Discovering Legal Pluralism: Toward a New Understanding of the Jews of Hellenistic Egypt


ACLS Fellowship Program


Religious Studies and Classics


This interdisciplinary study of Jewish legal petitions from second-century BCE Herakleopolis, Egypt upends the conception that the Jewish population of the Herakleopolite nome assimilated to the Greek cultural context and drew largely on Greek law. Instead, close analysis of the petitions demonstrates that the Greek rulers of Egypt allowed Jews the politeuma, an organization through which ethnic groups could resolve disputes according to their ancestral norms. This project blends Jewish studies and papyrology to demonstrate that Jewish litigants were legal pluralists, calling equally on Greek, Egyptian, and Jewish law. Egyptian Jews thus prove to be a more culturally pluralistic people than has been imagined.