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Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome$
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Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199262120

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199262120.001.0001

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Figured Speech and Irony in T. Flavius Josephus 1

Figured Speech and Irony in T. Flavius Josephus 1

(p.243) 12 Figured Speech and Irony in T. Flavius Josephus1
Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome

Steve Mason

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the rhetoric of Josephus’ narratives with special attention to his use of irony. It argues that Josephus’ Roman audience would have expected such artistry and playfulness; previous scholarship has not dealt with the concept of irony because they have not looked hard enough at the Flavian context within which Josephus worked. Beginning with Frederick Ahl’s important article on the art of safe criticism and a set of criteria for irony, the chapter demonstrates for example how Josephus can use hyperbolic praise to craft a subtle, and safe, critique of Flavian claims. An example is the figure of Titus in the Judaean War: although Josephus ostensibly flatters the general’s humanistic virtues, his portrait also serves to undercut Titus’ image of toughness (as his troops constantly disobey his orders) and to distance him from his celebrated destruction of enemy strongholds. It is concluded that Josephus was not a mouthpiece of Flavian perspectives, but a sophisticated author who exploited his Roman audience’s knowledge to create an alternative picture, as his prologue promises (War 1.1-3).

Keywords:   Titus, irony, figured speech, Roman audience, safe criticism, Jerusalem, temple, destruction, rhetoric

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