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The center of gravity in Roman studies has shifted far from the upper echelons of government and administration in Rome or the Emperor's court to the provinces and the individual. The multi-disciplinary studies presented in this volume reflect the turn in Roman history to the identities of ethnic groups and even single individuals who lived in Rome's vast multinational empire. The purpose is less to discover another element in the Roman Empire's “success” in governance than to illuminate the variety of individual experience in its own terms. The chapters here, reflecting a wide spectrum of professional expertise, range across the many cultures, languages, religions and literatures of the Roman Empire, with a special focus on the Jews as a test-case for the larger issues.
There are many parallels between Josephus and Strabo, both in their own lives and in the books that they wrote. Biographically, both of them note proudly that they belong to a high priestly origin on their mothers' side, and the lineage of both stems from the aristocratic class of an independent kingdom, but during their lifetime they themselves cooperate with the conquering power. Both of them move from their homeland to the city of Rome (at least for a long period of time). In both cases their connection with Rome appears to have affected the status of their family, back in the city where they were born. Both writers are rooted in a culture other than Roman Latin culture and, in general, they are convinced of the advantage of their original culture over that of Rome. Albeit with differing degrees of definition, they both work on bridging the gap between their national cultures and pasts and the all-embracing actuality of the Roman empire. And it is against this background that they both devote especial attention to a laudatory description of their individual homelands, Pontus and Judaea.
From the literary point of view, both Strabo and Josephus undoubtedly belong to the historiographic genre formed by Polybius in the second century bce. The great innovation of Polybius, when compared with the rest of the school of Thucydides to which he belongs, is that for him geography is a distinct field of scholarship characterised as an essential generic element.
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