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Feb
9

A parade? I’ll drink to that

Dionysian Procession, Marble sarcophagus, Metropolitan Museum Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine, was a favorite among the Hellenistic elite. Some Ptolemaic rulers claimed descent from Dionysus.  A daylong parade included: *30 Satyrs (goat-men) in purple and red body paint, crowned with gold ivy-leaves * 5 troops of asses with gold and silver harnesses carrying drunk  Sileni (horsemen) and Satyrs...
Jan
26

Money Money Money Money

Ptolemy II and sister-wife Arsinoe II The Macedonian rulers of  Egypt and Syria in the three centuries before the common era spared no expense in catering to their own comfort. Queen Shalom-Zion of Judea admired Hellenistic architecture. Her palaces — notably her twin palaces at Jericho — featured mosaic terraces, columns, and swimming pools surrounded by gardens and benches for lounging. But...
Jan
19

After Alexander: The Temptations of Hellenism

After Alexander: The Temptations of Hellenism Thais, hetaira of Ptolemy I, painted by Joshua Reynolds, 1781 SEX and MONEY were top priorities in Hellenistic culture, with entertainment close  behind. While Queen Salome Alexandra and the Pharisees in Judea insisted on long-sleeved high-necked veiled modesty, fidelity was not a big deal in most of the Hellenistic world. In Ptolemaic Egypt, top courtesans, hetairai, were celebrities, like rock stars....
Jan
12

SEVEN CLEOPATRAS

When most people hear the name Cleopatra, they think of Cleopatra VII, the fabled ruler of Egypt and lover of Caesar and Antony. But there were six Cleopatras in Egypt  before  Cleopatra VII.  Each was more ruthless and seductive than the one who came before. Cleopatra I, daughter of the Syrian king Antiochus III, was betrothed as a child to Ptolemy V of Egypt.  Her husband died suddenly at age 27...
Jan
5

JOSEPHUS: NOT YOUR ORDINARY JOE

JOSEPHUS: NOT YOUR ORDINARY JOE   This portrait of Queen Salome Alexandra from 1553 CE may or may not resemble her. There are no portraits from her time. The only information we have about Queen Shalom-Zion’s reign comes in a few paragraphs by the first-century C.E. historian Josephus. Josephus himself was rather an odd duck. He was a Jewish commander in first-century Galilee during the Jewish revolt against Rome. When the...
Dec
29

SWEEPING SAND FROM THE STORY OF A QUEEN

SWEEPING SAND FROM THE STORY OF A QUEEN Just after I’d met my husband Steve, but before we’d started dating seriously,  I made a quick trip to Israel. I wanted to see the Sinai before it was returned to Egypt. It was astonishingly beautiful –ribbons of multicolored rock rising above vast sweeps of desert sand. But I couldn’t go to the Sinai without spending some time in Jerusalem. I was walking down King Solomon Street toward King David Street,...
Dec
22

Judah to Jesus: After the Maccabees

Judah to Jesus: After the Maccabees Woodcut of Judah Maccabee at the gates of Jerusalem Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794–1872)The Bible in Pictures POST-MODERN HANUKKAH The rabbis of the Talmud asked the question, Mai Hanukkah? What’s this Hanukkah business? I was equally confused when I was a kid. In fact, when I first heard of it, I told my mom, “a girl in my kindergarten class says she’s getting a harmonica. Can I have one, too?” Mom...

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