Added: June 6, 2015 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Author: Julia Watts Belser

Title: Sex in the Shadow of Rome

Subtitle: Sexual Violence and Theological Lament in Talmudic Disaster Tales

Journal: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion

Volume: 30

Issue: 1

Year: Spring 2014

Pages: 5-24

ISSN: 8755-4178 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1553-3913 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Ancient Near East, Ancient Rome | Types: Wartime Rape


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Link: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)


Author: Julia Watts Belser, Department of Theology, Georgetown

Abstract: »This article analyzes the representation of rape in three narratives from the Babylonian Talmud's account of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and discusses the connection between sexual violence, enslavement, and colonial domination. These narratives mimic pervasive Roman symbolism of imperial dominance as a form of “sexual conquest,” using that symbolism to express rabbinic lament and violation at the hands of Rome. These stories express elements of rabbinic resistance to imperial domination, emphasizing Jewish resilience even in the midst of intense suffering. Yet the symbolic and theological significance afforded to rape in these narratives also reinscribes the vulnerability and invisibility of women and enslaved people in both rabbinic and Roman cultures. By using rape to conceptualize divine woundedness and rabbinic lament, these narratives privilege the theological significance of Roman violation over the brutal body cost of imperial conquest.« (Source: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion)


  Rape and/as Roman Domination in Rabbinic Literature (p. 6)
  Rape and the Altar: Sexual Violence in Titus's Conquest of the Jerusalem Temple (p. 11)
  Temple Rape and the Zonah: Fashioning the Rabbinic Whore (p. 14)
  Captivity and Sexual Conquest: Sexual Violence, Enslavement, and Empire (p. 15)
  The Depths of the Sea: Gender, Enslavement, and Sexual Violation (p. 18)
  The Daughter Who Draws the Gaze: Tsafnat bat Penuel and the Power of Lament (p. 20)

Wikipedia: History of Israel: Judea (Roman province); Talmud; Wartime sexual violence: First Jewish–Roman War, Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70)