I apologize for the length of this post, but I just couldn't find a way to properly edit this excellent article.
Jerusalem: Capital of the Jews
by Rivkah Fishman-Duker
The Jewish identity of Jerusalem in Greek and Roman sources.
The Jewish identity of Jerusalem as recorded in the writings of Greek and Roman authors of classical antiquity is a subject worthy of study in its own right. This article draws on references to Jerusalem in nearly twenty different sources dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, roughly six centuries.
An examination of the sources indicates their authors' complete and unanimous agreement that Jerusalem was Jewish by virtue of the fact that it was founded by Jews, its inhabitants were Jews and that the Temple, located in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion. Despite the fact that some of these authors had distinctly negative views about Jews and Judaism, they were all in agreement about the Jewish identity of the city. These texts possess an importance which transcends their purely academic and cultural content. Newcomers to the historical stage and their apologists have based their political claims upon historical accounts which they have fabricated. For example, in his lengthy account of the Camp David Summit of July 2000, chief American negotiator Dennis Ross attributes much of its failure to the late Chairman Yasir Arafat of the Palestinian Authority who not only repeated "old mythologies" but invented "a new one ... [that] the Temple did not exist in Jerusalem but in Nablus."
While one may dismiss Arafat's outrageous statement as a fabrication invented to promote his political agenda, this lie and similar assertions make up part of ongoing Muslim efforts to negate Israel's claim to Jerusalem, challenge an essential element of the Jewish faith, and attack historical truth. Scholarly refutations of such false historical claims have usually drawn upon ancient and medieval Jewish and Christian sources, modern scholarship and archeological excavations. Despite the fact that the ancient pagan Greek and Roman sources have been known for centuries, they have not received a level of attention commensurate with their importance. The references to Jerusalem in these classical texts not only demonstrate the historical attachment of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, but also contribute to our knowledge of Jews and Judaism in the ancient world. It should be noted that such information, particularly of the negative variety regarding Jewish history, society and religion influenced later Christian and Western views of the Jews.
The major source for most of the Greek views of the Jews is the treatise Against Apion written by the Jewish historian Josephus some time after 93CE in Rome. Apion, a Greek grammarian and intellectual in Alexandria, was active in the mid-first century CE in the struggle against the civic rights of Jews in his city, and a notorious defamer of Jews and Judaism. In Against Apion, Josephus presents lengthy citations from the works of numerous Greek writers and intellectuals from the third century BCE through the first century CE. In several instances, such writings are extant only in Josephus' work.
While several sources are neutral or even positive toward Jews, many accounts portray the Jews and the Jewish religion negatively and are replete with outrageous lies and calumnies. Josephus meticulously and successfully debunks these anti-Jewish tracts and provides a vigorous defense of Judaism, pointing out its strength and greatness in contrast to Greek and Roman pagan beliefs and life style.
Selections from other Greek and Latin works which are no longer extant may be found in other pagan anthologies, in the writings of Church Fathers, such as Origen or Eusebius of Caesarea, and in later Byzantine texts. In addition, the writings of major authors, such as the Roman orator Cicero and the historian Tacitus exist independently and provide information on the Jews.
The entire corpus of texts in their original languages and English translation, with learned introductions, commentaries and explanations is available to the public in the form of the excellent comprehensive three volume collection of Menahem Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism. The texts used in this article, quoted in English translation, come from Professor Stern's magnum opus, which includes 554 selections of varying length and content, dating from the fifth century BCE to the sixth century CE.
The Greeks probably were the first to record information about the customs, life styles and societies of the different peoples whom they encountered or heard about during their travels in various parts of the world. Jews were one of the many peoples whom they met and observed. The "father of history", Herodotus, who visited Egypt under Persian rule in the 450s BCE, wrote extensively about the Egyptians and referred to the "Syrians of Palestine" who were circumcised and were assumed to be the Jews. In fact, it is likely that it was Herodotus who coined the name "Palestine," namely, the area of the Land of Israel, as his encounter was with the descendants of the Philistines who inhabited the coastal towns of Gaza, Ashdod, and Ashkelon. The Jews inhabited the landlocked region of Jerusalem and its surrounding hills, known as Judea.
During the decades and centuries following the conquest of the Near East by Alexander the Great in the 330s and 320s BCE, Greek soldiers and civilians populated and colonized the entire area, established major cities, such as Alexandria in Egypt, and spread their system of local government, language, culture, art, religion, and way of life throughout the region. The Greeks promoted and advocated the adoption of their life style and mores; namely, Hellenization, which in contemporary parlance may be termed the first manifestation of "globalization." All the peoples whom they ruled and amongst whom they lived, including the Jews in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora (a Greek term), had to contend with the challenge of Hellenization through assimilation, adaptation or resistance.
In the late fourth century BCE, several texts portray Jews in a complimentary fashion, as philosophers. Throughout the third century BCE, however, less favorable comments about the Jews circulated throughout Ptolemaic Egypt, which had undergone rapid Hellenization. Outstanding among the anti-Jewish accusations was an alternative to the Biblical narrative of the Exodus. One of the anti-Exodus tales, presented by the Egyptian priest Manetho (mid-third century BCE) portrayed the Jews as foreigners, descendants of shepherd-kings who had taken over Egypt and had joined with others who were ridden with disease and killed the animals which the Egyptians venerated as gods. Subsequently, they were expelled from Egypt and established their own polity under their leader Moses who gave them a way of life which differed from that of the rest of mankind. Hence, the Jews were accused of xenophobia and disrespect for the gods of other nations and were viewed as practitioners of a strange way of life.
Some writers recall distinctive Jewish customs, such as the absence of representations of the deity, male circumcision, dietary laws and the observance of the weekly day of rest, the Sabbath. Indeed, in 167 BCE, the Greek Seleucid King Antiochus IV ordered Jews to place an idol of Zeus in the Temple, outlawed circumcision, demanded the sacrifice of swine and forbade Sabbath observance (I Maccabees 1:41-50). He thus desired to eliminate those unique features of the Jewish religion which had been noted by pagan writers.
Anti-Exodus narratives and accusations of Jewish sacrilege against other nations' gods emerged in times of political and cultural crises and may have been a reaction to the fact that Judaism was attractive to many Greeks and Romans. By the middle to late first century BCE, the Romans dominated much of the known world west of the Euphrates, with its large Greek and Jewish populations. The Romans adopted many of the Greek charges against the Jews, to which they added accusations of insubordination to Roman rule.
So embedded were the Greek libels, that even several decades after the brutal suppression of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70 CE) and the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem (70 CE), the Roman historian Tacitus repeated the standard anti-Exodus canard and expressed himself as though the Jews were still a major threat to Imperial world domination, as follows: "... Moses introduced new religious practices, quite opposed to those of all other religions. The Jews regard as profane all that we hold sacred; on the other hand, they permit all that we abhor." ...