Strabo°

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

STRABO°

STRABO ° (first century c.e.), Greek historian and geographer. Born in Pontus, he traveled widely, and received the conventional education of his day. He wrote a comprehensive history in 47 books. Of this work only a few extracts have been preserved, most of them in *Josephus' Antiquities. It is not surprising that the bulk of these extracts deal with matters relating to the history of the Jews, Josephus having used Strabo as a source for his history of the Hasmonean state. To what extent Josephus was further indebted to Strabo it is impossible to gauge. In any event, the history of Strabo, who was free from the pro-Herodian tendencies and the Syrian-Greek viewpoint of *Nicholas of Damascus, provided to some extent a counterbalance to the latter's writings. In his history Strabo frequently quoted the literary sources to which he had recourse; thanks to this the few extracts from him in Antiquities have preserved the evidence of other historians who wrote about the Jews (Timagenes, *Hypsicrates of Amisus).

The earliest event in Jewish history known to have been mentioned by Strabo was *Antiochus Epiphanes' attack on the Temple in Jerusalem (Jos., Apion, 2:84). His comments on the penetration of Jews throughout the entire inhabited world, on their status in Cyrene, and on the organization of the Jewish settlement in Egypt (Jos., Ant., 14: 115ff.) are particularly interesting. On the authority of Timagenes, Strabo depicts *Aristobulus i in a favorable light (ibid. 13:319), contrary to Josephus' previous assessment of him, which was based on Nicholas. The final quotation from Strabo's history deals with the execution of *Antigonus, and from it the affection of the Jewish people for Herod's rival can be gauged.

Strabo's other great work, his Geographica in 17 books, has survived in its entirety. It is a comprehensive geography in which Ereẓ Israel is described in the 16th book. Here, Strabo states that the most acceptable view about the origin of the Jews is that which regards them as descended from the Egyptians. According to him, the Jewish religion and nation originated with an Egyptian priest called Moses, who came to realize that the Egyptians were misguided in depicting their gods in the form of animals. The same applied to the Greeks, with their anthropomorphic conception of the gods. Moses held that God embraces all things, the earth and the sea, that He is in reality "what we call heaven, the universe, and the nature of things." Having succeeded in persuading intelligent men of this, Moses led them to the place now known as Jerusalem, where he established a just regime which his direct heirs maintained for a certain time. Later, however, they had priests who were superstitious and subsequently even tyrannical. These changes led to acts of brigandage, as a result of which Judea and the neighboring countries suffered. Strabo briefly mentions the kingdom of *Alexander Yannai and the conquest of *Pompey (Jos., Ant., 14:34–6). Generally he displays great respect for Moses and the ancient Jewish regime but rejects its later development. The last event in the political history of Judea quoted in Strabo's geography is the banishment of *Archelaus in 6 c.e. In his geographical survey, Strabo describes at some length the region of Jericho and the Dead Sea, which he confuses with the Sirbonian Lake. His knowledge of the geography of Ereẓ Israel is poor, and he apparently did not really know the country.

bibliography:

Schuerer, Hist, 97, 179, 329 n. 11; Reinach, Textes, 89–113; K. Albert, Strabo als Quelle des Josephus (1902); Heinemann, in: mgwj, 63 (1919), 113–21; Norden, in: Festgabe Harnack (1921), 292–301; F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, 2A (Texts) (1926), 92f., 430–6; 2A (Commentary) (1926), 83, 291–5; Roos, in: Mnemosyne, 2 (Ger., 1935), 236–8; W. Aly, Strabonis Geographica, 4 (Ger., 1957), 191ff.

[Menahem Stern]