A R I S T E A S
THE LETTER OF
the time of the Jewish captivity in Egypt, Ptolemy Philadelphus reveals
himself as the first great bibliophile. He
desires to have all the books of the world in his library; and in order to get
the "Laws of Moses," he offers to trade 100.000 captives for that
work, exclaiming; "It is a small boon indeed!"
The quest to free the captives.
I have collected material for a memorable history of my visit to Eleazar the
high priest of the Jews. And
because you Philocrates, as you lost no opportunity in reminding me to receive
an account on the motives and object of my mission, I have attempted to draw up
a clear exposition of the matter for you.
2. For I
perceived that you possess a natural love of learning, a quality which is the
highest possession of man to constantly attempt to add to his stock of
knowledge, whether through the study of history, or by actual participation in
the events themselves.
It is by
this means, by taking to oneself the noblest elements, that the soul is
established in purity, and having fixed its aim on piety, the noblest goal of
all, it uses this as its infallible guide, and so acquires a definite purpose.
It was my
devotion in the pursuit of religious knowledge that led me to undertake the
embassy to the man that I have mentioned, who was held in the highest esteem by
his own citizens, and by others, both for his virtue and his majesty.
And who in his possession had the documents of the highest value to the
Jews, both in his own country, and in foreign lands, for interpretation of the
divine law, for their laws are written on leather parchments in Jewish
5. I then
undertook this with enthusiasm having first found an opportunity of pleading
with the king on behalf of the Jewish captives who had been transported from
Judea to Egypt by the king's father when he first obtained possession of this
city, and conquered the land of Egypt.
worthwhile that I should tell you this story, also since I am convinced that
you, with your disposition towards holiness and your sympathy with men that live
in accordance with the holy law will all the more readily listen to the account
which I purpose to set forth. For
you yourself have lately come to us from the island, and are anxious to hear
everything that tends to build up the soul.
you a record of the facts on a former occasion, which I thought worth relating
concerning the Jewish race, a record which obtained from the most learned high
priest, of the most learned in the land of Egypt.
8. And since
you are so eager to acquire the knowledge of those things, which can benefit the
mind, I feel incumbent to impart to you all the information in my power.
the same duty towards all that possess the same disposition, but I feel it
especially towards you, since you have the aspirations, which are so noble.
And since you are my brother in character as no less than in blood as one
that is one with me in the pursuit of goodness.
neither the pleasure derived from gold, not of any other of the possessions that
are prized by shallow minds - confers the same benefit as the pursuit of
culture, and the study which we spend in securing it.
I may not weary you by a too lengthy introduction, I will proceed at once to the
substance of my narrative.
of Phalerum, the precinct of the king's library, received vast sums of money for
the purpose of collecting as far as possible all the books in the world.
means of purchase and transcription, he carried this purpose of the king out to
the best of his ability.
14. On one
occasion when I was present he was asked; how many thousands of books there were
in the library? And he replied,
"More than two hundred thousand O king, and I shall endeavor in the
immediate future to gather the remainder also, so that the total of five hundred
thousand may be reached. I am told
that the laws of the Jews are worth transcribing, deserving a place in our
is to prevent you from doing this? So
replied the king, everything that is needed has been placed at your
then answered; "They need to be translated, for in the country of the Jews
they use a peculiar alphabet just as the Egyptians have a special form of
letters and speak a peculiar dialect.
supposed to use the Syriac tongue, but this is not the case, their language is
quite different.'' And the king,
having understood the facts of the case, ordered a letter to he written to the
Jewish high priest that his purpose might be accomplished.
thinking that the time had come to press the demand, which I had often laid
before Sosiblus of Tarentum and Andreas the chief of the bodyguard, for the
emancipation of the Jews. For when
the king's father had by a combination of good fortune and courage brought his
attack on the whole district of Celosyria and Phenice to success, he in the
process of terrorizing the country into subjection, transported some of his
foes, and others he reduced to captivity.
number of those whom he transported from the country of the Jews to Egypt
amounted to no less than a hundred thousand.
20. Of these
he armed thirty thousand picked men and settled them in the garrisons in the
districts of the country.
21. And even
before this, large numbers of Jews had come into Egypt with the Persians.
And in an earlier period still others had been sent to help Psammetichus
in his campaign against the Ethiopians, these however were not so numerous as
the captives which Ptolemy the son of Lagus transported.
22. And as I
said earlier, Ptolemy picked out the best of these, men who were in the prime of
life, and known for their courage. These
he armed them, but the great mass of the others that were too old, or too young
for this purpose and the women also, he reduced to slavery.
Not that he wished to do this of his own free will, but he was compelled
to do so by his soldiers who claimed them as reward for the services which they
had rendered in war.
thus obtained an opportunity to secure their emancipation, I addressed the king
with the following arguments; Let us not be so unreasonable as to allow our
deeds to give the lie to our words.
law, which we not only whish to transcribe, but also translate, belongs to the
whole Jewish race, what justification shall be found for our desire while such
vast numbers of them remain in a state of slavery in your kingdom?
perfection and wealth of your clemency, release those that are held in such
miserable bondage, since I have been at pains to discover, that the God who gave
them their law, is the God who maintains your kingdom as well.
worship the same God, the Lord and Creator of the universe, as all other men and
we ourselves O king; though we call Him by different names.
27. His Name
was very appropriately bestowed on Him by our first ancestors in order to
signify that He, through whom all things are endowed with life, and come into
being, is necessarily the ruler and Lord of the universe.
Set therefore all mankind an example of com-passion by releasing those
who are held in bondage.
a brief interval, while I was offering up a prayer to God that He would so
dispose the mind of the king that all the captives might be set at liberty, (for
the human race, being the creation of God, is swayed and influenced by Him)
with divers prayers I called on Him who rules the heart that the king might be
constrained to grant my request. For
I had great hopes in regards to the salvation of the men since I was assured
that God would grant fulfillment of my prayer.
men from pure motives plan some action in the interest of righteousness, and the
performance of noble deeds, Almighty God brings their efforts and purpose to a
the king raised his head, and looking up to me with a cheerful countenance
asked, how many thousand do you think they will number?
then, who was standing near replied, A little more then a hundred thousand.
"It is a small boon indeed,"
so said the king that Aristheas asks of us!
Sosibius and some others who were present said. Indeed, it will be a fit tribute to your dignity to offer the
liberation of these as an act of devotion to the supreme God.
been greatly honored by Almighty God, and exulted above all your forefathers in
glory, it is only fitting then that you should render to Him the greatest thank
offering in your power.
extremely pleased with these arguments, he gave orders that an addition should
be made to the wages of the soldiers by the amount of the redemption money.
That twenty drachms should be paid to the owners for every slave, and
that a public order be issued with the register of the captives attached to it.
great enthusiasm in the business, for God had brought our purpose to fulfillment
in its entirety, and constrained him not only to redeem those who had come into
Egypt with the army of his father, but those as well who had come before in his
pointed out to him that the ransom money would exceed four hundred talents.
think it would be useful to insert a copy of the decree, for in this, the
dignity of the king who was empowered by God to save such a vast multitude, will
be more manifested.
decree of the king ran as follows. All
who served in the army of our father in the campaign against Syria and Phenice
in the attack upon the country of the Jews, and who came in possession of Jewish
captives bringing them back to the city of Alexandria, and the land of Egypt, or
sold them to others.
40. And in
the same any captives who were in our land before that time, or were brought
here afterwards, all who possess such captives are required to at once set them
at liberty receiving twenty drachms per head as ransom money.
soldiers will receive this gift added to their wages, the others from the king's
that it was against our father's will, and against all propriety that they
should have been made captives, and that the devastation of their land and the
transportation of the Jews to Egypt was an act of military wantonness.
spoil, which fell to the soldiers on the field of battle, was all the booty,
which they should have claimed.
44. To in
addition thereto reduce the people to slavery was an act of absolute injustice.
Wherefore since it is acknowledged that we are accustomed to render
justice to all men, and especially to those who are unfairly in a condition of
45. And since
we strive to deal fairly with all men according to the demands of justice and
piety, we have decreed, in reference to the persons of the Jews that are in any
condition of bondage in any part of our dominion, that those who posses them
shall receive the stipulated sum of money and set them at liberty.
And that no man shall show any tardiness in discharging his obligations.
three clays after the publication of this decree, they must make a list of the
slaves for the officers that are appointed to carry out our will, and
immediately produce the persons of the captivity.
47. For we
consider that it will be advantageous to us, and to our affairs that the matter
should be brought to a conclusion.
who cares to, may give information about any one that disobey the decree on the
condition that the man is proven guilty, he will then become his slave, his
property however, will be given to the royal treasury.
the decree was brought to be read to the king for his approval, it contained all
the other provisions except the phrase, any captives that were in the land
before that time, or were brought here afterwards.
his dignity and largeness of his heart, the king inserted this clause.
And he gave orders that the grant of money required for the redemption
should be deposited in full with the paymasters of the forces, and the royal
bankers. And so the matter was
decided and the decree ratified within seven days.
for the redemption amounted to more than six hundred and sixty talents, since
also many infants at the breast were emancipated together with their mothers.
the question was raised weather the sum of twenty drachms was to be paid for
these also, the king offered that it should be done, and thus he carried out his
decision in the most comprehensive way.
this had been done, he ordered Demetrius to draw up a memorial with regard to
the transcription of the Jewish books.
affairs of state used to be carried out by means of decrees, and with most
painstaking accuracy by these Egyptian kings, and nothing was done in a slipshod
or haphazard fashion.
