A native of Jerusalem, Tal comes to Columbia from the Hebrew University, where he pursued a B.A. in Classical Studies. Currently, his main research interests include epigraphy and historiography, administrative and cultural history of the Hellenistic and Roman Near East, the land of Judea/Palestine in Greco-Roman times, and Jewish history in the Second Temple period.
While an undergraduate, Tal worked as a research assistant in the Corpus Inscriptionum Idaeae/Palaestinae (CIIP), an international project based in Cologne and Jerusalem. The CIIP aims at creating a multilingual corpus of all inscriptions of the Classical age (“from Alexander to Muhammad”) found in the geographical area of modern-day Israel.
Tal’s interests in epigraphy and historiography inspired his BA thesis, entitled “The Grey and the Black: Tacitus and the Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone Patre,” which won the Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies’ national award for outstanding B.A. Seminar paper (2014). The paper compares Tacitus’ account of Piso’s trial in the Annals with the ‘official’ report, namely an inscription recording the Roman Senate’s decree at the conclusion of this trial (the Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone Patre). It analyzes both sources and attempts to highlight the relative merits of each, their biases, and the unique challenges they pose to historians and scholars who seek to use them to uncover the past.
At an interdepartmental seminar on the Flavian dynasty and the Jews, held at the Hebrew University in 2013, Tal presented a paper on the fiscus Iudaicus. With the help of evidence gleaned from papyrological, epigraphic, numismatic, and literary sources, the paper attempts to contribute to our understanding of the “Jewish tax” and its administration, and to use this knowledge to provide new perspectives on a wide range of subjects, from the realities of Jewish daily life in the aftermath of the Great Revolt to Flavian and post-Flavian politics and propaganda.
At Columbia, Tal hopes to expand his knowledge of epigraphy and other documentary sources, and to broaden his approach to the past by engaging with art and material culture, studying the ways they interact, complement and elucidate textual sources. Email Tal Ish-Shalom.