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Was Josephus Flavius a Plagiarist?

Dr. Jonathan Schler, Head of the Department of Computer Sciences at HIT, received a three year grant from the ISF (Israel Science Foundation) for his research on: "The Writings of Nicholas of Damascus - Interpretation, Translation and Digital Analysis".

Dr. Schler

Dr. Jonathan Schler

The research is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Binder from the Department of History and Dr. Moshe Lavee from the Digital Humanities Research Laboratory, University of Haifa.

Studying ancient writings - understanding them and identifying the effects of the period during which they were written - is becoming more evident in the world of digital research. Innovative algorithms now make it possible to conduct in- depth research and achieve results that were heretofore inaccessible.

Dr. Schler explains: "The historian Josephus Flavius, who was one of the most important historians in the Roman Empire and the court scribe of the emperors, quoted Nicolaus of Damascus, a historian who preceded him, more than once in his writings.

A question arose as to whom to attribute parts of the Josephus scripts. The purpose of the study is to discover and identify the characteristics of the texts of Nicolaus and Flavius, and to pinpoint places within the scripts of Josephus which were seemingly copied.

What makes the research especially challenging is the fact that the scripts are in ancient Greek and very few scripts of Nicolaus are available for study and comparison. Not only will the research seek to distinguish between the original contributions of each of the authors, but also, will produce a Hebrew translation of Nicholas’s existing scripts".

During the research, algorithms will be developed that can read the texts and identify the foreign influences on Flavius' scripts using text analysis, machine learning and AI. The research belongs to the new emerging field of "digital humanities", and deals with the combination of different areas of knowledge in the humanities and the digital world.

Posted: 04/08/2022