Commemorative Fictions: Athens (480 B.C.E.), Jerusalem (168 B.C.E.), and Alexandria (38 C.E.)

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This article examines the link between narratives transposing traumatic events into fictional story worlds and commemorative settings. The case-study of Athens serves to establish that wartime episodes could indeed be memorialized through fictional narratives and the reinterpretation of traditional myths, which were associated with such settings. Next, it is argued that alongside their recounting in texts referencing the events in a direct (mimetic) way, the inter-ethnic clashes in Alexandria (38 C.E.) and Antiochos IV's storming of Jerusalem (168 B.C.E.) spawned fictional narratives that reshaped the sources into stories of divine salvation in which massacres exist only as threats that are eventually averted, while the Judeans triumph over their enemies. As argued here, it is through this narrative transmogrification that the traumatic episodes were commemorated in festivals, which ostensibly celebrated victories. The texts discussed are Philo's In Flaccum, 3 Maccabees, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Masoretic Text Esther, and Judith, and as complements, the Acta Alexandrinorum and Chairemon's and Apion's Exodus Stories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-96
Number of pages20
JournalHebrew Bible and Ancient Israel
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Philo, In Flaccum
  • 3 Maccabees
  • Antiochus IV's religious persecution
  • Nicanor's Day
  • Purim


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