#9 Josephus, Do You Really Want to Die?

The Romans were at the entry of the cave. Josephus and his 39 comrades were trapped. The siege of Yodfat wasn’t going well for Jewish forces.

They were too proud for being captured, so they decided to kill themselves.

But the killing was going to happen by lot.

The story diverges here from source to source, but the most common one says that starting from a man, they were going to count by three each time, and every third was going to be killed by the hand of the next one till one man is left, then the last survivor would suicide. The faith was going to decide who dies next.

Well, that’s what Josephus told the others. Apparently, he calculated who would be left as last two people, and placed him and his friend as 31th and 16th, and when only they were left, they surrendered to the Romans saving their lives.

The interesting part of the event was that, mathematicians found this problem amusing, and produced lots of puzzles on top of it for centuries.

It is a known algorithm problem for computer scientists of today.

What happened to Josephus though? He was pardoned, then was used as a slave and interpreter. When the invading general Vespasian became the emperor, he became advisor to his son, who will become the next emperor, Titus. He even got Roman citizenship later.

He wrote books about Jewish history, giving important information about the area, since he knew it well.

Quite a win for the humanity rather than just dying right?

Well… His friends did not think the same though, his works were banned from being translated to Hebrew for a long time.



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