The Language of Stones: Roman Milestones on Rabbinic Roads

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Joshua Levinson The Hebrew University, Department of Hebrew Literature Jerusalem Israel

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In the multi-linguistic reality of late antique Palestine the mixing of languages was also a mixing of cultures. This essay examines how one multilingual artifact, the Roman milestone, functioned as a means of inter-cultural communication both for those who erected them and the rabbis who read them. I suggest that the Roman roads and milestones that signified the power of the empire, were interpreted by means of a rabbinic hermeneutic of resistance that allowed them to create an imaginary landscape and counter-cartography wherein all the roads lead not to Rome, but rather to the sages and their teachings.

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