And so I
inserted copies of the memorial of the letters, the number of the precincts
sent, and the nature of each, since every one of them excelled the magnificence
and technical skill.
following is a copy of the memorial, that of Demetrius to the great king.
Since you have given me instructions O king that the books which were
needed to complete the library should he collected together, and that those,
which were defective should be repaired.
devoted myself with the utmost care to the fulfillment of your wishes, and now
have the following proposal to lay before you. The books of the law of the Jews are absent from the library
written in the Hebrew characters and language, and have been carelessly
interpreted, and do not represent the original text, so I am informed by those
that know; for they never had a kingís care to protect them.
necessary that these should be made accurate for your library, since the law,
which they contain, inasmuch as it is of divine origin, is full of wisdom and
free of all blemishes.
reason literary men and poets, and the mass of historical writers, and the men
who have lived and are living in accord with them, held aloof from referring to
these books because their conception of life is so sacred and religious as
Hecataeus of Abdera says;
pleases you O king, a letter shall be written to the high priest in Jerusalem
asking him to send six elders out of each tribe, men who have lived the noblest
life and are most skilled in their law.
order that we may find out these points in which the majority of them are in
agreement, and so having obtained an accurate translation, that the same may be
placed in a conspicuous place in a manner worthy of the work itself, so that
this purpose of yours may continually prosper.
therefore this memorial had been presented, the king ordered a letter to be
written to Eleazar giving him also an account of the emancipation of the
gave 50 talents of gold, and seventy talents of silver, and a large quantity of
precious stones to make bowls and vials, and a table and libation cups.
13. He also
gave orders to those who had the custody of the coffers to allow the artificers
to make a selection of the materials that they might require for the purpose,
and that 100 talents in money should be sent to provide sacrifices for the
temple and for other needs.
give you a full account of the workmanship after I have set before you the
copies of the letters, the letter of the king are then as follows;
Ptolemy sends greetings and salutation to the high priest Eleazar.
there are many Jews settled in our realm who were carried off from Jerusalem by
the Persians at the time of their power, and many more who came with my father
into Egypt as captives. Of these,
large numbers were placed in the army, and were paid higher wages than usual.
And having proved the loyalty of their leaders, he built fortresses and
placed them in their charge so that the native Egyptians might be intimidated by
17. And when
I ascended the throne, I adopted a kindly attitude to all my subjects, and more
particularly to those who were citizens of yours.
I have set more than a hundred thousand captives at liberty, paying their
owners the appropriate market price for them, and if ever any evil has been done
to your people through the passion of the mob, I have made them reparation.
motive which prompted my action has been the desire to act piously and render to
the supreme God a thank offering for maintaining my kingdom in peace and great
glory in all the world.
I have drafted those of your people who were in the prime of their life into my
army, and those who were fit to be attached to my person, and those worthy of
the confidence of the court I established in official positions.
then I am anxious to show my gratitude to these men, and to the Jews throughout
the world, and to the generations yet to come, I have determined that your law
shall be translated from the Hebrew tongue, which is in use among you, into the
Greek language, that these books may be added to the other royal books in my
therefore will be a kindness on your part, and a reward for my zeal if you will
select six elders from each of your tribes, men of noble life, and skilled in
your law, and able to interpret it, that in questions of dispute we may be able
to discover the verdict in which the majority agrees, for the investigation is
of the highest possible importance.
I hope to
win great renown by the accomplishment of this work, and I have sent Andreas,
the chief of my bodyguard, and Aristheas - men whom I hold in high esteem, to lay
the matter before you.
with a hundred talents of silver, the first-fruits of my offering for the temple
and the sacrifices and other religious rites.
will write to me concerning your wishes in these matters - you will confer a
great favor on me and afford me a new pledge of friendship, for all your wishes
shall be carried out as speedily as possible. Farewell.
letter Eleazar replied appropriately as follows; Eleazar the high priest sends
greetings to King Ptolemy his true friend.
highest wishes are for your welfare and the welfare of queen Arsinoe your
sister, and your children.
I also am
well; I have received your letter and rejoice greatly in your purpose and your
summoned together the whole people and read it to them that they might know of
your devotion to our God.
them also the cups which you sent, 20 of gold and 30 of silver, the five bowls,
and the table of dedication, and the hundred talents of silver for the offering
of the sacrifices and for the things in which the temple is of need.
gifts were brought to me by Andreas, one of your most honored servants, and by
Aristheas, both good men and true, distinguished by their learning, and worthy in
every way to be representatives of your high principles and righteous purposes.
imparted your message to me and received an answer from me in agreement with
your letter; I will consent to everything, which is advantageous to you, even
though your request is very unusual.
have bestowed great and never to be forgotten benefits on our citizens in many
ways. Immediately therefore I
offered sacrifices on behalf of you, your sister, your children, and your
33. And all
the people prayed that your plans might continually prosper, and that Almighty
God might preserve your kingdom in peace with honor, and that the translation of
the holy law might prove advantageous to you, and be carried out successfully.
presence of all the people I selected six elders from each tribe, good and true
men, and I have sent them to you with a copy of our law.
be a kindness O righteous king if you will give instructions that as soon as the
translation of the law is completed the men shall be restored to us in safety.
following are the names of the elders. Of
the first tribe, Joseph, Hezekiah, Zachariah, John, Hezekiah, Elisha.
37. Of the
second tribe, Judas, Simon, Samuel, Adaus, Matthatias, Eschlemias.
Of the third tribe, Nehemia, Joseph, Theodosius, Baseas, 0rnias, Dakis.
38. Of the
fourth tribe, Jonathan, Abraeus, Elisha, Ananias, Chabrias.
Of the fifth tribe, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Sabbataeus, Simon, Levi.
39. Of the
sixth tribe, Judas, Joseph, Simon, Zacharias, Samuel, Selemas.
Of the seventh tribe, Sabbatocus, Zedekiah, Jacob, Isaac, Jesias,
40. Of the
eight tribe, Theodosius, Jason, Jesus, Theodotus, John, Jonathan.
Of the ninth tribe, Theodosius, Abraham, Arsamos, Jason,
41. Of the
tenth tribe, Jeremiah, Eleazar, Zachariah, Baneas, Elisha, Dathaeus.
Of the eleventh tribe, Samuel, Joseph, Judas, Jonathes, Chabu, Dositheus.
twelfth tribe, Isaelus, John, Theodosius, Arsamos, Ablates, Ezekiel.
43. They were
seventy-two in all. Such was the
answer which Eleazar and his friends gave to the king's letter.
Description of the artwork.
will now proceed to redeem my promise and give a description of the works of
made with exceptional skill, for the king spared no expense and personally
supervised the workmen.
3. They could not therefore scamp any part of the work or finish it off negligently. I first of all I will give you a description of the table.
was anxious that this piece of work should be of exceptional large dimensions,
and he made inquiry of the local Jews as to the size of the table currently in
the temple at Jerusalem.
they described the measurements, he proceeded to ask whether he might make a
6. And some
of the priests and other Jews replied that there was nothing to prevent him.
said that he was anxious to make it five times its size, but he hesitated lest
it should prove useless for the temple services.
desired that his gift should not merely be stationed in the temple, but that it
would give him much greater pleasure if the men that performed the sacrifices
were able appropriately to so on the table, which he had made.
9. He did
not suppose that it was owing to lack of gold that the former table had been of
a smaller dimension, but there seems to have been, so he said, some reason why
it was made of this dimension.
the order been given, there would have been no lack of means, wherefore we must
not transgress or go beyond the proper measure.
same time he ordered them to press into service all the manifold form of art,
for he was a man of most lofty conceptions and nature, God having endowed him
with a keen imagination which enabled him to picture the appearance which would
ordered, that where there were no instructions laid down in the scriptures,
there everything should be made as beautiful as possible.
such instructions were laid down, they were to be carried out to the letter.
They made the table 2 cubits long and one cubit wide, and a half cubit
high, fashioning it of pure solid gold.
What I am
describing was not thin gold placed over another foundation, but the whole
structure was of massive, of gold welded together. And they made a border round about it of a hand's width.
15. And there
was a wreath of wave-work engraved in relief in the form of ropes marvelously
wrought on its three sides.
was triangular in shape, the style of the work being exactly the same on all
two sides under the border, the one, which sloped down to the table, was a very
beautiful piece of work, but it was the outer side, which attracted the gaze of
edge of the two sides then, being elevated, was sharp, since as we have said,
the rim was three sided from whatever point of view one approached it.
were layers of precious stones in the midst of the embossed cord-work, and they
were interwoven with one another by an inimitable artistic device.
sake of security they were all fixed by golden needles which were inserted in
perforations in the stones, and at the sides they were clamped together by
fastenings to hold them firm.
part of the border around the table which slanted upwards and met the eyes,
there was made a pattern of eggs in precious stones elaborately engraved by a
continues piece of fluted relief-work, closely connected together around the
the stones which had been arranged to represent eggs, the artist made a crown
containing all kinds of fruits having its top clusters of grapes and ears of
corn, and dates, and also apples, and pomegranates and the like, conspicuously
fruits were made of precious stones, of the same color as the fruits themselves,
and they fastened them edgewise around the sides of the table with a band of
the crown of fruit had been put on, another pattern of eggs in precious stones
was inserted, and other fluting and embossed work, so that both sides of the
table might be used according to the wishes of the owners.
