The Maccabean Moment

January 16, 2016

This conference is closed to the public.

Recent events in the Middle East—most notably the apocalyptic revivalism of the Islamic State—have drawn scholarly attention back to previous globalized and religiously articulated insurrectionary movements. The first attested historical episode of “sacred war” was the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, in the mid-second century BCE. This revolt has been interpreted as a unique, maximal case in the cultural and political history of the ancient world: an unparalleled clash between exclusivist Jewish monotheism and an unusually oppressive Hellenistic state. This conference aims to set the Maccabean revolt in its broader interregional and comparative contexts by exploring parallel and contemporary outbreaks of indigenous resistance across the broader Hellenistic world (the eastern Mediterranean and West Asia in the last three centuries BCE), the interrelations and isolations of these resisting populations (Jewish, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek), and the resisting communities’ conceptualization of their actions and aspirations.

The conference proposes two primary questions:

  • Was the Maccabean revolt a manifestation of a broader, globalized, mid-second century BCE moment of indigenous, anti-Hellenistic resistance?
  • How might the comparative history of indigenous communities in this period be investigated most productively?


Paul Joseph Kosmin

Faculty Associate. Assistant Professor of the Classics, Department of the Classics, Harvard University.


Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington DC.

See also: Conferences, 2016