Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2020
A Jewish priest, Roman citizen and Greek historian, Flavius Josephus (born Yosef ben Matityahu) is an author whose works are strongly marked by the confluence of traditions. Both the Jewish tradition in which he had been raised and the Graeco-Roman tradition in which he chose to write had long and varied histories of thinking about the future and Josephus, a “prophet” learned in both cultures, could draw on a variety of literary models when forecasting what was to come. Polybius, for instance, one of Josephus’ most important sources, articulates a belief in the Greek idea of cyclical history, but is able to accommodate this schema to the realities of his times by arguing that the Roman constitution had found a way to arrest the inevitable degeneration of anakyklosis. The composite Roman state had been able to postpone its decline and win extraordinary success, but nevertheless its decline would surely come some day.