Alexander, Was He Great?
Rabbinic Criticism of Rome through Alexander Narratives
Part of the series, “Stories and Storytelling”
With Dr. Benjamin Levy, Adjunct Assistant Professor
The rabbis of late antiquity did not write books of theology or political treatises. Rather, they composed stories that would draw the heart and guide the mind to communicate those ideas and practices they deemed essential to Jewish continuity and growth after the destruction of the Second Temple. To accomplish this the sages often redesigned existing literature from the surrounding culture. In “Alexander, was he great?” Ben Levy explores the ways that the rabbis of late antiquity lampooned stories of Alexander appearing in the popular Greek Alexander Romance, a collection of legends praising Alexander’s fabulous deeds and travels, to criticize Roman imperialism and creatively resist their rule. As conceptions of the Other are frequently employed to formulate the self, Dr. Levy illustrates the rabbis’ use of these narratives to establish and define a Jewish identity that stands in distinction to the morals and behaviors of Rome.
ABOUT THE SERIES
Join JTS scholars to explore a selection of stories drawn from across ancient, rabbinic, medieval, and modern Jewish literature. We will consider the power of shared stories, the unique ways in which they transmit values, norms, culture, and information, and how they can bring Jews together across time and space.
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