Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization

Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization

Arnaldo Momigliano

Language: English

Pages: 188

ISBN: 0521387612

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this classic study of cultural confrontation Professor Momigliano examines the Greeks' attitude toward the contemporary civilizations of the Romans, Celts, Jews, and Persians. Analyzing cultural and intellectual interaction from the fourth through the first centuries B.C., Momigliano argues that in the Hellenistic period the Greeks, Romans, and Jews enjoyed an exclusive special relationship that guaranteed their lasting dominance of Western civilization.

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Carians and perhaps Phoenicians in his expedition of 589 against Nubia. The graffiti left by these soldiers at Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia are famous. If the information of Aristeas is correct, Jewish and Greek soldiers must have rubbed shoulders in the same campaign. The absence of Hebrew graffiti at Abu Simbel is perhaps not sufficient to throw doubt upon Aristeas. A recent papyrological discovery shows that in the fourth century B.C. a story like the judgement of Solomon was known in Greece

Aristotelians in our path. Thus the new interest and sympathy were not specifically directed towards the Jews. But the other barbarians - Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians and even Indians - had been known to the Greeks for centuries. There was much previous information available, now to be reassessed and brought up to date. The Jews were the newcomers. Everything had still to be learnt about them. It is perhaps not by chance that the first Greek book to speak extensively about the Jews was

turies. The Book of Esther was probably translated only in 78/77 B.C. The translation must also have helped proselytism, which acquired quite different dimensions as soon as the Jews began to speak Greek. I do not know of any Hellenistic evidence to show that a Gentile became a Jew or a sympathizer because he had read the Bible. But Philo says that many Gentiles - that is, I presume, sympathizers - took part in the annual festival on the island of Pharos to celebrate the translation of the LXX

side of the story - and this will be our end for today. The Hebrew text of Ben Sira, which accompanied the sectarians of Qumran and the defenders of Masada, was lost in the early Middle Ages and was only partially recovered in the Cairo Geniza at the end of the last century. The book by the man who had repudiated Greek wisdom lived on through the centuries in the Greek version made by his grandson - an emigre to Egypt in 132 B.C. 96 5 Greeks, Jews and Romans from Antiochus III to Pompey i 'It

refers to some other trouble which has left no trace in our 107 Greeks, Jews and Romans tradition, for instance during the wars of the successors of Alexander at the end of the fourth century. We are therefore left with only two certain pieces of contemporary evidence for the religious situation of the persecution period - as I have said, the Book of Daniel and the petition of the Samaritans of Shechem who wanted to dedicate their temple to Zeus, and more precisely to Zeus Hellenios (Jos. Ant.

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