Friday, February 01, 2008

Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

"As the People's Front of Judea concluded after asking "What have the Romans ever done for us?", the city of Jerusalem blossomed under the Roman Empire, benefiting from strong trade links and centuries of peace and religious tolerance.

Such a happy coexistence was not to last however, with the fabled Temple of Jerusalem completely destroyed in 70AD by the future Emperor Titus and the Jewish people subjected to increased taxation and discrimination, culminating in the renaming of Judea to Palestina in a final push for political and religious hegemony.

Rome and Jerusalem therefore asks the question whether such a deterioration of relations between the two great cities was inevitable, or even deliberate, or whether it was an unintended consequence of political intrigues.

As such, the book not only addresses the issues of Roman imperialism and the place of religion within the state but also touches upon the origins of 2,000 years of Western anti-Semitism..."

"...Goodman's great skill lies in his vivid portrayal of the vanities and ambitions of the leaders of both sides and, as such, his overriding argument that the calamitous deterioration of relations between the two cities was almost a tragic accident caused by a series of decisions taken by Emperors interested solely domestic politics and glory, becomes highly plausible.

However, Rome and Jerusalem is not simply another 'Great Man' account of historical shifts, but rather the author cites contemporary accounts from observers such as Josephus and Pliny the Elder to give an equally vivid account of day-to-day life among the ordinary citizens of the two cities. Thus, readers benefit from a fuller context to the clash of the two cities, from daily religious observations to the differing trade and cultural priorities of the pair. "
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