The storms threatening ancient sea-travelers were traditionally supposed to be a sign of divine displeasure. The marine voyage with its tempests, famously featuring in the Jonah story, also became a well-known topos in Greco-Roman storytelling. This essay investigates how some Jewish and Christian narrators reworked that topos in light of their particular religious agendas. Their tales thus turn out to be hybrid creatures composed of both biblical and mythological patterns of narration. Several such mythological patterns can be discerned in late antique sea travelogues, including divine intervention calming a stormy tempest; wondrous birds coming to sailors' rescue; and treasure hidden in the depth of the sea, guarded by a monstrous creature. Our study focuses on the final motif, with the texts under discussion mostly originating in the Syro-Mesopotamian Aramaic-speaking cultural sphere-Jewish rabbinic and Syriac Christian milieus. For all our narrators, the sea maintained its perilous appeal and the voyages provided a meaningful liminal experience that challenged their religious outlook. We outline a variety of strategies in dealing with the tension inherent in the sea adventure, some of them tailored to temper the mythic tenor of the background tradition.
|Original language||American English|
|Title of host publication||Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Travel Experiences|
|Subtitle of host publication||3rd Century BCE-8th Century CE|
|Number of pages||17|
|State||Published - 4 Oct 2023|
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