This article examines certain types of narrative from rabbinical sources and how they relate both to forms of social life and to expectations of Greco-Roman narrative, genre, and normativity. It situates them within the context of the writings of Hellenistic Judaism and to the adoption of Greco-Roman models by what becomes the dominant religious authority of the Christians. It also explores the particularity of the textual world of the Talmud as an issue of the construction and performance of subjectivity and concludes by highlighting the importance of the connection between narrative and lived experience for rabbinical writing and for the construction of the subject’s positionality within it. It argues that the Talmud reveals a defeated national group reforming its community in interaction with—and often in fierce and fearful contention with and gestures of separation from—dominant Greco-Roman culture, and from other Jews, more assimilated to that dominant culture.
This article discusses the social history of the Jews. It determines the extent Jewish communities possessed an inner-Jewish social structure and looks at the social ties that existed between the local communities. Some notable Jewish historians like Martin Goodman and Ed P. Sanders provide some important insights into the social relations of the Jews. The article also looks at the extent Jews were socially integrated into their different environments. The history and geography of the Jews, along with the different social problems that they faced, are discussed.
Jan N. Bremmer
This chapter concentrates on influence from Anatolia, as illustrated by recent discoveries regarding the Luwian, Karian, and Lycian languages. These show the survival of various divinities of the Hittite and Luwian pantheon in Anatolia well into Hellenistic and Roman times. New discoveries have also shed light on the transmission of myths and rituals: the scapegoat ritual was transmitted from the Levant via southern Ionia to Athens and northern Ionia, whereas the myth of Kronos and the Titans reached Greece both via the sea route from the Levant and the land route of Anatolia. Scribes seem to have been the transmitters of mythological material, but travelling seers and ritual specialists the carriers of rituals. In some cases, as the cult of Adonis suggests, an influence via women cannot be excluded either. It ends with a brief study of the transmission of their lore to the Greeks by Persian magoi.
This chapter considers the representation of Heracles in the Argonautic narratives of Apollonius Rhodius and Theocritus, Idyll 13. Particular attention is paid to the importance to the subsequent tradition of the divine Heracles of Odyssey 11 and to how the model of Heracles became important for ruler cult and Ptolemaic ideology. The chapter considers Heracles’ relations with Hylas, both of them being lost to the Argonautic expedition on the outward voyage, and to Heracles’ difference from the other Argonauts; whereas the expedition is presented as a model of Greek solidarity and homonoia, Heracles is both a civilizer and benefactor of mankind and a difficult, solitary hero who does not easily embody communal values.
Both in the oikos and in public spaces the Greeks encountered numerous visualizations of the divine. If we look at various representations of Athena in Classical Athens it becomes clear that, even for famous statues, our knowledge of their contexts remains incomplete. Their provenience and visual appearance, as well as their role in ritual, are frequently not fully understood. This also applies to possible differences in their meanings: the widespread assumption of a distinction between cult images and dedications does not match ancient categories. The absence of any normative texts clarifying the relationship of gods to their images is not only due to the paucity of our sources, but also points to different functions the images had in different contexts. There was no ‘creed’, which asked the citizens of a polis to specify if, and in what sense, they regarded divine images as helpful in the creation of divine presence.
Heracles’ role as the father of Telephus involves significant elements for our understanding of the wider myth. The conception of Telephus is variously depicted as a “rape” or a “seduction” of Auge and starts a chain of events that portray Heracles as a caring father who rescues his abandoned child, providing a model for the Roman foundation myth. It also projects Heracles’ role in the First Trojan War into the Second. The story unfolds across several different locations in the Mediterranean, from Arcadia to king Teuthras’ kingdom in Mysia, and indicates Heracles’ role as a connecting figure for historical and cultural societies.
This chapter addresses the complex relationship of Augustine of Hippo with the tradition of classical rhetoric in which he had been educated and in which he excelled. It shows that, despite his ostentatious rejection of rhetoric in the Confessions, he never entirely abandoned the rhetorical precepts of Cicero, especially the principle that rhetoric should “teach, delight, and move” its audience. In Augustine’s advice to preachers, however, this Ciceronian triad was subsumed in the urgent need to communicate the word of God: immersion in Holy Scripture and a morally upright life could also be modes of communication. The chapter ends with an analysis of a specific sermon to show Augustine’s characteristic blend of the ideal and pragmatic in his forceful, direct preaching style. Parataxis, biblical quotation, direct address, dialogue with an imagined interlocutor—all are employed to move his congregation to action.
