Alexander the Great in Ancient Jewish Tradition: the Case of Flavius Josephus
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The character of Alexander the Great features prominently in ancient Jewish tradition. Of special importance is the passage in Flavius Josephus' 'Antiquitates Iudaicae' (XI 8). The Alexander episode in Josephus is placed within the context of the Jewish-Samaritan conflict as well as within the history of Alexander's conquest of the East: the main aim of this narrative seems to be, as is often the case with Josephus, to incorporate Jewish history into the general history of the Mediterranean peoples. The narrative has several interesting literary features, suggesting that Josephus has probably combined in his narrative two different stories about Alexander: the episode of Alexander's recognition of the One God, placed in Jerusalem; and the rivalry between the temple of Jerusalem and its Samaritan counterpart. Josephus compares Alexander's character to the High Priest's and, paradoxically, much more emphasis is put on the character of the Greek king. Alexander's elevation seems, however, part of a complex strategy meant to elevate and glorify the Jewish nation: Alexander, presented as the ideal and archetypal ruler, is the one who bows down to the God and the High Priest of the Jews. Thus the Jews become, in Alexander's kingdom, a group with special meaning and position.
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