The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
10
FROM JUDAEA TO
SYRIA PALAESTINA

10.1. HISTORY, RELIGION AND GEOGRAPHY

In the case of Palmyra, in spite of the distinctiveness of its social structure ar its urban character, and the public use of a Semitic language in parallel wit. Greek, the real connection between culture and political action remains enig matic. It may be that we should see Palmyra during the 260s and early 270s not as leading an 'Arab' ethnic movement against Rome, but as a Roman colonia whose leading citizens were seeking an Imperial role for themselves.

No doubts of this type can be felt in the case of Judaea. The extensive evidence for the two great Jewish revolts, of AD 66 and 132, shows unambiguously that both gave rise to regimes which were clearly nationalist, and sought the fulfilment of national traditions in independence from Rome. After the defeat of the second revolt, in 135, the expression of Jewish identity never again, in the period up to 337, took the form of an armed uprising. Nor indeed was it able to depend on any visible political structure or on any distinctively Jewish urban or territorial institutions. The emergence of a dynasty of Jewish 'Patriarchs' becomes visible to external observers, and finds reflection in the documentary record, only in the third and fourth centuries; and in any case the real powers of this institution remain very uncertain. It in no way displaced the structure either of Roman provincial government or of the cities of the region.

The fact that there was a Jewish identity which was able to maintain itself through a series of very drastic changes of political structure -- and even, as we will see, of geographical location and patterns of settlement -- was a function of the existence of something to which none of the other ethnic groups in the Near East possessed any equivalent: the Bible.

-337-

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