Causes of the Jewish Diaspora Revolt in Alexandria: Regional Uprisings from the Margins of Greco-Roman Society

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This thesis examines the progression from relatively peaceful relations between Alexandrians and Jews under the Ptolemies to the Diaspora Revolt under the Romans. A close analysis of the literature evidences that the transition from Ptolemaic to Roman Alexandria had critical effects on Jewish status in the Diaspora. One of the most far reaching consequences of the shift from the Ptolemies to Romans was forcing the Alexandrians to participate in the struggle for imperial patronage. Alexandrian involvement introduced a new element to the ongoing conflict among Egypt’s Jews and native Egyptians. The Alexandrian citizens consciously cut back privileges the Jews previously ... continued below

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Vargas, Miguel M May 2016.

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  • Vargas, Miguel M

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This thesis examines the progression from relatively peaceful relations between Alexandrians and Jews under the Ptolemies to the Diaspora Revolt under the Romans. A close analysis of the literature evidences that the transition from Ptolemaic to Roman Alexandria had critical effects on Jewish status in the Diaspora. One of the most far reaching consequences of the shift from the Ptolemies to Romans was forcing the Alexandrians to participate in the struggle for imperial patronage. Alexandrian involvement introduced a new element to the ongoing conflict among Egypt’s Jews and native Egyptians. The Alexandrian citizens consciously cut back privileges the Jews previously enjoyed under the Ptolemies and sought to block the Jews from advancing within the Roman system. Soon the Jews were confronted with rhetoric slandering their civility and culture. Faced with a choice, many Jews forsook Judaism and their traditions for more upwardly mobile life. After the outbreak of the First Jewish War Jewish life took a turn for the worse. Many Jews found themselves in a system that classified them according to their heritage and ancestry, limiting advancement even for apostates. With the resulting Jewish tax (fiscus Judaicus) Jews were becoming more economically and socially marginalized.

The Alexandrian Jews were a literate society in their own right, and sought to reverse their diminishing prestige with a rhetoric of their own. This thesis analyzes Jewish writings and pagan writings about the Jews, which evidences their changing socio-political position in Greco-Roman society. Increasingly the Jews wrote with an urgent rhetoric in attempts to persuade their fellow Jews to remain loyal to Judaism and to seek their rights within the construct of the Roman system. Meanwhile, tensions between their community and the Alexandrian community grew. In less than 100 years, from 30 CE to 117 CE, the Alexandrians attacked the Jewish community on at least three occasions. Despite the advice of the most Hellenized elites, the Jews did not sit idly by, but instead sought to disrupt Alexandrian meetings, anti-Jewish theater productions, and appealed to Rome. In the year 115 CE, tensions reached a high. Facing three years of violent attacks against their community, Alexandrian Jews responded to Jewish uprisings in Cyrene and Egypt with an uprising of their own. Really a series of revolts, historians have termed these events simply “the Diaspora Revolt.”

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  • May 2016

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  • June 28, 2016, 4:28 p.m.

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  • July 25, 2016, 1:08 p.m.

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Vargas, Miguel M. Causes of the Jewish Diaspora Revolt in Alexandria: Regional Uprisings from the Margins of Greco-Roman Society, thesis, May 2016; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc849731/: accessed July 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .