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An evocation of evocatio

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  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
    Earlier today I reformulated and forwarded Ken Olson s question on evocatio in Josephus s account of one of the omens recounted in  BJ 6 to  Steve Mason
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2005
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      Earlier today I reformulated and forwarded Ken Olson's question on
      "evocatio" in Josephus's account of one of the omens recounted in  BJ 6
      to  Steve Mason and the Classics List,  I've just had this from Steve

      We are in his debt.



      Dear Jeffrey: Since I'm no longer a member of Classics-L and I'm not on
      XTalk, I don't know how many people have already responded to your (or
      the XTalk member's) interesting query about Josephus,Bell. 6.288-300,
      one of the omens also reported in Tacitus, Hist. 5. I'm no expert
      onevocatio (though I forwarded it to my colleague James Rives, who may
      respond), but that doesn't prevent me from having something to say,
      Josephus-wise at least. 1. First, my dim understanding is that evocatio
      itself is sparsely attested (and for the republican period). A fairly
      recent study of Roman temple vows, etc., in the Republic, by Eric Orlin,
      includes this observation: 'In general, I believe that the role played
      by evocatio in Roman Republican religion has been vastly overstated by
      modern scholars, based on late notices in Pliny the Elder (NH 28.18) and
      Macrobius (3.9). Only Juno Regina [of the Veii in 396 BCE] is firmly
      attested to have come to Rome in this manner" (15 n. 13). 2. I thought,
      too, that a crucial part of evocatio was not merely the calling out of
      the deity from the native temple but the removal to and welcome in Rome
      with a new temple. Nothing of the sort seems to have happened in the
      case of the Judean God -- and Tacitus, who knows a thing or two about
      Roman traditions, doesn't think to mention any such practice when he
      refers to the ominous voices of divine departure, who 'caught the last
      train for the coast' (apol. to Don McLean) of their own volition.
      Although the mss. have an indicative (metabainomen enteuthen),
      Michel-Bauernfeind and a number of others amend to a hortative, with
      omega. Either way, a self-determined action. 3. As for the heart of the
      questioner's question, whether this omen "may have originated as Roman
      propaganda during the war", well, I doubt it -- for a number of reasons.
      The main problem is that the theme of divine abandonment of the polluted
      temple (polluted by the tyrant-rebels) is a deep vein in Josephus's War.
      Alongside this is the view that God is on the side of the Romans, or at
      least 'now over Italy' -- though He goes the round of nations. All this
      is amply attested in the major speeches composed by Josephus for Agrippa
      II and his own Josephus character, and these ideas are deeply grounded
      in biblical Daniel and Jeremiah (with whom Josephus will also connect
      them in his later Antiquities). Though they conveniently match also the
      perspectives of certain Roman literary figures, such as the Scipio of
      Polybius at Carthage's fall, they can hardly be said to amount to
      Roman-Flavian propaganda, I think. 4. From the Flavian-Roman side,
      indeed, the widespread advertisement of Iudaea Capta, in blood and fire,
      seems (to me) to preclude any notion that the defeated alien deity was
      welcomed in the Roman pantheon, for which it would be hard to winkle out
      any sort of evidence. That said, Josephus is a highly skilled and
      sophisticated writer, and the War is full of ironic twists and turns. It
      would not surprise me at all if he also intends a subtle . . . evocation
      here. This is quick and brief, but helpful I hope. No doubt others have
      said more. Best, steve

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