Empire, Power and Indigenous Elites

A Case Study of the Nehemiah Memoir


Ancient Near Eastern empires, including Assyria, Babylon and Persia, frequently permitted local rulers to remain in power. The roles of the indigenous elites reflected in the Nehemiah Memoir can be compared to those encountered elsewhere. Nehemiah was an imperial appointee, likely of a military/administrative background, whose mission was to establish a birta in Jerusalem, thereby limiting the power of local elites. As a loyal servant of Persia, Nehemiah brought to his mission a certain amount of ethnic/cultic colouring seen in certain aspects of his activities in Jerusalem, in particular in his use of Mosaic authority (but not of specific Mosaic laws). Nehemiah appealed to ancient Jerusalemite traditions in order to eliminate opposition to him from powerful local elite networks.

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Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley, Ph.D (1994), Trinity College Dublin, lectures in Second Temple Judaism in the department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College. She has published a monograph on Torah and a number of articles and edited volumes on Persian period Yehud.
1. Near Eastern Empires and Indigenous elites: rethinking ancient empire
2. Judah on the eve of Persian rule
3. Persian practices in Transeuphratene: the wider context of Nehemiah’s rule
4. Territories and populations: dealing with diversity
5. Regions closer to Yehud under Persian rule: indigenous elites in Lycia, Phoenicia, Arabia and Samaria
6. Local politics in Achaemenid Yehud prior to Nehemiah
7. Nehemiah and local politics: the later Achaemenid period
8. Nehemiah’s use of ‘Law’ in controlling his opponents
9. The basis of Nehemiah’s Lawmaking
All interested in Persian period Yehud and anyone concerned with the way in which Ancient Near Eastern empires used indigenous elites to maintain stability in subject districts.
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