One is Not Born a Greek: Josephus and Cultural Identity in the Against Apion

Teets, Sarah, Classics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dillery, John, Department of Classics, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the apparent paradox in the identity that Josephus constructs for himself in the Against Apion. While Josephus asserts unambiguously that he is a Jew writing in the Jewish historiographical tradition, I show that in the language, rhetoric, and literary and ideological underpinnings of the treatise, he performs a Greek cultural identity while making his claims of difference between Jewish and Greek culture. In Chapter 1, I outline Josephus’ explicit claims of difference between Greek and Jewish cultures and historiographical traditions, and the power differential he presents as defining their relative prestige. In Chapter 2, I introduce the concept of performativity, or how identity is created and enacted through performative acts, and situate Josephus’ work within the literary context of the Second Sophistic. I argue that Josephus performs the identity of the self-styled Greek πεπαιδευμένοι, the shared cultural identity of elite men of this period that was defined primarily through Greek language and education. I analyze the dialect of Josephus’ language in Apion and conclude that he engages in Atticism, an identity marker among the πεπαιδευμένοι. In Chapter 3, I analyze Josephus’ engagement with other performative elements of Greek identity, in particular how he talks about παιδεία, his engagement with Greek ideological constructs, and intertextuality with Greek literature. In Chapter 4, I utilize feminist theories of intersectionality to examine how Josephus can express his Jewish identity in terms of marginalization by means of the elite Greek identity of the privileged πεπαιδευμένοι. I compare Apion with Plutarch’s Malice of Herodotus and Philo of Byblos’ Phoenician Histories and conclude that the paradox is grounded in the unique matrix of intersecting identities that Josephus presents, which have made him uniquely capable not only of articulating the marginalization of indigenous historiographical traditions by the Hellenocentric Greek tradition, but of raising his voice in opposition to this marginalization. This dissertation makes the contribution of presenting Josephus as a serious participant in the early period of the Second Sophistic. I demonstrate the fluidity of his expressed identity, which resists the simplistic Greek-Jew dichotomy of previous generations of scholars, and I demonstrate how the application of intersectionality elucidates the workings of power in and through identities in classical antiquity.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Josephus , Against Apion, Intersectionality and Classics, Second Sophistic, Imperial Greek Literature, Flavian Literature, Imperial Greek Historiography
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