Congrats! Great weekend blog,. Completely agree Schiavone is outstanding master of portraiting anicent Roman history.

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Aug 6, 2022·edited Aug 6, 2022

“Schiavone describes very persuasively the intellectual febrility of Judaea, crisscrossed by preachers, holy men and vagabonds (imagine a Connecticut-size country with perhaps a several thousand Rasputins running around), its social structure, its implacable theocracy with high priests and Sanhedrin sitting on top of an aristocratic-religious regime that looks very similar to today’s Saudi Arabia.”

This seems overly focussed on certain religious aspects of the region, and especially the temple religion centered in Jerusalem. Second temple era Judea was also full of revolutionary nationalists, admirably committed to indefatigable anti-imperial resistance, and engaging in frequent revolts, assassinations and uprisings, until the brutal and thieving Romans finally leveled the temple, and then 50 or so years later deported the population after the Bar Kochba rebellion. Also, many of the apocalyptic religious tendencies of the time were inseparable from the political resistance, because they taught the coming of a godly kingdom that was going to displace the world’s barbaric and profane empires - especially the Romans.

The earliest followers of Jesus after his death were Jews, led by his brother James. After Christianity began to spread in the empire, it took on more and more pro-Roman and pro-Pilate apologia, and became full of anti-Semitic tripe, because the Jews, as notorious anti-imperial resistors, had become disreputable and scary throughout the empire - perhaps something like the Cubans or Vietnamese to Cold War America. This narrative smells of that tradition. But by all accounts Pilate was a ruthless procurator. It seems entirely plausible that he would have had zero patience with disturbances of the peace such as Jesus had instigated that week in the temple compound, and would have eagerly crucified him without much thought, although he might indeed have felt a need to gauge Jesus’s popularity first, in order to avoid sparking an even larger revolt.

The comparison with Saudi Arabia seems a little strange, although it might make sense if you re-imagine the House of Saud as just a family of rich priests, completely subjugated to an American occupying authority.

The Romans were not urbane classical gentlemen “mystified” by the Jews. They were murderous gangsters periodically frustrated by their inability to fully subjugate the Jews. The Jews of that time are among the most admirable people of the Roman world. They fought subjugation incessantly while many others abjectly submitted to the yoke.

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God! I love this blog

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