Friday, September 24, 2010

lao Sabaoth
and Zeus-Jupiter (lat. Iove/Iovis) Sabazius /

Ο Ιαώ Σαβαώθ
και ο Δίας-Ιούπιτερ (λατ. Ιόβε/Ιόβις) Σαβάζιος

«It has been suggested that the first reference to the Jews in Italy, the expulsion of Jewish missionaries from Rome in 139 B.C.E., maybe taken as proof that some syncretistic Jews from Asia Minor responded positively to the pagan concept of theocrasy and propagated in Rome a syncretistic cult of Jupiter Sabazius. However, the evidence for this is anything but unequivocal. The only witness is Valerius Maximus (beginning of the first century C.E.), whose full text is not preserved but has come down to us only in two epitomes, one by Iulius Paris (fourth century C.E.?) and one by Ianuarius Nepotianus (fourth-fifth century C.E.?). According to Paris' epitome, "Cn. Cornelius Hispalus, praetor peregrinus in the year of the consulate of P. Popilius Laenas and L. Calpurnius,... compelled the Jews, who attempted to infect the Roman customs with the cult of Jupiter Sabazius (qui Sabazi Iovis cultu Romanos inficere mores conati erant), to return to their homes."

Sabazius was a Phrygian god whose orgiastic cult came to Athens as early as the fifth century B.C.E. and who is very well attested in the imperial period. He was identified with Dionysus and, in Asia Minor, with Zeus-Jupiter. The equation of the Jewish God with Jupiter Sabazius no doubt was facilitated by the similarity of "Sabazius" with either "Sabaoth" or "Sabbath," and those who are in favor of a Jewish syncretistic cult point to Asia Minor as the fertile soil of Jewish-pagan blends and to the possibility that the expulsion of the "heterodox Jews" from Rome was arranged by Simeon the Maccabee's delegation to Rome, which allegedly visited Rome in 139 B.C.E. This is, however, mere conjecture, and especially the latter argument is invalidated for chronological reasons. It seems most likely, then, that the "Jupiter Sabazius" is either a corruption of "lao Sabaoth" by Valerius Maximus' source (or by the epitomist Iulius Paris or his medieval copyists respectively) or another piece of evidence for the pagan attempt to identify the Jewish God with Jupiter, the highest God of the Roman pantheon. From a historical point of view it is more probable that the Jews tried to introduce their "original" Jewish cult in Rome and that later on, either by Valerius Maximus or by his source, this cult was identified with the one of Jupiter Sabazius.»

* Peter Schäfer,
Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World
[Ιουδαιοφοβία: Τρόποι συμπεριφοράς προς τους Ιουδαίους στον Αρχαίο Κόσμο]
Harvard University Press, 1997,
p./σ. 51.

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