Week 1: Terms, Definitions, and the Geographical Framework
We begin by specifying what we mean in antiquity by terms such as religion, cult, ritual, temple, etc. We’ll also take a snapshot of the geography of the Roman Empire in the reign of Augustus, in order to frame the geopolitical situation for the topics of this course. Everything we talk about this week will be threaded through the rest of the course, so learn the basic terms well!
Week 2: Roman Religion: Basic Aspects
Roman religion evolved and expanded over centuries. Its evolution mirrors in many ways Rome’s gradual transition from an agrarian city-state to an expansive Mediterranean empire. We begin by looking at some of the more ancient aspects of Roman religion, which remained constant into the period of the Principate. Basic things like the calendar, the priesthoods, the most ancient festivals will gives us a sense of what the core of Roman piety was.
Week 3: Roman Religion: Imperial Aspects
Though in origin a city state with a pronounced agrarian character, Rome grew over several centuries into an imperial power with strong military traditions. How did this change the nature of Roman religion? How did the Romans create a kind of “theology of victory” after centuries of conflict? Lastly, how did the shift from republic to principate change the basis of religion generally?
Week 4: The Age of Augustus
This week we’ll explore the various ways in which the first emperor, Caesar Augustus, used religion to transform Roman society during his long reign (27 BCE – 14 CE).
Question Sheet #1 Due February 12 at 11:30pm!
Week 5: Israel, Judah, and Judea: Who are the Jews?
This week we take a look at what defines Judaism and the Jews, particularly in the Second Temple period.
Week 6: Herod the Great and his Dynasty
Here the focus is on the “client king” Herod the Great, whose dynasty was installed by Rome to rule over subjects in Judea and surrounding areas. We will discuss particularly his development of infrastructure and the rebuilding of the Temple complex in Jerusalem.
Week 7: Judea and Roman Rule
This week we will exam particular flash points in the relations between the people of Judea and their Roman overlords, with a look at very particular events. One familiar character will be Pontius Pilate.
Week 8: Sectarianism in the Second Temple Period
We discuss the various factions that existed during this period among the Jews themselves, such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots. We shall also dip into the sectarian writings of the Qumran sect, otherwise known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Week 9: Spring Break — No Classes
Question Sheet #2 Due exact date TBA
Week 10: Jesus in the Context of Roman Rule
This week we talk about the “historical Jesus,” looking at Horsely’s analysis of the political situation in which his ministry occurred.
Week 11: The First Jewish Rebellion: 66-70 CE
We now trace the outbreak, development and bitter end of the Rebellion of 66-70 CE, which culminates in the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. It also is directly linked to the emergence of a new dynasty, the Flavians, who were the commanders during the Rebellion.
Week 12: The Consequences of the First Jewish Rebellion
The destruction of the Temple had profound consequences for Jews and the emergent Jesus movement. This week we will discuss how 70 CE is a watershed in the development of both religions.
Week 13: The Early Phase of the Jesus Movement
Here we take a new look at the earliest documents of the Jesus Movement, and what they can tell us about the origins of Christianity in terms of its sociological and political position in the Empire.
Question Sheet #3 Due exact date tba
Week 14: Dissension and Persecution
We see now how growing tensions between the Jesus movement and the Jewish communities begin to define a new attitude towards Judaism’s place within the new religion. We also see how the emergent Christian culture responds to persecution from Roman authority.
Week 15: Christian Self-Definition in the Imperial Context
We end with a look at how the Christians came to see themselves within the Roman Empire, and how an apologetic culture emerged in the 2nd century CE.