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Alexander to Constantine

Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Volume III

Eric M. Meyers
Mark A. Chancey
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Alexander to Constantine
    Book Description:

    Drawing on the most recent, groundbreaking archaeological research, Eric M. Meyers and Mark A. Chancey re-narrate the history of ancient Palestine in this richly illustrated and expertly integrated book. Spanning from the conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE until the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century CE, they synthesize archaeological evidence with ancient literary sources (including the Bible) to offer a sustained overview of the tumultuous intellectual and religious changes that impacted world history during the Greco-Roman period.

    The authors demonstrate how the transformation of the ancient Near East under the influence of the Greeks and then the Romans led to foundational changes in both the material and intellectual worlds of the Levant. Palestine's subjection to Hellenistic kingdoms, its rule by the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties, the two disastrous Jewish revolts against Rome, and its full incorporation into the Roman Empire provide a background for the emergence of Christianity. The authors observe in the archaeological record how Judaism and Christianity were virtually undistinguishable for centuries, until the rise of imperial Christianity with Emperor Constantine.

    The only book-length overview available that focuses on the archaeology of Palestine in this period, this comprehensive and powerfully illuminating work sheds new light on the lands of the Bible.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17483-0
    Subjects: Archaeology, History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    EMM and MAC
  5. CHAPTER 1 The Persian Period and the Transition to Hellenism
    (pp. 1-10)

    Since the completion of Ephraim Stern’s significant volume in 2001 on the archaeology of the land of the Bible, ending with the Persian period, there has been a serious reengagement with the material culture of that period and a renewed interest in its history. The events that are assigned to these years had a major influence on the development of Second Temple Judaism as it was to emerge. Among those are the loss of Judean independence; the return of many Judeans from Exile to the homeland; the rebuilding of the Temple; and the writing, editing, and promulgation of large portions...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Advent of Hellenism Under the Greek Kingdoms and the Hasmoneans (332–37 b.c.e.)
    (pp. 11-49)

    Alexander the Great’s conquest of the ancient Near East could not have happened had the Greeks not prevailed over the Persians in the years of turmoil that followed the Greco-Persian wars. The fate of the West would have been quite different had the Persians defeated the Greeks and moved to extend their rule into Europe. The Greek tragedian Aeschylus captures the significance of these events in his playThe Persians,which records the momentousness of the times:

    Nations wail their native sons,

    Who by Xerxes stuffed up Hell;

    Many heroes, Persia’s bloom,

    Archers, thick array of men,

    Myriads have perished....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Herod the Great and the Introduction of Roman Architecture
    (pp. 50-82)

    Roman troops entered Palestine in 63 b.c.e., marching south from Syria under the leadership of the general Pompey, whose adventures in the eastern Mediterranean dramatically expanded Rome’s territory. When Pompey arrived, the Hasmonean kingdom was in disarray as the brothers Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II vied for power. Pompey settled their dispute by imprisoning Aristobulus and leaving Hyrcanus nominally in charge. Hyrcanus held the titles of high priest, ethnarch, and “Ally and Friend of the Roman People,” but it was the newly appointed Roman governor in Syria who wielded true authority over the region. Hasmonean influence quickly declined. The Romans...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Khirbet Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
    (pp. 83-112)

    The site of Khirbet Qumran is located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, twenty-one kilometers east of Jerusalem and twelve kilometers south of Jericho (fig. 4.1). Situated on a marl terrace at the foothills of the Judean Wilderness alongside the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, at an elevation of 338 meters below sea level, Qumran is also one of the driest places in the world, receiving less than 50 millimeters of rain annually. The scenery may appear beautiful to the visitor today looking eastward to the hills of Moab and Edom and westward to the hills...

