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Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 23, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Jewish revolt against the Romans, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70, marked an irreparable breach between the pagan-and later Christian-worlds and an outcast Jewish minority. Yet the first two-thirds of this absorbing historical study explores the harmony of Roman and Judaic civilizations before the revolt. Goodman, a professor of Jewish studies at Oxford, finds many similarities in a far-ranging comparative analysis of their religions, cultures, economies and governments, though he gives more space to the worldly, extravagant Romans than to the relatively austere and parochial Jews. Before the revolt, he contends, Romans considered Jews unobjectionable, despite their eccentric monotheism; Jerusalem prospered under Roman rule and Jews living in diaspora were well integrated into Roman society. Goodman argues that the cataclysm could have been avoided (the burning of the Temple was accidental, he believes) but for the politics of the imperial succession, which prompted a needlessly hard line against the revolt and then Judaism itself. Drawing on Josephus's firsthand narrative, Goodman fleshes out his lucid account with archeology, numismatics and commentary from Roman and Jewish sources. The result is a scholarly tour de force, a resonant story of a tragic conflict caused by political miscalculation and opportunism. 16 pages of photos, 8 maps. (Oct. 28)
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"This is an important book, on a difficult subject: the reason why the Romans, who had so much in common with the Jews, sought to destroy the Jews and Judaism completely. Only one man could have written it. Martin Goodman is professor of Jewish studies at Oxford and has the unique distinction of having edited both the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Jewish Studies. This polarity of expertise enables him to describe in a penetrating way the terrifying Jewish revolts against Rome of AD 66-70 and 132-5, as well as provide a fresh and convincing analysis of their origins and consequences. . . Goodman has written a splendid book."
—Paul Johnson, The Tablet

“Martin Goodman’s massive new treatment of two crucial centuries of Jewish history should be read by anyone seeking seriously to understand modern Middle Eastern tanges. . . It would be pleasing to feel that international statesmen might draw lessons from Goodman’s lucid account of ancient tragedy.”
—Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Guardian

“Sombre and magisterial. . . a brilliant comparative survey. . . There can be no doubting that the issues raised by Rome and Jerusalem will have a resonance with readers far beyond the confines of university classes or theology departments. The Roman world has begun to hold a mirror up to our own anxieties in a way that would have appeared wholly implausible a bare decade ago. If it was the fall of the Bastille that shaped 19th and 20th century history, then it can sometimes seem as though the 21st century is being shaped by the fall, nearly 2000 long years ago, of Jerusalem.”
—Tom Holland, Sunday Times

“His style is brisk and clear, his learning prodigious and his scope immense. . . as Goodman’s compelling and timely book reminds us, even the most pessimistic could hardly have guessed that it would take 2000 years for [the Jews] to return to their holy city — or that even then, their battles would be far from over.”
—Dominic Sandbrook, Saturday Telegraph

Rome and Jerusalem is, among many other things, a history of anti-Semitism — or, if that term is felt to be anachronistic for Goodman’s period. . . judaophobia. . . Martin Goodman has spent his career studying both ancient Rome and ancient Jerusalem …He is thus the ideal scholar to try to hack a way through these tangled thickets of belief, prejudice and false consciousness.”
—Paul Cartledge, Sunday Telegraph

“A monumental work of scholarship … the parallels with modern day Baghdad are all the more resonant for Goodman studiously avoiding them.”
—Rabbi David J. Goldberg, the Independent