And for this reason the wave-work and the border were extended down to
the feet of the table.
made and fastened under the whole width of the table a massive plate four
fingers thick where the feet might be inserted into, and clamped with linchpins
fitted into sockets under the border, so that one might use whichever side of
the table people preferred,
became manifestly clear that the work was intended to be used either way.
table itself was an engraved meander, with precious stones standing out in the
middle of it, rubies, emeralds, and also onyx, and many other kinds of stones
which excel in beauty.
28. And next
to the meander was a wonderful piece of network which made the center of the
table appear like a rhomboid in shape, upon which were crystal and amber, as it
is called, that produced an incomparable impression on the beholder.
the feet of the table with beads like lilies, so that they seemed to be like
lilies bending down beneath the table, and the parts which were visible
represented leaves with stood upright.
of the foot on the circle consisted of a ruby and measured a hand's width all
around, it had the appearance of a show, and was eight fingers broad.
On it the whole expanse of the foot rested.
made the foot appear like ivy growing out of the stone interwoven with akanthus,
and surrounded with a vine which encircled it with clusters of grapes that were
worked in stones up to the top of the foot.
32. All four
feet were made of the same style, and everything was made and fitted skillfully.
Indeed such remarkable skill and knowledge was expended on making it true
to nature - that when the air was stirred by a breath of wind, movement was
imparted to the leaves. And
everything else was fashioned to correspond with the actual reality, which it
33. And they
made the top of the table in three parts like a triptyehon, which were fitted
and dovetailed together with spigots along the whole breadth of the work so that
the joints could not be seen.
thickness of the table, being a half cubit, made the whole work as to have cost
many talents. For since the king
did not wish to add to its size, he expanded the same sum of money on the
details which would have been required if the table could have been of a larger
was completed in accordance with his plan in a most wonderful and remarkable way
with inimitable art and incomparable beauty.
mixing bowls, two were wrought in gold, and were engraved with relief work in
the pattern of scales from the base to the middle, and between the scales
precious stones were inserted with great artistic skill.
there was a meander, a cubit in height, with its surface worked out of precious
stones of many colors displaying great. Beauty,
and on this, in the appearance, was a mosaic worked out reaching right up to the
shields set in the middle were made alternately, and of varying in kind, not
less beautiful in appearance.
top of the brim, as an ornament, were clusters of grapes engraved all around.
Such then was the construction of the golden bowls, and they held more
than two firkins each.
silver bowls had a smooth surface and were wonderfully made as if they were
intended for looking glasses, so that everything which was brought near to them
was reflected even more clearly than in mirrors.
But it is
impossible to describe the real impression, which these works of art produced on
the minds when they were finished.
42. For when
these vessels had been completed and placed side by side, first a silver bowl
and then a golden, then another silver, and another golden, the appearance they
presented is altogether indescribable. And
those who came to see them were not able to tear themselves from the brilliant
sight and entrancing spectacle.
impressions produced by the spectacle were various in kind.
When men looked at the golden vessels, their minds making a complete
survey of the detail of the workmanship their souls were thrilled with wonder.
again, when one directed his gaze to the silver vessels as they stood before
him, everything seemed to flash with light round about to where he was standing,
and so afforded a still greater delight to the onlookers.
45. Thus it
is near to impossible to describe the artistic beauty of the works, and the
golden vials were engraved in the center with vine wreaths.
around the rim they wove a wreath of ivy and myrtle and olive in relief work and
inserted precious stones in it.
47. The other
part of the relief work was worked out in different patterns since they made it
a point of honor to complete everything in a way worthy of the majesty of the
It may be
said that such works, as these in cost or in artistic skill were not equaled in
the king's treasure nor in any other.
king spend no little thought on them, for he loved to gain glory for the
excellence of his designs.
50. He would
oftentimes neglect his official business and spend his time with the artists
being anxious that they should complete everything in a manner worthy of the
place to which the gifts were to be sent.
everything was carried out on a grand scale, in a manner worthy of the king
making the present, and of the high priest receiving it.
52. He did
not hold back on precious stones, no less than five thousand were used, and all
were of large size.
53. The most
exceptional artistic skill was employed so that the cost of the stones and the
workmanship was five times as much as that of the gold.
have given you this description because I thought it necessary, the next point
is the account of our journey to Eleazar, but I will first give you an account
of the whole country.
2. When we
arrived in the land of the Jews we saw the city situated in the middle of Judea
on the top of a mountain of considerable altitude.
summit thereof the temple was built in all its splendor, and surrounded by three
walls more than seventy cubits high, their length, and width corresponding to
the structure of the edifice.
buildings were magnificent in unprecedented cost; it was obvious that no cost
was spared on the door and fastenings, which connected it with the doorposts and
the stability of the lintel.
of the curtain too was exactly in proportion to that of the entrance, its
fabric, in perpetual motion by the breeze upon it, was down to the bottom.
And the curtain bulged at its highest part, thus affording a pleasant
spectacle from which a man could scarcely tear himself away.
construction of the altar was in keeping with the place itself, and with the
burnt offerings which were consumed by fire on it, and the approach to it was on
a similar scale.
7. There was
a gradual slope up to it conveniently arranged for the purpose of decency, and
the ministering priests were robed in linen garments down to the ankles.
temple faces the east, and the whole of the floor is paced with stones, and
slopes down to the appointed places so that the water might run off that washes
the blood from the sacrifices.
thousands of beasts were sacrificed there on the feast days, and there is an
inexhaustible supply of water because an abundant natural spring gushes up from
within the temple area.
were also marvelous underground cisterns at a distance of five furlongs all
around the site of the temple, and each of them had many pipes so that the
different streams converged together.
11. And all
this was fastened with lead at the bottom and at the walls over which was much
plaster, all this work had been carried out most carefully.
base of the altar were many openings that were invisible except to those who
ministered there so that all the blood of the sacrifices, which comes in great
quantity, is washed away in the twinkling of an eye.
13. Such is
my opinion with regard to the character of the reservoirs, and I will now show
you how it was confirmed.
14. They led
me more than four furlongs outside the city and bade me to look towards a
certain spot, and listen to the noise that was made by the waters as they
converged there, which manifested to me the great size of the reservoir.
ministry of the priests is in every way unsurpassed, both for its physical
endurance, and for its orderly and silent service, for they all work
spontaneously even though it entails much painful exertion, and each one has a
special task allotted to him.
service is carried on without interruption, some provide the wood, others the
oil, others the fine wheat flour, others spices, and again others bring the
pieces of flesh for the burnt offering showing a marvelous degree of strength.
17. For with
both hands they pick up the limbs of a calf each of them weighing more than two
talents, and throw them with each hand in a marvelous way on the high place of
the altar, and never miss placing them on the proper spot.
same way the pieces of the sheep and of the goats for their weight and their
fatness are marvelous, for they always select such as are without blemish and
specially fat, and so the sacrifice is carried out.
19. And there
is a special place set apart for the men to rest, relieving each other in duty,
when this takes place the rested one rise up spontaneously, for there is no-one
20. And the
silence is such that one might imagine that there was only a single person
present though there are in fact some seven hundred men engaged in the work,
besides the vast number who are occupied in bringing forth the sacrifices.
everything is carried out with reverence in a way worthy of the great God.
marveled greatly when we saw Eleazar in his ministry in the mode of his dress
and the majesty of his appearance, which was revealed in his robe, which he
wore, and the precious stones on his person.
were golden bells on the garment which reached down to his feet giving forth a
peculiar kind of melody, and on both sides of them were pomegranates with
variegated flowers of a wonderful hue.
24. He was
girded with a girdle of conspicuous beauty woven in the most beautiful colors.
And on his breast he wore the oracle of God, as it is called, on which
twelve stones of different kind were inset.
25. They were
fastened together with gold containing the names of the leaders of the tribes
according to their order each one flashing forth in an indescribable way each
its own particular color.
26. On his
head he wore a tiara, as it is called, and on this in the middle of his forehead
an inimitable turban, the royal diadem full of glory with the name of God
inscribed in sacred letters on a plate of gold - having been judged worthy to
wear these in the ministry.
appearance created such awe and confusion of mind as to make one feel that one
had come in the presence of a man who belonged to a different world.
convinced that any one that takes part in the spectacle which I have described,
will be filled with astonishment and wonder, and be profoundly affected in his
mind at the thought of the sanctity which is attached to each detail of the
order that we might gain complete information we ascended to the summit of the
neighboring citadel and looked around us. It
is situated in a very lofty spot and is fortified with many towers, which to the
very top are built-up with immense stones.
The object of which was, so we were informed, to guard the temple
30. So that
if there were an attack, or an insurrection, or an onslaught of the enemy, no
one would be able to force an entrance within the walls that surround the
31. On the
towers of the citadel engines of war of different kinds were placed - the
position of which was higher that the circle of the walls which I have
towers also were guarded by most trusty men who had given the utmost proof of
loyalty to their country, and these men were not allowed to leave the citadel
except on feast-days and then only in detachments, nor did they permit any
stranger to enter it.
