Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moschos, son of Moschion, an assimilated Ioudaios?

Moschos, son of Moschion, is “the first Greek Jew” (Lewis) depicted on a manumission inscription. This inscription is dated in the 3rd century BC. It was found among epigraphic remains from the temple of Amphiaraus (associated with Asclepius) in Oropos. The inscription was erected by a Ioudaios, with the Greek name of Moschos (calf).

For more than 50 years, Moschos, son of Moschion, has been considered a Ioudaios assimilated to the Hellenistic culture. On the one hand, in the opinion of some scholars Moschos is either highly assimilated (Barclay, Lewis) or even a defector (Wilson). On the other hand Moschos’ Jewishness was neglected (Cohen) or considered marginal (Leigh). The chief argument for these claims is Moschos’ alleged participation in the pagan cult,  i.e., “incubation” in the Amphiareion.

However,  the inscription does not allow us to do draw such conclusions. The inscription tells us only that a person seeing a dream was ordered by Amphiaraus  and Hygieia to erect the inscription.
Even if Moschos was the one with the dream, the inscription does not allow us to assume that he took part in the ritual of incubation. Ancient Greek authors (e.g. Iamblichus) when referring to the dreams in the cultic context of the Asclepian cult use the word oneiros, while here the word enupnion, depicting an usual, night dream, is employed.

If Moschos himself was responsible for the inscription’s wording, he obviously refers to himself as Ioudaios. Thus Moschos is at least not entirely assimilated, but underlines his Jewish roots.
Finally, what about Amphiareion. Why the inscription was erected there? The inscription does not mention any illness. Is it right to assume that the temple was frequented only by sick people?

jarek moeglich

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