Recovering Josephus: Mason’s History of the Jewish War and the Siege of Masada


  • Gwyn Davies Florida International University
  • Jodi Magness University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Masada, First Jewish Revolt agaimst Rome, Steve Mason, Roman siege, Josephs


In a recent book, Steve Mason presents an overview of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. Mason argues that Josephus’ testimony is unreliable and incomplete, and therefore cannot form a basis for reconstructing events which unfolded in Judea and Rome two thousand years ago.  Instead, according to Mason, any one of a number of scenarios not presented by Josephus could equally likely have occurred.  One episode that Mason discusses at length is Josephus’ account of the siege and fall of Masada.  In this paper, we test Mason’s post-modern literary approach to Josephus through one case study: the siege of Masada, focusing in particular on the assault ramp.  We believe that an empirical analysis of the archaeological remains supports Josephus’ testimony and allows considerable confidence in its essential accuracy over alternative scenarios as proposed by Mason.