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Travel and Religion in Antiquity

Philip A.Harland

Publication Year: 2011

Travel and Religion in Antiquity considers the importance of issues relating to travel for our understanding of religious and cultural life among Jews, Christians, and others in the ancient world, particularly during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The volume is organized around five overlapping areas where religion and travel intersect: travel related to honouring deities, including travel to festivals, oracles, and healing sanctuaries; travel to communicate the efficacy of a god or the superiority of a way of life, including the diffusion of cults or movements; travel to explore and encounter foreign peoples or cultures, including descriptions of these cultures in ancient ethnographic materials; migration; and travel to engage in an occupation or vocation.

With interdisciplinary contributions that cover a range of literary, epigraphic, and archeological materials, the volume sheds light on the importance of movement in connection with religious life among Greeks, Romans, Nabateans, and others, including Judeans and followers of Jesus.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism

Map: The Ancient Mediterranean

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pp. x

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pp. xi-xii

The chapters in this volume represent the first fruits of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies' Travel and Religion in Antiquity seminar, which began in the Spring of 2005. I would like to thank the members of that seminar and others in the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (CSBS) who made the seminar a success during my years coordinating...

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I: Pausing at the Intersection of Religion and Travel

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pp. 1-26

In Lucian's satirical dialogue, The Ship, several men travel from Athens to the Piraeus to witness a large vessel, the Isis, that had lost her course and docked there on her way from Egypt to Italy. Subtle yet significant throughout this fictional dialogue are the connections between travel and "religion," or honouring and soliciting the gods. The vessel personifies...


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II: Religion on the Road in Ancient Greece and Rome

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pp. 29-47

These ancient sources show the ambivalent attitude of the Greeks and Romans toward travel. On the one hand, travel was necessary for business, war, or education and thus was seen positively. On the other, travel could be viewed with reservation or fear. Even self-chosen and purposeful travel separated one from the secure environs of family and...

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III: Going Up to Jerusalem: Pilgrimage, Purity, the Historical Jesus

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pp. 49-67

This chapter explores the importance of travel to festivals among first-century Galileans and Judeans, including the historical Jesus. There were important connections between pilgrimage and purity issues, which need to be highlighted to better place Jesus in his cultural context. Attention to issues of travel, then, provides a new angle of vision on the...

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IV: Pilgrimage, Place, and Meaning Making by Jews in Greco-Roman Egypt

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pp. 69-81

In Getting Back to Place, Edward S. Casey proposes that "place" is a fundamental basis for human experience — the focal point that fuses self, space, and time. Humans are profoundly place-bound, and this circumstance is a basis for meaning making as well as for the development and refinement of identity for individuals and communities. Place does not...

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V: Have Horn, Will Travel: The Journeys of Mesopotamian Deities

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pp. 83-97

Travel in the ancient Mediterranean world was often associated with honouring the gods in some fashion or other. Most of the chapters in this volume focus on the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, as well as Judeans and followers of Jesus within those worlds. In this chapter, I want to focus on a cultural phenomenon that is somewhat farther removed...


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VI: The Divine Wanderer: Travel and Divinization in Late Antiquity

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pp. 101-121

It is early morning. Gazing through the dust and growing heat we see a lone figure rise over the crest of the nearby hill and move along the road toward the town. His step is steady and determined, as if he has been walking a long way and will walk further yet. As the figure draws closer to the town gate we can see that he wears a cloak woven of exotic reds and...

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VII: Journeys in Pursuit of Divine Wisdom: Thessalos and Other Seekers

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pp. 123-140

Silvia Montiglio's recent Wandering in Greek Culture (2005) draws attention to the significant place that discourses of travel played in a wide variety of literature from Homer and Plato to Dio Chrysostom and novels of the Roman period. Journeys could function in many ways, and the actual process of wandering could be viewed both positively and...

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VIII: “Danger in the wilderness, danger at sea”: Paul and the Perils of Travel

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pp. 141-161

The apostle Paul is among the most famous of ancient travellers. I first knew the map of the ancient Mediterranean as a backdrop on which to trace Paul's three daring missionary journeys. I am sure my experience was not unusual. So it is all the more surprising to note how superficially New Testament scholarship has sought to understand Paul's travels. The...


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IX: Roman Translation: Tacitus and Ethnographic Interpretation

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pp. 165-183

In the second half of his Germania, a short treatise on the lands and peoples bordering the Roman Empire to the northeast, the Roman historian Tacitus provides a concise catalogue of the various individual tribes that inhabited the region. In some cases he does no more than list a name and a location, but more often he includes some snippet of information as...


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X: Migration and the Emergence of Greco-Roman Diaspora Judaism

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pp. 187-211

This chapter aims to spark, but certainly not carry to conclusion, a discussion about the relations among three elements: (1) the emergence of diaspora Judaism in the Greco-Roman world; (2) the rise of the early rabbinic movement in the second century CE and its consolidation in the third and fourth centuries in Roman Palestine; and (3) travel and...


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XI: Religion and the Nomadic Lifestyle: The Nabateans

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pp. 215-234

If you have visited a Middle Eastern country, you likely have seen them, their skin leathery from the sun, leading their flocks to fertile pasture. Off in the distance, perhaps you noticed their tents dotting the hills, serving as temporary shelter from the elements. Nomads, "indigenous people who under[take] regular, cyclical migrations in order to pursue...

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XII: Christians on the Move in Late Antique Oxyrhynchus

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pp. 235-254

In the above sixth- or seventh-century letter, some details concerning a trip to Alexandria are recounted. Though the letter is short, it nevertheless sheds light on a number of issues surrounding ancient travel— namely, who was travelling and to where, how travel was made, and why. The letter was sent from Alexandria to Oxyrhynchus, where it was later...

Works Cited

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pp. 255-289

E-ISBN-13: 9781554582402
E-ISBN-10: 1554583446
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554582228
Print-ISBN-10: 1554582229

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Studies in Christianity and Judaism