Babylonian Cosmopolitanism and the Birth of Greek and Hebrew Literate Traditions


ACLS Fellowship Program




How could ancient Hebrew and Greek traditions emerge in the first millennium BCE in the shadow of the Babylonian literate culture that had dominated the eastern Mediterranean world for millennia before? This project aims to answer this crucial question in the intellectual history of the region from the perspective of cosmopolitanism and vernacularization. Instead of presenting Babylonian literate culture as a metropolitan creation imitated in the periphery, the project analyzes it as something intellectuals from all over the Near East sustained, making it truly cosmopolitan. The project also investigates how in the first millennium multiple literate cultures, including Hebrew and Greek, developed out of this cosmopolis, not by borrowing elements, but rather through a more subtle and creative process that led to vernacular cultures.