Goodman’s “Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilisations” reviewed 5

by Diarmaid MacCulloch. “Original spin” is a very positive review, albeit with perhaps more modern analgies than Goodman might have intended or than some will find necessary.

The final part of Goodman’s book expounds his theory of a tragic accident: a mixture of happenstance and narrowly cynical political calculation which depressingly foreshadows George W Bush and Tony Blair stumbling into the Iraq catastrophe. The crux of his argument is that although Emperor Vespasian chose to end an outbreak of unrest in Judaea by sending his son Titus to besiege rebellious Jerusalem, there was no original intention to destroy the temple; it followed random indiscipline by marauding soldiers.

(Via The Guardian.)

(Interestingly, as I was going to put an Amazon link in here, I find it is not available at the US Amazon. It looks like for now you will have to order Rome and Jerusalem from the UK.)

UPDATE: Jim D links to the review and another here.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 thoughts on “Goodman’s “Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilisations” reviewed

  • m. derrick

    This is a work of propaganda dressed up as history. If Goldhagen wrote ancient history, this would be it.
    Neocons will love Goodman’s book. The Christian Right will be less pleased, as Goodman is vehemently anti-Christian.
    For the real history of Roman-Jewish relations, Elizabeth Smallwood’s work is indispensible, even irreplaceable – at any rate, not replaced by Goodman’s tendentious work. (Goodman does not even cite it in his bibliography). Michael Grant is useful too, not least for stressing that the Roman attitude to Judaism was on the whole tolerant, and that the destruction of Jerusalem was the standard treatment of defeated rebels, not ‘anti-semitic’. Far from imposing its own civilization, Roman rule was conservative, demanding only submission and tribute, leaving local beliefs and customs intact. The crushing of the Jewish revolts was an act of imperial power, not a ‘clash of civilizations’. For the interaction (not always ‘clash’) of Judaism and Hellenism, see the works of Martin Hengel.

  • cbrady

    MD – I have not yet read the book since has only come to my attention and is available only in the UK. BUT… I know and studied under Dr. Goodman and I can say without qualification that he is one of the finest scholars of Second Temple Judaism alive (and certainly in the top ranks of all time). I am sure that this work will be up to his other exceptionally high standards.

    Goodman is NOT “vehemently anti-Christian.” I know this as a personal fact and a professional one. If you have some data or evidence of that, particularly from this book, since that is the topic under consideration, but any source would do. Because otherwise such a statement is barely short of libel.

    (And what on earth do “neocons” have to do with ancient history?! On second thought, please don’t reply to that.)

  • m. derrick

    CBrady: The ‘clash of civilisations’ of Goodman’s title has unfortunate topical associations which cannot be accidental. Ironically, a comparison of ancient and modern Middle Eastern crises would place the Jewish Sicarii in the role of today’s jihadists, and Rome in the role of the secular West!
    Goodman anti-Christian? I don’t have the privilege of knowing or studying with him but depend entirely on his book. On p. 548, he comments on an extended quotation from Eusebius: ‘One world, one Church, one ruler.’ Next time you see him I suggest you ask him if this is not a deliberate echo of ‘Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer’, and associates Christianity with Nazism. More generally, his book follows a well-trodden path linking the (theological) anti-Judaism of Christian belief with the racial anti-Semitism which culminated in Nazism. Hence my reference to Goldhagen, which I admit is unfair to Goodman who is obviously not in the same league as Goldhagen.

  • cbrady

    My impression was that the comparison of ancient and modern Middle Eastern issues was that of the reviewer not Goodman, but I could be wrong. As for the Eusebius quote, it is an important quote historically and one that any historian of the period might well have to deal with. Again, I have not read the book but I believe your reading, from what I know of the man and his other scholarship, is unfair. I will end this conversation here until such time as I have read the book.

  • m. derrick

    Fair enough. I may add that Goodman’s (in my view) anti-Christian bias does not make him a bad historian, any more than it did Gibbon!