This article investigates the notion of memorization in rabbinic and Roman spatial practices. The Greco-Roman mnemonic technique, in which space was a structuring device for the memorized ideas, words or images, has been extensively studied. Scholars have also demonstrated how such a technique was applied in rabbinic systems of memorization and the arrangement of oral traditions. Nevertheless, very little has been written about the role of mnemonics in the organization of space itself. In the first part of the article I use the comparison between the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum (first to fifth centuries CE collection of illuminated manuals of land survey and urban planning) and tractate Eruvin to explore references to cities in the shape of Greek letters, which are almost identical in the two texts. The fact that a list of cities in the shape of letters was used in the Roman corpus as a mnemonic device for the memorization of urban layouts suggests that the rabbis corresponded with such methods in their spatial formulations of the Sabbath Boundary. In the second part of the article I investigate the rabbinic system of forgotten produce (shikheḥah) that maps fields in order to determine which crops were unintentionally left behind by the farmer and consequently belonged to the poor. As I demonstrate, many of the spatial and visual principles applied by the rabbis in this system echo the mnemonic principles described in the Roman work on memorization Rhetorica Ad Herennium. The primary purpose of the article, however, is not merely to illuminate an instance of cultural exchange, but rather to point to the profound link established by mnemonics between space, image and language. The mechanism of organizing words and ideas spatially and visually affected the ways in which space was perceived and was, itself, organized.
The troublesome question is the following: is a memory a sort of image, and if so, what sort? And if it should prove possible through eidetic analysis to account for the essential difference between images and memories, how could their interconnectedness, even their confusion, be explained not only on the level of language but on the level of actual experience: Do we not speak of what we remember, even of memory as an image we have of the past? (Paul Ricœur).1
In a well-known story from the Palestinian Talmud, Rabbi Ḥiyah is asked to explain why he was ignoring his colleague Rabbi Ishmael in the bathhouse.2 In his defense, Ḥiyah claims that he was not even aware of his colleague’s presence since, at the time of Ishmael’s arrival, he was “running his eyes over” the aggadic book of Psalms.3 As shown by Shlomo Na’eh, Ḥiyah is understood here to be reviewing in his mind’s eye an image of a book he had memorized, to the point of rendering his physical eyes blind to his surroundings.4 Following this dangerous kind of immersion in Torah-study, two students are appointed to accompany the rabbi at all times so as to ensure his safety.
The link made in this story between memory, image, and place was well established in the Greco-Roman world at least since Plato and Aristotle. In their respective discussions of knowing, these two philosophers thought of the mechanism of memory as involving a visual component. According to Plato, we have in our soul a component akin to a block of wax on which our perceptions and thoughts make marks (sēmeia): “whatever is impressed upon the wax we remember and know so long as the image (eidōlon) remains in the wax; whatever is obliterated or cannot be impressed, we forget and do not know” (Theaethetus, 191d).5 Elsewhere in this dialogue, as well as in works such as the Philebus and the Sophist, Plato describes the relation between the image and the imprinted wax by using terms that we associate more closely with the visual and the spatial: eikōn and tupos.6 This problem of representation and memory is found also in Aristotle’s work, in which the imprint, or affection, produced “by means of perception in the soul and in that part of the body which contains [it],” should be considered a sort of picture (zōgraphema), “the having of which we say is memory.”7
Following classical Greek philosophy, the metaphor of the wax and the imprint developed as the basis for memorizing techniques, which had a significant impact also on Roman philosophy and rhetoric. In her analysis of the art of memory, Frances Yates quotes the Latin work Rhetorica Ad Herennium, the earliest available classical treatise on mnemonics, which was written sometime at the beginning of the first century BCE and has been erroneously attributed to Cicero. The author of Rhetorica Ad Herennium writes: “For the backgrounds (loci) are very much like wax tablets or papyrus, and the images like the letters, the arrangement and disposition of the images like the script, and the delivery is like the reading (III.17.30).”8 As recently noted by the architectural theorist Dalibor Vesely on the basis of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work, this mechanism of memorization uses the inherent interdependence and continuity of our thoughts, our bodies and the places we inhabit both externally (through experience) and internally (through visual recollection). The lack of such interdependence and continuity is apparent, for example, in people who suffer from delusion or various forms of aphasia.9 In this sense, Rabbi Ḥiyah’s temporary blindness to his surroundings could be seen as stemming precisely from his movement deeper into the imaginary space of Torah and away from the real space of the bathhouse and its social conventions.
Most importantly for my exploration here, the dialectic of mental and physical vision in Ḥiyah’s story points to the spatial dimension of rabbinic memorizing techniques, which is also central to the Greco-Roman art of memory. Although the relationships between rabbinic and Greco-Roman mnemonic techniques are not entirely clear, scholars have shown that traces of Ars Memoria are evident in rabbinic text. For example, one rabbinic method of inscribing information onto the mind was the arrangement of this information in various “inner chambers” (ḥadrei ḥadarim) located in the “heart.”10 In view of the perceptual continuity and interdependence between the imaginary places of memory and the physical places that inspire them in the Greco-Roman art of memory, it is not surprising that the direction of such inspiration could be reversed; the mnemonic techniques of organizing information sometimes change the actual production and understanding of this information in reality. Frances Yates and Mary Currathers illuminate this phenomenon in Medieval and Renaissance cultural projects.
