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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


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Demetrius Nicator made prisoner by the Parthians; rise and fall of Trypho; Antiochus Sidetes subdues the Jews, I.—Origin of the Jews; their departure from Egypt, II.—Account of Palestine; conquerors of the Jews, III.—Character of Attalus of Pergamus; he bequeaths his kingdom to the Romans, who possess themselves of it in spite of Aristonicus, IV.

1 2 3 4

1 DEMETRIUS, having gained possession of his father’s throne, and being spoiled by his good fortune, fell, from the effects of the vices of youth, into habits of indolence, and incurred as much contempt for his slothfulness, as his father had incurred hatred for his pride. As the cities, in consequence, began every where to revolt from his government, he resolved. in order to wipe off the stain of effeminacy from his character, to make war upon the Parthians. The people of the east beheld his approach with pleasure, both on account of the cruelty of Arsacides,1 king of the Parthians, and because having been accustomed to the old government of the Macedonians, they viewed the pride of the new race with indignation. Being assisted, accordingly, by auxiliary troops from the Persians, Elymaeans, and Bactrians, he routed the Persians in several pitched battles. At length, however, being deceived by a pretended offer of peace, he was made prisoner, and being led from city to city,2 was shown as a spectacle to the people that had revolted, in mockery of the favour that they had shown him. Being afterwards sent into Hyrcania, he was treated kindly, and suitably to the dignity of his former condition.

During the course of these proceedings, Trypho, in Syria, who had exerted his efforts to be made by the people guardian to Antiochus, the step-son of Demetrius, killed his ward, and seized upon the Syrian throne. When he had enjoyed it for some time, and the liking of the people for his new government began at length to wear off, he was defeated in a battle by Antiochus, the brother of Demetrius, who was then quite a boy, and who had been educated in Asia; and the throne of Syria again returned to the family of Demetrius. Antiochus, remembering that his father had been hated for his pride, and his brother despised for his indolence, was anxious not to fall into the same vices, and having married Cleopatra, his brother’s wife, proceeded to make war, with the utmost vigour, on the provinces that had revolted through the badness3 of his brother’s government, and, after subduing them, re-united them to his dominions. He also reduced the Jews, who, during the Macedonian rule under his father Demetrius, had recovered their liberty by force of arms; and whose strength was such, that they would submit to no Macedonian king after him, but, electing rulers from their own people, harassed Syria with fierce wars.

2 The origin of the Jews4 was from Damascus, a most famous city of Syria, whence also the Assyrian kings and queen Semiramis5 sprung. The name of the city was given it from King Damascus, in honour of whom the Syrians consecrated the sepulchre of his wife Arathis as a temple, and regard her as a goddess worthy of the most sacred worship After Damascus, Azelus, and then Adores, Abraham, and Israhel were their kings. But a prosperous family of ten sons made Israhel more famous than any of his ancestors. Having divided, his kingdom, in consequence, into ten governments, he committed them to his sons, and called the whole people Jews from Judas, who died soon after the division, and ordered his memory to be held in veneration by them all, as his portion was shared among them. The youngest of the brothers was Joseph, whom the others, fearing his extraordinary abilities, secretly made prisoner, and sold to some foreign merchants. Being carried by them into Egypt, and having there, by his great powers of mind, made himself master of the arts of magic, he found in a short time great favour with the king; for he was eminently skilled in prodigies, and was the first to establish the science of interpreting dreams; and nothing, indeed, of divine or human law seems to have been unknown to him; so that he foretold a dearth in the land some years before it happened, and all Egypt would have perished by famine, had not the king, by his advice, ordered the corn to be laid up for several years; such being the proofs of his knowledge, that his admonitions seemed to proceed, not from a mortal, but a god. His son was Moses, whom, besides the inheritance of his father’s knowledge, the comeliness of his person also recommended. But the Egyptians, being troubled with scabies and leprosy, and moved by some oracular prediction, expelled him, with those who had the disease, out of Egypt, that the distemper might not spread among a greater number. Becoming leader, accordingly, of the exiles, he carried off by stealth the sacred utensils of the Egyptians, who, endeavouring to recover them by force of arms, were obliged by tempests to return home; and Moses, having reached Damascus, the birth-place of his forefathers, took possession of mount Sinai, on his arrival at which, after having suffered, together with his followers, from a seven days’ fast in the deserts of Arabia, he consecrated every seventh day (according to the present custom of the nation) for a fast-day, and to be perpetually called a sabbath, because that day had ended at once their hunger and their wanderings. And as they remembered that they had been driven from Egypt for fear of spreading infection, they took care, in order that they might not become odious, from the same cause, to the inhabitants of the country, to have no communication with strangers; a rule which, from having been adopted on that particular occasion, gradually became a custom and part of their religion. After the death of Moses, his son Aruas6 was made priest for celebrating the rites which they brought from Egypt, and soon after created king; and ever afterwards it was a custom among the Jews to have the same chiefs both for kings and priests; and, by uniting religion with the administration of justice, it is almost incredible how powerful they became.