33. They also
were very careful when any command from the chief came to admit any visitor to
inspect the place as our own experience also taught us.
34. For they
were very reluctant to admit us - though we were only two unarmed men - to view
the offering of the sacrifices.
35. And they
asserted that they were bound by an oath, for they all had sworn and were bound
to carry out the oath to the letter, and though they were 500 in number they
would not permit more than 5 men to enter at any one time.
citadel was the special protection of the temple and its founder had fortified
it so strongly as to effectively protect it.
size of the city is moderate in dimensions, is as far as one could conjecture,
about forty furlongs in circumference.
its towers arranged in the shape of a theater with thoroughfares leading between
them with the crossroads of the lower towers visible, but those of the upper
towers are more used.
ground ascends since the city is built on a mountain, and there are steps
leading up to the crossroads, and people are always going up on them while
others go down on them.
4. And they
keep as far apart from the other as possible on the road because of the rules of
purity, lest they should touch anything, which is unlawful.
not without reason that the original founders of the city built it in due
proportions for they possessed clear insight with regard to what was required.
country is extensive and beautiful, some parts of it are level, especially in
the districts of Samaria which borders on the land of the Idumeans, other parts
are mountainous - those regions which are contiguous to the land of Judea.
people therefore are bound to devote themselves to agriculture and cultivation
of the soil that by this means they may have plentiful supply of crops.
way cultivation of every kind is carried on and an abundant harvest reaped in
the whole of the land.
cities, which are large and enjoy a corresponding prosperity, are well
populated, but they neglect the country district since all men are inclined to a
life of enjoyment, for everyone has a natural tendency towards the pursuit of
10. The same
thing happened in Alexandria, which excels all cities in size and prosperity,
country people by migration from the rural districts and settling in the city
brought agriculture into disrepute.
11. And so to
prevent them from settling in the city the king issued orders that they should
not stay in it for more than twenty days.
the same way he gave the judges written instructions that if it was necessary to
issue a summons against anyone who lived in the country - the case must be
settled within five days.
he considered the matter of great importance he appointed legal officers for
every district with their assistants that the farmers and their advocates might
not in the interest of business empty the granaries of the city, I mean of the
produce of the husbandry.
permitted this discretion because it was Eleazar who pointed out with great
clarity the points, which have been mentioned.
the energy spend on the tillage of the soil is great, and the land is thickly
planted with multitudes of olive trees, and with crops of corn and pulse, and
with vines and there is an abundance of honey.
kind of fruit trees and dates do not count in comparison with these, and there
is cattle of all kinds in great quantity and a rich pasture for them.
they rightly recognize that the country district needs a large population, and
the relation between the city and the villages are properly regulated.
18. A great
quantity of spices and precious stones and gold is brought into the country by
the Arabs. For the country is well
adapted not only for agriculture but also for commerce, and the city is rich in
the arts and lacks none of the merchandise which is brought across the sea.
has suitable harbors for commodities at Askalon, Joppa, and Gaza, as well as at
Ptolemais, which was founded by the king and holds a central position compared
with the other places and being not far from them.
country produces everything in abundance since it is well watered in all
directions and well protected from storms.
21. The river
Jordan, as it is called, which never runs dry, flows through the land, and
originally the country contained not less than 60 million acres, though
afterwards the neighboring peoples made incursions against it, and 600.000 men
were settled on it in farms of a hundred acres each.
river, like the Nile, rises in harvest time and irrigates a large portion of the
land, and near the district of Ptolemais issues another river, which flows out
into the sea.
23. The other
mountain torrents flow down into the plain and compass the parts around Gaza and
the district of Ashdod.
country is encircled by a natural fence and difficult to attack and cannot be
assailed by large forces owing to the narrow passes with their overhanging
precipices and deep ravines and the rugged character of the mountain regions,
which surround all the land.
told that from the neighboring mountains of Arabia copper and iron were formerly
obtained, but this was stopped at the time of the Persian rule.
authorities of the time spread the false report that the working of the mines
was useless and expensive. And in
order to prevent their country from being destroyed by that mining in these
districts and possibly taken from them owing to the rule of the Persians, so by
this false report they found an excuse to enter the district.
27. I have
now my dear brother Philocrates given you the essential information on this
subject in brief; I shall now describe the work of the translation in the
priest selected men of the finest character and the highest culture, such as one
would expect from their noble parentage.
were men who had not only acquired proficiency in Jewish literature but had most
carefully studied that of the Greeks as well.
30. They were
specially qualified for serving on embassies, and they undertook this duty
whenever it is needed, and they were well able in conferences and the
discussions of problems connected with the law.
espoused the middle course, and this is always the best course to pursue, they
abjured the rough and uncouth manner, but were above pride and never assumed an
air of superiority over others, and in conversation were ready to listen and
give an appropriate answer to every question.
all carefully observed this rule and were anxious above everything else to excel
each other in observing the same.
33. And one
could observe how they loved Eleazar by their unwillingness to be torn away from
him, and how he loved them. For
besides the letter, which he wrote to the king concerning their safe return, he
also earnestly besought Andreas to work for the same end and urged me too to
assist to the best of my ability.
although we promised to give our best attention to the matter, he said that he
was still greatly distressed. For
he knew that the king out of the goodness of his nature considered it his
highest privilege that whenever he heard of a man who was superior to his
fellows in culture and wisdom to summon him to his court.
have heard of a fine saying of his to the effect that by securing just and
prudent men around his person - he would secure the greatest protection for his
kingdom since such friends would unreservedly give him the most beneficial
men who were now being sent to him by Eleazar undoubtedly possessed these
qualities. And he frequently
asserted on an oath that he would never let the men go if it were merely some
private interest of his own that constituted the impelling motive.
was for the common advantage of all the citizens that he was sending them, for
he explained; the good life consist in keeping of the law, and this end is
achieved much more by hearing than by reading.
and similar statements it was clear what his feelings towards them was.
is worthwhile to briefly mention the information, which he gave in reply to our
suppose that most people feel a curiosity with regard to some of the enactment
in the law, especially those about meats and drinks and animals recognized as
asked; why, since there is but one form of creation come animals are recognized
as unclean for eating, and others unclean even to the touch, he began his reply
observe what effect the modes of our life and our association produce upon us,
by associating with the bad men catch their depravities and become miserable
throughout their life, but if they live with the wise ad prudent they find the
means to escape from ignorance amending their lives.
Lawgiver first of all laid down the principle, of piety and righteousness and
inculcated them point by point, not merely by prohibitions but by the use of
examples as well demonstrating the injuries effect of sin and the punishment
afflicted by God upon the guilty.
proved first of all that there is only One God, and that His power is manifested
throughout the universe since every place is filled with His sovereignty and
none of the things which are wrought in secret by me, on the earth escapes His
that a man does, and all that is to come in the future are manifest to Him, and
working out these truths carefully and having made it plain;
that even if a man should think of doing evil to say nothing of even affecting
it he would not escape detection, for He made it clear that the power of God
pervaded the whole of the law.
from this starting-point He went on to show that all mankind except ourselves
believe in the existence of many gods - though themselves they are more powerful
than the things which they vainly worship.
they have made statues of stone and wood - they say that they are an image of
those who have invented something useful for life - and they worship them,
although they have clear proof that they possess no feeling.
would be utterly foolish to suppose that any one became a god by virtue of his
inventions. For the inventors
simply took certain objects already created, and by combing them together showed
that they possessed a fresh utility.
not themselves create the substance of the thing, and so it is a vain and
foolish thing for people to make gods of men like themselves.
our times there are many who are much more inventive and much more learned than
the men of former days who have deified and yet they would never come to worship
makers and authors of these myths think that they are the wisest of the Greeks,
and why speak of other infatuated people, snob such as the Egyptians and the
their reliance on wild beast and most kinds of creeping things and cattle, and
worship them and offer sacrifices to the dead or alive.
lawgiver (Moses) being a wise man and especially endowed by God to understand
all things, took a comprehensive view of each particular detail and fenced us
round about with impregnable ramparts and walls of iron that we might not mingle
at all with any of the other nations but remain pure in body and soul, free from
all vain imaginations worshipping the One Almighty God above the whole creation.
17. Hence the
leading Egyptian priests having looked carefully into many matters and being
cognizant with our affairs, call us men of God.
This is a
title, which does not belong to the rest of mankind, but only to those who
worship the true God. The rest are
men not of God, but of meats and drinks and clothing.
whole disposition leads them to find solace in these things, and thus are
reckoned of no account but to these things.
among our people their main consideration is the sovereignty of God, therefore,
lest we be corrupted by any abomination, or our lives be perverted by evil
communication, He hedged us round about on all sides by rules of purity
affecting alike what we eat, drink, touch, hear, or see.
though speaking generally all things are alike in their constitution since they
are all governed by one the same power, yet there is a deep reason in each
individual case why we abstain from the use of certain things and enjoy the
common use of others.
of illustration I will run over one or two points and explain them to you.
For you must not fall into the degrading idea that it was out of regard
for mice and weasels and other such things that Moses drew up his laws with such
ordinances were made for the sake of righteousness to aid the quest for virtue
and the perfecting of character.
the birds that we use are tame and distinguished by their cleanliness feeding on
various kind of grain and pulse, such as for instance pigeons, turtledoves,
locust, partridges, and geese also and other birds of this class.
