Ethnic Violence in Roman Alexandria: A Comparative Approach

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The aim in this article is to offer a new approach to the study of the riots in Alexandria in 38 CE. This riot is one of the better attested outbreaks of mass urban violence from antiquity. Yet, in spite of the weight of scholarship, the rioting remains a puzzle. This analysis deploys a close reading of the literary accounts to establish an urban sociology that would explain ethnic division in the city. It deploys comparative material to establish a ‘pathway’ between ethnic division in the city to ethnic polarisation and violence. Competition between networks with ethnic characteristics became ethnic violence in the particular political circumstances of 38 CE. The result was to polarise the city and set the conditions for the subsequent decades of violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-42
Number of pages28
JournalActa Classica
Early online date27 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2020


  • Philo
  • Alexandria
  • Ethnic violence
  • Roman
  • Empire
  • Riots
  • Jews
  • Antiquity

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