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Kosher olive oil in antiquity

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Chapter Summary

Olive oil was an item of considerable importance in the economy of the land of Israel. The concern of the inhabitants to ensure their supply of olive oil is illustrated by finds of oil presses on Mount Hermon some way above the height at which olive trees flourish. By the time of the early Roman empire olive cultivation was almost universally found in lowland coastal regions, and the long-distance trade in high quality luxury oil was equalled in bulk and distribution only by the trade in wine. Josephus stated that the Jews had been shut up in Caesarea Philippi by Modius, Agrippa II's viceroy, but if John of Gischala's kosher oil could get in, presumably Jews could get out. It is difficult to explain why Jews should have dropped the traditional aversion to gentile oil which had apparently been so keenly felt in Josephus' day.

Keywords: Caesarea Philippi; gentile oil; Israel; Josephus; kosher; Olive oil; Roman empire



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