Land/Homeland, Story/History: the social landscapes of the Southern Levant from Alexander to Augustus
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Citation (published version)Andrea Berlin. 2018. "Land/Homeland, Story/History: the Social Landscapes of the Southern Levant from Alexander to Augustus." IN The Social Archaeology of the Levant from Prehistory to the Present. Cambridge University Press. pp. 410 - 437. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316661468.024
The Hellenistic era opens with Alexander the Great’s triumph over Achaemenid Persia, an event that inaugurates a millennium of western political hegemony over the Levant and paves the way for an infusion of western cultural ideas. I examine the social repercussions of this juncture of politics and culture for five self-identifying ethnoi within the region: Phoenicians (meaning Tyrians and Sidonians), Samaritans, Judeans, Idumeans, and Nabateans. I consider physical and written evidence as reflections of agency, opportunity, status, and authority, in order to reconstruct how people defined and presented themselves, and how they jockeyed for position and security in a crowded region and a volatile world. Fortunes fluctuated along with changes in imperial rule. The Ptolemies instituted a rapacious system of resource extraction, under which only the most nimble or removed kept their footing (i.e., Phoenicians, Nabateans). The Seleucids followed in the more magnanimous footsteps of the Achaemenids, offering a measure of economic and legal autonomy, an approach that placated some (e.g., Samaritans) and empowered others (e.g., Judeans). As Seleucid control weakened, groups used various means to claim status and authority. Samaritans, Judeans, and Idumeans deployed history and geography; Phoenicians and Nabateans depended on economic connections and cultural currency. Waning imperial powers in the later second century BCE left the region’s ethnoi effectively autonomous. Phoenicians and Nabateans became wealthy cosmopolitans connected to Mediterranean markets. Judeans unleashed an aggressive program of territorial acquisition, first successfully against Idumeans and Samaritans, then less so against Tyrians and Nabateans. Contemporary writers turned these events into historical narratives – divinely countenanced (1 Maccabees, Dead Sea Scrolls) vs. opportunistic circumstance (2 Maccabees, Tacitus, Josephus). These accounts offered people differing templates by which to situate themselves in place and history – templates ill-suited for co-existence. By the time Roman authorities established their imperial presence here in the mid-first century BCE, the social landscape was mined and ready to erupt.
This material has been published in revised form in The Social Archaeology of the Levant from Prehistory to the Present edited by Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline, and Yorke Rowan https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316661468.024. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © Cambridge University Press
RightsThis version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © Cambridge University Press