Roman dictator, consul, and conqueror; born July 12, 100 B.C. (according to Mommsen, 102 B.C.); assassinated March 15, 44 B.C. Cæsar's attitude toward the Jews is manifest from the many enactments issued in their favor by him and by the senate.

The first decree, dated probably July, 47 B.C., registered in both Greek and Latin on a table of brass and preserved in the public records, concerns Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, high priest and ethnarch of the Jews. Julius Cæsar, with the approbation of the senate, recognizes the services rendered by Hyrcanus to the empire, both in peace and in war. He mentions the aid given by Hyrcanus with his 1,500 soldiers in the Alexandrian war, and speaks of the personal valor of Hyrcanus. In recognition of these services he grants Hyrcanus and the Jews certain privileges (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 10, § 2).

In another decree of probably the same date, Cæsar determines "That the Jews shall possess Jerusalem, and may encompass that city with walls; and that Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, the high priest and ethnarch of the Jews, retain it in the manner he himself pleases; and that the Jews be allowed to deduct out of their tribute, every second year the land is let [in the Sabbatical period], a corus of that tribute; and that the tribute they pay be not let to farm, nor that they pay always the same tribute" (ib. xiv. 10, § 5).

His Decrees.

The next decree, dated before Dec., 47 B.C., ordains that all the country of the Jews pay a tribute to the city of Jerusalem except during the Sabbatical year, with permanent exemption for Joppa, which, as formerly, is to belong to them. It also prohibits the raising of auxiliaries and the exacting of money for winter quarters within the bounds of Judea. This decree provides for an annual tribute to Hyrcanus and his sons, the Sabbatical yearexcepted. It ordains that the original ordinances in regard to the high priests of the Jews shall remain in force, and that Hyrcanus and the Jews retain those places and countries which belonged to the kings of Syria and Phenicia. The following two decrees confirm the privileges granted to Hyrcanus and his children. As the ally of Rome he is to send and receive ambassadors (ib. § 6).

The following two decrees are of the same date: "That Hyrcanus and his children bear over the nation of the Jews, and have the profits of the places to them bequeathed; and that he, as the high priest and ethnarch of the Jews, defend those that are injured; and that ambassadors be sent to Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, the high priest of the Jews, that may discourse with him about a league of friendship and mutual assistance; and that a table of brass containing the promises be openly proposed in the capitol, and at Sidon, and Tyre, and Ascalon, and in the temple, engraven in Roman and Greek letters: that this decree may also be communicated to the questors and pretors of the several cities, and to the friends of the Jews; and that the ambassadors may have presents made them, and that these decrees be sent everywhere" (ib. § 3).

"Caius Cæsar, imperator, dictator, consul, hath granted, That out of regard to the honor, and virtue, and kindness of the man, and for the advantage of the senate, and of the people of Rome, Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, both he and his children, be high priests and priests of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish nation, by the same right, and according to the same laws, by which their progenitors have held the priesthood" (ib. § 4).

The last decree of Cæsar, dated Feb., 44 B.C., again mentions the services rendered by Hyrcanus and the Jews, and calls for suitable recognition on the part of the Senate and the people of Rome (ib. § 7).

Following is a summary of the decrees of the consuls during the rule of Julius Cæsar, as recorded in Josephus:

