Judeophobia : Attitudes Towards the Jews in the Ancient World

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Aiming to take a fresh look at what the Greeks and Romans thought about the Jews, this book firmly locates the origins of anti-semitism in the ancient world. Hellenistic Egypt is established as the generating source, with roots extending back into Egypt's pre-Hellenistic past. A pattern of ingrained hostility to an alien culture emerges from Greek and Roman writing, when a whole spectrum of comments on Jews and their religion are surveyed. The writings focus on the topics most interesting to the pagan classical world: the Exodus, or expulsion from Egypt as they interpreted it, the nature of the Jewish god, food restrictions, laws relating to the sabbath, and so on. The author also explores key incidents in ancient Near Eastern history, the destruction of the temple in Elephantine in 400 BC and the riots in Alexandria in 38 AD, asking the question what fuelled these attacks on the Jewish community. The book then points to a deep-seated ethnic resentment, originating in the Egyptian hatred of Jews, which was then transported to Syria-Palastine and then to Rome where it aquired a new element, the fear of this small community. Later, when Christianity was adopted by the Roman Emperor Constantine, the author asserts that Christian theology also added to the anti-semitic attitudes of the ancient world.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 22.86mm | 408.23g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • notes, bibliography, index
  • 0674487788
  • 9780674487789
  • 1,143,751

Review quote

[Judeophobia] casts new light on , and suggests a new understanding of, an area that has been a controversial field ever since Theodor Mommsen, in...his Romische Geshichte in 1884, made the 'rather casual statement' that 'hatred of the Jews and Jew-baiting are as old as the Diaspora itself'...[It is a] learned and absorbing book. -- Bernard Knox New Republic A well-informed and intelligently argued book. It is also admirably readable. -- Jasper Griffin New York Review of Books An elegant, persuasive, and comprehensive book...It is no exaggeration to say that Judeophobia changes the way we think about Judaism in the Greco-Roman world. -- Alan Mendelson History [UK] In Judeophobia Peter Schafer makes a major contribution to the social history of Judaism in antiquity...The book is written in a clear style appropriate for non-specialists. Non-English language terms are transliterated and, in most cases, translated the first time they are used. Schafer's thesis is that the origins of anti-Semitism can be traced to three successive centers of conflict: Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Rome. Schafer's attempt to disentangle the unique aspects of the growth of anti-Semitism in each of these three centers is one of the most important contributions of the book...This book deserves to be read by anyone interested in the origins of anti-Semitism. Its main arguments will undoubtedly become a source for discussion and debate in future research. Schafer deserves our thanks, both for his courage in pursuing a difficult topic with such frankness and for the numerous insights that he has contributed to research on this topic. -- Allen Kerkeslager Journal for the Study of Judaism Schafer has given us a masterly account of the early history of antisemitism. -- Robert Goldenberg Shofar Schafer demonstrates his mastery of the sources...[and] isolate[s] with great clarity key elements in the history of antisemitism. -- Nicholas De Lange Patterns of Prejudiceshow more

Back cover copy

Taking a fresh look at what the Greeks and Romans thought about Jews and Judaism, Peter Schafer locates the origin of anti-Semitism in the ancient world. Judeophobia firmly establishes Hellenistic Egypt as the generating source of anti-Semitism, with roots extending back into Egypt's pre-Hellenistic history.show more

Table of contents

Introduction Who Are the Jews? Expulsion from Egypt The Jewish God Abstinence from Pork Sabbath Circumcision Proselytism Two Key Historical Incidents Elephantine Alexandria Centers of Conflict Egypt Syria-Palestine Rome Anti-Semitism Abbreviations Notes Bibliography Indexshow more

About Peter Schäfer

Peter Schafer is University Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Institut fur Judaistik, Freie Universitat Berlin.show more