In the context of the rabbis, scholars have demonstrated the role of memorization in the development of rabbinic study traditions, as well as in the formation of the rabbinic corpora.11 Nevertheless, this work has so far been mostly limited to the evolution of rabbinic study culture and the collected traditions it produced. What I wish to argue in this article is that the spatial and visual components of rabbinic mnemonics not only shaped the methods and products of Torah study, but also profoundly informed the ways in which the rabbis perceived and ordered the environment in their rulings. By reviewing spatial practices such as the Sabbath Boundary (teḥum shabbat) and Forgotten Produce (shikheḥah), through which the rabbis mapped space and prescribed its usage, I will illuminate here the role of memorizing techniques in the sages’ regulation of their cityscapes and landscapes. In doing so, I will compare these rabbinic practices with related Roman practices, as they appear in classical and late antique works on memory and land survey.
Before turning to the question of mnemonics in the sages’ regulation of space, I will briefly present some of the most apparent links between rabbinic texts on the Sabbath Boundary in tractate Eruvin and Roman texts such as the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum.12 The Agrimensorum is a late antique manual of land survey, a planning and measuring method that involves geometrical and astronomical calculations.13 It is a collection of several first- to fifth-century CE works in Latin, recorded in illuminated manuscripts whose earliest recension dates to the sixth century CE.14 The application of Roman surveying techniques in late antique Palestine is evident in the archaeological traces of urban planning at the sites of Galilean cities such as Sepphoris and Tiberias, which figure in rabbinic literature as major rabbinic centers.15 Roman surveying and planning is marked by the division of land into rectangular or square plots, which are oriented to the cardinal directions (fig. 1).
A more direct rabbinic reference to Roman practices of land survey is found in the literature itself. Both the Talmudim, for example, mention sages using Greco-Roman land survey tools such as the dioptra and the measuring rope when determining the Sabbath Boundary.16 In addition, many of the measuring instructions given by the rabbis have striking parallels in the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum.17 Finally, the Babylonian Talmud refers to the sage Rav Ada, for instance, as a meshoḥa’ah, a term specifically designating land surveyors, and reports his advice on matters concerning teḥum shabbat.18
The stated purpose of the rabbinic Sabbath Boundary is to offer a legal remedy for the biblical prohibition from Exodus 16:29, of leaving one’s “place” during the Seventh Day. For the rabbis, the minimum place of an individual is four square cubits, which, similarly to the notion of the Roman architect Vitruvius, is described in the Tosefta as deriving from the measurements of the human body.19 However, when one is within a structure or a settlement, the perimeters of this structure or settlement constitute one’s legal place for the duration of the Sabbath. As in the case of the Roman land survey and urban planning, the perimeters of a settlement should first be enclosed within a square border (fig. 2). The region extending outwards from this border to a distance of two thousand cubits on all sides is regarded as the Sabbath Boundary—the area to which travel is restricted on this holy day.20
One of the rabbinic articulations of the Sabbath Boundary that resembles the language of the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum provides an important insight into the link between land survey and mnemonic techniques. It is found in Tosefta, Eruvin 4:4 and is concerned with regulating cities’ borders in various architectural situations:
How are the cities augmented [for the purpose of the Sabbath boundary]? [If the city is] elongated [i.e., rectangular]—[it is regarded] as is. [If the city] is circular—we make it [so that it has] angles [or, corners—i.e., we enclose it within a square]. [If the city] is square—we do not make it [so that it has] angles. [If the city] is shaped like a bow, [or] like [the Greek letter] gamma, we regard it as if it was even [i.e., its empty area is included in its boundary]. (tEruv 4:4).21
According to the Tosefta, cities whose borders are not perfectly square require the institution of a clear rectangular border from which the two thousand cubits of the Sabbath Boundary could be measured. Hence, the Tosefta’s augmentation of cities as part of this imaginary urban redrawing speaks in geometrical terms: a circular city would gain angles or corners, and bow-like or gamma-like cities, which enclose an empty region, would be theoretically adjusted so as to include this region in their outline.22
The Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum also lists geometrical elements such as rectangles, squares and circles, as well as arches and right angles, in its land survey treatises.23 One treatise, the Casae Litterarum III, is particularly relevant to the discussion of the Tosefta, as it similarly describes the outline of settlements by equating them with the forms of Greek letters. The settlement that has the form of the letter gamma is comprised of two linear elements, which are perpendicular to one another (figs. 3a and 3b).24 The letter sigma, marked in the manuscript’s illustration as a lunate sigma (C), represents a bow-like settlement whose empty region faces a river (figs. 4a and 4b).25
As noted by Brian Campbell, the Casae Litterarum III was a school exercise, meant to help the student of land survey memorize various architectural situations and topographical conditions.26 The mnemonic utilization of the alphabet, a set of signs whose serial order would have been known to every educated person, was common in the Greco-Roman world. In the case of the Casae Litterarum however, the alphabet is used not only as a serial notation system, but also as a source of iconographic vocabulary that stands for spatial and visual models. Hence, if most Greco-Roman memorizing techniques used places as organizing frameworks for images and elements of language, here, images and elements of language were used as organizing frameworks for places. This brings into relief the Platonic link mentioned in the introduction between eikōn and tupos: the painted image of a city carries both meanings of tupos—type and place.