Diverse forms of religious practice coexisted in the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms. As well as Greek gods and cults imported by Greek settlers in the aftermath of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, local religious practices persisted. Within individual temples and sanctuaries, we often find multiple cult objects and forms of worship, and it seems likely that Greek and non-Greek gods were syncretized. This chapter uses epigraphic and numismatic evidence to explore the encounter of Greek religious practices with local Bactrian, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Hindu cults. It considers the multiplicity of cult practices at religious sites, the various names and meanings which might be attached to the same images and practices by different constituencies, and the political purposes for which religious imagery might be employed.
This chapter discusses the contrast frequently drawn in studies of ancient Greek religion between ritual practice and belief. It looks back, first, at the early history of this contrast, focusing in particular on the work of Robertson Smith (specifically his Lectures on the Religion of the Semites), and locates his evolutionary model of religion, his conception of how primitive religion shook off the ‘husk of material embodiment’, in his particular religious commitment. It then offers an analysis of the common objections to the use of the term ‘belief’ (articulated, in particular, by Rodney Needham and, within Classics, by Simon Price), and critiques recent discussions that have given some place to belief, but see it as penumbral to ritual action. Drawing then on an eclectic range of material (from philosophy as well as cognitive science of religion), the chapter articulates an alternative model of ‘belief’—and of the relationship with ritual practice—applicable to the study of Greek religion.
The stories about the birth and childhood of Heracles tell of a hero who has the potential to be a protector and savior for gods and men, but also the most uncivilized of beings. His supernatural strength is both a boon and a disaster in waiting: it allows him to face wild animals and other threats, but, coupled with his lack of self-control, it is also what makes him dangerous to mankind. Already as a child, Heracles is the hero who “contains his own antithesis”; the greatest of the Greek heroes—the only one who transcends his half-mortal status to become a god—is also the most savage and threatening to human institutions.
Most of Heracles’ parerga involve not mythological monsters but murderous humans or demigods famous for torturing and murdering travelers unfortunate enough to pass through their territories. Many of these antagonists, such as Cacus, Antaeus, and Cycnus, displayed their victims’ skulls as trophies. Such stories may echo headhunting rituals evidenced by archaeological finds from the Mesolithic through the early Iron Age. Heracles’ victories over these bloodthirsty characters, like his victories over monstrous beasts, may thus not only represent the abstract triumph of “civilized” values but also possibly reflect specific practices of early Mediterranean societies—including skull-taking in battle and human sacrifice related to crop fertility—replaced by more “humane” customs as Hellenic culture developed. These stories, with their extreme concerns about territory and boundaries, may also reflect the xenophobia evident between Greeks and foreigners as Greece expanded her colonial presence in the Mediterranean and beyond.
This chapter investigates how Athenian children were placed under the protection of the gods and what services they performed on the gods’ behalf. The successive rituals that adults conducted on their children’s behalf acknowledged their susceptibility to illness and injury throughout their journey to adulthood. Children’s prominence in state cults was apparently because they were highly valued for their ritual purity. Ritual activity also contributed to the socialization of the rising generation. It remains unclear, however, how many Athenian children underwent what scholars have identified as rites of passage. Nor do we know for certain what percentage of them served as officiates in a subsidiary priestly capacity, though the evidence suggests that this privilege was confined to a handful of the well-born.
This account of Chinese and Greek religion focuses on three topics that are all of significant interest to both subjects, and that lend themselves to comparison. First is cosmogony and cosmology. Chinese thought is characterized by systematic theories of cosmology from very early times, and gives rise to several important concepts. Some stand in strong contrast to early Greek attempts to identify the ultimate constituents of matter. A second comparable is relations and distinctions between humans, animals and gods. For example, several Greek and Chinese philosophical texts formulated 'scales of nature' that placed humans within a spectrum of animate and conscious beings. A third comparison addresses the scope and nature of mantic practices (divination). Several points of methodology are also introduced, including the need to focus on both intellectual and social institutions, the methodology of comparison, and specific reasons for a comparison of topics in Chinese and Greek religion.
