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Am Yisrael Sher 23: The sand song and its playing and the social aspects involved (b)

King Herod sought, in accordance with Roman policy, to integrate the Jewish kingdom under his leadership into the global culture of the Roman-Hellenistic Empire

An ancient harp player dressed in Roman clothes from the first century on the steps of the amphitheater in Caesarea. Produced using Dali 2. Idea: Avi Blizovsky
An ancient harp player dressed in Roman clothes from the first century on the steps of the amphitheater in Caesarea. Produced using Dali 2. Idea: Avi Blizovsky

The affair of the construction of the gymnasiums by Jewish leaders was renewed in the days of King Herod. This king sought, in accordance with Roman policy, to integrate the Jewish kingdom under his leadership into the world culture of the Roman-Hellenistic Empire. This policy was a candle to Herod's feet throughout the days of his reign, and he sought to uphold this by erasing the partitions that the separatist Jewish culture had set up around society.

To this end, Herod tried to adapt the Hellenistic education to his royal court and to attract Greeks and Hellenists from all areas of culture in those days to his royal court. And indeed, the royal construction and the cultural life of the king and of the upper layer of the population that was connected and dependent on him, were Hellenistic.

Apart from Herod's contributions regarding the revival of the ancient Olympic games, he established gymnasiums in Jericho and Acre, and according to the lists of winners in the Hellenistic world competitions that we have, other Hellenistic sports facilities were found in the Land of Israel such as in Gaza, Ashkelon, Caesarea-Panias, Diksha and Beit Shean. These facilities included gymnasiums and pubs (for adults), and hence - also musical activities and training.

It should also be noted that the Roman bath house was nothing but the Greek-Hellenistic gymnasium in Roman clothing. And if so, the construction of the many Roman-style bathhouses by Herod also contributed, quite a bit, to the development of music, even though it was alien and foreign. Also in the many memorials of the Hellenistic-Roman bathhouses during the Mishna and Talmudic periods, and the visits of members of the Sanhedrin to the place helps us to assume that this was due to the Sage's encouragement to the strata of the population, for various reasons, to visit the bathhouses and take a physical part in them. And there they absorbed the cultural atmosphere in the Hellenistic-Roman style.

In conclusion, so far it has been said that there is no shadow of doubt in the statement that where a gymnasium was built, training sessions and musical competitions were also held. This is the case in the Land of Israel and even more so in the two neighbors to the north and south - Syria and Egypt where there was a respectable Jewish community. The attitude of the Jews towards the Hellenistic educational and cultural institutions largely reflected their relationship with the citizens of the cities where they lived. Most likely, in places where normal relations prevailed, certain circles among the Jews were not even averse to taking an active part in the life of these institutions.

Herod was not content with building gymnasiums and apiaries, but also held agonistic/sporting competitions on an unprecedented scale in the country.

In 28 BC, Herod held games in Jerusalem in interesting proximity to the Actian games held in Nicopolis on the occasion of Octavian's victory over Antony. The Herodian Jerusalem games included the three classical Greek-Hellenistic disciplines: gymnastics, music and equestrian competitions. To this end, Herod summoned from all over the Hellenistic-Roman world the best of the competitors in every branch, "... for he (Herod) offered the greatest victory prizes, not only to gymnasts in gymnastic entertainments, but also to those who have been involved in music all their lives and who are called Tumalekin, and he tried very hard that all the most famous They will come to the competition" (Yosef ben Matatiyo, Antiquities 270 XNUMX).

There is no doubt that Herod did this way to introduce positive consciousness towards the Greek-Hellenistic style games in the Land of Israel among the general public. And the fact that these games were held in Jerusalem only added to the importance of his actions. Furthermore, it cannot be imagined that Herod staged the games without prior preparation, meticulous and rigorous preparation, which was manifested in the encouragement of gymnastics and music in the institutions designated for this, spread throughout the length and breadth of the Greek/Hellenistic urbanization map in the Land of Israel.

In the opinion of my friend, colleague, Prof. Manfred Laemer (LAEMMER) from the Central University of Cologne, Germany, and while relying on the Greek box "Thomlikin", Herod, when it comes to preparing the games and putting them on, was helped by professional guilds named after Dionysus. These associations made, as mentioned above, an important contribution to music in the Greek cities.

Some researchers claim, for some reason, that the residents of Jerusalem opposed the holding of the music competitions that Herod held in Jerusalem. However, the examination of the sources revealed that the Jewish residents were opposed to only two elements that stood out in the games: holding fun fights between criminals sentenced to death and animals of prey and displaying the signs of victory, which they considered idolatrous idols. Hence, in this period, at the end of the first century BCE, the Jewish public did not see any sin in having gymnastic and musical performances. To teach us also about the consciousness that deepened among the Jewish public towards Greek-Hellenistic music. This public ignored, knowingly, the religious-ritual veil that covered all Greek-Hellenistic games, and examined them as a cultural branch in itself.

In 12 BC, Herod held a similar cycle of games in Caesarea in honor of Augustus (formerly Octavian), and even there these included the classic triad of gymnastics, music and equestrian competitions. And it is interesting that here music is at the top of the list of competitions, to teach us, perhaps, about the great importance attributed to it in these games.