What may we make then, on the level of cultural history, of the similar intersection of letters and settlements in the Casae Litterarum III and Tosefta Eruvin? I would like to argue that, although the rabbis sometime use the term “gamma” to mean “right angle,” and although the reference to a city shaped like a bow does not actually mention the letter sigma, the fact that the Tosefta specifically articulates urban and rural landscapes in this manner appears to be more than a coincidence.27 If the rabbis in this case indeed appropriated a segment of a Roman alphabetical urban list for the purpose of elaborating on the Sabbath Boundary, our passage from Eruvin has far reaching implications. This possibility suggests that, whether the mnemonic technique here was acquired from a manuscript or through the oral transmission of professional expertise, the method of impressing information onto the memory ultimately affected the halakhic formulation of a spatial practice.
Once, during dinner, Umberto Eco and his friends amused themselves by inventing advertisements for university positions in nonexistent academic disciplines.28 One such discipline was called Impossibilia and contained impossible fields such as the history of the wheel in the pre-Colombian empires. Another discipline was Oxymoronica, which contained self-contradictory sciences like nomadic urban studies. A particularly interesting area of study invented during this dinner was called Ars Oblivionalis—the art of forgetting. In a later article from 1988 entitled “An Ars Oblivionalis: Forget It!” Eco explains that, unlike in the case of the art of memory—forgetting cannot be an active technique.29 Any attempt to remove an image or an idea from our memory would only turn our attention to this image or idea and would, at best, relocate it in our minds and, at worst, make it even more vivid in our imagination.
Notwithstanding Eco’s solid semiotics, for the rabbis, as well as for the Church Fathers, the act of positively defining a negatively constituted phenomenon such as forgetting is certainly possible.30 Carruthers mentions the example of John Cassian, into whose memory classical poetry was apparently inscribed so efficiently at a young age that it interfered with his later attempt to memorize scripture.31 John presented this problem to the Egyptian monk Abba Nesteros, who instructed him to actively “replace” the old mnemonic sites with new ones. Na’eh mentions a similar example of removing information from the memory in the rabbinic context.32 In Mishnah Avot 3:8 the sages famously debate whether a person who forgets something that he has learned, probably as part of his Torah study, is liable. They conclude that only those who forget their learning by actively removing it from their heart are in fact liable. Apart from the significance given in this ruling to the retaining of Torah in the memory, it is noteworthy that the rabbis appear to know here of a method by which ideas or words could be erased from the mind. Na’eh speculates that, if the technique of memorizing is based on arranging information in an imaginary place, the opposite action of removing this information from its assigned place will bring about the desired forgetting.
Interestingly, the most extensive rabbinic theorization of forgetting is found not in discussions of Torah study and its learning techniques, but rather in the context of agricultural rules in tractate Pe’ah. This tractate deals primarily with the biblical laws, which require landowners or farmers to leave portions of what they grow to the poor.33 One of the biblical injunctions at the heart of Pe’ah comes from Deuteronomy 24:19, which commands the Israelite farmer who forgets or overlooks a sheaf in the field while reaping the harvest, to refrain from turning back to gather this sheaf, so as to allow the poor to collect it. Hence, in their interpretation of what came to be called shikheḥah—forgotten produce (sometimes translated as “forgotten sheaf,” or “forgotten things”)—the rabbis would have to determine how objects that slipped the mind could, nevertheless, be discerned and regulated in law.
In order to define forgetting, the rabbis used a central principle of memorizing: spatial, visual and mental context. In their articulation of shikheḥah the rabbis are guided by the idea that an object can only be regarded as forgotten if it was not conspicuous or remarkable enough to be remembered. Chapter 7 of tractate Pe’ah in the Mishnah states:
Any olive tree which has a reputation [or: is distinguished] in the field, even as an olive tree [whose fruit] exudes [much oil] at the time [of its harvest], and [the farmer] forgot [to harvest] it, it is not [subject to the restrictions of] forgotten produce.34
In what case does this apply? [It applies in a case of a tree which is distinguished from other trees by] its reputation, and [or] its production, and [or] its location.
[With regard to its] reputation—[for example, the tree] is [known] as the one which flows [with oil] or as the one which is shy [in producing oil]. [alternative translation: a tree of the kind growing in Bet She’an]
[With regard to its] production—[for example, the tree] produces many [olives].
