G.W. Bowersock is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His most recent book, with Gideon Avni, is The Lod Mosaic: A Spectacular Roman Mosaic Floor. (June 2016)
Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World
an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, April 18–July 17, 2016
The curators of the Metropolitan Museum’s current exhibition have successfully combined loans from Berlin with major pieces from many other collections so as to provide a wide-ranging exploration of the art and culture of the so-called Hellenistic world.
Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond
by Richard Jenkyns
The literature of the ancient Greeks and Romans is not so central in contemporary culture as it once was, when Western civilization traditionally traced its roots to the Jews, Greeks, and Romans. In today’s global and multicultural world the Iliad and the Aeneid have taken their place alongside the Confucian …
From the Atlantic to the Euphrates, from the Rhine and the Danube to the edge of the Sahara, Rome transformed and refashioned the cultures it absorbed, and we live today with the aftermath of its conquests.
Who Made Early Christianity?: The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul
by John G. Gager
I doubt that Karen Armstrong really believes that Saint Paul is “the apostle we love to hate,” as the subtitle of her book proclaims, not least because her view of him is so balanced and well informed. But she shows clearly that he is the most enigmatic and controversial figure in the early history of Christianity.
The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity
by Peter Brown
Faith and money lie at the core of all religious institutions, and although faith can exist without money, religious institutions cannot. It was hardly surprising that the French theologian Alfred Loisy declared in 1902 that although Jesus proclaimed the coming of the celestial kingdom, it was the church that actually …
The fall of the ancient city of Palmyra before the brutal forces of ISIS last week raises the terrifying prospect of damage that could potentially eclipse the recent destruction at Mosul, Nimrud, and Hatra in Iraq. The tragedy of all this is the calculated disregard of a tradition of Palmyrene achievements that really means something to the Arab world.
It’s not easy to make sense of the remarkable Lod Mosaic, a large, ancient floor newly discovered in Israel and now on display in the United States for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the very difficulty of interpretation, together with the excellent state of preservation, is what makes it so fascinating. We simply don’t know whether it was part of a residence or an official building, and we can’t even say whether the owner or owners were Jewish, Christian, or pagan. The date is not secure either, although the excavator proposes about AD 300 because late third-and-fourth-century coins and ceramic scraps were found immediately above it. Miraculously, what is on display at the Met survived intact apart from one large gash near the bottom that the excavator considers ancient damage, although not everyone agrees.
The mosaic at the Met is the main part of an ensemble of floor mosaics that the Israeli Antiquities Authority uncovered in 1996 at Lod (ancient Lydda) during the construction of a road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Measuring some twenty-three and a half feet by thirteen feet, the mosaic consists of a large square containing a central octagonal medallion, with narrow rectangular panels above and below the square.