Philo, Flaccus

LCL 363: 300-301

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Flaccus had originally shown him considerable favour. When he became less cordial Isidorus took umbrage and organized a gathering of his touts, who brought baseless slanders against Flaccus here represented as behaving with moderation and good sense. A meeting to which the respectable part of the people were summoned brought the whole city together full of indignation against the slanderers and sympathy with the governor. Isidorus was completely exposed and had to flee from the city (135–145). He must have reappeared and, surprising as it seems, must, if Philo’s account is true, have persuaded Flaccus that he was a friend on whose advice he could rely. What charges he and Lampo brought against Flaccus we are not told, but a trial was held in which Flaccus was condemned, his property confiscated and himself sentenced to deportation (146–150).

From this point the story proceeds straightforwardly to the end. We are given an account of his journey to Andros and his miserable plight after his arrival, interspersed with speeches and soliloquies in which he laments his fall and acknowledges that his punishment is just. Whether this last represents his feeling may be doubted. We have not and probably Philo had not any means of judging. The end came when Gaius, who is said to have come to the conclusion that the life of the deported was too mild a punishment for him, determined to have him executed. The treatise closes with a description of the way in which this was carried out, followed by the assertion that the fate of Flaccus shows that God still watches over the Jews (151–191).

The Flaccus has considerable literary merits. The narrative, particularly in the last forty sections, is

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exceedingly vivid. It is also, no doubt, historically valuable in so far as it gives a substantially true account of events of which we know very little from other sources. How far it is good history, in the sense of giving a reliable account of the motives and feelings of the actors in the story, I leave to those more competent than myself to assess. Also it is a powerful embodiment of that profound conviction that the nation is under the special Providence of God which has been the life and soul of Judaism throughout the centuries. This conviction naturally entails a belief that the enemies of Judaism are the enemies of God and their punishment a divine visitation. But this belief has its evil side, which seems to me to be very strongly exhibited in this treatise. In §117 the Jews are represented as saying “We do not rejoice at the punishment of an enemy because we have been taught by the Holy Laws to have human sympathy.” This is easily said but not so easily done, and if Philo believed that he himself had learnt this lesson I think he deceived himself. He gloats over the misery of Flaccus in his fall, exile, and death, with a vindictiveness which I feel to be repulsive.a While, as I have said in the preface, none of the treatises in this volume have any great value nor would probably have survived but for the high esteem given to his main work, this is the only one which those who admire the beauty and spirituality so often shown both in the Commentary and Exposition might well wish to have been left unwritten.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.philo_judaeus-flaccus.1941