A member of a wealthy priestly family in Judea, Josephus was a Pharisee originally named Joseph ben Matthias. An active supporter of anti-Roman activity, he became governor of Galilee, a post he held with honor and valor until Galilee was taken by the Romans in a.d. 67. He won the favor of the Roman general Vespasian, whose name---Flavius---he took as his own and through whose patronage he later became a Roman citizen. Although often criticized for becoming a supporter of Rome, in his work Against Apion he passionately defends Jewish religion and culture. Josephus wrote both in Greek and in Hebrew. His writings are neither remarkably fine representatives of classical culture nor the product of deep learning in Jewish literature and history. They do, however, tell the reader a great deal not known from other sources. The Jewish War (75--79), based to a great extent on what Josephus himself saw, heard, and experienced, describes the tragic events of the Jewish revolt against Rome. Antiquities of the Jews (93) covers the history of the Jews from creation to the war with Rome, with special attention given to the Maccabees and the dynasty of Herod.
Betty Radice (1912-1985) edited the Penguin Classics from 1964 to 1985 and translated Terence, Livy, Pliny, Abelard and Heloise, and Erasmus.