25. But the
birds, which are forbidden you, will find to be wild and carnivorous tyrannizing
over others by the strength, which they possess obtaining food by cruelty
preying on the tame birds.
26. And not
only so, but they seize lambs and kids and injure human beings too whether dead
or alive, and so by naming them unclean he gave a sign by means of them that
those for whom the legislation was ordained must practice righteousness in their
27. And not
tyrannize over anyone in reliance on their own strength nor rob them of
anything, but steer their course of life in accord with justice just as the tame
birds consume the different kind of pulse that grows on the earth and not
tyrannize to the destruction of their own kindred.
Legislator taught us therefore that it is by such methods as these that
indications are given to the wise that they might be just and effect nothing by
violence, and refrain from tyranny over others relying on their own strength.
it is unseemly to even touch such unclean animals as have been mentioned on
account of their particular habit, ought we not take every precaution lest our
own characters be destroyed to the same extend?
all the rules which He laid down with regard to what is permitted in the case of
these animals, He acted with the object to teach us a moral lesson.
division of the hoof and the separation of the claws are intended to teach us
that we must discriminate between our individual actions with a view to
32. For the
strength of our whole body and its activity depend on our shoulders and limbs,
therefore He compels us to recognize that we must perform all our actions with
discrimination according to the standard of righteousness - and that especially
since we are distinctly separated from the rest of mankind.
33. For most
other men defile themselves by adulterous intercourse thereby working great
iniquity, and whole countries and cities pride themselves on such vices.
34. For they
not only have intercourse with men, but they defile their own mothers and even
their daughters, but we have been kept separate from such sins.
35. And the
people who have been separated are also characterized by the Lawgiver as
possessing the gift of memory, for all animals which are cloven footed and chew
the cud - represent the initiated symbol of memory.
36. For the
act of chewing the cud is nothing else than the reminiscence of life and
existence, for life is wont to be sustained by means of food, wherefore He also
exhorts us in the scriptures saying;
37. You shall
surely remember the Lord who wrought in you these great and marvelous things.
For when they are properly conceived they are manifestly great and
the construction of the body and the disposition of the food and the separation
of each individual limb. And again
the organization of the senses, the operation of the invisible movement of the mind,
the speed of its actions and its discovery of the arts displaying also an
He exhorts us to remember that these said parts are kept together by the divine
power with consummate skill.
40. For He
has marked out both time and place that we may continually remember the God who
rules and preserves us.
the matter of meats and drinks He bid us first of all to offer parts as a
sacrifice, and then forthwith enjoy our meat.
upon our garments he has given us a symbol of remembrance, and in like manner He
has ordered us to put the divine oracles on our gates and doors as a remembrance
43. And upon
our hands also He expressly orders the symbol to be fastened, clearly showing
that we ought to perform every act in righteousness remembering our own
creation, and above all the fear of God.
men also when lying down to sleep and rising up again - to meditate upon the
works of God, and not only in word, but by distinctly observing the change and
impression produced on them when they are going to sleep.
And also their waking how divine and incomprehensive the change from one
of these states is to the other.
Excellency of the analogy in regard to discrimination and memory has now been
pointed out to you, according to the interpretation of the cloven foot and the
chewing of the cud.
46. For our
laws have not been drawn up at random or in accord with the first casual thought
that occurred to the mind, but with a view to truth and the indication of right
47. For by
means of the direction, which He gives with regard to meats and drinks and
particular cases of touching - He bids us neither to do nor listen to anything
thoughtlessly, nor to resort to injustice by the abuse of the power of reason.
case of the wild animals too the same principle may be discovered, for the
character of the weasel and of mice and such animals as these, which were
mentioned, is destructive.
defile and damage everything, not only for their own food, but even to the
extend of rendering absolutely useless to man whatever falls in their way to
50. The class
of weasels too is peculiar, for besides what has been said, it has a characteristic
which is defiling it conceives through the ears and brings forth
through the mouth.
51. And it is
for this reason that a like practice is declared unclean in men, for by
embodying in speech all that they receive through the ears they involve others
in evils and work no ordinary impurity, being altogether defiled themselves by
the pollution of impiety.
52. And your
king, as we are informed, does quite right in destroying such men.
53. Then I
said; I suppose you mean the informers, for he constantly exposes them to
tortures and to painful forms of death.
54. Yes, he
replied, these are the men I mean, for to watch for men's destruction is an
unholy thing, and our law forbids us to injure anyone either by word or deed.
55. My brief
account of these matters ought to have convinced you that all our regulations
have been drawn up with a view to righteous-ness, and that nothing has been
enacted thoughtlessly in the scriptures or without due reason.
56. But its
purpose is to enable us throughout our whole life and in all our actions to
practice righteousness before all men, being mindful of Almighty God.
57. And so
concerning meats and things unclean, creeping things, and wild beasts, the whole
system aims at righteousness and righteous relationships between man and man.
to me to have made a good defense on all of the points, for in reference also to
the calves and rams and goats which are offered.
that it was necessary to take them from the herds and flocks and sacrifice tame
animals and offer nothing wild that the persons offering the sacrifices might
understand the symbolic meaning of the Lawgiver, and not be under the influence
of an arrogant self-consciousness.
who offers a sacrifice also makes an offering of his own soul in all of its
after offering the sacrifice and selecting the envoys and preparing many gifts
for the king, dispatched us on our journey in great security.
we reached Alexandria the king was at once informed of our arrival.
And on our admission to the palace Andreas and I warmly greeted the king
and handed to him the letter written by Eleazar.
was very anxious to meet the envoys and gave orders that all the other officials
should be dismissed, and the envoys summoned to his presence at once.
This now exited general surprise, for it is customary for those who come
to seek an audience with the king on matters of importance, to be admitted to
fifth day while envoys from kings, or very important cities with difficulty -
secure admission to the court in thirty days. But these men were counted worthy of greater honor since he
held their Master in such great esteem, and so he immediately dismissed those
whose presence he regarded superfluous and continued walking about until they
came in and he was able to welcome them.
they entered with the gifts, which had, been sent with them and the valuable
parchments on which the law was inscribed in gold in Jewish characters.
For the parchment was wonderfully prepared, and the connection between
the pages had been so effected as to be invisible, the king as soon as he saw
them began to ask them about the books.
they had taken the rolls out of their coverings and unfolded the pages, the king
stood still for a long time, and making obeisance about seven times, he said;
you my friends, and I thank him that sent you still more, and most of all God
whose oracles these are
8. And when
all the envoys and the others who were present shouted out, God save the king,
he burst into tears of joy.
exaltation of soul, and the sense of the overwhelming honor which had been paid
him compelled him to weep over his good fortune.
commanded them to put the rolls back in their places, and after saluting the men
he said. It was right men of God
that I should first of all pay my reverence to the books for the sake of which I
summoned you here, and then extend you the right-hand of friendship.
for that reason that I did this first, I have enacted that this day on which you
arrived shall be kept as a great day, and it will be celebrated annually
throughout my lifetime.
so happens that it is the anniversary of my naval victory over Antigonus,
therefore I shall be glad to feast with you today.
that you may have occasion to use shall be prepared for you in a fitting manner,
and for me with you.
after they had expressed their delight, he gave orders that the best quarters
near the citadel should be assigned to them, and that preparations be made for
Nicanor summoned the high steward Dorotheus, who was the special officer
appointed to look after the Jews, and commanded him to make the necessary
preparation for each one.
16. For this
arrangement had been made by the king and it is the arrangement, which you see
maintained to this day.
17. For as
many cities as have special customs in the matter of drinking eating and
reclining, so special officers are appointed
whenever they come to visit the kings the preparations are made in accordance
with their own customs in order that there may be no discomfort to disturb the
enjoyment of their visit.
19. The same
precaution was taken in the case of the Jewish envoys.
And Dorotheus, who was the patron appointed to look after Jewish guests,
was a very conscientious man.
20. All the
stores, which were under his control and set apart for the reception of such
guests - he brought out for the feast.
arranged the seats in two rows according with the king's instructions, for he
had ordered him to make half the men sit at his right hand, and the rest behind
him in order that he might not withhold from them the highest possible honor.
22. And when
they had taken their seats he instructed Dorotheus to carry out everything in
accord with the customs, which were in use among his Jewish guests.
therefore dispensed with the services of the sacred heralds and the sacrificing
priests and the others who were accustomed to offer the prayers, and instead
called on one of us namely Eleazar the oldest, to offer prayer.
24. And he
rose and made a remarkable prayer saying; May Almighty God enrich you O king
with all the good things which He has made, and may He grant you and your wife
and your children and comrades the continual possession of them as long as you
words a loud and joyous applause broke out which lasted for a while, then they
turned to the enjoyment of the banquet.
26. Among the
attendants now were the royal pages and others who held places of honor at the
king's court, and taking an opportunity afforded by a pause the king asked the
envoy how he could keep the kingdom unimpaired to the end.
pondering for a moment he replied; You can best establish its security by
imitating the unceasing benignity of God, for if you exhibit clemency and
inflict mild punishment on those who deserve them according to their deeds - you
will turn them from their evil and lead them to repentance.
then praised the answer and asked the next man, how he could do everything for
the best in all his actions.
man replied; If a man maintains a just bearing towards all he will always act
rightly on every occasion remembering that every thought is known to God, if you
take the fear of God as your starting point you will never miss the goal.
then complimented this man also on his answer and asked another how he could
have friends like minded with himself?
