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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses archeology of Judaism covering the Persian period, the Hellenistic period, and the Roman period. In 539 bc, Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and ruled an empire that included Judea, now known as ‘Yehud’. According to the Cyrus Cylinder and Ezra (1: 2–4), he allowed subjugated peoples to return to their ancestral homes and defeated deities to be returned to their ruined sanctuaries. Cuneiform clay tablets of the Persian period have appeared in excavations at Gezer and in Hadid, about 35 km north-west of Jerusalem. The combined testimony of these cuneiform tablets with the Cyrus cylinder and Ezra suggests that there was indeed a new, presumably Jewish population in Yehud (Judea) from Assyria. Persian domination of Yehud ended with the conquests of Alexander the Great, especially the conquest of Judea in 332 bc. From this date forward Judea became the battleground between the Seleucid kings at Damascus and the Ptolemies of Egypt, quartered at Alexandria. In 63 bc, the Roman General Ptolemy entered Jerusalem by invitation of the locals. Shortly it was clear that Rome had no ambitions to abandon this corridor between Europe and Africa, but to retain it for themselves as part of the province of Syria.

Keywords: religion, Hellenistic period, early Roman period, Roman Judaism

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