LI Международная научная филологическая конференция имени Людмилы Алексеевны Вербицкой

Текст Города: Письмо Аристея и городское пространство Иерусалима в эллинистический период / An Urban Text: The Letter of Aristeas and the Invention of Jerusalem’s Topography in the Hellenistic Period

Alexei Sivertsev
DePaul University

Кафедра библеистики
17:10 - 17:30

Ключевые слова, аннотация

Письмо Аристея; Иерусалим; театр
Письмо Аристея содержит одно из самых ранних известных нам описаний Иерусалима и Иерусалимского Храма на греческом языке. В докладе исследуются литературные и риторические формулы, использованные в этом описании, и развитие этих формул в более поздней литературе. Основное внимание будет уделено той роли которую описание сыграло в процессе перевода и освоения городского пространства Иерусалима III–II вв. до н. э. в категориях эллинистической культуры того времени.


Composed in Greek by Jewish author(s), the so-called Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates originates, most likely, in Ptolemaic Egypt sometime in the second century B.C.E. Among other things, the Letter contains a detailed description of the city of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem temple, and ritual practices conducted in the latter. The description offers a wealth of often unparalleled factual data on the conduct of the temple cult. It also represents one of the early attempts to articulate the life and circumstance of the Jerusalem temple-state by using Greek literary categories and cliches.
Recent research has emphasized a high degree of continuity between the Jewish institutions of the Achaemenid and early Hellenistic periods. Rather than a revolutionary transformation in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquest, we seem to be dealing with a slow process of translation, during which the established norms of an earlier era become paraphrased with the help of new symbolic forms, linguistic conventions, and epistemic standards. The Letter’s section on Jerusalem and the temple offers an example of such a translation.
“The size of the city is well proportioned, about forty stades in circumference, as far as one can estimate. The setting of its towers looks like a theater, and that of thoroughfares, too, which stand out, some set lower down, some higher up, all in the accustomed manner; the same applies to the roads which cross them. Since the city is built on a hill, the layout of the terrain is sloping. There are steps leading to the thoroughfares” (Letter of Aristeas 105–106; trans. Shutt, 20). To the best of my knowledge, the Letter is the earliest known text that uses theater as a structuring metaphor to make sense of Jerusalem’s urban layout. The choice of this metaphor was not the only possible one. Some Greek historians, including Strabo, would compare the Temple Mount to the Acropolis, thus invoking a different symbolic map and a different set of associations to structure and, therefore, make sense of Jerusalem’s urban space. The comparison of Jerusalem to a theater would, however, persist and is later used by Josephus, according to whom, “the city lay opposite the temple, being in the form of a theater and being bordered by a deep ravine along its whole southern side” (Jewish Antiquities 15. 411; trans. Marcus, vol. 6, 455).
The use of theater as a structuring metaphor becomes more understandable if we consider the topographic role of theaters in late Achaemenid and early Hellenistic urban projects, such as the Halicarnassus of Mausolus and the Pergamon of the early Attalid dynasty. Carved into hill slopes, these theaters served to organize the spaces of their respective cities overlooked and dominated by the slopes. The use of the theater as a structuring matrix in the case of Jerusalem, allows the Letter’s and Josephus’s audiences to imagine and, therefore, customize the city in accordance with a particular set of contemporaneous aesthetic conventions. This set did not have to be an exclusive one, as the comparison of the Temple Mount to the Acropolis by some Greek authors makes clear, but it likely played a prominent role in the urban history of Greco-Roman Jerusalem. The metaphor became sufficiently internalized to contribute to the evolution of Jerusalem’s cityscape at the turn of the Common Era.
Leaving aside the complex issue of an actual theater and/or amphitheater in Jerusalem, the remains or even a potential location of which have never been securely identified, other elements of the city’s planning at the turn of the eras could very well develop in conversation with the theater metaphor. The terrace-like distribution of elite villas in the present-day Jewish quarter of the Old City overlooking the Temple Mount (the so-called “Herodian quarter”) was one of them. The villas, which most likely belonged to priestly families of the Herodian and post-Herodian eras, offer a dominant view over the temple complex and the lower city. The sloping Mount of Olives, organized as a sequence of terraces on the other side of the temple complex, stands as a mirror-reflection of the Herodian quarter. Unlike the latter, however, it houses the dead rather than the living. The priestly tombs in the Kidron valley offer another set of prestigious theater seats across the valley, opposite to, but visually related to the houses of the living on the hill slopes west of the Temple Mount.
Indeed, the Letter of Aristeas is quite conscious of purity concerns that underlie Jerusalem’s layout. The theater-like plan of the city reflects these concerns of city inhabitants, “their principal aim being to keep away from the main road for the sake of those who are involved in purification rites, so as not to touch any forbidden object” (Letter of Aristeas 106; trans. Shutt, 20). Jerusalem is the temple-centered theater. Its arrangement is determined by the relationship between thoroughfares and roads down below, the areas of potential impurity, and terraced locations up the hill, where people can maintain purity as well as their place in the purity-anchored social hierarchy of Second Temple Jerusalem. What we observe here is a translation of Jewish purity norms of the Achaemenid era into a new conceptual language by means of a new set of metaphors. This process, my presentation argues, should be seen as emblematic of a broader and often vaguely defined phenomenon we call Hellenism.
Select Bibliography:
Josephus, Jewish Antiquities: Books XIV–XV, trans. R. Marcus (LCL 489; Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press, 1963)
Shutt, R.J.H., “Letter of Aristeas (Third Century B.C.  First Century A.D.): A new Translation and Introduction, in J.H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (vol. 2; Garden City: Doubleday, 1985), 7–42.