31. And he
replied if they see you study the interest of the multitude over which you rule
- you will do well to observe how God bestows His benefit on the human race
proving for them health, food, and other things in due season.
expressing his agreement with the reply, the king asked the next guest; how in
giving audience and passing judgment he could gain the praise even of those who
failed to win their suit?
said; If you are fair in speech to all alike, and never act insolently nor
tyrannically in your treatment of offenders, and if you watch the method by
which God acts to wit;
petitions of the worthy are always fulfilled, while those who fail to obtain an
answer to their prayer are informed by means of dreams or events of what was
harmful in their request. And that
God does not smite them according to their sins or the greatness of His
strength, but acts with forbearance towards them.
praised him warmly for his answer and asked the next in order, how he could be
invincible in military affairs.
36. And he replied; If he did not trust entirely on his multitudes or his warlike forces, but called continually on God to bring his enterprise to a success, while he himself discharged all his duties in the spirit of justice.
his answer he asked another how he might become an object of dread to his
replied; If while maintaining a vast supply of arms and forces he remembered
that these things were powerless to achieve a permanent and conclusive result,
for God instills fear into the minds of men by granting reprieves, and by making
a display of His power.
39 The king
then praised this man, and said to the next; what is the highest good in life?
answered, to know that God is Lord of the universe, and that in our finest
achievements it is not we who attain success but God who by His power brings all
things to fulfillment and leads us.
exclaimed that the man had answered well, then asked the next how he could keep
all his possessions intact and finally hand them down to his successors in the
42 And he
answered; by continually praying to God that you may be inspired with high
motives in all your undertakings, and by warning your descendants not to be
dazzled by fame or wealth, for it is God who bestows all these gifts, and men
never by themselves win the supremacy.
expressed his agreement with the answer and inquired of the next quest; how he
could bear with equanimity whatever befell him?
said; If you have a firm grasp of the thought that all men are appointed by God
to share the greatest evil as well as the greatest good, since it is impossible
for he who is man to be exempt from these, but God to whom we ought always pray
inspires us with courage to endure.
with the man's reply, the king said that all their answers had been good, and I
will put a question to one other, so he added, and then stop for the present
that we may turn our attention to the enjoyment of the feast and spend a
asked the man; what is the true dim of courage? And he answered;
right plan is carried out in the hour of danger in accord with the original
intention, for all things are accomplished by God to your advantage 0 king since
your purpose is good.
all had signified their agreement to the answer by applause, the king said to
the philosophers. It is my opinion
that these men excel in virtue and possess extra ordinary knowledge, since on
the spur of the moment they gave fitting answers to these questions, and all
have made God their starting point.
Menedemus, the philosopher of Eretria, said; True 0 king, for since the universe
is managed by providence, and since we rightly perceive that man is the creation
of God, it follows that all our power and beauty of speech proceeds from God.
50. When the
king had nodded his assent to this sentiment, the speaking ceased and they
proceeded to enjoy themselves, the banquet coming to an end that evening.
the following day they sat down to the table again and continued the banquet
according to the same arrangements.
the king thought that a fitting opportunity had arrived to put inquiries to his
guests he proceeded to ask further questions of the men who sat next.
3. And he began to open the conversation with the eleventh man, and silence having been established, he asked; how he could continue to be rich?
4. After a
brief reflection the man who been asked the question replied.
If he did nothing unworthy of his position, never acted deceitfully never
lavishly expended on empty and vain pursuits, but by benevolence made all his
subjects well disposed towards himself, for it is God who is the Author of all
good things, and man must needs obey Him.
5. The king
then bestowed praise on him and asked another how he could maintain the truth?
to the question he said; By recognizing that a lie brings great disgrace on all
men, and more especially on kings, for they have the power to do whatever they
wish, why thus should they resort to lies?
addition to this you must always remember O king that God is a lover of the
8. The king
received this answer with great delight, and looking at another said; what is
the teaching of wisdom?
9. And the
man replied; As you wish that no evil should fall on you but to partake of good
things - so you should act on the same principle towards your subjects and
offenders, and mildly admonish the noble and good, for God draws all men to
Himself by His benignity.
10. The king
praised him and asked the next in order, how he could be the friend of men?
11. And he
replied, by observing how the human race increases and is born with much trouble
and suffering. Wherefore you must
not lightly punish or inflict torment on them, since you know that the life of
men is made up of pain and penalties. For
if you understood everything you would be filled with pity, for God also is
12. The king
received the answer with approbation and inquired of the next; what is the most
essential qualification for ruling?
one-self free from bribery and to practice sobriety during the greater part of
one's life, so he answered, and to honor righteousness above all things, and to
make friends with men of that kind, for God also is a lover of justice.
signified his approval the king said to another; what is the true mark of Piety?
replied; To perceive that God constantly works in the universe and knows all
things, and no man who acts unjustly and that works wickedness can escape His
notice, as God is the benefactor of the whole world, so you too must imitate Him
and be void of offenses
signified his agreement and said to another; what is the essence of kingship?
replied, to rule one-self well and not to be led astray by wealth or fame or
immoderate or unseemly desires, for all one really needs is his own.
For again, God is free of need and at the same time benign, let your
thoughts thus be such as become a man, and desire not many things but only such
as are necessary for ruling.
praised him and asked another, how his deliberations might be for the best?
replied; if he constantly set justice before him in everything, and realizes
that injustice is equal to the depravation of life, for God always promises the
highest blessings to the just.
praised him the king asked the next, how he could be free from disturbing
thoughts in his sleep?
replied; You have asked me a question which is very difficult to answer, for we
cannot bring our true selves into play during the hours of sleep, but are held
in these imaginations which cannot be controlled by reason.
22. For our
souls possess the feeling that they actually see the things that enter into our
consciousness during sleep. But we
make a mistake if we suppose that we are actually sailing on the sea in boats,
or flying through the air, or traveling to other regions or anything else of the
kind, and yet we actually do imagine such things to be taking place.
So far as
it is possible for me to decide I have reached the following conclusion.
You must in every possible way O king govern your word and actions by the
rule of piety that you may have the consciousness that you are maintaining
virtue and that you never choose to gratify yourself at the expense of reason,
and never by abusing your power to despite righteousness.
mind is busy in sleep mostly with the same things with which it is occupied
while it is awake. And he who has
all his thoughts and actions set towards the noblest ends establishes himself in
righteousness both when he is awake and when he is asleep, wherefore you must be
steadfast in self-discipline.
then bestowed praise on the man and said to another; Since you are the tenth to
speak, when you have spoken we will devote ourselves to the banquet, then he put
the question; How can I avoid doing anything unworthy of myself?
replied; Look always to your own fame and your own supreme position that you may
speak and think only such things as are consistent therewith, knowing that all
your subjects think and talk about you.
must not appear to be worse than the actors who study carefully the role which
is necessary for them to play and shape all their actions in accordance with it.
You on the contrary are not acting a part, but truly are a king since God
bestowed on you a royal authority in keeping with your character.
king had loudly applauded in a most gracious way the guests were urged to seek
repose, so when the conversation ceased, they devoted themselves to the next
course of the feast.
following day the same arrangement was observed, and the king finding an
opportunity of putting questions to the men he questioned the first; what is the
highest form of government?
replied, to govern one-self, and not to be carried away by impulses.
For all men possess a certain natural bent of mind, it is probable that
most men have an inclination towards food and drink and pleasure.
And kings bent towards the acquisition of territory and great renown, but
it is good that there should be moderation in all things.
gives that you must take and keep, but never yearn for things that are beyond
pleased with these words the king asked the next man; how he could he free of
33. And after
a brief pause he replied. If you
consider first of all that it is God who bestows on all kings their glory and
great wealth, and that no-one is king by his own power, for all men wish to
share this glory but cannot since it is the gift of God.
34. The king
praised the man in a long speech and then asked another, How he could despise
replied; if you show kindness to all men and win their friendship you need fear
no one, to be popular with all men is the best of good gifts to receive from
praised his answer the king ordered the next man to reply to the question how he
could maintain his great renown.
replied; that if you are generous and large hearted in bestowing kindness and
acts of grace on others - you will never lose your renown, but if you wish these
graces to continue you must call upon God continually.
expressed his approval and asked the next; to whom ought a man to show
replied; All men acknowledge that we ought to show liberality to those who are
well disposed towards us. But I
think that we ought to show the same keen spirit of generosity to those who are
opposed to us that by this means we might win them over to the right, and to
what is of advantage to ourselves.
must pray to God that this may be accomplished, for He rules the minds of all
men. And having expressed his
approval the king asked the next; to whom ought we to exhibit gratitude?
our parents, for God has given us a most important commandment regarding honor
due to parents, and He reckons the attitude of friend towards friend, for He
speaks of a friend as "Thy own soul." Thus you do well to try to bring all men into friendship with
asked the next; what is it that resembles beauty in value?