[With regard to its] location—[for example, the tree] stands next to the winepress or next to the opening [in the fence]. (mPe’ah 7:1)
The Mishnah attempts to determine whether it is possible to forget olive trees while harvesting their fruit and, if so, what might be the conditions of such forgetting. It begins by stating that a tree, which is distinguished from other trees in its immediate environment, cannot be regarded as forgotten because its distinguishing qualities make it noticeable. It is unlikely, therefore, that the farmer would forget it while harvesting, so the fact that its fruit was left in place is only temporary; the farmer would surely return to harvest the tree at some point and the poor are, thus, not allowed to take the olives for themselves. The Mishnah then proceeds to detail what constitutes a distinguished olive tree. It opens with qualities that pertain to the productivity of such a tree and to the reputation this productivity has given it. If the tree’s fruit exudes much oil or if it produces many olives, for example, the farmer is likely to remember it and his failing to harvest the tree does not constitute forgetting.
This principle appears to reflect a notion, apparent also in the Greco-Roman art of memory, that we are likely to remember something which is unique and to which we have a strong mental or emotional attachment. In formulating what he calls “the theory of images” the author of Rhetorica Ad Herennium explains:
When we see in everyday life things that are petty, ordinary, and banal, we generally fail to remember them, because the mind is not being stirred by anything novel or marvelous. But if we see or hear something exceptionally base, dishonorable, extraordinary, great, unbelievable, or laughable, that we are likely to remember a long time. Accordingly, things immediate to our eye or ear we commonly forget; incidents of our childhood we often remember best. Nor could this be so for any other reason than that ordinary things easily slip from the memory while the striking and novel stay longer in mind. (Rhetorica Ad Herennium, III.22.35).35
Although our ruling from Pe’ah is not interested in mnemonic mechanisms as such and may not be a direct response to Ad Herennium, it betrays a similar understanding of how memory functions and what constitutes a memorable object.
The other indicator for the Mishnah that an olive tree is distinguished from all other trees in its vicinity, and should not therefore be considered forgotten produce, is its spatial context. If the tree stands at a special location in the field, alongside the winepress or near the opening in the fence for instance, the rabbis assume that the farmer would not forget it easily, and that any failure to harvest the fruit of such a tree is, again, only temporary. Here too, we are faced with a central mnemonic principle: the spatial position and visual conspicuousness of an object or an image in relation to its immediate surrounding affects our ability to remember it. The more peculiar its position or form, the deeper it will be inscribed in our mind. When instructing the student of memory, Ad Herennium states:
Further, backgrounds differing in form and nature must be secured, so that, thus distinguished, they may be clearly visible; for if a person has adopted many intercolumnar spaces, their resemblance to one another will so confuse him that he will no longer know what he has set in each place. (Rhetorica Ad Herennium, III.19.31).36
As in the case of the Mishnah, which deems a uniquely positioned olive tree unforgettable, Ad Herenium’s loci of the imagination must be distinct in order to be visible to the mind’s eye.
The notion that spatial and visual context has a role in making things memorable, is expressed also in a ruling which follows the one we have just reviewed. Here, the Mishnah rules:
An olive tree which stands in the midst of three rows of two rectangles (malbenim) and [the farmer] forgot [to harvest] it—it is not [subject to the restrictions of] forgotten produce ... (mPeah 7:2).37
In this ruling the olive tree’s position makes it conspicuous and memorable not because it stands next to specific landmarks in the field, but, rather, because of its relation to this field’s outline. Generations of commentators on the Mishnah have tried to explain the term “three rows of two rectangles,” claiming for example, that the rabbis speak here of three rows of olive trees, which are separated by two rectangular spaces or planted areas.38 Figures 5a–5c are contemporary renderings that demonstrate various interpretations of the Mishnah.39 In view of the similarities I illuminated between rabbinic literature and the Roman texts of the Agrimensorum, I would like to offer another explanation, which has implications also for the issue of memory.
In the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum the rectangle is the fundamental element of centuriation (centuriatio or limitatio)—the division of a territory into individual plots of land for the purpose of cultivation and inhabitation.40 Interestingly, many of the works in the Agrimensorum explicitly discuss olive trees as boundary markers, which are planted on the measured borders of such plots and the pathways they provided (sl. limes). For example, an anonymous text from the Agrimensorum reads:
We set up a fruit-bearing olive-tree on the line of the limes, and this indicates a well, or certainly a river-bed. (Ordines Finitionum, C 248.25–26) (fig. 6)
In another text from the Agrimensorum we find a different example of the use of olive trees as boundary markers. Figure 7 accompanies the following text:
In an olive grove you should find out the direction of the boundaries in the following way. If the rows of olive-trees meet one another at an angle, this is a boundary line. If they meet in straight lines, this does not constitute a boundary … (Ex Libris Dolabellae, C 222.21–25) (fig. 7)
These two out of many references to olive trees as boundary markers in the Agrimensorum, which are often accompanied by illustrations in the manuscripts, are telling (see for example figure. 8). They demonstrate that, in the context of Roman land survey, olive trees are signs that distinguish territories from one another; they are subtle hints inserted into the landscape, whose spatial message can be deciphered by a trained eye. In this sense, the trees are the elements, which give structure to the continuous land and make the specific plots—the places themselves—memorable.