3 The wealth of the nation was augmented by the duties on balm,7 which is produced only in that country; for there is a valley, encircled with an unbroken ridge of hills, as it were a wall, in the form of a camp, the space enclosed being about two hundred acres, and called by the name of Hierichus;8 in which valley there is a wood, remarkable both for its fertility and pleasantness, and chequered with groves of palm and balm-trees. The balm-trees resemble pitch-trees in shape, except that they are not so tall, and are dressed after the manner of vines; and at a certain season of the year they exude the balm. But the place is not less admired for the gentle warmth of the sun in it, than for its fertility; for though the sun in that climate is the hottest in the world, there is constantly in this valley a certain natural subdued tepidity in the air.9

In this country also is the lake Asphaltites, which, from its magnitude and the stillness of its waters is called the Dead Sea; for it is neither agitated by the winds, because the bituminous matter, with which all its water is clogged, resists even hurricanes; nor does it admit of navigation, for all inanimate substances sink to the bottom; and it will support no wood, except such as is smeared with alum. The first10 that conquered the Jews was Xerxes, king of Persia. Subsequently they fell, with the Persians themselves, under the power of Alexander the Great; and they were then long subject to the kings of Syria, under its Macedonian dynasty. On revolting from Demetrius, and soliciting the favour of the Romans,11 they were the first of all the eastern people that regained their liberty, the Romans readily affecting to bestow what it was not in their power to give.

4 During the same period, in which the government of Syria was passing from hand to hand among its new sovereigns, King Attalus in Asia polluted a most flourishing kingdom, which he inherited from his uncle Eumenes, by murders of his friends and executions of his relatives, pretending sometimes that his old mother, and sometimes his wife Berenice, had been destroyed by their wicked contrivances. After this atrocious outburst of rage, he assumed a mean dress, let his beard and hair grow like those of persons under legal prosecution, never went abroad or showed himself to the people, held no feasts in his palace, and behaved in no respect, indeed, like a man in his senses; so that he seemed to be paying penalty for his crimes to the manes of those whom he had murdered. Abandoning the government of his kingdom, too, he employed himself in digging and sowing in his garden, mixing noxious herbs with harmless ones, and sending them all indiscriminately, moistened with poisonous juices, as special presents to his friends. From this employment he turned to that of working in brass, and amused himself with modelling in wax, and casting and hammering out brazen figures. He then proceeded to make a monument for his mother, but while he was busy about the work, he contracted a disorder from the heat of the sun, and died on the seventh day afterwards. By his will the Roman people was appointed his heir.12

