By Zeev Weiss

Public Spectacles in Roman and overdue old Palestine introduces readers to the panoply of public leisure that flourished in Palestine from the 1st century BCE to the 6th century CE. Drawing on a trove of unique archaeological and textual facts, Zeev Weiss reconstructs an historic international the place Romans, Jews, and Christians intermixed amid a heady brew of shouts, roars, and applause to monitor quite a few quite often pagan spectacles.

Ancient Roman society reveled in lots of such spectacles--dramatic performances, chariot races, athletic competitions, and gladiatorial combats--that required intricate public venues, frequently maintained at nice fee. Wishing to ingratiate himself with Rome, Herod the good outfitted theaters, amphitheaters, and hippodromes to carry those kinds of leisure to Palestine. Weiss explores how the indigenous Jewish and Christian populations answered, as either spectators and performers, to those cultural imports. maybe predictably, the reactions of rabbinic and clerical elites didn't range vastly. yet their dire warnings to shun pagan leisure did little to hose down the recognition of those events.

Herod's formidable construction initiatives left a long-lasting imprint at the quarter. His dream of reworking Palestine right into a Roman enclave succeeded a long way past his rule, with video games and spectacles carrying on with into the 5th century CE. through then, notwithstanding, public leisure in Palestine had develop into a cultural establishment in decline, finally disappearing in the course of Justinian's reign within the 6th century.

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The program of the games was based largely on the Hellenic tradition, which included athletic competitions, chariot races, and artistic performances in which, for the first time, Herod also included Roman spectacles. These were conducted in the format of agônes thematikoi (prize games), in which the winners were awarded money or other valuable prizes. This was customary in Jerusalem, and Josephus or his source tells us that Herod gave prizes “not only to the winners in gymnastic games but also to those engaged in music and those who are called thymelikoi.

Such was the case with regard to the stadium in Samaria, where the inscriptions and engravings added to the building’s walls, perhaps between 50 and 150 ce, reinforce this conclusion. Nothing is known about the multifunctional building in Jericho, whether it continued to stand or was destroyed and went into disuse after Herod’s death, after Archelaus was deposed from the throne, or perhaps only after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 ce. The theater at Herodium, for its part, was intentionally covered with soil fills in Herod’s day, consequently creating an artificial conical hill.

The construction of continuous colonnades around the racecourse is unknown in other stadiums, just as fresco wall decorations are unique to Samaria. The special combination in Jericho—a theater and a gymnasium or a palace adjacent to the hippodrome and probably surrounded by colonnades—also differs from the classic stadium and Roman circus. 65 Contrary to Samaria, where there was one continuous colonnade, the gymnasium in Olympia (120 × 220 m) was surrounded by four Doric stoa appearing as separate units built adjacent to each side of the building.

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