“An impressive, scholarly book.”
The Economist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First edition (October 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411854
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Reader on December 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you have any interest in the ancient world, you will not be able to put this one down. Every page yields new insights. The book is structured as a detailed refutation of everything you thought you knew about the mutual antipathy of the Romans and the Jews resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple. Whatever you thought you knew about Second Temple Judaism will be turned upside down. Whether or not you agree with the author's ultimate conclusion as to why the Temple was destroyed or are swayed by his belief that the aftermath of that destruction is still being felt today, the writer's erudition and plain-speaking, straightforward prose will draw you in.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book and the Prologue about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE might lead one to expect that this book would focus on the direct relationships between Rome and the Judean provinces over which it acquired formal or informal control from about 63 BCE onwards. Had it done that, it would have been much shorter than it is. We will indeed learn what brought the two societies into such violent conflict in the end; but for the most part the Romans tolerated great differences in the life-styles and institutions in the empire they controlled. With the exception of Caligula, they even allowed the Jews freedom from Emperor worship, and they exempted Jews from having to pay taxes in Sabbath years (one in seven) when Jewish law insisted that farm land remain fallow. Even when the ultimate authority was vested in the procurators, the Romans generally preferred to rule through the local Jewish authorities: High Priests, client kings or tetrarchs. These, or more particularly their Jewish subjects, did not like to have the ultimate authority vested in an alien power and may have disliked the culture of these aliens, but as long as their rule was not too intolerable, the two cultures rubbed along reasonably well. It did become intolerable in the end, and about a sixth of this immensely long book will deal with the Jewish revolts and the violent Roman repression. But for its first 400 pages or so, with a formidable display of detailed knowledge of Roman and Jewish society, it is simply interested in comparing and contrasting them, without suggesting that these differences made the final showdown inevitable.Read more ›
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon R. Howard on December 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating an in-depth look at these two iconic cities. Goodman pulls out all the stops in this exploration of The Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th century CE and it's responses and interactions to one of it's most exotic members, Jews in Palestine. Goodman explodes all the theories you've heard before about why the Jews were persecuted and how antisemitism developed in western Europe. Goodman points out that both Jews and Romans were content with the status-quo that had developed by the beginning of the 1st century CE, and if it hadn't of been for political radicals in Jerusalem, the fall of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty in Rome, and the beginning of Christianity as a faith independent of Judaism history would have played out quite differently. A great read for fans of Roman and Jewish history
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Ashton on January 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
You can be sure that any book which includes on its cover the words "magisterial" (twice), "monumental" and "massive" is not going to be a quick read. Martin Goodman's 550 plus page analysis of the relationship between the Jews and Rome is clearly a work of scholarship. His knowledge of both Rome and the Jews during the Roman Empire is prodigious.

His conclusion is not new that the Jews, prior to the destruction of the temple in 70, had actually been treated relatively well under the Romans and given, in many ways a privileged position compared to other conquered people. The Romans, like most world powers (the British and now Americans) were arrogant and sure that their ways must be the best - the God or Gods must be on their side! However, he shows convincingly that the strength of the Roman response to the various Jewish revolts and the subsequent opprobrium were driven more by political needs of Vespasian and his successors in Rome then any underlying prejudice to the Jews. He also clearly shows how the longer term anti-Jewish sentiments were created more by the Christians as they tried to separate from what were now the "impious" and "malodorous" Jews and establish that the destruction of the temple was God's punishment for the Jews' murder of Jesus, as he had prophesied.

In its Prologue ("The Destruction of Jerusalem") and its Epilogue ("The Origins of Antisemitism"), Goodman shows his ability to write succinctly and clearly. Many parts of the rest of the book can be more of a struggle as he includes multiple quotes and diverts off the main theme. Just one example of this is his section "Diversity and Toleration".
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Bryan on March 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I saw that Martin Goodman had written a book devoted to events surrounding the so-called "Jewish war" of 66-70, I expected to be impressed. I have not been disappointed. Goodman writes as an historian. This means, among other things, that he makes a serious effort to bring the past before us for its own sake, and at least partly for the mere delight of examining it. So, in the former part of his study, he offers lucid and informative chapters on the nature and makeup of the Roman Empire at this period; on parallels, differences, and at times surprising similarities between Jewish and Roman identities and communities; on their sensitivities and lifestyles; and on their understandings of law, government, and politics. Each of these chapters is a major essay in its own right, as well as a mine of fascinating and often overlooked information. But while Goodman evidently has a historian's delight in this material, he does also have a specific purpose. The thread that runs through all is the question, What caused the war of 66? Cutting clean across much that has been written on this subject within recent decades, particularly from within the New Testament guild, Goodman's conclusion is, put simply, that there was no particular hostility between Roman and Jew before 66. Romans and Jews were certainly different from each other, but being different does not have to mean being in conflict. Particularly good here is Goodman's use of Josephus, which (contrary to what some critics have suggested) is judicious and apt. It is, as Goodman observes, "remarkable that Josephus' detailed narratives of those sixty years make so little mention of any consistent anti-Roman ideology at the heart of all the variegated disturbances he describes." Why is that remarkable?Read more ›
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