Jewish Purity and Greco-Roman Pleasure: Hot Baths and the Ritual Baths from the Hasmoneans to Herod

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In the Hasmonean palaces at Jericho (110–31 B.C.E.) we find the earliest
Jewish ritual baths (miqva’ot) for bodily purification and also the first bathtubs
in Jewish/Judean sites. The Hasmoneans did not see a contradiction between
the two types of bathing. This attests to their inclination for Hellenistic culture
and a luxurious lifestyle while adhering to their commitment to Jewish and
priestly purity practices. Several decades later, Herod built Roman bathhouses
in his palaces at Jericho, Masada, Herodium, and Cypros and was the first
to build them in Judaea. The frigidarium (the cold-water bathing hall) was
shaped as a Jewish immersion pool or ritual bath (miqveh). Strikingly, Herod,
the champion of Romanization in Judaea, was interested in combining Roman
and Jewish bathing into a single unit as a continuous act of immersion in
water. Herod therefore blended Jewish and Roman cultures into a unified
Jewish-Roman identity. In a sense, Herod’s Roman bathhouses, which included
a Jewish miqveh, represent his own identity and cultural program of Judeo-
Romanization. Yet, Herod did not initiate the practice, since the Hasmoneans
had already used both types of bathing. For both the Hasmoneans and Herod,
bathing developed into a way of integrating different cultures into a routine
practice, although in different ways. In this paper, I will suggest why they found
both the Jewish ritual bath and the Greek or Roman bathhouse appealing, and
why they used them in different ways.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2017
EventASOR annual meeting - Boston, United States
Duration: 15 Nov 201718 Nov 2017


ConferenceASOR annual meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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