Judaa--Syria Palastina. By WERNER ECK. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism, vol. 157. Tubingen: MOHR SIEBECK, 2014. Pp. xiv + 307. [euro]119.
Werner Eck's contributions to the study of the Roman world stretch over forty-five years of scholarship and across the political, administrative, military, and social history of the empire. Most, if not all, of this enterprise emanates from his prime expertise as one of the leading Roman epigraphists of our time. Nothing reflects Eck's stature better than his current role, held since 2007, as the director of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum in its newly established home at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the same position held a century and a half earlier by Theodor Mommsen, perhaps the most eminent classicist of the nineteenth century. Indeed, many threads connect Eck and Mommsen, but in one area at least they went in separate ways--Eck's work displays growing interest in what generations of scholars (Mommsen included) considered the peripheral, and thus relatively insignificant, margins of the Roman world. He studies the ancient history of what became his home university, Cologne, in the northwestern corner of Roman Europe, and even more pointedly, has devoted tireless efforts to the far eastern reaches of the empire, shifting his attention to the kingdom, then province, of Judaea, later renamed Syria Palaestina by Hadrian. Indeed, the fruitful ties that Eck has established with Israeli scholars have resulted in tantalizing academic achievements, chief among which is the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, a multi-volume series that started coming out a few years ago and will continue to enrich and deepen the study of this region for many generations to come.
The current collection of essays comes in the footsteps of a five-lecture series on Judaea/Palestine that Eck delivered in the university city of Jena in 2005 and then published in a small book (Rom und Judaea: Funf Vortrage zur romischen Herrschaft in Palaestina ). Together the two volumes offer a good, if only partial, summary of his scholarship on this province. In both books, Eck has centered his research on inscriptions but his view extends well beyond the epigraphic material, showcasing his vast erudition in all forms of Greek and Latin sources, although much less, if at all, in the local Hebrew and Aramaic material, an imbalance that undermines his accomplishments (more on that below).
Eck also insists on exploring the Roman vantage point on the era's various events (e.g., p. v here and in greater detail and force on pp. ix-x of the Jena lectures), which many times serves as a corrective to overly Jewish and/or Christian perspectives that dominate scholarly studies of this region. But whereas the Jena lectures present a systematic overview of several broad topics related to the presence of Rome in Judaea/Palestine, the present work collects...