Local time at Horbat Omrit, Israel

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Week -1: Background

Andrew Overman, Jack Olive and Michael Nelson have written (2007) about Herod and the temple he built for Augustus at Omrit:

"In the year 20 BCE Augustus departed for Rome following his Syrian campaign. He carried with him the Roman standards the Parthians had won thirty years earlier as a sure sign that he had subdued the eastern frontier. He was escorted to the Mediterranean by Herod. When Herod returned to the Ituraean/northern Galilean region "he erected to him (Augustus) a very beautiful temple of white stone in the territory of Zenodorus, near a place called Paneion" (Jos., Ant. 15:363). Herod did this as a sign of his devotion and gratitude for Augustus' continued support and patronage in the face of local resentment and the embassy of notable local leaders who had pleaded with Augustus to be released from Herod's rule ... The area of Paneion, a sacred cave, was considered to be the location under which the sources of the Jordan were to be found, and recognized for its natural beauty. As recent excavations and ceramic analysis has shown, in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods, Panieon was a popular and largely rural cultic centre dedicated to the god Pan. In the passage from Antiquities (and the shorter parallel in War 1.404) we seem to have the introduction of the Imperial Cult into the Ituraean region, representing an obvious statement by Herod about the loyalty and service of the principality to the Emperor. The establishment of a temple dedicated to Augustus by Herod is reminiscent of Dio's description (50.20.6) of the formation and evolution of the Imperial Cult in the Greek East starting under Augustus:

"'Foreigners, whom he called Greeks, were allowed to create some precincts to himself (Augustus) - the Asians in Pergamon and the Bithynians at Nicomedeia. That is where this started. Under other emperors it spread out not only among the Greek nations, but also among all others under Roman rule.'

"The temple dedicated to Augustus near Paneion represents such a precinct in the Greek east indicating the region's submission to the new regime. ... The temple (Herod) built in Augustus' honour in the region of Panias is an excellent example of one of the earliest imperial buildings in the east dedicated to Augustus. The first phase of the temple at Omrit dates approximately to 20 BCE."

Josephus, the first century CE Jewish historian, has references to the Paneion/Panias region of Palestine other than those mentioned above. I have collected many of these references and a link is also available in the column at the left.

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