ABSTRACT: 'Jewish Demography and Life Expectancy in Antiquity'

Cathedra, 156 (2015), pp. 7-38  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of this paper is to discuss basic social questions concerning social history of the Jews in Antiquity (ca. 5 century BCE – 2nd century CE). First, Jewish historiography will be discussed and then demographic issues.

The main discussion will focus on several aspects of life expectancy in Antiquity while analyzing comparative data from several provinces in the Roman Empire.

In a diachronic analysis a historical explanation will be given to differences that became apparent in a Longue Durée: an explanation of the differences between the Judean Society at the end of the First Temple period, and the Jewish Society at the end of the Second Temple period and a bit later. The Jewish society was growing during the Second Temple period, and several explanations will be given for that. At the same time there was a change in the ratio between males, females and children. Although there are many variables, some of which one cannot determine, few explanations are given to the growth in the Jewish society in the Land of Israel: improvement in life expectancy, especially in lower rates of infant mortality (because of improvement in standard of living, in nutrition, in hygiene and more), lower age at marriage, lower sex-ratio and the stop in sacrificing children. These phenomena augmented each other and they are the key for the "irregular" growth of the Jewish society during the Second Temple period.