  9. CHAPTER 5 From Herod to the Great Revolt
    (pp. 113-138)

    Herod’s reign had united almost all of the land of Palestine, but his death brought about its division and a period of fluctuating boundaries and political statuses. For most of the first century, territory shifted back and forth between rulers appointed by the Roman emperor. These appointees were initially all sons of Herod, but Roman reliance solely on client kings to administer the region proved short lived. Within a few years, Judea and Samaria were converted into a Roman province overseen by Roman governors, an arrangement that lasted for most of the period leading up to the first Jewish revolt,...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion
    (pp. 139-173)

    Unlike the Second War against Rome (132–135 c.e.), also known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt), the Great Revolt (66–74 c.e., also known as the First Jewish War) had its own eyewitness and historian in the person of Josephus ben Mattathias. Josephus wrote his fullest accounting of the Great Revolt in his first publication,The Jewish War,around ten years after the end of the revolt and during the reign of Titus (79–81 c.e.), son of Vespasian. Josephus finished his longer and more expansive project,Jewish Antiquities,which dealt briefly with the Great Revolt, during the reign of...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Emergence of Christianity
    (pp. 174-202)

    Archaeological discoveries of recent decades have shed enormous light on the world of Jesus and the movement he started (fig. 7.1). We have already seen examples of how they inform our understanding of Jesus’ social setting in our discussions of Herod the Great’s introduction of Roman architecture to the Near East and the changes his son Antipas brought to Galilee. Sometimes they have helped us to understand more specific issues such as architectural features mentioned in the Gospels, as with the recently excavated pool south of the Old City that is likely related to the Pool of Siloam (John 9).¹...

  12. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  13. CHAPTER 8 Early Judaism and the Rise of the Synagogue
    (pp. 203-238)

    For a very long time the dominant view on the rise of the ancient synagogue has been that it originated during the time of the Babylonian exile, after 586 b.c.e., when the Judeans who were deported to Mesopotamia and were thus bereft of the Jerusalem Temple learned new ways to approach God without sacrifice. In other words they learned to pray in the small groups that gathered together in exile, as in Ezekiel’smiqdash meat(11:16), or “little temple,” or the “dwelling place” (meon) of Psalm 90:1.¹ Later rabbinic tradition understood Ezekiel’s “little temple” as referring to the beginnings of...

  14. CHAPTER 9 The Archaeology of Paganism
    (pp. 239-259)

    Palestine was distinctive in the Mediterranean world because of the presence of a large number of monotheists (Jews, and to a lesser extent, Christians) among its inhabitants. Nonetheless, pagan cults flourished there throughout the Greco-Roman age, reflecting the same sorts of syncretism visible elsewhere in the ancient world. Some cults had roots that were centuries deep or even older, reflecting the Canaanite, Phoenician, Syrian, Egyptian, Persian, and other influences that had long existed in the area. The advent of Alexander and his successors hastened the influx of Greek deities, a process that had already begun in the Persian period, and...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Growth of Greco-Roman Culture and the Case of Sepphoris
    (pp. 260-284)

    Herod the Great, his royal successors, and Roman administrators had introduced Roman architecture to Palestine, but it is not until the post-70 c.e. period that we see the more widespread flourishing of Roman influence in various spheres of material culture. Although the nature of our literary sources—rabbinic texts, early Christian writings, occasionally attentive Roman histories—makes it difficult to offer a detailed chronological narrative of the events of the following centuries, archaeological finds attest to a transformation of urban landscapes, not only in Palestine but elsewhere in the Roman East. The expansion of cities was matched by widespread growth...

  16. CHAPTER 11 After Constantine: Beyond the Roman Period
    (pp. 285-294)

    When the armies of Constantine and Maxentius clashed at the Milvan Bridge in 312 c.e., it must have seemed to participants and observers alike as simply the most recent in the long list of battles for Rome’s throne. Constantine’s victory outside the city’s walls, however, had repercussions that few could have fully anticipated, because it marked the beginning of the political accession of the church and the decline of Greco-Roman paganism (fig. 11.1). From early in his rule, Constantine very deliberately positioned himself as the protector and benefactor of particular expressions of Christianity, and his admirers attributed his success at...

  17. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 295-296)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 297-320)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-348)
  20. Subject Index
    (pp. 349-354)
  21. Index of Place Names
    (pp. 355-358)
  22. Index of Passages Cited
    (pp. 359-363)