Valdemir Mota de Menezes
terça-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2014
JEWS PEOPLE HISTORY UNDER GREEK EMPIRE
Valdemir Mota de Menezes
Valdemir Mota de Menezes
The second phase of history we'll think about is that of the Macedonian
Empire and the Diadochoi, or successors, of it.
In 338 BCE, Philip II, the king of Macedonia, conquered Athens and its
allies at Chaironeia in Greece.
Macedonia had long been culturally allied to Greece, and as an empire
considered itself a disseminator of Greek culture.
You can imagine that Greek city states with their long traditions of
self-rule probably has a different interpretation of things.
Alexander the Great was born in the mid-fourth century, and he was well
educated in Greek culture.
Aristotle was famously one of his teachers.
Moving both westward briefly into Greece and then penetrating farther
east, he conquered the Persian Empire.
At 333 in the Battle of Issus he gained control of the area of
Palestine and Jerusalem.
In 327 he reached India, but turned back.
And the 323 he died in Babylon, which he had chosen to be the
capital of his empire.
With Alexander, of course, came his retinue of geographers, measurers of
the earth, studiers of foliage of different lands.
Knowledge of Greek culture diffused east, and knowledge of Persian culture
Writers of this time are self-conscious about this hybridity.
At the same time, architecture often borrows mixed elements of various
cultures to create new forms.
This is a time of cultural mixing, but also, I want to emphasize, of the
spread of Hellenism.
That is Greek language, traditions, and culture mixed with local
traditions to the east and vice versa.
Alexander died young.
His empire was divided up among his generals, sometimes called the
Diadochoi, or successors.
Alexander's generals spent much of their time warring against each other,
trying to reunite the empire and then ripping it apart again.
In the generation after the Diadochoi, things became slightly more stable.
For our purposes, it's important to know about two of the dynasties that
emerged from the successors of Alexander.
The empires of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies would, for part of the
second century BCE, rush up and down the coast from Syria to Egypt,
conquering and contesting this eastern section of the Mediterranean basin.
And so we come to the third phase of our story, the second century BCE.
The Ptolemies and the Seleucids compete for the area of Palestine at
this time period.
The Jewish high priest Jason is allied to the Seleucids.
With the support and knowledge of the new king, Antiochus IV, from whom
Jason had perhaps bought his high priestly office, he receives
permission to constitute Jerusalem as a Greek city, to be named Antioch,
after the king.
This is the time of Hellenization in this region, including the association
of the Jewish God with Zeus.
As you can imagine, this offended many Jews, and Jason was ousted, and more
conflict over the position of high priest ensued.
Between 169 and 168, Antiochus IV conducted campaigns against Egypt,
trying to conquer that area from the Ptolemies.
And in 168, he returned from his first campaign to Egypt and plundered the
Jerusalem temple on the way back home in order to pay his soldiers.
Temples were kind of banking centers at the time and are areas of
In reaction, the conservative party of Jews took possession of Jerusalem over
and against Antiochus.
Antiochus was angered by his recent humiliation in Egypt, and he chose to
capture Jerusalem at that time period, murdering Jewish residents and making
Jerusalem a katoikia: a city inhabited by soldiers, veterans, and colonists.
He, or his forces, brought the sacred rock of Zeus Baal Shamayin into the
temple of the Jews.
That is, he was trying to assimilate the highest god of the Jews to the
highest god of other religions in the area, including the god Zeus Olympios,
the highest god of the Greeks.
Antiochus annulled the laws of the fathers, that is the Jewish laws, and
persecuted some Jews at this time, a story that's
retold in Second Maccabees.
A local movement of Jews arises in order to unsettle
Antiochus and retake Jerusalem.
In 164, the Maccabees, or the "Hammerers," also known as the
Hasmoneans, reconquer and purify the Jerusalem temple.
They are or are often depicted as a movement that arose in the countryside
that came up to take back the temple from the compromised Jerusalem Jewish
elite, as well as from Antiochus.
The Hasmoneans are rural rebels taking back their national
and religious identity.
Things get more complicated as they gain power.
They began a systematic conquest of all of Palestine, and they forced
circumcisions and conversion on many of the inhabitants there.
At this moment in the second century BCE, with the rise of the Maccabees to
power, we first begin to see some of the fissures in Jewish political and
religious life that will exist through the first century CE.
It was probably at this time that a community of Jews-- or more than one
community of Jews-- retreated to the Judean desert to areas like Qumran.
We know of the Essenes at Qumran who disagreed with what they saw as the
corruption and improper rule of the temple cult of the Jews in Jerusalem.
Some of these Essenes seemed to await a day when two messiahs, a warrior and
a priest, will help them to retake and purify that temple.
As I mentioned earlier, in the context of talking about the Achaian
Polybius's capture and transport to Rome in the second century, Rome was
in a way an empire before it was an empire.
In the area of Judea, internal struggles in the Hasmonean dynasty led
both sides in the conflict to appeal to Rome for a solution even before
Rome was an empire.
In 63 BCE, the Romans entered Jerusalem.