Reuven Friedman, Bar-Ilan University

The Archaeology of Hygiene: Graeco-Roman Baths in Eretz Israel from their Introduction to the End of the Period of the Tannaim (200 CE)
Ph.D. diss., Bar-Ilan University

This study is an investigation into the introduction, diffusion and development of Graeco-Roman bathing installations in Eretz Israel. The research will focus on the question of when and how Graeco-Roman bathing facilities were introduced, when Graeco-Roman bathing was adopted, and the influence of Graeco-Roman bathing on Jewish Eretz Israel.

The research issues and hypotheses are: (i) When and how were Greek bathing installations introduced into Eretz Israel? Greek-style bathing was first introduced by Phoenician and Greek immigrants during the Persian period. (ii) When and how was Jewish Eretz Israel first exposed to Greek bathing installations? Jewish Eretz Israel was first introduced to Greek-style bathing during the Hasmonean expansion. (iii) Did Greek bathing culture influence the appearance of the mikveh? The adoption of Greek bathing by Jewish Eretz Israel led to the enactment of new laws governing Jewish ritual purification installations to distinguish them from Greek-style baths, thereby creating a unique installation for Jewish ritual purification. (iv) Was the indigenous population of Eretz Israel introduced to Roman-style bathing upon its first introduction into the country? Although Roman-style bathing was introduced by Herod, throughout the Second Temple period Roman-style bathing remained a private affair limited to the royal family and wealthy elite. (v) Why does the mikveh appear as a unique installation integrated into the bath houses of Herod? Herod sought to continue the Hasmonean dynasty’s practice of combining ritual and non-ritual bathing installations as one of the symbols signifying that his reign was a continuity of the Hasmonean dynasty. (vi) When and how was the indigenous population of Eretz Israel first introduced to Roman-style public bathing? The indigenous population was introduced to Roman-style bathing due to the increased Roman presence following the Jewish War (66-70 CE). (vii) When did public bathing facilities first appear in Eretz Israel? Following the introduction of the local population to Roman-style bathing, public demand for bathing facilities led entrepreneurs to begin building public bathing facilities in the cities of Eretz Israel during the late first-early second centuries CE. (viii) What was the attitude of Jewish Eretz Israel to Graeco-Roman bathing? The Jewish attitude to Graeco-Roman bathing was favorable, although certain activities and aspects of Roman public bathing culture that were ancillary to bathing were frowned upon. 

The methodology to be used in this study will include (i) mapping the archaeological evidence of Graeco-Roman bathing installations in Eretz Israel until the end of the second century CE and (ii) analyzing the sectarian Halachic literature of the Second Temple period and the Halachic literature of the period of the Tannaim and Amoraim as supportive, additional auxiliary material to aid in the understanding of the primary archaeological material and data.

Abstract for Provenance and Political Borders: A Phoenician Inscription of the Hellenistic Period ‘Strays’ across Modern Borders:
A Phoenician temple inscription on a limestone tablet (222/221 BCE), owned and exhibited by the Louvre Museum, was originally acquired by the museum in the late nineteenth century. The artefact is incorrectly attributed by the Louvre to MaꜤachouq, a suburb of ancient Tyre in modern Lebanon. The archives of the French national museums and the original reports of the artefact clearly place the provenance at Kh. MaꜤṣub in the Upper Galilee of modern Israel, at the gateway of an ancient strategic mountain pass between Akko and Tyre. The correct provenance of the artefact suggests a system of Phoenician temple complexes serving travelers at each end of the hazardous mountain route.

© August 2019

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