Following Herod, his grandson, Agrippa I (10 BC - 44 AD) staged music and poetry shows in the theater he founded in Britus (today Beirut in Lebanon) - shows that were extremely popular. It is possible that these were related to the conduct of his special policy which was not much different in nature from Herod's policy, or perhaps he was influenced by what was happening in the court of the Roman Empire at the time, when Caius Caligula himself devoted himself to the arts of theater, dance and poetry, and there is no doubt that the record of these activities reached even the court of the Jerusalem aristocracy.

At the beginning of our words we mentioned that the two initial institutions that were established in every city of Polis in the East were a gymnasium and a theater. Let's expand the canvas a little when it comes to the second institution - the theater.

It is hard to imagine a theater without a musician. Music took a cardinal place in the theater performances and the theater was an ideal facility for the performance of the musical competitions in the Greek city. Many cities have built another, indoor, smaller theater specially designed for musical performances, and this is the Adeon.

We know of a number of theaters that were established on Herod's initiative - in Caesarea, Jerusalem, Jericho, Sidon and Tyre. Herod Antipas established a theater in Tiberias and Tzipori and Agrippa I built a theater in Brytus and staged plays in honor of Emperor Caligula in the theater in Caesarea, while he tried to increase the positive regard for the theater among the Jewish public. And like him also Agrippa the second, and it seems that it is no coincidence that a Jewish coin depicted the Greek god Pan walking and holding a shepherd's stick in his left hand while leaning on his shoulder and playing the shepherd's flute "Syrinx") with seven reeds, when captured in our day and bearing the inscription: "of King Agrippa, year 27 ". Year 27 of his reign, we were 83 AD. To teach us, apart from the many references we dealt with in the temple music chapter, about the relationship between this king and music.

We should also note that a number of theaters and audions have been uncovered in Israel, some of which are from the Hellenistic period and some from the Roman period.

From the destruction of the temple onward, the news about the presence of theatrics in the Greek cities in the Land of Israel is increasing. And from the fact that the sages of the Sanhedrin gradually allowed Jews to watch plays performed in the Greek theater, we can learn about the legitimization of actions that were forbidden, and that over the years they agreed with it according to the rule that no decree is passed on the public, if the majority cannot comply with it.

But watching the theater performances separately and taking an active part in it separately. And if so, Jews were found who took an active part, even though their number is extremely small as singers, or as mimics in theaters outside the Land of Israel. In any case, the opinion of the members of the Sanhedrin on this was fundamentally negative.

This phenomenon of Jews serving in various roles in the Greek theater in Greek cities dates back to the third century AD and onwards. And among the reasons for this we can mention the approach to foreigners and even to a certain extent - the difficult economic situation that prevailed in the Land of Israel, as in all the east of the Roman Empire, due to which many good people were forced to engage in livelihoods other than the necessity of reality as mentioned. Sages, as in many other cases, sought to sweeten the bitterness of the pill with a series of timely regulations and instructions regarding the peeling away of the veil of foreign labor from various pagan phenomena, in order to facilitate the relationship between the Jewish population and the non-Jewish population and enable normal daily life to be conducted in front of them.

However, even so, their approach was still complex, and one of the most beautiful examples of explaining the ear can be interpreted as follows: in the Jerusalem Talmud it is said that Rabbi Avhu of Caesarea saw in a dream "pandakka" and in another version "pantakka". That is, complete evil. And when it was brought before him he asked him about his art, his occupation. Hela replied that he commits five offenses every day and they are: "Meshfer Meiharon and Mogar Zaniata and Miel from Menyhon Livni and Mataf and Marked Kumihon and Mikaish in Bolia Kumihon." That is, he decorates the theater, hires musicians and dancers and brings their clothes to the bath house and caresses his hands and dances in front of them and plays bells.

At the end of the introduction, it becomes clear that this man was a Hasidic and helped a woman whose husband was imprisoned in the prison. In order to release him, "evil" sold him his bed and the tools of his art, and it turned out that among his tools we find the box "Arsi", which according to one researcher is nothing but another spelling of "Arsi", meaning my drum.

Before us is a description of a person who was considered the waste of the Jewish society in Caesarea and it turns out that this is a "mimos" or "pantomime" of a small theater in Caesarea, when both types were previously called "archistas", that is, a dancer and a sage showed a negative attitude towards this phenomenon, and they therefore demanded The book of Samuel (20 Samuel XNUMX:XNUMX) is about King David who crouched and squirmed before the ark of Jehovah and was called "one of the empty ones" by Michal daughter of Shaul, and the Sages ask: "What is the 'empty one'?" Rabbi Ba (Abba) Bar Kahana said: The empty ones are empty, this is Archestis" (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin chapter XNUMX p. XNUMX). That is "archistas" which means dancer.

Even another midrash who also dealt with a Jewish singer and dancer, probably in a similar situation, commented in a negative and critical tone towards those involved in this.

All the above mentions do not indicate, perhaps, a widespread phenomenon of Jewish involvement in the theater, but certainly an existing phenomenon in this regard. And there is reason to assume that Jews who held such positions and positions, not only possessed a talent for singing, playing music or dancing, that this came to them from sitting in foreign cities, such as in Caesarea, and watching theatrical performances there.


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