Piety, for it is the pre-eminent form of beauty, and its power lies in love
which is the gift of God, this you have already acquired and with it all the
blessings of life.
applauded the answer and asked another, How if he were to fail, he could regain
his reputation again in the same degree?
45. Reply; It
is not possible for you to fail, for you have sown in all men the seeds of
gratitude which produces a harvest of goodwill, and this is mightier than the
strongest weapon and guarantees the greatest security.
any man does fail, he must never again do these things which caused his failure,
but form friendship and act justly, for it is the gift of God to be able to do
good actions and not the contrary.
with these words, the king asked another, How he could be free from grief?
48. Reply, If
he never injure anyone, but did well to everyone and followed the path of
righteousness since its fruit brings freedom from grief.
49. But we
must pray to God that unexpected evils such as death or disease or pain or any
such kind may not come on us to injure us.
But since you are devoted to piety no such misfortune will come on you.
50. The king
bestowed great praise on him and asked the next; what is the highest form of
51. Reply, To
honor God, and this is done not with gifts and sacrifices but with purity of
soul and holy conviction, since all things are fashioned and governed by God in
accord with His will. Of this
purpose we are in constant possession as all men can see from your achievements
in the past and present.
then greeted them kindly and those with him; also the philosophers expressed
approval, and proceeded to drink to the health of the guests.
the following day the same arrangements were made for the banquet, and the king
again sought an opportunity to question the men, and he said to the first; is
wisdom capable of being taught?
The soul is so constituted that it is able by divine power to receive all the
good and reject the contrary.
3. The king
expressed approval and asked the next man; What it is that is most beneficial to
Temperance, and it is not possible to acquire this unless God creates
disposition towards it.
then asked another; how can a man worthily pay his debt of gratitude to his
never causing them pain, and this is not possible unless God disposes the mind
to the pursuit of the noblest ends.
expressed agreement and asked the next, How he could become an eager listener?
8. Reply, By
remembering that all knowledge is useful because it enables you by the help of
God in a time of emergency to select things, which you have learned and apply
them to the crisis, which confronts you. And
so the efforts of men are fulfilled by the assistance of God.
praised him and asked the next, How he could avoid doing anything contrary to
you recognize that it is God who has put the thoughts into the hearts of
lawgivers that the lives of men might be preserved, you will follow them.
acknowledged the answer and asked the next; what is the advantage of kinship?
we consider that we ourselves are afflicted by misfortunes which fall on our
relatives, and if their suffering becomes our own - then the strength of kinship
is at once apparent. For it is only
when such feeling is shown that we shall win honor and esteem in their eyes.
13. For help,
when it is linked with kindliness is of itself a bond which is indissoluble, and
in a day of their prosperity we must not crave their possessions, but pray to
God to bestow all manner of good on them.
14. The king
then asked another. How he could
obtain freedom from fear?
When the mind is conscious that it has wrought no evil and when God directs it
to all noble counsels.
expressing his approval asked another, How he could always maintain a right
he constantly set before his eyes the misfortunes, which befall men, and
recognized that it is God who takes away prosperity from some and brings others
to great honor and glory.
king asked another, How he could avoid a life of ease and pleasure?
he remembered that he was the ruler of a great empire, and the lord of a vast
multitude, and that his mind ought not be occupied with other things but be
considered always how he could best promote their welfare, and pray to God that
no duty might be neglected.
bestowed praise, the king asked another, How he could recognize those who were
dealing treacherously with him?
he observed whether the bearing of those around him was natural, and if they
maintained proper precedence at receptions and councils.
And if in their course they did not go beyond the bounds of propriety in
congratulations or in other matters of deportment, but God will incline your
mind O king to all that is noble.
having expressed his approval they again turned to the enjoyment of the feast,
and on the next day the king asked the next man; what is the greatest neglect?
a man cares not for his children and devotes no effort to their education.
For we always pray to God not so much for ourselves as for our children
that every blessing may be theirs, and our desire that our children may possess
self-control is only realized by the power of God.
expressed that he had spoken well, and asked another, How he could be patriotic?
25. Reply; By
keeping the thought that it is good to live and die in one's own country,
residence abroad brings contempt on the poor, and shame on the rich as though
they had been banished for a crime. If
you bestow benefits on all, as you do, God will give you favor with all and you
will be accounted patriotic.
asked the next in order, How he could live amicably with his wife.
Reply; by recognizing that womankind are by nature headstrong and
energetic in their pursuit of their own desires.
And subject to sudden changes of opinion through fallacious reasoning,
and their nature is essentially weak.
necessary to deal wisely with them and not to provoke strife, because for the
successful conduct of life the steersman must know the goal toward which he
ought to direct his course. It is
only by calling on the help of God that men steer a true course of life at all
28. The king
expressed his approval and asked the next, How he could be free from error?
29. Reply; If
you always act with deliberation and not give credence to slanders, but prove
for yourself the things that are said to you, and decide by your own judgment
the requests which are made to you, and carry out everything in the light of
judgment. But O king, the
knowledge, and practice of these things is the work of the Divine power.
with these words the king asked another, How he could be free from wrath?
he recognized that he had power over all even to inflict death, and that if he
gave way to wrath that it would be useless and pitifully if he deprived many of
life just because he was lord over them.
would there be for wrath when all men were in subjection to him and none hostile
to him, for again it is necessary to recognize that God rules the whole world in
the spirit of kindness and without wrath, and you O king must need copy His
33. The king
said that he had answered well and inquired of the next; what is good counsel?
34. Reply; To
act well at all times and with due reflection, comparing what is advantageous to
what may be injurious in the opposite effect, in order that by weighing every
point we may be well advised and our purpose accomplished.
And most important - by the power of God your plans will find fulfillment
because you practice piety.
35. The king
said that this man had answered well and asked another; what is philosophy?
36. And he
explained, to deliberate well in reference to any question that emerges, and
never to be carried away by impulses, but to ponder over the injuries and
results from the passions, to act rightly as the circumstance demand practicing
moderation. We must however pray to
God to instill in our mind a regard for these things.
37. The king
signified his consent and asked another, How he could meet with recognition when
being fair to all men and by appearing to be inferior rather than superior to
those amongst whom he was traveling. For
it is a recognized principle that God by His very nature accepts the humble, and
the human race loves those who are willing to be in subjection to them.
his approval the king asked another; how he could build in such a way that his
structures would endure after him? 40
Reply; If his creations were on a great and noble scale so that the beholders
would spare them for their beauty, and if he never dismissed any of those who
wrought such works, and never compelled others to minister to his needs without
observing how God provides for the human race granting them health and mental
capacity and all other gifts, he himself should follow His example by rendering
to men a recompense for their arduous toil, for it is the deeds that wrought in
righteousness that abide continually.
said that this man too had answered well and asked the next; what is the fruit
That a man should be conscious in himself that he has done no evil, and that he
should live his live in the truth. Since
it is from these O mighty king that the greatest joy and steadfastness of soul
and strong faith in God accrue to you, if you rule your realm in piety.
having applauded the men they began to drink to their health, and on the next
day the king proceeded to question; how can a man keep himself from pride?
he maintains equality and on all occasions remembers that he is a man ruling
over men, and God brings the proud to nothing and exalts the meek and humble.
then asked the next; who ought a man to select as his counselors?
Those who have been tested in many affairs and maintain good-will towards him
and partake of his own disposition, and God manifests Himself to those who are
worthy that these ends might be attained.
then asked another; what is the most necessary possession for a king?
The friendship and love of his subjects, for it is through this that the bond of
goodwill is rendered firm, and it is God who ensures that this may come to pass
in accord with your wish.
then inquired of another; what is the goal of speech?
Reply, To convince your opponent by showing him his mistakes in an
well-ordered array of arguments.
50. For in
this way you will win your hearer, not by opposing him but by bestowing praise
on him with a view to persuading him, and it is by the power of God that
persuasion is accomplished.
another was asked; how he could live amicably with the many different races that
forms the population of his kingdom.
52. Reply, By
acting the proper part towards each, and taking righteousness as your guide, as
you are now doing with the help of the insight, which God bestows on you.
53. The king
then asked another; under what circumstances ought a man to suffer grief?
54. Reply, in
the misfortunes that befall our friends, when we see that they are irremediable.
For reason does not allow us to grieve for those that are dead and set
free from evil, but all men grieve over them because they think only of
themselves and their own advantage, it is by the power of God alone that we can
escape all evil.
55. The king
then asked another, how reputation is lost. Reply, When pride and self-confidence holds sway, for God is
the Lord of all reputation and bestows it where He will.
56. The king
asked the next man; to whom ought men to entrust themselves?
those who serve you from good-will and not from fear or self inter thinking only
of their own gain, for the one is the sign of love, the other the mark of ill
will and time-serving.
man who is always watching for his own gain is a traitor at heart, but you
possess the affection of all your subjects by the help of the good counsel which
God bestows on you.
59. The king
asked next, What is it that keeps a kingdom safe.
Reply, Care and forethought that no evil may be wrought by those who are
placed in a position of authority over the people, and this you always do by the
help of God who inspires you with grave judgment.
asking another, What is it that maintains gratitude and honor?
61. Reply; Virtue, for it is the creator of good deeds, and by it evil is destroyed, even as you exhibit nobility of character towards all by the gift which God bestows on you.
asked next; how he could in time of war maintain tranquility of soul?
remembering that he had done no evil to any of his subjects, and that all would
fight for him in return for the benefits which they had received knowing that if
they lose their lives you will care for those dependent on them.