With that it is possible to return to the Mishnaic statement about the olive tree that stands in the midst of three rows of two rectangles. The possibility that the Mishnah corresponds here with the traditions recorded in the Agrimensorum and has in mind an olive tree that functions as a boundary marker, suggests that the rectangles it mentions are regarded as centuriated plots of land. If this is indeed the case, we may understand this olive tree as unique and memorable not because it stands out, but because its location on the boundaries of various plots makes it a spatial and visual marker. In other words, the tree is not likely to be forgotten because it is itself a reminder; it speaks in the tacit language of land surveyors about a hidden water source or a boundary between two properties (figs. 9a–b).
The last rabbinic discussion of forgotten produce, which I would like to analyze here, comes from tractate Pe’ah in the Palestinian Talmud and is much more explicit about the question of mnemonic techniques. This discussion is brought by the Talmud in its elaboration of the Mishnaic ruling about the distinguished olive tree (mPe’ah 7:1), which I reviewed above:
Rabbi Jeremiah inquired [i.e., suggested]: “If [a particular tree] is distinguished in one’s mind (be-daʿato)—[the law applies to it] as if it was distinguished [in reality] …” (yPe’ah 7:1, 20a)
For Rabbi Jeremiah, a tree does not have to have unique features in reality in order to be exempt from the restrictions of forgotten produce. According to him, it is enough for a tree to be unique in the farmer’s mind to qualify it as distinguished, and to assume that this farmer would have returned to harvest the fruit at some point. To phrase it differently, a farmer may have his own way of marking the tree in his memory and should, therefore, be allowed to keep the fruit he forgot to harvest even if, in reality, the tree is utterly unremarkable.
This seems to take the case of shikheḥah to its extreme legal and philosophical limits. By claiming that the principle of Forgotten Produce is completely subjective, Jeremiah undermines the entire legal project of regulating forgetfulness. He effectively takes away the court’s ability to determine, on the basis of observation and evaluation, whether a tree is indeed memorable or not. In order to better understand this bold move, I turn, once more, to the Rhetorica Ad Herennium for assistance:
Often, in fact, when we declare that some one form resembles another, we fail to receive universal assent, because things seem different to different persons. The same is true with respect to images: one that is well-defined to us appears relatively inconspicuous to others. Everybody, therefore, should, in equipping himself with images, suit his own convenience. (Rhetorica Ad Herennium, III.23.38–39).41
Hence, if memory is fundamentally subjective and relative, Jeremiah’s statement simply takes this principle to its inevitable conclusion—no person can truly know what triggers the memory of another person and what, therefore, brings about their forgetfulness. Although Jeremiah may not have thought of his theoretical farmer as having an imaginary grove or field in his mind, wherein each tree is placed according to special visual and spatial features, seeing his statement in light of Greco-Roman mnemonics allows us to understand his contribution in the context of a broader discourse of memory. In this regard, it is possible to position the Talmudic problem exemplified by Rabbi Jeremiah’s opinion in relation to the Platonic formulations of memory with which I started. In the Philebus (38a–39c), for instance, Socrates speaks of a scribe (grammateus) in our soul who records true or false accounts of impressions (pathēmata) we experience. Alongside this scribe, a painter (zōgraphus) is at work in our soul, providing illustrations to his counterpart’s words. With this, a separation is established between the result of sensation and “the images he has formed inside himself ” (39b).42 For the rabbis, this separation interestingly allows to treat the most emancipated internal image as evidence in the dealings of reality.
The sources reviewed here strongly suggest that mnemonic techniques shaped rabbinic texts and traditions, but also affected the evolution of the sages’ understanding of space and image. The spatial techniques and principles of memorization as they were applied in rabbinic scholastic and ritual practices appear to have made their way into the rabbis’ laws and discussions. Joan Branham has recently proposed a useful way to think about such a phenomenon in the context of mapping sacred space, which is particularly pertinent to the rabbinic systems I explore.43 As she notes, Jonathan Z. Smith uses the semantic phrase “map is not territory” to think about the gap between religious symbolic representations and the worlds they represent, claiming that “maps are all we posses.”44 Following Smith, Jacob Neusner describes the Mishnah and its treatment of the sacrificial cult and the Jerusalem Temple as “map without territory,” implying that, for the rabbis, the text replaced space or its visual representation.45 Branham, however, complicates this model by saying that “... mapping is relational; the mapping of one entity by means of another redefines and reformulates spaces as well as the participants acting within them.”46 In this sense, the act of mapping changes the cartographers and, consequently, the topography they set out to chart. It may be said, therefore, that the mapping of words and images in internal spaces in the rabbinic art of memory, as well as the mnemonic elements that the rabbis seem to have absorbed from Greco-Roman urban planning and land survey (from the spaces and representations themselves) changed the rabbinic “cartographers” and eventually affected the places where their traditions became common practice.