  • Sept. 19, 49 B.C.: Report on the public proceedings at Ephesus concerning the exemption of the Jews of Asia Minor from military service on account of their religion, and the decree in this sense of the consul Lucius Lentulus ("Ant." xiv. 10, § 19).
  • Sept. 19, 49 B.C.: Short report on the preliminary proceedings on the same question on the part of the military authorities (ib. § 18).
  • Sept. 19, 49 B.C.: Short declaration of the consul Lucius Lentulus concerning the exemption of the Jews from military service (ib. § 16).
  • Sept. 20, 49 B.C.: Communication of Titus Appius Balbus to the magistrate of Ephesus, to the effect that on his intercession for them, the consul Lucius Lentulus agreed to the exemption, and that the high Roman officials Lucius Antonius and Phanius sanctioned the decree (ib. § 13).
  • Probably 49 B.C.: Message of Lucius Antonius to the magistrates of Sardes, to the effect that the Jews of that city having an assembly of their own, according to the laws of their forefathers, he gives order that their privileges be preserved (ib. § 17).
  • May, 48 B.C.: Proclamation of the magistrates of the island of Delos, that, according to the decree of the consul Lentulus, the Jews shall be exempted from entering the army (ib. § 14).
  • Probably at the beginning of 46 B. C.: Reprimand of a proconsul to the people of Parium on account of their hostile attitude toward their Jewish fellow-citizens concerning their public assemblies and their contributions to the Temple (ib. § 8).
  • 46-45 B.C.: Admonitory letter of the proconsul Publius Servilius to the magistrate of Miletus that the Jews should not be disturbed in the execution of their religious customs (ib. § 21).
  • 46-45 B.C.: Reply of the Laodiceans to the proconsul of Asia, that, in obedience to injunctions received from him, they will not disturb the religious customs and assemblies of the Jews (ib.§ 20).
  • 46-45 B.C.: Decree of the Sardians, upon the representation of the pretors, granting the Jews religious liberty, setting apart for them a place for public worship, and even directing those that have charge of the provisions of the city to "take care that such sorts of food as they esteem fit for their eating may be imported into the city" (ib. § 24).
  • 46-45 B.C.: Decree of the people of Halicarnassus to the effect that, in accordance with privileges granted by the Romans, they shall not disturb the religious customs and assemblies of Jews (ib. § 23).
  • Feb., 44 B.C.: Testimony of the twelve questors, that the Senate had passed a decree in favor of the Jews, but that this decree had not hitherto been brought into the treasury, and that now the Senate and the consuls Dolabella and Marcus order that these decrees shall be "put into the public tables" and be "put upon the double tables" (ib. § 10).(For a critical survey of these edicts see Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," 3d ed., iii., note 9, pp. 660-668; Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 56 et seq., 67, note 30).

These decrees show clearly that Julius Cæsar in his broad and statesmanlike manner fully recognized the rights and claims of the Jews as an important element of the Roman empire.

Usefulness in Roman Empire.

"This Judaism," says Mommsen ("Römische Gesch." iii. 549-555), "although not the most pleasing feature in the nowhere pleasing picture of the mixture of nations which then prevailed, was nevertheless a historical element developing itself in the natural course of things, which the statesman could neither ignore nor combat, and which Cæsar on the contrary, just like his predecessor, Alexander, with correct discernment of the circumstances, fostered as far as possible. While Alexander, by laying the foundation of Alexandrian Judaism, did not much less to found the Jewish nation than its own King David by planning the Temple of Jerusalem, Cæsar also advanced the interests of the Jews in Alexandria and in Rome by special favors and privileges, and protected in particular their peculiar worship against the Roman as well as against the Greek local priests." "Cæsar's extraordinary keenness as a statesman," says F. Rosenthal (in "Monatsschrift," 1879, p. 321), "recognized in the Jews most useful collaborators in his extensive plans for the creation of a great Roman body politic. Distributed as they were over the greatest part of the Roman empire, yet acting in harmony with one another, they were as much on this account as by reason of their commercial instincts the intermediators between Orient and Occident."

"The Jews were destined to play no insignificant part in the new state of Cæsar," says Mommsen (ib.). Even later, when by a decree of Cæsar all religious or political associations (collegia) were forbidden, except those which had existed from very remote times, the same decree permitted the Jews, "our friends and confederates . . . to gather themselves together according to the customs and laws of their forefathers, to bring in their contributions, and to make their common suppers" (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 10, § 8; Suetonius, "Cæsar," 42). By these and other edicts of Cæsar the Jewish religion was recognized in the Roman empire as "religio licita" (Tertullian, "Apologia," xxi.; Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 69).

Judaism Respected in Rome.

"When Cæsar attained the power," says Huidekoper("Judaism in Rome," p. 6), "we find a procession annually of Roman dignitaries, on the first day of the Passover, for the purpose of throwing away idol-images; and at his funeral Jews were conspicuous." Mommsen quotes a contemporary orator (Cicero) as saying that Roman officials in the provinces had to be extremely careful not to offend a Jew, otherwise they were liable to be hissed on their return to Rome by the plebeians.

During the Pompeian wars Cæsar, without associates (Mommsen, l.c. iii. 8, 374), surrounded only by military aids and political agents, made use of the brilliant abilities of Aristobulus II., and, out of hatred to Pompey, gave the former his freedom and sent him with two legions into Syria to create a diversion in Cæsar's favor (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 7, § 4). Macrobius hints ("Saturnaliorum Conviviorum," i.) that during the Pompeian wars the Jewish contingent in Cæsar's army was by no means an unimportant one; that at his court and in his councils the Jews were influential in political and financial matters. The great historical significance of Cæsar's relations with the Jews is brought out strikingly by their military services under him during the Egyptian campaign.

