Julia Hoffmann-Salz (Chair of the panel)

When ‚cultural brokers‘ fail – Failed communication of local Elites in the ancient Middle East

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Margaret Connell Szasz defines ‘cultural brokers’ as individuals that for various reasons gained experiences in a foreign culture and know how to use these – not just for themselves but also for their community as a whole. Through this, they take an important part in the communication and interaction with the foreign culture, which is comparable to the role played by local elites in ancient communities. Here, these local elites with their prominence in their communities were destined to mediate between the indigenous population and often foreign powers. Local elites as ‘cultural brokers’ thereby were the essential agents in negotiating a Middle Ground, a common communication framework between indigenous community and alien powers in the sense of R. White. But not all activities of the local elites were successful – both in their communication ‘down’ to their indigenous communities as ‘up’ to the foreign leaders. Often these failures were caused by misunderstandings. White emphasized the importance of such misunderstandings in the creation of the ‘middle ground’ as a common communication framework. This section will look at examples of failed communication of local elites in the Hellenistic-Roman Near East because these failures can be seen as defining moments of communication between the central power and the indigenous community because they make apparent the asymmetrical position of the communication partners – the division of society between those who rule and those who are ruled.

Julia Hoffmann-Salz (Köln)
Einführung – Wenn ‚cultural brokers‘ scheitern
Benedikt Eckhardt (Edinburgh)
Das Gymnasion von Jerusalem – ein Paradebeispiel für gescheiterte Kommunikation?
In 175 BCE, Antiochos IV gave Jason, brother of the current high priest of Jerusalem, the right to erect a gymnasium in Jerusalem and to reconstitute the city as „Antiochia“. At the same time, the king made Jason the new high priest, disregarding the dynastic principle. The symbolic dimension of the gymnasium in similar requests is well known since the publication of the dossier from Toriarion (SEG 47,1745). Jason used an established communicative channel between local elites and kings. The newly constituted citizen communities usually appear as the main beneficiaries of the process. It is all the more important to ask why events in Jerusalem unfolded so differently from what both Jason and Antiochos expected.
Sitta von Reden (Freiburg)
Wenn cultural brokers scheitern: Lokale Aufstände und ihre Ursachen im ptolemäischen Ägypten
Ptolemaic Egypt (323 – 30 BCE) experienced some serious revolts during the first two centuries of Ptolemaic rule, and socio-political decline in the decades before the Roman take-over. Recent scholarship has emphasized the important role of the Egyptian priestly elites as successful cultural brokers for the political stability of Egypt during the third century BCE. So why did their efforts fail – first occasionally and later irreparably? What were the reasons for the big revolts during the stable period during the third century BCE, and to what extent was unrest among the population involved in the decline during the first? Some US scholars last year have introduced into the debate an exogenous factor: high intensities of volcanic eruptions preceding incidents of revolts during the third, as well as repeatedly during the first century BCE, impacted on the monsoon and thus the Nile flood, triggering droughts that destabilized the political situation in Egypt. This approach could make look conventional explanations of Egyptian revolts and unrest rather one-sided. This paper will discuss some of the big revolts in Egypt in light of climatological factors, and ask the more fundamental methodological question of how we should sensibly integrate science approaches into historical research.
Julia Hoffmann-Salz (Köln)
Zenodoros, Tetrarch der Ituräer – Räuberhauptmann - gescheiterter „cultural broker“?
Amongst the many indigenous principalities established in late Hellenistic Greater Syria, the Ituraeans and their tetrarchs have the worst reputation both in the ancient sources and in older scholarship. However, taking a closer look at the reign particularly of Zenodoros, it becomes apparent how intensively he tried to play his part as a ‘cultural broker’ between local actors and the Roman rulers – and ultimately failed. The paper will look the reasons for this failure.
Monika Schuol (Eichstätt)
Die Zerstörung des Jerusalemer Tempels 70 n.Chr.: Agrippa II., die hohepriesterliche Aristokratie und Josephus als gescheiterte "cultural brokers"
Many encounters between Rome and the Jews both in Rome and other places preceded the first Jewish War (66-70 AD). The agents on the Jewish side, members of the local elite in Jerusalem and the Palestine region, were very knowledgeable about the situation in Rome. But still they could not avert the first Jewish War. The aim of the paper will be to use the examples of Agrippa II. and the priest Joseph ben Mattijahu ha-Kohen (the latter Flavius Josephus) to elucidate the reasons for the failure of their communication both with the emperor and his negotiators as well as with their own indigenous community.