Tal Ilan

Tal Ilan is currently a professor of Jewish studies at the Free University, Berlin (Germany). She was born in Israel and received all her degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a historian who specializes in Jewish women’s history in antiquity.

Articles by this author

Salome

Salome, King Herod’s sister, took an active role in many events associated with her brother’s reign. Almost all our information about her derives from the writings of Josephus. For this period Josephus relied heavily on the works of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus, and our picture of Salome is marred by the latter’s personal feud with her.

Shelamziyyon Alexandra

Shelamziyyon Alexandra, Hasmonean Queen (76–67 B.C.E.), wife and successor of King Alexander Yannai (Jannaeus) (c. 126–76 B.C.E.). Our knowledge of her is principally derived from the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, but she is also mentioned in rabbinic literature and in the Dead Sea scrolls.

Rachel, Wife of Rabbi Akiva

Rachel (רחל) is the medieval name given to the wife of Rabbi Akiva in the late Avot de-Rabbi Nathan version A (chapter 6). In none of the older sources is a name attached to this woman, although she was well known.

Post-Biblical and Rabbinic Women

In post-biblical Jewish antiquity women were not viewed as equal to men or as full Jews. In this, Jews were no different from their various Greco-Roman, Semitic or Egyptian neighbors. The difference lies in the explanation Jews gave to their views.

Mariamme I The Hasmonean

Mariamme was the daughter of Alexander, Aristobulus II’s son, and Alexandra, Hyrcanus II’s daughter. Her grandfathers were the two rival Hasmoneans who invited Rome to intervene in Judaean internal affairs and eventually brought about the downfall of the Hasmonean kingdom. Abraham Schalit calculates that her father and mother could have been married only between 55 and 49 B.C.E., after Alexander’s revolt against Rome was crushed and before his own execution at the hands of the Romans (Ant. 14:125). She was thus probably born in 54 B.C.E.

Herodian Women

The Herodian dynasty produced a large number of seemingly impressive women. However, it is not always clear whether these women were really impressive or whether their literary portrayal made them so. We know that Nicolaus of Damascus, who was Herod’s court historian, was deeply interested in domestic affairs and assigned to women a diabolical role in the turn of events. Even after his writings ceased, other court historians adopted some of his rhetorical techniques. We today know almost everything about these women from Josephus, who used Nicolaus and other sources in his writings.

Helene, Queen of Adiabene

Helene was the sister and wife of Monabazus Bazaeus, king of Adiabene at the beginning of the first century c.e., who converted to Judaism with other members of her family. Adiabene, a Persian province on the northern extremities of the Tigris River, was at the time a vassal kingdom of the Parthian Empire.

Hasmonean Women

No woman of the Hasmonean family is mentioned in the two books devoted to the Hasmonean rebellion—Maccabees I and II, the authors of which showed no interest in the families of the Hasmonean brothers. Yet Hasmonean women seem to have played a decisive role in the history of the dynasty, particularly as regards the succession process. This cannot be contested, in light of the fact that this dynasty produced the only legitimate queen in Jewish history (see under Shelamziyyon). Yet the queen is hardly the only Hasmonean woman who made an impression on history. All we know of these women comes from the works of Josephus, but Josephus himself obviously relied on earlier sources for his description of them. Whatever this earlier source (or sources) was, it was probably written in the same tradition as the books of Maccabees: it documented the women’s actions, but did not see fit to document their names. Thus they can only be described as relatives of their menfolk.

Hannah Mother of Seven

In the Second Book of Maccabees (II Maccabees, Chapter 7) a story is told of a (nameless) mother of seven who was arrested with her sons for defying the decree of the Seleucid monarch to transgress the commandments of the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah. Refusing to capitulate to the king’s demands, the sons were tortured to death one by one. Instead of persuading them to desist, their mother encouraged them to die for their belief. The story ends with a short note to the effect that after the death of her sons, she too died. In contrast to the elaborate description of their death, hers is merely mentioned, not described.

Female Personalities in the Babylonian Talmud

Aside from various women for whom short entries are available throughout this encyclopedia, it is necessary to list several women mentioned in the The discussions and elaborations by the amora'im of Babylon on the Mishnah between early 3rd and late 5th c. C.E.; it is the foundation of Jewish Law and has halakhic supremacy over the Jerusalem Talmud.Babylonian Talmud under a common heading.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Tal Ilan." (Viewed on July 23, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/author/ilan-tal>.

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