Coin of AugustusJews and Christians

In his Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius gives some valuable information about Jews in the early imperial period, and for part of the data is the only source. This applies to his statements concerning the mourning among the Jews at the death of Julius Caesar (No. 302); the attitude of Augustus to Judaism (No. 304); the anecdote about Tiberius and the Jewish Grammaticus at Rhodes (No. 305); and finally the investigation of the nonagenarian regarding payment of the “Jewish tax” in the reign of Domitian (No. 320). Other incidents recorded by Suetonius are paralleled elsewhere, mainly in the accounts of Tacitus and Cassius Dio.

Suetonius does not explicitly state his views about Jews or Judaism, as he does concerning Christianity (Nero, 16: “afflicti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficae”). Nor does he censure anywhere the diffusion of oriental cults in Rome. It is only possible to say that Suetonius was much attached to Roman religious traditions. Thus, while he writes of the aversion of Emperor Augustus, to both the Jewish and the Egyptian cults (No. 304), he recounts the connection of a bad emperor like Nero with both the “Dea Syria” (Nero, 56) and the Magi (ibid., 34); likewise he informs us that Otho was attached to the cult of Isis (Otho, 12). Hence foreign cults seem associated in the mind of Suetonius with the so-called bad emperors, while Suetonius himself implicitly endorses the view of the great Augustus.

Describing the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius (No. 307), Suetonius does not yet distinguish between Jews and Christians. On the other hand, when narrating the steps taken by Nero against the Christians (Nero, 16:2), he no longer confuses them with Jews.

Jews React to the Assassination of Julius Caesar March 15, 44 B.C.E.

Divus Iulius, 84:5

At the height of the public grief a throng of foreigners went about lamenting each after the fashion of his country, above all the Jews, who even flocked to the funeral-pyre (eg of Julius Caesar) for several successive nights.

Emperor Augustus – Synagogues

Divus Augustus, 93

In general, Augustus was remembered by the Jews as a great benefactor. In Asia he continued the policy of Julius Caesar, and the Jews of Egypt and Cyrenaica enjoyed his protection.

For an appreciation of Augustus’ attitude to the Jews, c. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium. 143 ff., 309 ff.; see also Leon, p.142 and the inscriptions, loc cit. (Nos. 284, 301, 338, 368, 416, 496). These refer to the synagogue of the Augustesians, but cf. also the commentary to Macrobius, Saturnalia, II, 4:11 (No. 543).

Sabbath – Emperor Tiberius

Tiberius, 32:2

The grammarian Diogenes, who used to lecture every Sabbath at Rhodes, would not admit Emperor Tiberius when he came to hear him on a different day, but sent a message by a common slave of his, putting him off to the seventh day. When this man waited before the Emperor’s door at Rome to pay his respects, Tiberius took no further revenge than to bid him return seven years later.

Anti Semitism

Emperor Tiberius, 36

He abolished foreign cults, especially the Egyptian and the Jewish rites, compelling all who were addicted to such superstitions to burn their religious vestments and all their paraphernalia. Those of the Jews who were of military age he assigned to provinces of less healthy climate, ostensibly to serve in the army; the others of the same race or similar beliefs he banished from the city, on pain for like if if they did not obey.

Per speciem sacramenti: Since the Jewish freedmen were Roman citizens, they could be enlisted in the Roman army. This seems to show that there was no general exemption from military service for Jews who were Roman citizens, though examples of local and temporary exemptions are known. These include a decree of the consul Lentulus in 49 B.C.E. concerning the Jews of Ephesus; cf. Ant., XIV, 228; for the decree of the Delians, cf. Ant., XIV, 231 f. See also Ant., XIV, 236 f.

Christians – Emperor Claudius (41 – 54 C.E.)

Divus Claudius, 25:4

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (e.g. Christians), he (e.g. Claudius) expelled them from Rome.

The Jewish Tax (Fiscus Judaicus), Circumcision – Emperor Domitian

Domitianus, 12:2

Besides other taxes, that on the Jews was levied with the utmost vigour, and those were prosecuted who without publicly acknowledging that faith yet lived as Jews, as well as those who concealed their origin and did not pay the tribute levied upon their people. I recall being present in my youth when the person of a man ninety years old was examined before the procurator and a very crowded court, to see whether he was circumcised.

Source: Menahem, Stern. Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Volume II (p.108-113, 128) (Stern # 302, 304, 305, 306, 307, 320)