For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Benjamin Isaac.

Benjamin Isaac

Benjamin Isaac
Benjamin Isaac, 2008
Born (1945-05-10) May 10, 1945 (age 78)
Alma materUniversity of Amsterdam
SpouseIda Isaac
Scientific career
InstitutionsTel Aviv University

Benjamin Henri Isaac (Ben Isaac;Hebrew: בנימין איזק; born May 10, 1945) is the Fred and Helen Lessing Professor of Ancient History Emeritus at Tel Aviv University. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities[1] and of the American Philosophical Society [2]

Early life and education

Isaac was born in Geneva, Switzerland, where his parents settled in 1942 after fleeing the Netherlands during World War II. He grew up in Amsterdam and studied classics, ancient history and archaeology at Amsterdam University. In 1972, he moved to Israel and began teaching at Tel Aviv University. In 1980, he received his PhD (summa cum laude) for a thesis on the Greek settlements in Thrace until the Macedonian conquest.[3] He has held visiting appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (twice), All Souls College, Oxford, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., Churchill College Cambridge, the National Humanities Center, North Carolina, Harvard University and the Collège de France.


Isaac's research covers the period from the 6th century BCE until the 7th century CE. It deals with Greek and Roman history and with Jewish history from the 2nd century BCE onward. He has been member of a team surveying the Roman roads in Judaea/Palaestina with Moshe Fischer and Israel Roll,[4] and of a group preparing a corpus of ancient inscriptions in all relevant languages from the region, the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae.

His work on the imperial Roman army and imperialism, The Limits of Empire: the Roman Army in the East, traces various functions of the provincial army.[5] It was commonly assumed that the main function of the Roman army was the defence of the frontier provinces against foreign enemies. Isaac argues that it had two different tasks, internal police functions and preparation for further expansion. Rome had an ideology of offence and expansion rather than preservation of the status quo and defence. In this connection Isaac has argued that the concept of an imperial frontier was irrelevant in Roman terms. The Empire was not a territorial concept, but one that expressed rule over peoples and cities. Another topic of this book is the question whether Rome had a “Grand strategy” as had been argued. Isaac has shown that this reflects a modern concept that could not apply to ancient reality.

His book on the ideological roots of racism argues that racism must be distinguished from other forms of prejudice and stereotypes.[6] It is a rationalization and systematization of prejudice first encountered in the 5th century BCE in Greece as a result of the development of abstract thinking in contemporary philosophy and medical science. The concept of environmental determinism was developed at this time and has been accepted as valid until very recently. It assumes that geography, climate and other external realities impose definite and unchangeable qualities, physical and mental on entire groups of people. As such it preceded social Darwinism as an attempt to rationalize group prejudice. It played a role too in imperialist ideology because it was used to distinguish between superior and inferior peoples. These concepts were taken over by Roman authors and by those who, in later times, used them for similar or related purposes. Thus Isaac argues that the history and development of racism as an ideology has roots going back to Graeco-Roman antiquity.[7]

Isaac is the author of numerous articles.;[8] He is also member of a team working on the publication of a corpus of all ancient inscriptions from Judaea / Palestine.[9] From 2015 until 2022 he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Israeli classics journal Scripta Classica Israelica. In 2021 a book was published in his honour: J. Price, M. Finkelberg, Y. Shahar (eds.), "Rome: an Empire of Many Nations, New Perspectives on Ethnic Diversity and Cultural Identity" (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Awards and recognition

Personal life

Isaac is married and has three children.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities website
  2. ^ American Philosophical Society website
  3. ^ The Greek Settlements in Thrace until the Macedonian Conquest, (Brill, Leiden 1986).
  4. ^ B. Isaac and I. Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea, I, The Scythopolis-Legio Road, (Oxford, B.A.R., 1982); M.Fischer, B. Isaac and I. Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea, ii, The Jaffa - Jerusalem Roads (B.A.R. International Series, Oxford 1996),
  5. ^ Benjamin Isaac The Limits of Empire: the Roman Army in the East (Oxford University Press, second ed. 1992).
  6. ^ The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton University Press 2004).
  7. ^ See the conference proceedings: Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac and Joseph Ziegler (eds.), The Origins of Racism in the West (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  8. ^ The Near East under Roman Rule: Selected Papers (Brill, Leiden 1998); Empire and Ideology in the Graeco-Roman World: Selected Papers (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2017)
  9. ^ The following volumes have come out so far: Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae Volume I Jerusalem, Part I (Berlin: De Gruyter 2010), Part II (Berlin: De Gruyter 2012), Volume II Caesarea and the Middle Coast (Berlin: De Gruyter 2011), Volume III The South Coast (Berlin: De Gruyter 2014), Volume IV Parts 1 and 2 Iudaea / Idumaea (Berlin: De Gruyter 2018)
  10. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site (in Hebrew) - Judges' Rationale for Grant to Recipient".
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Benjamin Isaac
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?