For you never fail to make reparation to any, such is the kindheartedness
with which God has inspired you.
64. The king
then applauded all of them and spoke kindly and drank a long drink to the health
of each, and lavished the most joyous friendship on his guests.
the seventh day much more extensive preparations were made, and many others were
present from the different cities, many ambassadors.
2. And an opportunity having risen the king asked the first of those who had not yet been questioned, how he could avoid being deceived by fallacious reasoning?
carefully noticing the speaker, the thing spoken, and the subject under
discussion. And by putting the same
questions again after an interval of different forms, and to possess an alert
mind and to be able to form a sound judgment in every case- is one of the good
gifts of God, and you possess it O king.
applauded the answer and asked another; why is it that the majority of men never
Because all men are by nature intemperate and inclined to pleasures, hence
injustice springs up and a flood of avarice.
For the habit of virtue is a hindrance to those who are devoted to a life
of pleasure because it enjoins on them the preference of temperance and
righteousness for it is God who is the Master of these things.
king asked; what ought kings to obey? Reply;
The laws, in order that by righteous acts they may restore the lives of men,
even as you by such conduct in obedience to the divine command have laid in
store for yourself a perpetual memorial.
7. The king
asked the next; who ought we to appoint as governors?
All who hate wickedness and that imitate your conduct and act righteously that
they may maintain a good reputation, for this is what you do O king, and it is
God who has bestowed on you the crown of righteousness.
9. The king
then looking at the next man asked; who ought we to appoint as officers over our
Those who excel in courage and righteousness, and who are more anxious about the
safety of the men than to gain a victory by risking their lives through
rashness, for as God acts well towards all men. So you also in imitating Him are the benefactor of your
11. The king
asked the next man; what man is worthy of admiration?
The man who is furnished with reputation, wealth, and power who has a soul equal
to it, you show this in your actions that are worthy of admiration through the
help of God who makes you care for these things.
13. The king
then asked another; to what affairs ought kings to devote most of their time?
The reading and study of the records of official journals written in reference
to the various kingdoms with a view to the reformation and preservation of the
subjects. And it is by such
activity that you have attained to a glory, which has not been approached by
others with the help of God who fulfills your desires.
15. The next
man was then asked how a man ought to occupy himself during his hours of
relaxation and recreation?
watch those plays which can be acted with propriety and to set before one's eyes
scenes taken from life and enacted with dignity and decency.
is edification to be found even in these amusements, for some desirable lessons
is sometimes learned by the most insignificant affairs of life.
18. The king
asked the next; how ought a man to conduct himself at banquets?
You should summon to your side men of learning and those able to give useful
hints (and not flattery) with regard to the affairs of your kingdom and the
lives of your subjects.
inquired of the next; what is best for the people, if a private citizen should
be made king over them or a member of the royal family?
who by nature is best, for kings of royal lineage are often harsh towards their
subjects, an this be more so by some who rise from the ranks of private
22. But a
good nature which has been properly trained is capable of ruling, and you are a
great king, not so much because you excel in the glory of your rule and wealth,
but you surpass all men in clemency thanks to God who endowed you with these
23. Then the
king asked the next; what is the greatest achievement in ruling an empire?
That the subjects should continually dwell well in a state of peace, and that
justice should speedily be administered in cases of dispute.
results are achieved by the influence of rulers when they are men who hate evil
and love the good, devoting their energy to saving the lives of men just as you
consider injustice the worst form of evil.
And, by your just administration fashioned for yourself an undying
reputation since God bestows on you a mind, which is pure and untainted by evil.
26. A loud
applause then broke out, and the king took a cup and gave a toast in honor of
all his guests and the words they had spoken.
in conclusion he said; I have derived the greatest benefit from your presence, I
have profited much by the wise teaching which you have given me in reference to
the art of ruling.
28. Then he
ordered that three talents of silver be presented to each.
29. And all
shouted their approval and the banquet became a scene of joy while the king gave
himself up to a continual round of festivity.
written at length I crave your pardon Philocrates, I was astonished at the men,
and the way in which they on the spur of the moment gave answers which really
needed a long time to devise.
though the questioner had given great thought to each question, those who
replied had their answers ready at once.
3. And so it
seemed to me and to all who were present and especially to the philosophers to
be worthy of admiration.
4. And I
suppose that the thing will seem incredible to those who will read my narrative
in the future.
But it is
unseemly to misrepresent facts, which are recorded in the public archives.
would not be right for me to transgress in such a matter as this, I tell the
story just as it happened conscientiously avoiding any error.
I was so
impressed by the force of their utterances that I made an effort to consult
those whose business it was to make a record of all that happened at the royal
audiences and banquets.
For it is
the custom as you know, from the moment the king begins to transact business
until the time that he retires for a record to be taken, a most excellent and
9. For on
the following day the minutes of the previous day were read, and if there was
any irregularity the matter was at once corrected.
obtained accurate information from the public records, and I have set forth the
facts in proper order since I know how eager you are to obtain useful
days later Demetrius took the men and passing along the sea-wall, seven stadia
long, to the island, crossed the bridge and made for the northern district of
12. There he
assembled them in a house which had been built on the sea-shore, of great beauty
and in a secluded situation, and invited them to carry out the work of
translation since everything they needed was placed at their disposal.
13. So they
set to work comparing their several results and making them agree, and whatever
they agreed upon was suitably copied under the direction of Demetrius.
14. And the
session lasted until the ninth hour, after this they were free to minister to
their physical needs.
they wanted was furnished for them on a lavish scale, in addition to this
Dorotheus made the same preparations for them daily as were made for the king
himself, for thus had he been commanded by the king.
early morning they appeared daily at the court and giving a salutation to the
king they went back to their places.
And as is
the custom of the Jews, they washed their hands in the sea and prayed to God,
and then devoted themselves passage on which they were engaged, and I put the
question to them, why it was that they washed their hands before they prayed.
explained that it was a token that they had done no evil, since in their noble
and holy way they regard everything as a symbol of righteousness and truth.
And as I
have already said, they met together daily in the place, which was delightful
for its quiet and brightness, and applied themselves to their task.
happened that the work of translation was completed in seventy-two days just as
if it had been arranged by set purpose.
21. When the
work was completed Demetrius collected the Jewish population together in the
place where the translation had been made.
And read it over to all in the presence of the translators who met with a
great reception - also from the people because of the great benefits, which they
had conferred on them.
bestowed warm praise on Demetrius and urged him to have the whole law
transcribed and present a copy to their leaders.
books had been read the priests and elders of the translators and the Jewish
community and the leaders of the people stood up and said.
That since so excellent and sacred and accurate a translation had been
made, it was only right that it should remain as it was and no alteration should
be made in it.
24. And when
the whole community expressed their approval they bade them to pronounce a curse
in accord with their custom on anyone who should make any alteration either by
adding or changing in any way what had been written, or by omission.
a very wise precaution to ensure that the book might be preserved unchanged for
all future time.
26. When the
matter was reported to the king he rejoiced greatly for he felt that the design,
which he had formed, had safely been carried out.
book was read over to him and he was greatly astonished at the Spirit of the
said to Demetrius; how is it that none of the historians or the poets have ever
thought it worth their while to allude to such a wonderful achievement?
replied; because the law is sacred and of divine origin, and some of those who
formed the intention of dealing with it have been smitten by God and therefore
desisted from their purpose.
that he had heard from Theopompus that he had been driven out of his mind for
more than thirty days because he intended to insert in his history some of the
incidents from the earlier and somewhat unreliable translations of the law.
31. When he
had recovered a little he besought God to make it clear to him why the
misfortune had befallen him.
32. And it
was revealed to him in a dream, that from idle curiosity he was wishing to
communicate sacred truths to common men, and that if he desisted he would
recover his health.
also heard from the lips of Theodektes, one of the tragic poets that when he was
about to adopt some of the incidents recorded in the book for one of his plays
he was affected with cataracts in both his eyes.
34. And when
he perceived the reason he prayed to God for many days and was afterwards
king then had heard Demetrius he did homage and ordered that great care should
be taken of the books, and be sacredly guarded.
36 And he urged the translators to visit him frequently after their
return to Judea, for it was only right, he said, that he should now sent them
they came back, her would treat them as friends as was right, and they would
receive rich presents from him.
ordered preparations to be made for them to return home and treated them most
presented each one of them with three robes of the finest sort, two talents of
gold, a sideboard weighing one talent, and furniture for three couches.
39. And with
the escort he sent Eleazar ten couches with silver legs and all the necessary
equipment, and a sideboard worth thirty talents, ten robes and a magnificent
crown, a hundred pieces of the finest woven linen and also bowls and dishes and
two golden beakers to be dedicated to God.
urged him in a letter that if any of the men preferred to come back to him not
to hinder them.
counted it a great privilege to enjoy the society of such learned men, and he
would rather lavish his wealth on them than on vanities.
Philocrates you have the complete story in accord with my promise.
that you find greater pleasure in these matters than in the writing of the
are devoted to the study of those things which benefit the soul and spend much
time on it, I shall attempt to narrate whatever other events are worth recording
that by pursuing them you may secure the highest reward for your zeal.