2020 Fountain Symposium: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic World

The Fountain symposium is an annual event organized by the Department of Classics and sponsored by Dr. Celia M. Fountain, a CU Boulder alumna. This series was inspired by Dr. Fountain’s appreciation for Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) and the Hellenistic era of the ancient Mediterranean that was created by his conquests.

Beginning in 2013, each symposium has featured three lectures by internationally-renowned scholars focused around a single theme. Past symposia have been on topics related to power and politics in the ancient Mediterranean, the impact of Alexander on Rome, and 4th-century Greek culture, as well as on broader subjects like the Persian Empire and Late Antiquity. In its eighth series, the Fountain symposium speakers are engaging with the culture of Judaism and its interactions with the Greek world in the two centuries between Alexander and the coming of Rome.

March 1, 2020
Center for British and Irish Studies,

Norlin Library at CU Boulder

The symposium will begin at 11:00 am and conclude at 4:30 pm. This event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

For further information regarding this year’s symposium, visit our website at http://classics.colorado.edu or call 303-492-6257 or contact organizer Dr. Sarah James at sarah.a.james@colorado.edu.

Symposium Program

11:00 am: Prof. Erich Gruen (UC Berkeley, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics)

Displaced in Diaspora? Jewish Communities in the Hellenistic World.

The Jews of antiquity dwelled in communities all over the Mediterranean and the Near East, far outnumbering those in the homeland of Judea. The lecture seeks to elicit the circumstances, lifestyles, practices, and attitudes of Jews scattered in places remote from their origins and seeking to establish an identity in a world dominated by Greek culture and Roman authority. It uses literary, epigraphic, papyrological, and material evidence to seek out Jewish formation of communal life, relations with authorities and the majority cultures, the maintenance of religious traditions, and the development of distinctiveness in a diaspora setting.

Lunch Break

1:30pm: Prof. Sharon Herbert (University of Michigan, J. G. Pedley Professor of Classical Archaeology)

Postcards from the Edge: Hellenistic Archives and Archival Practices as Signals of Identity, Jewish and Other

The Hellenistic world was awash in paperwork. Archives, ranging in size and pretension from huge municipal buildings to humble storage jars in household basements, abounded.  Although the papyrus records have for the most part been lost to fire and damp, thousands of clay seal impressions have survived to shed light on the identity and tastes of the peoples using the archives.  This paper will examine Hellenistic archives in and around Israel, looking closely at chosen seal imagery from Kedesh, Beth Shan/Skythopolis, and Samaria. It will compare these choices to those made for other, farther afield archives at Seleucia on the Tigris, Uruk, Carthage, and Delos. Finally, it will turn to the only indisputably Jewish archives from anywhere close to the Hellenistic era. These are three from a 5th c. BCE Jewish garrison on the Persian controlled Egyptian island of Elephantine.  The identities involved, not always expressed in a straightforward manner, are manifold and the conclusions surprising.

Coffee Break

3:45pm: Prof. Tim Whitmarsh (Cambridge University, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture)

Hellenistic Judaism and the making of Greek poetics

We have from the Hellenistic period a number of Jewish texts that borrow their form from Greek poetry (epic and tragedy). Traditionally these have been considered in terms of unidirectional influence of Greek culture on Jewish. This paper broadens the context, considering instead how Greek and Jewish cultures influenced each other reciprocally, and in particular how the encounter helped transform Greek conceptions of poetics.

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