Lastly, Roman land survey and urban planning point to another aspect of memory, which has to do with the recording of the urban territory and its story. Apart from being a professional manual, the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum chronicles the history of the specific sites and communities that its authors encountered in their work. In addition, surveyors made copper maps of the plots they allocated and placed them in the city’s archive (often located in the local temple) for safekeeping as a legal document, which could be consulted in cases of disputes over land.47 The city of Sepphoris is said to have had an archive, perhaps located in a local religious or civic building, and we may only speculate that the maps recording its plots were kept alongside the lists of witnesses described in rabbinic literature as deposited there.48 The account of land disputes, which were not always resolved by the surveyors’ maps, eventually entered the pages of the Agrimensorum, serving as instructional stories for future surveyors. As a text with technical, legal and pedagogical components, which records urban stories as it aspires to shape urban space, the Agrimensorum is, therefore, not entirely different from rabbinic texts. This similarity and the shared late antique reverberations of place, image and literature it reveals indicates that space and its representations may themselves become objects of memory.
Paul Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 44.
yKet 12:3, 35a = yKil 9:4, 32b.
The term used here is ashgerit eynayi. Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, (London: Luzac & Co., 1903), 1522. For a review of this story as an example of rabbinic visual piety see Rachel Neis, The Sense of Sight in Rabbinic Culture: Jewish Ways of Seeing in Late Antiquity, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 231.
Shlomo Na’eh, “The Craft of Memory: Memory Structures and Textual Patterns in Rabbinic Literature” in Meḥqerei Talmud: Talmudic Studies Dedicated to the Memory of Professor Ephraim E. Urbach, eds. Yaakov Sussmann and David Rosenthal, (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magness Press, 2005), 555–556 (in Hebrew).
Plato: Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper, trans. M. J. Levett and Myles F. Burnyeat, (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1997), 212.
See the broader discussion of this issue in Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting, 7–15.
Aristotle, Peri mnēmēs kai anamnēsēos, 450a26–27, 450a30. See Richard Sorabji, Aristotle on Memory, 2nd ed., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 37; Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting, 16; Janet Coleman, Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 5-38.
Harry Caplan, [Cicero] Ad C. Herennium De Ratione Dicendi (Rhetorica Ad Herennium), Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954; reprint, 1964), 209. Caplan translates loci (the parallel of the Greek topoi) as “backgrounds” while Yates translates this term as “places.” Frances Amelia Yates, The Art of Memory, (London: Pimlico, 1992), 22.
Dalibor Vesely, Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation: The Question of Creativity in the Shadow of Production, (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT, 2004), 97–103. See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, (London: Routledge, 1962; reprint, 2002), especially 22–29, 157–161.
Na’eh, “The Craft of Memory,” 570–576. For another technique see also Na’eh, 561, n81. And see mSot 7:7; tSot 7:11–12 (MS Vienna does not mention the “heart” as the location of these chambers); Avot de-Rabbi Natan B 13; Sifre Deut. 355. For the important link between vision and the heart in rabbinic literature see the illuminating analysis in Rachel Neis, “’Their Backs toward the Temple, and Their Faces toward the East:’ the Temple and Toilet Practices in Rabbinic Palestine and Babylonia,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 (2012): 330–338.
Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Oral Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity, (Lund and Copenhagen: C. W. K. and Ejnar Munksgaard, 1964); Jacob Neusner, The Memorized Torah: The Mnemonic System of the Mishnah, Brown Judaic Studies (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985); Martin S. Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism, 200 BCE–400 CE, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Steven D. Fraade, From Tradition to Commentary: Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 110–121; Michael D. Swartz, Scholastic Magic: Ritual and Revelation in Early Jewish Mysticism, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996); Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, “The Orality of Rabbinic Writing,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Charlotte Fonrobert and Martin Jaffee (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 38–57; Na’eh, “The Craft of Memory,” 543–589; Moulie Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud, (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014), 180–202.
The main rabbinic texts analyzed here come from tEruv chapter 4 and mEruv chapter 5. For a comparison of the two from the perspective of urban geometry see Gil P. Klein, “Squaring the City: Between Roman and Rabbinic Urban Geometry,” in Phenomenologies of the City: Studies in the History and Philosophy of Architecture, ed. Henriette Steiner and Maximilian Sternberg, (Farnham, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015), 33–48. For a short discussion of rabbinic Shabbat Boundary and land surveying in the context of mathematical calculations see W. M. Feldman, Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy, (New York: Hermon Press, 1978), 25–26. Feldman mentions Rabbi Abraham bar Chiya’s twelfth-century book on Geometry and Mensuration (hibur ha-meshiḥah veha-tishboret), in which the author discusses his contemporary medieval land surveyors. For a reference to “surveyor” in the Palestinian Talmud see Jacob Neusner, The Talmud of the Land of Israel: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation, vol. 20—Hagigah and Moed Qatan (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1986), 161, 158. For measuring and surveying tools in general with some reference to rabbinic literature see Ronny Reich, “Measuring Tools in the Service of Architects and Masons in Antiquity,” in Measuring and Weighing in Ancient Times, ed. Ofra Rimon (Haifa: University of Haifa, 2001), 61-67. For an acknowledgement of the connection between rabbinic practices and orthogonal urban planning in the Greco-Roman world see Michael Chyutin, The Jerusalem Scroll from Qumran, (Tel Aviv: Bavel, 2003), 120–136 (in Hebrew). And see Shmuel Safrai and Ze’ev Safrai, Mishnat Eretz Israel, Tractate Eruvin (Moed Vol. 3): With Historical and Sociological Commentary, (Jerusalem: The E.M. Liphshitz College Publishing House, 2009), 163-165 (in Hebrew).
