Glocal Rome: Presenting Rome in Jewish, Christian, and Greek Travel Narratives from the Early Roman Empire

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk (lezing op uitnodiging)


The attitudes of Philo of Alexandria, Luke, and Philostratus towards Rome have been the subject of ample scholarly debate. Some scholars have noted an ambiguous attitude with these authors: on the one hand Philo, Luke, and Philostratus embrace or support Roman rule, on the other they nuance Roman power.
I aim to argue that the ambiguity that surrounds portrayals of Rome in Philo, Luke, and Philostratus can be understood as a case of ‘subjective glocalisation’—an intentionally layered portrait of Rome that simultaneously stresses Rome’s global aspirations and makes them dependent upon local expressions of Roman power. By promoting this image of a glocal Rome, Philo, Luke, and Philostratus craft a space for their own groups within the structures of the empire.
In this paper I will discuss several literary strategies that Philo, Luke, and Philostratus use to develop this glocal portrait of Rome, focusing on Philo’s Legatio ad Gaium; the Acts of the Apostles; and Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana. These writings acknowledge Roman power over the oikoumene and the benefits of Roman rule. At the same time, they draw a mental map that relegates Rome to the periphery; locate the defence of Roman values and executing of Roman laws with its protagonists rather than with Roman rulers; and offer criticism on Roman officials, including the emperor.
Adopting a comparative approach to these writings, which are commonly classified as ‘Jewish’, ‘Christian’, or ‘Greek’, I also intend to draw implications from the results of this literary analysis for the existence and literary culture of a cultural elite within the early Roman empire, in which the cultural and religious distinctions that often inform our approach to these writings were not operative in any strong sense.
Period1 Nov 20233 Nov 2023
Event titleReligion in Motion: Between Borders and Belonging
Event typeConference
LocationNijmegen, NetherlandsShow on map