This program unit examines Jewish, Christian, and Graeco-Roman travel in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Early Byzantine Periods.

The study of travel and movement in these periods has recently gained momentum across various academic disciplines. In ancient history and Hellenistic and Roman archaeology, scholars have begun to debate what it means to “understand objects in motion.” In the study of Early Judaism and Early Christianity, scholars are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of travel and travel descriptions for how Christians and Jews positioned themselves within the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Likewise, classicists have begun to direct their attention with new vigor to the works of ancient travel writers, such as Pausanias, Aelius Aristides, and Philostratus. And scholars of the later Roman and Early Byzantine periods have developed a vivid interest in pilgrimage. This program unit aims to bring these various debates and perspectives together and so to foster cross-fertilization beyond the boundaries of academic disciplines.

This program unit takes a broad approach to travel, including historical, fictional, and symbolic journeys. By so doing, the program unit addresses a comprehensive range of aspects of travel in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Early Byzantine periods.

Finally, this program unit calls explicit attention to the various types of evidence for travel in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Early Byzantine periods and to their interaction in scholarly dealings with ancient travel. Attention will be paid not only to literary and material evidence, but also to types of evidence that are more often neglected, such as papyrological and epigraphic sources. Due to this broad set-up, the proposed unit nurtures interdisciplinary work and methodological pluriformity. As such, it will be attractive to a range of biblical scholars, as well as to those working on related topics in Graeco-Roman studies, ancient Mediterranean history, and archaeology.

The unit is of particular relevance for scholars in Biblical and Jewish Studies, where areas of research have become highly specialized in recent decades. Many researchers would identify themselves as specialists in, e.g., Qumran, Philo, Septuagint, or Paul. This may result in deep expertise in particular research questions and bodies of sources, but it is harmful insofar as cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration are necessary conditions for the emergence of fresh innovations and breakthroughs, which can move forward the field as a whole. The broad and integrative aims of the proposed program unit will contribute to the deconstruction of boundaries between academic disciplines and to the creation of an arena in which diverse scholars can take part in the dialogue.