Under Augustus’ imperial rule, the view widened beyond the city of Rome to include the empire, peace within the empire,

Caesarea Maritima, water pipeline
Caesarea Maritima, water pipeline

and the participation of all inhabitants, even including slaves, in the political and religious life of the city of Rome and the empire.

After achieving prosperity, the cities of Asia Minor in Hellenistic and Roman times looked for myths that linked their own past with Greece’s great past.

The pattern was the same everywhere: prosperity created the search for each city’s own significance; its own greatness was explained and idealised through a mythical past and the link to an even older culture.

In her doctoral thesis Mythische Vorväter, published in revised form as a book in 1993, Tanja Susanne Scheer describes many interesting examples of cities outside the Greek mother country.


The contemporary solution to the legitimacy problem at the time, as was practised both in Rome and in many Hellenistic cities,


was not to found a new religion, but to create a new gallery of ancestors by means of a fictional literature. This gave the citizens the sense of being descended from great forebears, justifying the cultural standards and material prosperity they enjoyed.

The wide dissemination of Jewish settlements, the spread of the Jewish population beyond Judea and the increasing prevalence of reading and writing in Roman times all meant that the Jewish culture was already half-way to becoming a written culture. Only the holy texts had not yet been written down.