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image of Journal for the Study of Judaism

Because Josephus consistently casts Jewish funerary customs in Roman hues, his contribution to our knowledge of Roman funerary practices is extensive. Three dimensions of his writings in particular evince taut alliances between Roman and Jewish funerals. The first is a précis of Jewish burial custom in Contra Apionem 2.205, in which Josephus portrays the Jewish constitution as one that eschews funerary excess—a characterization that mirrors Cicero's depiction of modest Roman burial custom in De legibus 2.59-64. The second is Josephus's transformation of the biblical portrait of David's mourning through the addition of numerous elements that are familiar principally from literary sources which depict Roman funerary custom. The third dimension is comprised of Josephus's descriptions of funerary opulence, which reach their pinnacle in Herodian funerals, whose customs and cortèges mirror the lavish obsequies of the Roman aristocracy.


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