Oswald A. W. Dilke, “Maps in the Service of the States: Roman Cartography to the End of the Augustan Era,” in The History of Cartography, ed. J. B. Harley and David Woodward (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 201–211.
Brian J. Campbell, The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary, (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2000), xlv–lxi. For the historical background of land survey see pages xlv–xlvi.
See Zeev Weiss and Ehud Netzer, “Hellenistic and Roman Sepphoris: The Archaeological Evidence,” in Sepphoris in Galilee: Crosscurents of Culture, ed. Rebecca Martin Nagy et al. (Raleigh: North Carolina Museum of Art, 1996), 29–38; Yizhar Hirschfeld and Eran Meir, “Tiberias—2004,” Hadashot Arkheologiyot 118 (2006), accessed July 4, 2017, http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.aspx?id=337&mag_id=111.
For meẓupit and sheforferet (dioptra) see yEruv 4:2, 21d and bEruv 43b. For the measuring rope see mEruv 5:4; tEruv 4:16; yEruv 5:3, 22d; bEruv 57b-58b. For a discussion of Greco-Roman surveying instruments in the context of Rabban Gamaliel’s dioptra see Michael Jonathan Taunton Lewis, Surveying Instruments of Greece and Rome, (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 46–47, 305–306. Daniel Sperber, Nautica Talmudica, (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1986), 107–109. Saul Lieberman, Tosefta Kifshuta, (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1955), vol. 3—Moed., 382 (in Hebrew). Saul Lieberman, Hayerushalmi Kifshuto , third ed., vol. I.1 (New York and Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 2008), 282 (in Hebrew). Uri Zur and Yehuda Ashkenazi, “Rabban Gamaliel’s Telescope and Proposed Method for Measuring Valley Depths—a Talmudic Geodesy,” BDD 19 (2008): 525 (in Hebrew).
For the practice called qidur or qidud (cutting-through), which appears mort frequently as meqadrin be-harim (cutting-through mountains), see mEruv 5:4; tEruv 4:14-16; yEruv 5:3, 22d; bEruv 57b–58b. For an alternative translation see Heinrich W. Guggenheimer, The Jerusalem Talmud. Second Order, Mo’ed. Tractates Šabbat and Eruvin, (Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2012), 675. On this practice and its name see Abraham Goldberg, The Mishnah Treatise Eruvin, (Jerusalem: Magness Press, The Hebrew University, 1986), 142–145 (in Hebrew). In the Roman contexts see the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum, Frontinus, De Arte Mensoria, C 13.3–15.33. For commentary and diagrams regarding this section in Frontinus see Campbell, Land Surveyors, 330–331; 488–490. See ibid., 500, for the definition of cultellatio—the technique of including sloping ground in a survey. Like its rabbinic parallel, the term may be associated with the notion of cutting through, and is possibly derived from culter (knife). And see ibid., 499 for a definition of the chorobates—the instrument for measuring horizontal distances on an uneven ground.
bEruv 56b; bBM 107b.
Vitruvius, De Arch., 3.1.2-3. trans. Morris Hicky Morgan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914), 72–73. tEruv 3:11. For the four cubits as a Greek measurement, which was adopted by the rabbis, see Daniel Sperber, “A Note on Some Shi’urim and Graeco-Roman Measurements,” Journal of Jewish Studies 20, no. 1–4 (1969): 81–86.
For an understanding of rabbinic laws of the Sabbath, including the Sabbath Boundary, in early Christianity see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “Sabbath Law and Mishnah Shabbat in Origen De Principiis,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 17 (2010): 16–189.
For an illumination of this passage see Lieberman, Tosefta Kifshuta, 366–368.
It should be noted, that the Tosefta speaks about such cities as urban plans, whose shapes are highly abstract; purely square, circular, rectangular, arched or gamma-shaped cities were extremely rare in the Greco-Roman context. This abstraction is not entirely surprising in view of the theoretical nature of rabbinic legal speculations, but it could also be explained as an attempt on the part of the rabbis to describe general outlines that would apply to a variety of urban situations (in reality, what the rabbis call “a circular city” could simply refer to a loosely concentric structure, for instance). For the symbolism of geometry in the context of rabbinic and Roman urban practices see Klein, “Squaring the City,” 44–45.