There was however a son of Eumenes, named Aristonicus, not born in wedlock, but of an Ephesian mistress, the daughter of a player on the harp; and this young man, after the death of Attalus, laid claim to the throne of Asia as having been his father’s. When he had fought several successful battles against the provinces, which, from fear of the Romans, refused to submit to him, and seemed to be established as king. Asia was assigned by the senate to the command of Licinius Crassus, who, being more eager to plunder the treasures of Attalus than to distinguish himself in the field, and fighting a battle, at the end of the year, with his army in disorder, was defeated, and paid the penalty for his blind avarice by the loss of his life. The consul Perperna being sent in his place, reduced Aristonicus, who was defeated in the first engagement, under his power, and carried off the treasures of Attalus, bequeathed to the Roman people, on ship-board to Rome. Marcus Aquilius, Perperna’s successor, envying his good fortune, hastened, with the utmost expedition, to snatch Aristonicus from Perperna’s hands, as if he ought rather to grace his own triumph. But the death of Perperna put an end to the rivalry between the consuls. Asia, thus becoming a province of the Romans, brought to Rome its vices together with its wealth.


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1 He that Justin calls Arsacides was the sixth of the Arsacidae, or Mithridates I., who reigned from B.C. 173 to 136.—Wetzel. Arsacidae was the common name of the descendants of Arsaces, the founder of the Parthian power.

2 Per ora civitatum.

3 Vitio.] Some editions have initio.

4 The confused account which our author, as well as Tacitus, v. 2-14, gives concerning the Jews, and the false statements contained in it, must be corrected from the books of the Old Testament and from Josephus.—Wetzel.

5 Wetzel’s text has ex regina Semiramide, but I have thought proper to follow the reading of the Juntine edition, et reginae Semiramidi, which is found in two manuscripts, and which Wetzel himself prefers.

6 A corruption of Aaron.

7 Opobalsami.] In Gen. xxxvii. 25; xliii. 11, we find that Canaan produced balm; it is now found only in Arabia Petraea. “The balm-tree (balsami arbor) grew,” says Origen, “in Judaea, only within a space of about twenty acres, but after the Romans became masters of the country it was propagated over extensive hills. Its stem is similar to that of the vine, and its leaves to those of rue, but whiter and always remaining on the tree.” The word balsamum properly signifies the tree, and opobalsamum (that is, o)po\s tou= balsa/mou, as o)popa/nac is o)po\s tou= pa/nakos, juice of all-heal, Diosc. iii. 48) the juice; xylobalsamum means the wood of the tree. Justin, however, contrary to the practice of other writers, uses opobalsamum for the tree, and balsamum for the juice.—Lemaire.

8 That is, Jericho, which is the reading of the Cologne edition.—Wetzel.

9 Tepidi aëris naturalis quaedam et perpetua apricitas inest.] Such is the reading of Gronovius and Wetzel, who interpret apricitas to signify a moderate warmth or tepidity. Some of the older editions have opacitas, which Tauchnitz and Dübner have adopted. “Salmasius, on Solinus, p. 990, says that not every place exposed to the sun is properly called apricus, but one which lies open to a gentle and moderate influence of his beams. Hence aprici colles, Virg Ecl. ix. 49, are hills turned towards the rising sun, which, not being excessively hot, is well suited for ripening grapes.”—Berneccerus.

10 Primum Xerxes—domuit.] This is an error. The kingdom of Israel was overthrown by Shalmaneser, B.C. 722, and that of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 588. The return from captivity, under Cyrus, was B.C. 536. The Jews continued subject to the Persians till the time of Alexander, after whom they were under the rule, sometimes of the Ptolemies, and sometimes of the Seleucidae, till B.C. 167.—Dübner.

11 Amicitia Romanorum petita.] Judas Maccabaeus, B.C. 166, formed an alliance with the Romans; Joseph. Ant. xii. 10.

12 See Liv. Epit. lviii.; Vell. Pat. ii. 4; August. Civ. D. xiii. 2 Orosius, v. 8; Florus, ii. 20; Sallust’s Hist. Fragm. lib. iv.; Bohn’s Cl. Library, p. 242.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

This material may only be used for private and educational use and provided that its copyright status is properly cited. Any modification, remote loading, publication, reproduction on another site, diffusion on the internet, or commercial use of these texts is strictly prohibited without the prior agreement of the author.