The political stability of Roman rule – called the Pax Romana (“Roman peace”) – meant that people from all over the empire could move about with relative ease. Larger cities, like Rome itself, became cosmopolitan mixes with many immigrants jostling together. Such cities were not much different from London, New York, or Hong Kong today.
Interplay of Cultures
Wherever people went, they carried aspects of their native culture with them – language, traditions, and religion. Hence, the vibrant social mix of Roman cities invited the interplay of these different cultures, even though Rome encouraged its subject peoples to become more “Roman” in thought and values.
Ludwig van Beethoven ( 1770-1827 ) was a musical genius. He was also an emotionally wounded, profoundly neurotic person. He was tortured by inner conflicts throughout his life. He suffered from inner divisions, split between his massive idealism about human nature and the misanthropic, angry, spiteful man he could be. He was tortured by his own behavior. He was suicidal off and on for significant periods of time throughout his life. And, even in his most stable periods, he could appear to be just on the brink of madness.
Bhagavad Gita Influence
In search for psychological and spiritual survival, Beethoven combed the world’s great literature. In the process, he discovered the Bhagavad Gita. He read it intensely. He made notes from it — and from other Hindu scriptures — and kept the sacred passages in plain view under glass on his desk.
Beethoven scribbled the following quote from the Bhagavad Gita into his personal diary:
Blessed is the man who, having subdued all his passions, performs with his active faculties all the functions of life, unconcerned about the event... Be not one whose motive for action is the hope of reward. Perform your duty, abandon all thought of consequence, and make the event equal, whether it terminates in good or evil; for such an equality is called yoga.
In his quest to make meaning of his suffering, Beethoven enacted in his life virtually all the key teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.
The fourth century BC conquests by Alexander the Great in the Middle East started the process of Hellenization throughout the eastern Mediterranean that would last long after formal Greek rule.
Practice of Hellenization
Hellenization is the practice of making the world Greek in terms of culture and thought. Hellenization spread quickly through language, religion, politics, law, theater, education, philosophy, cultural centers, trade, government, and most importantly, through local Greek city-states.
Gathered around great philosophers in antiquity were schools, and schools were about training. Training, in turn, was about putting ideas into practice. Simple dialogue formulas and creative epigrams held the contours of a great teacher’s personality, but most importantly they defined the manner in which the philosophy was a lifestyle.
In antiquity, schools were not buildings but societies. They were social forces that defined the art of presence in the world.
Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, isn’t writing a history in the modern sense of engaging a critical investigation of events. He is quick to express his biases, to present his opinions as fact, to condemn groups or persons with little or no evidence, and to offer tall tales as history.
Even though Josephus is an important ancient historian, there is a sense in which he doesn’t write history at all. He writes legendary accounts of things, which allows him to present his own personal and political spin without a second thought.
Goal in Writing
Josephus’ goal is to give an account of things in the style of an apology or defense acceptable to those of his social class. It could be said he was more like a modern politician than historian.