For all his daring and energy, and notwithstanding the importance of his entering Egypt, Cæsar would not have landed had he not been certain of support from the Jews of the country. His resources were scanty—scarcely two legions of infantry and a small detachment of cavalry—in all about 5,000 men. With such a handful of soldiers even Cæsar could not expect a successful conflict with the powerful Egyptian army. There is historical evidence that organized local bands of Jews came to his assistance. The Jews of Egypt, numbering at that time, according to Manfrin, about a million, were evidently on his side before he came to Egypt; and, in order to render him efficient service, they suspended their party quarrels. With Mithridates there entered Egypt under the leadership of Antipater a detachment of troops numbering 1,500, or, according to Josephus (l.c. xiv. 8, § 1), 3,000, composed exclusively of Jews.

Valor of Antipater.

According to the testimony of Josephus, the taking of Pelusium, which, from the Syrian side, was the key to Egypt, was largely due to the personal bravery and skill of Antipater, who destroyed a portion of the city wall. With his Jewish followers he was the first to enter the city, thus clearing the way for Mithridates' army. As a reward for his services Cæsar gave to Antipater the privilege of a citizen of Rome, and made him procurator of Judea (Josephus, ib. 8, § 3).

After the Alexandrian campaign Cæsar granted many favors and privileges to Judea and to the Jews in general. He gave the former the right of "status clientis"—the broadest autonomy that countries subject to Rome could enjoy. Besides this right Cæsar allowed Judea to utilize the city of Joppa and its harbor, since the latter was indispensable to Jerusalem for intercourse with its colonies.

Cicero's defense of Flaccus, who confiscated the gold collected for the Temple in Jerusalem, shows that the Oligarchic party stood in fear of Cæsar's connection with the Jewish colonies. They suspected that the money collected for the Temple was, in part at least, used for the carrying out of Cæsar's political plans. In fact, the whole defense ("Pro Flacco") was an indirect accusation of Cæsar. By the prohibition of all but Jewish associations, he apparently expressed his belief in the favorable influence of the political principle of Judaism and in its superiority over the other Eastern religions that had been brought to Rome.

Antipathy to Jews Roused.

But while the mass of the Roman population favored Cæsar, that was not sufficient for his election. Large sums of money were required for this purpose, and Cæsar had hardly any means of his own. When he was leaving for Spain his debts amounted to $3,400,000 (according to some historical documents, $4,800,000); and it appears that a few of his creditors importuned him. Possibly the Jewish colonies supplied funds. These colonies extended all over Egypt, in Asia from the shores of the Pontus Euxinus to the Euphrates, and in Europe as far as Prague and into Gallia.

On the other hand, the Cæsarean period produced an ill-will toward the Jews that gradually grew to hatred and has survived to the present day.

Reference can be here made to the work of Manfrin concerning the important rôle Cæsar assigned to monotheistic Judaism in his new empire, but his views are open to question.

Renan ascribes to Cæsar very broad and liberal views. "He truly conceived," he says, "liberty of conscience in a sense of absolute neutrality in the state, as enlightened nations now do. He desired the freedom of all provincial worship, and, if he had lived, he doubtless would have prevented the reaction toward strictness which, from the days of Tiberius, led the central government to insist on too much preponderance for the Roman worship. The Jews in Alexandria had their privileges confirmed. The free exercise of Jewish worship was stipulated in the principal towns of Asia Minor. The Jews throughout the world regretted the death of the dictator. Among the numerous provincials who mourned the Ides of March, it was remarked that Jews for several months came to make final lamentation over his burial-place" ("Histoire du Peuple d'Israel," v. 196, 197).

  • Mommsen, Römische Gesch. iii. 549-550, Berlin, 1889;
  • Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, 4th ed., iii. 172-182;
  • Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 15-18;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i., passim;
  • Manfrin, Gli Ebrei Sotto la Dominazione Romana, i.-ii., passim, Rome, 1888-1890;
  • L. Ruskin, in Voskhod, 1888, v.-vi., 1890, vi., vii.;
  • Cicero, Pro Flacco;
  • Josephus, Ant. xiv., xvi., Schürer, Gesch. iii., passim;
  • Arnold, The Roman System of Provincial Administration, pp. 89et seq., London, 1879;
  • Ihne, Römische Gesch. vii., passim, Leipsic, 1890;
  • Herzfeld, Handelsgesch. der Juden des Alterthums, pp. 246et seq., 264et seq.;
  • Huidekoper, Judaism in Rome, p. 6, New York, 1876;
  • Büchler, in Festschrift zum Achtzigsten Geburtstag M. Steinschneiders, pp. 91-109, Leipsic, 1896;
  • Plutarch, Brutus, 20;
  • idem, Cæsar, 68;
  • Suetonius, Cæsar, 85.
K.H. R.
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