Rosshofgasse (Schnitz), Seminarraum S 01
Fachbereich Alte Geschichte, Sabine Huebner
The Jewish Military Service in the Armies of Rome as a Window into Ancient Judaism and the Roman Empire
The relationship between the Jews and the Roman Empire in Antiquity is too often portrayed as an eternal struggle between the two. Yet, as we are well aware, the historical reality is frequently very different from what we were taught. The Jewish service in the Roman armies is a good example for this, as the existence of such a phenomenon would surprise most. As will be presented, Jewish military service existed and continued from the 1st century BCE until the 6th century CE, including during the Jewish revolts. There numbers in the Roman army may have even grown after the revolts. Furthermore, although the Jews revolted several times, and a few Jewish soldiers joined the rebels, the Jews were generally considered loyal and the Romans wished to incorporate them into their armies. This Jewish case study can be used to understand and deduce various aspects of the Roman Empire, the Roman army and ancient Judaism. For example, it may indicate that the Romans saw the army as a melting pot in order to integrate and assimilate the various cultures and minorities in the empire. Moreover, this phenomenon is a key in unlocking the complex nature of ancient Jews and Judaism, and their relationship with the Roman Empire, as well as how the Romans perceived the Jews, and how they generally dealt with minorities. Lastly, as will be shown, the Romans may have built their logistic system in a way in which it enabled any serviceman, no matter his ethnic or religious background, to observe his faith and customs, at least with regards to diet.
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