The Priest and the Great King: Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire

by Vadim Jigoulov
The Priest and the Great King: Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire
Vadim Jigoulov
Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Reviewed work(s): The Priest and the Great King: Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire by Lisbeth S. Fried

The Priest and the Great King: Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire. By LISBETH S. FRIED. Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego, vol. 10. Winona Lake, Indiana: EISENBRAUNS, 2004. Pp. xv 266. $39.
In this thorough revision of her dissertation, L. Fried sets the goal of finding out whether the Jewish priesthood accrued secular political power in the Persian period and if it did, how it related to the Persian imperial administration of Judah/Yehud (p. 2). Fried sets out to explain the traditionally accepted transition from monarchy to theocracy in Judah toward the beginning of Alexander's time by testing three theories of imperial administration which she briefly discusses in chapter one. These three theories are the hypothesis of self-governance (Danda-mayev, Knoppers, et al.), that of imperial authorization (Frei and Koch), and that of foreign or central control (S. Eisenstadt).
In chapters two through four, Fried examines archival and epigraphic data from the temples in the western satrapies of Babylonia, Egypt, and Asia Minor, in order to establish whether temple elites lost, preserved, or gained power in the Achaemenid period. At the same time, she tests the applicability of the three hypotheses of imperial administration to the Achaemenid administration in each of the satrapies. In chapter five, she examines textual, archaeological, and numismatic findings from Judah in order to determine whether her conclusions for the western satrapies are congruent with the situation there. As she did for the western satrapies, Fried reasserts the applicability of Eisenstadt's model of tight central imperial control to the situation in Yehud and its superiority over the models of self-governance and imperial authorization (p. 233).
Fried argues that the Achaemenid empire adopted for its own purposes mechanisms of power developed by Nabonidus (p. 47). In terms of the Persian treatment of religious institutions, there emerged a clear tendency to interfere heavy-handedly in temple affairs throughout the empire in the form of taxation of temples and appointing outsiders to the higher temple hierarchy. While upholding Eisenstadt's model of "bureaucratic empires," Fried proposes a picture of the Persian royal palace controlling both the land and the manpower in its subjected territories while local priesthoods had control of neither. Finally, Fried describes Yehud as a territorial unit governed by a Persian governor throughout the duration of the Persian period. Other manifestations of the involved character of Persian imperial rule were control of the local high priesthood and the presence of an imperial garrison in Jerusalem.
Some readers might argue that Fried's argument suffers from a neglect of the diachronic aspect in her treatment of the administrative structures of the Achaemenid empire, the forcing of the evidence into at times rigid contemporary theories of empires, and an over-estimation of the degree of Achaemenid control of the subjugated territories. However, Fried's book stands out positively for several reasons. First, she challenges the status quo by expressing doubts that the Persian empire was a religiously tolerant entity. Second, she places Judah in the context of power exchanges and influences in the ancient Near East. Lastly, Fried engages with intellectual strands drawn from a broader theoretical tradition of consideration of empires of the ancient Near East and examines them against evidence from the particular territorial units of the Achaemenid empire.
Although not without its shortcomings, Fried's book will undoubtedly be of interest to scholars working on the broader history of the Achaemenid empire and its various territorial units, especially Judah/Yehud.
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Oriental Society


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