Scott Fitzgerald Johnson
This chapter considers the definition, genres, and major themes of early Christian apocrypha within the context of the Second Sophistic. Christian fiction surrounding Jesus and the Apostles was a fertile area for literary experimentation. Recovering the history of this literature is difficult, however, because of multiform texts, anonymous authorship, and the many different languages the texts survive in. Popular genres included Gospels, Apocryphal Acts, Apocalyptic, and epistolography. When read as a whole, the large and diverse corpus of early Christian imaginative literature corresponds well with the proliferation of new genres and texts in the Second Sophistic. It shows how literary trends spread across religious confessions and how discursive tools were shared between writers in secular and sacred spheres. Early Christian storytelling was a principal means of establishing a distinct identity in the Roman world.
Adam H. Becker
This article focuses on the Christian society in the early Roman Empire. It shows how the Christians and Christian community were simultaneously added into and alienated from the broader society of the early Roman Empire. It then looks at Jesus' role in the development of the ecclesia as a social movement and discusses the Pauline House-Church. It studies the different Christian communal practices and offices, the new models for a new Christian community, and the concept of a Christian family. The article briefly discusses the persecution of the Christians and the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity. The self-definition of Christians, the relations between Jews and Christians, and Christian apologetics are also discussed.
A man by the name of Jesus (Yeshu), from the obscure region of the Galilee, clashed with the Jewish establishment in Judaean Jerusalem and was dispatched to his death on the orders of the Roman governor, like thousands of others, by the gruesome method of crucifixion. The Galilean preacher left behind a rich legacy of parables and miracles. His admirers, few but fiery, set out from Judaea to spread his message throughout major urban centres in the eastern provinces. Two even reached the imperial capital of Rome. Imperial decrees notwithstanding, by the third mid-century, Christianity was sufficiently prominent to elicit empire-wide persecution. Aided by Christ, Constantine could contemplate a Christian commonwealth that a Galilean had confidently claimed on the basis of a reformulated Judaism. Ironically, ecclesiastical monotheism and late Roman monarchy emerged as a perfect match. The stories that explained the birth of Christianity revolved around conflicts which assured the community of a recognisable identity: the conflict with Judaism and the conflict with paganism.
Although there is limited evidence for pre-Constantinian Christianity in Roman Britain, it is clear that in the fourth century ad the early church became increasingly widespread, partly owing to the influence of the Roman state. The archaeological evidence for this includes personal items bearing potential Christian imagery, possible liturgical fonts or basins, church structures and putative Christian burial traditions. The wider relationship between Christianity and contemporary pagan religious traditions are explored, and this chapter reviews this surviving material evidence and draws out evidence for regional variation in the adoption of Christianity. More generally, some of the wider practical and methodological issues involved in understanding the archaeology of Roman Christianity in Britain are examined, considering how easy it is to unproblematically identify evidence for Christian practice within late Roman Britain.
Amy C. Smith
As Panhellenic and local hero, semidivinity or god, Heracles received reverence across Greece and served as patron divinity in many locales. The frequency and survival of his images from across the Greek and Roman worlds unsurprisingly surpasses that of all other mythic figures. After all, he appealed to all genders and strata of society, ranging from slaves to rulers, for example, Pisistratus, tyrant of Athens; the kings of Pontus; and Caracalla. While Heracles’ role in Classical art (archaic Greece through the Roman Empire) is therefore immense, this chapter surveys his appearances in three diverse spheres of activity, namely sport, politics, and the private realm, including music and sexuality.
Heracles appeared in Greek and Roman comedy from the early fifth to the second century BC, and beyond. Comedy drew on myths from his birth to his apotheosis, featuring the Labors, among them the journey to the Underworld. Rich comic material was drawn from Heracles as a man of violence and as a master of sacrifice, the latter leading to themes of massive meat consumption, appetite, and ultimately the comic stock figure of the hungry parasite. The comic imagination also exploited his large sexual appetite, extending his fecundity from tragic myth to human sexual encounters in later comedy. Tragic myth often lurks explicitly behind comic versions of Heracles.
This chapter focuses upon the literary representations of the importance of rituals, religious offices, and cult traditions in the time of the Second Sophistic. The “real-life” sophists’ involvement in cult organization, their euergetism in favor of sanctuaries and festivals, and their holding of priesthoods of the imperial cult and of other gods and deities is examined, as well as the imperial measures concerning cult and religion. Both the more “sophistic” matters of the role of cult and religion in the sophists’ texts addressing epiphanies, mystery cults, oracles, and spiritual experiences and the role sophists attribute to themselves in the cultic and religious life of the cities of the eastern provinces are treated.