus's writings. He is--fortunately or unfortunately--the main, and in most respects the only, historical source. If Josephus had not written a history, there would "be" no Masada, Sicarii, revolt, and so forth. I thus take Josephus's version as a fundamental baseline, regardless of its "truth" value (unless, of course, one can come up with persuasive arguments as to why what he says, or which parts of what he says, are wrong.

    Unquestionably, as an historical source, Josephus provides a problematic account. But, it is the only historical account we have. Historically speaking, it is the only detailed "truth" we have about the Jewish Great Revolt and Masada.   

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