Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Palestinian Talmud on Roman origins

THE ASOR BLOG: Rabbinic Tales of Roman Origins (Sarit Kattan Gribetz).
Livy and Ovid were not the only Romans who wrote about the origins of the empire in which they lived. The Jewish rabbis of late antiquity – also inhabitants of the Roman Empire – told their own tales about Roman origins. Just as Ovid embedded his history of Rome into a calendrical framework, the rabbis whose voices are recorded in the Palestinian Talmud also used a list of Roman festivals to tell their own version of Roman history.

The rabbinic tractate Avodah Zarah, devoted to regulating social and financial interactions between Jews and gentiles, includes a list of Roman festivals. The list, which incorporates public and private festivals, appears in the Mishnah to clarify the days on which Jews were forbidden from engaging in business transactions with their gentile neighbors (m. Avod. Zar. 1:3). We might view this list, however, also as a rabbinic version of an abbreviated Roman calendar, and, in its interpretation in the Palestinian Talmud (y. Avodah Zarah 1.2, 39c), as the impetus for recording rabbinic stories about Rome.