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The Letter Of Mara Bar Sarapion Some Comments On Its Philosophical And Historical Context

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Chapter Summary

The Syriac Letter of Mara bar Sarapion bristles with varied and unresolved puzzles. Rejecting Cureton's view that Mara was a Christian, Schulthess adduced a number of parallels between the letter and Stoic literature (almost exclusively from the Imperial period) to show that Mara was a full-blown Stoic. Syria had been exposed to Greek culture - including philosophy - from Early Hellenistic times onwards. Pythagoras' native island of Samos was home to one of the most important Hera cults in classical antiquity. In 1856 Ewald argued in some detail that Mara's letter refers to the events during and after the Roman conquest of Commagene in 72/73CE about which we are informed by Josephus in a precise but rather anecdotic way in Bellum 7.219-243. Mara's exaggeration may have been inspired by the large-scale deportations that took place during the Jewish War.

Keywords: Commagene; Imperial period; Jewish War; Josephus; Mara bar Sarapion; Pythagoras; Samos; Schulthess; Syriac Letter



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