In late antiquity most of the slaves owned by Jewish slave owners in Roman Palestine seem to have been domestic slaves. These slaves formed an integral part of the Jewish household and played an important role within the family economy. In a number of respects the master-slave relationship resembled the wife-husband, child-father, and student-teacher relationships, and affectionate bonds between the slave and his master (or nursling) would have an impact on relationships between other members of the family. Master and slave were linked to each other through mutual ties of dependency which counteracted the basic powerlessness of slaves. On the other hand, slaves had to suffer sexual exploitation and were considered honorless. Rabbinic sources reveal both similarities and differences between Jewish and Graeco-Roman attitudes toward slaves. The Jewish view of the master-slave relationship also served as the basis for its metaphorical use.
The Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds transmit stories about sages who crossed the boundaries between the Roman and Persian empires in late antiquity to sojourn in the “enemy” territory for a certain amount of time. These sages, who were members of local rabbinic networks, established inter-regional network connections among Palestinian and Babylonian scholars which reached across political boundaries. This paper will investigate how these connections were established and maintained. What was the role of place and mobility in an intellectual network “without propinquity”?1 Which segments of the respective local rabbinic networks maintained inter-regional contacts? Or more specifically: which sages are presented as the main nodal points within these networks and what were their roles within Palestinian and Babylonian Jewish society? How did network centrality and power shift from Palestine to Babylonia between the fourth and sixth centuries c.e.?