Bust of CaligulaAfter an anti-Semitic pogrom, a delegation of Jews visited Gaius, emperor from 37-41 C.E., but his hostile attitude was immediately apparent, and the Jews were unable to secure any protection from him. Gaius demanded exceptional homage and was savage if his superiority was not recognized. The refusal of the Jews to consider him a god must have been highly irritating to him.

(132) But as the governor of the country, who by himself could, if he had chosen to do so, have put down the violence of the multitude in a single hour, pretended not to see what he did see and not to hear what he did hear, but allowed the mob to carry on the war against our people without any restraint and to throw our former state of tranquility into confusion, the populace, being excited still more, proceeded onwards to still more shameless and more audacious designs and treachery. Collecting very large companies of men, they attacked some of the synagogues (and there are a great many in every section of the city). Some they razed to the very foundations, and into some they threw fire and burned them in their insane madness and frenzy, without caring for the neighboring houses. For there is nothing more rapid than fire when it gets hold of fuel.

(133) I omit to mention the ornaments in honor of the emperor which were destroyed and burnt with these synagogues, such as gilded shields, gilded crowns, pillars, and inscriptions, for the sake of which they ought even to have spared the other things. But they were full of confidence, inasmuch as they did not fear any chastisement at the hand of Gaius, as they well knew that he cherished an indescribable hatred against the Jews. Accordingly, their opinion was that no one could do him a more acceptable service than by inflicting every description of injury on the nation which he hated.

(134) And as they wished to curry favor with himby a novel kind of flattery, so as to secure complete immunity for every sort of ill treatment of us without ever being called to account, what did they proceed to do? All the synagogues that they were unable to destroy by burning and razing to the ground, because a great number of Jews lived in a dense mass in the neighborhood, they outraged and defaced in another manner, simultaneously totally overthrowing our laws and customs. For they set up in everyone of them images of Gaius, and in the greatest, most conspicuous, and most celebrated of them they erected a brazen statue of him borne on a four-horse chariot….

(349) It is worthwhile to make mention of what we both saw and heard when we were sent for to take part in a debate about our citizenship. The moment we entered into the presence of the emperor, we perceived from his looks and from his state of agitation, that we had come not before a judge but before an accuser, more hostile than those arrayed against us….

(353) For, said he, “You are haters of god, inasmuch as you do not think that I am a god, I who am already acknowledged to be a god by every other nation, but who is refused that appellation by you.” And then, stretching up his hands to heaven, he uttered a remark which it was impious to hear, much more would it be so to repeat it literally.

(354) And immediately all the ambassadors of the opposite side were filled with all unimaginable joy, thinking that their embassy was already successful, on account of the first words uttered by Gaius. So they clapped their hands and danced for joy, and called him by every title which is applicable to anyone of the gods.

(355) And while he (Gaius) was triumphing in these super-human appellations, the sycophant Isidorus, seeing the mood in which he was said, “O master, you would hate with still greater vehemence these men whom you see before you and their fellow countrymen, if you would be acquainted with their disaffection and disloyalty towards yourself. For when all other men were offering up sacrifices of thanksgiving for you safety, these men alone refused to offer any sacrifice at all; and when I say ‘these men,’ I include all the rest of the Jews.”

(356) Then we all cried out with one accord, “O Lord Gaius, we are falsely accused; for we did sacrifice, and we offered up entire hecatombs, 111 the blood of which we poured in a libation upon the altar. And the flesh we did not carry to our homes to make a feast and banquet upon it, as is the custom of some people to do, but we committed the animals entirely to the sacred flame as a burnt offering. And we have done this three times already, and not only once; on the first occasion when you succeeded to the empire, and the second time when you recovered from that terrible disease with which all the habitable world was afflicted at the same time, and the third time we sacrificed in hope of your victory over the Germans.”

(357) “Grant,” said he, “that all this is true, and that you did sacrifice. Nevertheless you sacrificed to another god and not to me; and then what good did you do me, even if it was to me?” Immediately a profound shuddering came upon us the first moment that we heard, this statement, similar to that which overwhelmed us when we first came into his

(358) And while he was saying this, he entered into the outer buildings, examining the chambers of the men and the chambers of the women, and the rooms on the ground floor and all the apartments in the upper story, and criticizing some points of their structure as defective, and planning alterations and suggesting designs, and giving orders himself to make them more costly.

(359) Then we, being driven about in this way, followed him up and down through the entire place, being mocked and ridiculed by our adversaries like people at a play in the theatre. For indeed the whole matter was a kind of farce; the judge assumed the part of an accuser, and the accusers the part of an unjust judge, looking upon the defendants with an eye of hostility and acting not in accordance with the nature of truth….

(361) But when he had given some of his orders about the buildings, he then asked a very important and solemn question; “Why is it that you abstain from eating pig’s flesh?” Again at this question such a violent laughter was raised by our adversaries, partly because they were really delighted and partly as they wished to court the emperor out of flattery and, therefore, wished to make it appear that this question was dictated by wit and uttered with grace. The laughter was so great that some of the servants who were following him were indignant at their appearing to treat the emperor with so little respect, since it was not safe for his most intimate friends to do so much as smile at his words.

(362) And when we gave the answer that, “Different nations have different laws, and there are some things of which use is forbidden both to us and to our adversaries”; and when someone said, “There are also many people who do not eat lamb’s flesh which is the most tender of all meat,” he laughed and said, “They are quite right, for it is not nice,”

(363) Being joked with, trifled with, and ridiculed in this manner, we were in great perplexity; and at last he said in a rapid and peremptory manner, “I desire to know what principles of justice you recognize with regard to your constitution.”

(364) When we began to reply to him and to explain it, as soon as he had a taste of our pleading on the principles of justice, and as soon as he perceived that our arguments were not contemptible, before we couldbring forward the more important things which we had to say, he cut us short, ran forward, and burst into the large room of the house. As soon as he had entered it, he commanded that the windows which were around it be filled up with transparent pebbles very much resembling white crystal which do not hinder the light, but which keep out the wind and the heat of the sun.

(365) Then proceeding on deliberately he asked in a more moderate tone, “What are you saying?” When we began to connect our reply with what we had said before, he again ran on and went into another room in which he had commanded some ancient and admirable pictures to be placed.

(366) But when our pleadings on behalf of justice were thus broken up, cut short, interrupted, and crushed as one may almost say, we, being wearied and exhausted and having no strength left in us, but being in continual expectation of nothing else but death, could no longer keep our hearts as they had been, but in our agony we took refuge in supplications to the one true God, praying to him to check the wrath of this falsely called

(367) He had compassion on us, and turned his (the emperor’s) mind to mercy. And he, becoming pacified, merely said, “These men do not appear to me to be wicked so much as unfortunate and foolish in not believing that I have been endowed with the nature of God.” So he dismissed us, and commanded us to depart.

110. Trans. C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo (Peabody, MA- Hendrickson, 1993), pp. 769, 788-90.

111. A public sacrifice of one hundred oxen.