Workshop: Jewish Authors and Power in the Greco-Roman Period

Workshop: Jewish Authors and Power in the Greco-Roman Period May 16, 2021

Dear colleagues,

We would like to invite you to an online workshop entitled:

Jewish Authors and Power in the Graeco-Roman Period

The workshop will take place via zoom on June 3rd- 4th 2021 14:00-18:00 CET

The workshop is organized by the Institut für Judaistik, Universität
Bern in collaboration with CoE Ancient Near Eastern Empires,
University of Helsinki.

Questions regarding power and power relations have been a prominent
topic in the study of the Greco-Roman period and especially regarding

the complicated and eventful history of Judaism in this period.
Whether relating to the use of power by ruling empires or the
resistance to it by local populations, scholarship has often focused
on forms of ‘physical’ power like state violence and the extortion of
revenue from subjugated populations. The adoption of post-colonial
perspectives by scholars of antiquity and Jewish Studies changed this
trend and brought with it new studies on forms of ‘soft’ power and the
ways in which subaltern groups employed it. While undoubtedly a
welcome development, some contemporary studies are too quick to apply
contemporary concepts and circumstances to the ancient world. In this
workshop, we wish to turn our look to the ancient evidence and to the
ways in which (mainly) Jewish authors describe and establish notions
of power. In the Greco-Roman period, and throughout the Mediterranean
and the Near East, different communities encountered new and changing
forms of dominance and had to respond to them by rethinking old
concepts and formulating new ones. We ask: How do the authors define
power, or do they define it at all? How is power described,
established and negotiated in (and between?) texts? How do the authors

perceive power, how does it affect their writings and form their texts
(implicitly or explicitly)? How is power tangible in character
depictions, virtues, moral and social standards? Do the authors pursue
an inside, for example Rome centered, view or rather an outside one?
Are there any limitations to power or alternative sources to it? Can
we detect notions of power balance or attempts to create such a

We aim to bring together students of the Greco-Roman world with
different points of view on the centrality and importance of
Hellenistic and Roman empires and their impact on the Mediterranean
and Near Eastern authors for a discussion of the matter.

Day 1, June 3rd

14.00 – 14.30  Welcome

14.30 – 15.30  Keynote Lecture Katell Berthelot: ”Re-thinking Power in
a Roman Context: Philo and the Rabbis between Opposition, Competition,
and Appropriation”

15.30 – 15.50  Coffee-Break

15.50 – 16.50  Panel 1 “Power and Time”
Fabian Knopf: “Die Macht der Zeitrechnung, Seleukidische Herrschaft
und die Makkabaiische Erhebung ”

Lukas Jansen: “Warten und Warten-Lassen – Philon über das Warten auf
Audienzen beim römischen Kaiser ”

16.50 – 17.00  Coffee-Break

17.00 – 18.00  Panel 2 “Power and Gender”
Matthias Adrian: “Wohltaten statt Kosmetik? Gottesfürchtige Frauen
zwischen Synagoge und Christus-Gemeinde”

Laura Quick/ Ellena Lyell: “Dress to Impress: Power Dressing in Hebrew
and Greek Esther”

Day 2, June 4th

14.00 – 15.00  Panel 3 “Power and Moses”
Carson Bay: “The Power of Positive Role Models: Cultural Capital,
Ethnic Alterity, & Abraham/Moses as Exempla in Jewish, Greek, Roman, &
Christian Antiquity”

Ursula Westwood: “Powerful silence and powerless speech: Moses’
response to rebellions in Josephus’ Antiquities”

15.00 – 15.20  Coffee-Break

15.20 – 16.20  Panel 4 “Power and Structure”
Jeremy Steinberg: “Josephus’ Response to a Flavian Display of Power:
Reading the Unemotionality of the Triumph Narrative, BJ VII.123-57”

Helge Bezold: “Violence is Power!? Negotiating Power and the Depiction
of Jewish Violence in the Ancient Esther Tradition”

16.20 – 16.30  Coffee-Break

16.30 – 17.30  Keynote Lecture René Bloch: “Who Dares in Ancient Judaism?”

17.30 – 18.00  Discussion and Feedback

Please register via the following link:

Judith Göppinger, Institut für Judaistik, Universität Bern

Rotem Avneri Meir, Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern
Empires, University of Helsinki


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