See for example Hyginus , De Condicionibus Agrorum, C 82.1–5, which is included in the Agrimensorum.
“Γ. It extends up to a hill. It does not have extensive land. It is in the shape of the [letter] gamma. Behind it, at the foot it has a spring, and below, a river.” (Casae Litterarum III, C 236.30–31). See Campbell, Land Surveyors, illustration 230.
“Σ. It occupies a valley. From a water [supply], it extends over hills and returns to the water. (Its boundary occasionally has a river).” (Casae Litterarum III, C 238.7–8). See ibid., illustration 240.
Ibid., xliv. The suggestion that the Casae Litterarum is a school exercise was made already by Theodor Mommsen, Gesammelte Schriften, 8 vols. (Berlin: Weidmann, 1905–1913) vol. 7, 466–467. For a comprehensive study of this work see Åke Josephson, Casae Litterarum. Studien Zum Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum, (Uppsala: Almquvist & Wiksells, 1950).
The fact that the illustration in the manuscript diverges from the text and exhibits a lunate sigma, which looks like a bow, raises interesting questions regarding the rabbinic parallel. It points to the possibility that the exchange between the rabbis and this Roman work involved an illustration rather than a text.
Harald Weinrich, Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 12.
Umberto Eco, “An Ars Oblivionalis: Forget It!” PMLA, 103 (1988): 258.
And see Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting, 30: “For mediating memory—Gedächtnis—forgetting remains both a paradox and an enigma. A paradox, as it is unfolded by Augustine the rhetorician: how can we speak of forgetting except in terms of the memory of forgetting, as this is authorized and sanctioned by the return and the recognition of the “thing” forgotten? Otherwise, we would not know what we have forgotten. An enigma, because we do not know, in a phenomenological sense, whether forgetting is only an impediment to evoking and recovering the “lost time,” or whether it results from the unavoidable wearing away “by” time of the traces left in us by past events in the form of original affections.” In his discussion of memory and forgetting, Ricœur also refers to Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. N. Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950); Henri Bergson, “Intellectual Effort,” in Mind-Energy: Lectures and Essays (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1975), 186–230.
John Cassian, Conference, XIV.13. Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200, (Cambridge, U.K. and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 88–92. See also Columba Stewart, Cassian the Monk, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 94–95.
Na’eh, “The Craft of Memory,” 553.
See Lev. 19:9–10; Deut. 24:19–22. For the distinction between such allocations and the concept of charity see Gregg E. Gardner, The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 31–32.
The word, “even” used to distinguish an olive tree does not appear in MS Kaufmann. For an alternative reading of netofa see Shmuel Safrai and Ze’ev Safrai, Mishnat Eretz Israel, Tractate Pe’ah (Zeraʿim Vol. 2): With Historical and Sociological Commentary, (Jerusalem: The E.M. Liphshitz College Publishing House, 2012), 228-233 (in Hebrew).
Caplan, [Cicero] Rhetorica Ad Herennium, 221.
And see Sifre Deut. 284; Midr. Tan. Deut. 24:19. Safrai and Safrai, Pe’ah, 234-240.
For the term malbenot tevu’ah (rectangles of crops) see mPe’ah 3:1. The term rectangle in this Mishnah is, however, not referring to crops and often appears in a more general sense of a geometrical shape. See Safrai and Safrai, Pe’ah, 116-117.
Figs. 5a–5c are diagrams from the modern Steinsaltz edition of tractate Pe’ah, which render the understandings of this phrase by traditional commentators. These commentators include: Rabbi Moses Maimonides, Rabbi Samson ben Abraham of Sens, Rabbi Solomon Sirilio, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (Gaon of Vilna), and Rabbi Meir Merim Shafit of Kobrin.
See for example Hyginus , Constitutio Limitum, C 134.1–162.23.
Caplan, Rhetorica Ad Herennium, 223.
See Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting, 14.
Joan R. Branham, “Mapping Sacrifice on Bodies and Spaces in Late Antique Judaism and Early Christianity,” in Architecture of the Sacred: Space, Ritual, and Experience from Classical Greece to Byzantium, eds. Bonna D. Wescoat and Robert G. Ousterhout (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 203–204.
Jonathan Z. Smith, Map Is Not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 309. And see pages 104–128 for the book’s treatment of space in Judaism. Another highly influential work in the contest of religious space is Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual, (University of Chicago Press, 1987). For this phrase “map is not territory” in general semantics see Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, 1st ed. (Brooklyn, NY: Institute of General Semantics, 1933; reprint, 2000), xvii.
Jacob Neusner, “Map without Territory: Mishnah’s System of Sacrifice and Sanctuary,” History of Religions 19 (1979): 110–112.Neusner’s approach appears to represent the now obsolete understanding of rabbinic Judaism as a strictly textual culture that has very little to do with space, image and matter.
Branham, “Mapping Sacrifice,” 205.
Claude Nicolet, Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), 154.
mQid 4:5. And see the discussion of this institution in Stuart S. Miller, Studies in the History and Traditions of Sepphoris, (Leiden: Brill, 1984), 46–51.