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The first crime: Brothers and fratricide in the ancient Mediterranean

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Chapter Summary

After the expulsion of the first mortals from Paradise, the author of Genesis immediately continues with the story of Cain and Abel. This story is the very first fratricide. The story's place in Israel's Urgeschichte and event itself raise several questions. Firstly, what does the story say about the relationship between brothers in ancient Israel? Secondly, why did Israelite imagination think up fratricide as the very first crime and not, for example, patricide or matricide? This chapter looks at these interrelated questions in comparison with two other ancient Mediterranean cultures, Greece and Rome, but also brings in some modern anthropological material. It looks first at the importance and nature of fraternal relations in Israel, Greece and Rome, then at the tensions and fratricides in these cultures, and finally looks at fratricide in connection with patricide and matricide.

Keywords: Abel; ancient Mediterranean cultures; brothers; Cain; fratricide; Genesis; Greece; Israel; Rome; Urgeschichte



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